Long-term test review: Nissan NP300 Navara
Third report: we do the sums to see why pick-ups like our Nissan Navara are such a hit
Despite a few compromises, the Navara makes a compelling choice for businesses and company car users looking to cut their costs. The growing UK pick-up market confirms thousands of people are already persuaded that now is a good time to start (or keep on) trucking.
Nissan has been very bullish about the merits of its new NP300 Navara pick-up. When I recently met up with Javier Piris, light commercial vehicle director of the firm’s Technical Centre Europe in Barcelona, he was unequivocal about what Nissan is hoping to achieve with the Navara.
“We have a concept of being tough and smart, enhancing the utility as a tool but giving SUV kind of comfort and performance in general,” he told me.
“When you experience the Navara on the road, I hope you forget what you have behind the seat. You will feel like you are driving an SUV on the road; good handling, good comfort; good NVH [noise, vibration and harshness],” he continued.
So can it really be true? Has Nissan managed to perform a transformation so magical that the rough and ready, roly poly, utilitarian pick-up of the past is consigned to history?
That’s what we’ll be aiming to find out having taken delivery of a new NP300 Navara Tekna Double Cab in unmissable bright Savannah Yellow paint. One thing that is clear from the outset, though, is that while the pick-up is being redefined, the dimensions remain as uncompromising as ever; at 1,840mm high (with roof bars), 5,330mm long and 2,085mm wide, the Navara is unquestionably a vast machine.
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Climb inside and you’ll find a cabin that’s a world away from some of the – let’s be polite here – functional interiors you previously used to associate with pick-ups.
The leather seats of our well equipped Tekna model are the first indication that the Navara recognises that even pick-up buyers want to enjoy a few of life’s luxuries, too.
A leather steering wheel, gearknob and handbrake continue the feelgood factor, while heated front seats and automatic air-con with dual-zone climate control ensure you’ll always be comfortable, no matter the conditions.
There’s a wealth of gadgetry, too, and the NissanConnect 2.0 sat-nav and entertainment system takes top billing, with highlights such as easy-to-navigate DAB radio, a colour reversing camera, a seven-inch colour touchscreen and Bluetooth audio streaming. So far, so posh then, but the great news is all this finesse doesn’t come at the expense of the practicality you’d expect of a pick-up.
The Double Cab layout ensures there’s more than enough space for six-footers in the second row of seats, while a bed of 1,578mm (length) by 1,560mm (width) means we can carry some sizeable loads.
And on the road? We haven’t ventured too far afield yet, but what is clear already is that the Navara rides a lot better than pick-ups of the past. That can probably be attributed to five-link coil spring rear suspension, which, claims Nissan, reduces friction significantly, improving the ride.
It’s still bouncy, certainly, and despite what Mr Piris says, you’d struggle to mistake it for an SUV. But it is a genuine advance. A long-throw six-speed manual gearbox, slightly rowdy 2.3-litre diesel and part-time four-wheel drive complete the package.
We’re looking forward to getting the Navara loaded up and piling on the miles to see if this new breed of pick-up really is a winning blend of tough commercial vehicle and pampering passenger car.
*Insurance quote (below) provided by AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old living in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.