Nissan’s Cabstar has carved out a niche for itself as a tough workhorse for builders and gardeners, with few competitors. An LCV giant, or big fish in a small pond? Ian Shaw finds out.
Nissan introduced an improved Cabstar to the UK in 2007 (which itself has only recently been upgraded). Aware of the Cabstar’s rather basic image, the brand upped the ante with increased power outputs: a 2.5-litre common-rail diesel engine in two levels of tune provided 110hp and 130hp of power plus 250Nm and 270Nm of torque, with the third engine option being a 3.0-litre version with 150hp and 350Nm. Add to that an improvement in noise reduction and refinement – not before time some would say – although the same no-frills chassis and age-old running gear that demanding operators wanted were retained.
Those engines are, of course, mounted beneath, rather than ahead of the cab. This is a mixed blessing. It means a greater proportion of the overall vehicle length is given to loadspace, for dropside, box or tipping bodies, like a full-size HGV, with better vision and easier manoeuvring in tight spots. However, the engine is under the driver’s elbow, so there’s no walk-through property to the cab design, refinement suffers, and cab interior space is limited. But the design has served Nissan well, and annual sales of Cabstars in Western Europe have often been close to 15,000 units. Even Toyota’s attempt to muscle in on the Cabstar’s niche with the Dyna came to little, in the UK at least. Like the Mitsubishi Canter in the bigger 6.2-tonne class, the Cabstar has made this lighter chassis-cab sector its own.
The van has three different wheelbase options – 2500mm, 2900mm and 3400mm – and two different cab configurations: single tilt cab and double cab.
The short-wheelbase tilt cab with dropside or tipper body is the archetypal builders’ and landscape gardeners’ Cabstar. It’s easy to park on a house driveway when at home or at customers’ premises, easy to drive, and fairly economical too. The double cab in long-wheelbase form is less common, more likely to be ex-fleet and potentially higher mileage, but with superior ride comfort and cab space.
Nissan in general and the Cabstar in particular enjoys a reputation for toughness and reliability, and this seems well founded. VOSA only lists three recalls for this model. The first is a possible seat anchorage fault on VIN VWA***F24*10012 to VWA***F24*1012516. The second is potential wheel bearing failure on vehicles with VIN VWA***F24*100008 to VWA***F24*1010059, and the third is for the engine possibly cutting-out on VIN VWA***F24*1001008 to VWA***F24*1838048. Check that any vehicle you may be looking at has had any recall work carried out as part of its service history.
With such a long model life and so many variants we found quite a few Cabstars on offer on the WhatVan.co.uk used van locator. A late 2013 63-plate, SWB dropside model was on offer at £13,300 plus VAT, while for just £300 less we found an older 2010 60-plate with a tipper body and only 17,300 miles on it. Also, at £13,000 plus VAT, there was a 21,000-mile tipper from mid-2010 on a 10-plate, showing how well Cabstars hold their value. A little lower down the price range, a 2007 57-plate dropside with 53,000 miles under its belt was still commanding just under £7500.