Nissan Navara Tekna review

The new Nissan Navara promises efficiency and luxury combined with rugged utility - we've taken it for a spin in Yorkshire

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4.0 out of 5

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If you need a go-anywhere truck for the day job, but want the family-friendly flexibility and comfort of a SUV, the new Nissan Navara Tekna delivers. It drives well on-road and off, is more efficient than its predecessor, and comes loaded with toys and luxuries. It may not go or handle like a Range Rover Sport, but you can put a pallet of bricks in the back with a forklift when the school run’s done.

Full size 4x4 pickup trucks are not known for their ability to cheat the wind, typically cleaving the air with all the efficiency of a hurled house brick.

Nissan’s handsome new Navara Double Cab may not be quite as slippery as a McLaren P1, but the company says it does boast ‘one of the most complete aerodynamic packages ever created for a pickup’.

A 3.6 per cent lower drag co-efficient may not sound a lot, but along with an increase in engine efficiency of 24 per cent from the new 2.3 litre dCi engine, Nissan reckons 12,000-mile-a-year owners will save £500 annually in fuel costs alone.

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That’s on top of the tax benefits that are generic to commercial vehicles for business users, which include a full VAT refund, attractive company car tax and the ability to ‘write-off’ 100 percent of the purchase price.

The clincher for the savvy business owner is when a sufficiently luxurious four-door pick-up becomes interesting family transport too, and Nissan reckons 90 percent of new Navara orders are for vehicles in ‘fully-loaded’ Tekna trim. The impressively stuffed kitbag includes heated leather seats, touchscreen satnav/audio system with app connectivity, surround-view cameras, climate control, cruise control, 18-inch alloys, LED headlights, side steps and roof rails. It also comes with Forward Emergency Braking, which is standard across the Navara range.

In the eyes of the HMRC, a quad cab is only classified as a commercial vehicle if it has a payload capacity above one tonne. This means the Navara’s competition is currently limited to trucks like the Ford Ranger, Mitsubishi L200 and Toyota HiLux, although there are new rivals looming on the horizon from Fiat, Renault and even Mercedes.

For now at least, Nissan reckons its new Navara pushes the boundaries closer to a ‘crossover’ SUV class driving experience than anything else in its sector. That’s mostly down to a brand new multi-link rear suspension, designed to eliminate the typical rear end ‘bounce’ familiar to anyone who’s driven such vehicles, while crucially maintaining the Navara’s rugged 4x4 ability.

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Walking up to the Tekna, eyes are immediately drawn to its bold looks, with Nissan family styling cues that include the ‘V-motion’ grille, and boomerang DRLs. Panel fit and quality – not to mention the striking metallic Savannah Yellow paint finish – looks as good as any Nissan passenger car.

Inside there’s a new-look dashboard assembly. It’s attractive, solidly built, and designed to give the cab a more spacious feel, while silver and ‘piano black’ finishes give the Tekna an SUV feel up-front.

The wheel adjusts for rake only, but the powered leather driver’s seat – if a little short in the squab - provides a good range of movement. There’s a great view out over the imposing bonnet, and the Tekna proved comfortable after long hours in the saddle. There’s room in the back for full-size grown-ups too, with a comfortable rake for the rear bench – also leather trimmed in this range-topping model – plus electric windows and ISOFIX child seat mounts.

The 187bhp twin-turbo engine and manual gearbox in our test car (the 158bhp entry model is a single turbo), proved itself to be punchy and refined. There’s not much point extending it, but a muscular 450Nm of torque is delivered from 1,500rpm which gives terrific in-gear flexibility. To prove it, the Navara made easy work of our hilly Yorkshire Dales test route where it required minimal use of the standard six-speed box.  The same bumpy back-roads revealed a ride that is nothing like as supple – and handling nowhere near as responsive - as a modern crossover SUV. But for a two-tonne pickup it’s pretty darn good, and owners will surely appreciate how the new suspension tidies-up the handling at the back.

It also settles down well on the motorway, feeling stable and secure at higher cruising speeds. Interior refinement is impressive then too, with barely any road or tyre noise, and the engine pleasantly subdued.

Opting for the seven-speed auto – and 50 percent of Tekna owners will – makes life easier still, especially when towing. It’s not the fastest shift action around, but it’s very smooth and economy only drops a few points.

In spite of its new and improved on-road prowess, our Tekna made its biggest impression off-road. You can switch from two- to four-wheel-drive (high or low) using a dial on the dash, and our test route included a few miles of axle-twisting Yorkshire trail-bashing that would have felt genuinely challenging in a Land Rover Defender. The Navara muscled its way around in impressive style thanks to impressive axle articulation and good departure angles. In spite of all the luxury it’s one tough truck.

Current affairs and features editor

Chris covers all aspects of motoring life for Auto Express. Over a long career he has contributed news and car reviews to brands such as Autocar, WhatCar?, PistonHeads, Goodwood and The Motor Trader.

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