Britain’s pick-up buyers will be spoilt for choice over the next few years as new players leap into the sector and existing players up their game in a bid to see off their upstart rivals.
Nissan, of course, has a well-established position in the market, which it aims to protect with this, the new NP300 Navara. At the same time, it is also aiding and abetting two newcomers: partner Renault will introduce a version of the Navara under the Alaskan banner, and Mercedes-Benz will use much of the NP300 Navara’s architecture for its purpose-built pick-up in 2018.
One of the big changes so far as the NP300 Navara is concerned can be found under the bonnet. The old 2.5-litre diesel has gone, replaced by the 2.3-litre dCi diesel that’s also found in the NV400 van. In the pick-up it develops either 160hp or 190hp. The more powerful variant is the first twin-turbo engine Nissan has deployed in a light commercial.
The NP300 Navara is sold in both 4x2 and 4x4 guises and with either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed automatic gearbox. It is marketed as a four-door double cab or as a stretched two-door king-cab. Both are supplied in either bodied or chassis cab guises. Double cabs are fitted with a multilink rear-suspension system that’s aimed at improving the on-road ride.
A standard-size single cab is not available. What is available, however, is a choice of no fewer than five trim levels, which seems a little unnecessary. From the bottom to the top, you can pick from Visia, Acenta, Acenta+, N-Connecta and Tekna. Whichever one you select, it won’t be short of features.
We tested a 190hp double-cab 4x4 in top-spec Tekna trim, complete with smart-looking side steps. Much of our time was spent driving it around rural counties whose inhabitants are wondering what to opt for next now that Land Rover has axed the Defender, and it attracted plenty of attention.
Access to the cargo area is by means of a (lockable) tailgate, which you release by pulling a centrally mounted flap. The tailgate drops down into a horizontal position, with a bulky rear bumper preventing it from dropping down completely. That makes it a little awkward to clamber into the load bay should you need to do so.
Two movable C-channel load tie-down points are positioned on tracking mounted towards the top of each sidewall. Our demonstrator had a plastic load area lining kit fitted, a £249 option.
What it did not have was exterior hooks to which a cargo cover can be attached, or a ladder rack behind the cab, an indication perhaps that our demonstrator was designed less as a working tool and more for use as personal transport. The cab was at least fitted with roof rails.
As a point of comparison, the Nissan’s cargo bed is more than 100mm longer than that of the equivalent Mitsubishi L200, 90mm wider and offers more clearance between the wheel boxes, although the sidewall depth is roughly the same.
While the NP300 Navara payload capacities are down compared with the previous model, our test vehicle still offered a gross payload in excess of a tonne plus a generous maximum towing capacity of 3.5 tonnes.
Cab and equipment
The NP300 Navara has, without doubt, one of the best reversing cameras ever fitted to a light commercial. Engage reverse and not only do you get to see what is directly behind you, you have a bird’s-eye view of the vehicle too on a split-screen arrangement thanks to Around View Monitor, standard on the top trim level.
The package includes reversing sensors that can be switched off. Furthermore, you can switch the camera on when you are not in reverse and manoeuvring at low speeds. It gives you the ability to spot potential hazards at the kerbside and close to the front of your vehicle more easily.
With Tekna trim you also get automatic air-conditioning with dual-zone climate control, cruise control with a speed-limiter, leather trim throughout, electric windows on all four doors, and power-operated and heated exterior rear-view mirrors that can be folded inwards by pressing a switch.
Standard from N-Connecta trim, the satellite navigation and entertainment package includes a DAB digital radio/CD/MP3 player with remote controls on the steering wheel, a seven-inch colour touchscreen, and Bluetooth audio streaming and phone integration. You get the ability to integrate smartphone apps, too.
You’ll find grab handles on the A and B pillars, heated front seats, and a driver’s seat with electric adjustment for height, reach and rake.
You can alter the height of the steering wheel as well. Somewhat unusual on a light commercial is the electric sunroof, but it’s a useful alternative to winding down the windows if all you want is a breath of fresh air.
The rear seat obliges you to adopt a sit-up-and-beg position, with a distinct lack of legroom for the middle passenger. The centre perch is really only suitable for short journeys. All three rear passengers are protected by adjustable headrests, however, and held in place by lap-and-diagonal belts.
Oddment storage facilities include a lidded, but not lockable, glovebox, a shelf on top of the dashboard, a sunglasses holder above the windscreen, bins in each of the doors with a moulding to grasp a bottle of water, and a lidded bin plus a pair of cup-holders between the front seats.
This last-named bin contains a 12V power point, and you will find another one on top of the dashboard and a third at the bottom. You can’t have too many power points and the one at the base of the dash is close to the USB and aux-in points.
Disc brakes are fitted at the front and drums at the back, and all the usual electronic safety gizmos are present and correct. They include ABS, electronic brakeforce distribution, hill-start assist, vehicle dynamic control (more usually referred to as electronic stability programme, and you can switch it off when you venture off-road), an electronic limited-slip differential, and forward emergency braking.
The last-named system alerts you if you are in danger of hitting an obstacle and brakes the vehicle if you ignore the warning.
Both the driver and the front passenger are protected by airbags should there be a collision. Side, curtain and knee airbags are fitted, too.
The engine is a 2.3-litre four-cylinder, common-rail, direct-injection unit that complies with Euro5 B+ emissions standards. Its 190hp peaks at 3750rpm, and its maximum 450Nm of torque is available from 1500rpm to 2500rpm.
In our case, the engine was married to a six-speed manual gearbox. Nissan is promising engine updates during 2016, despite this being a new model.
Four-wheel drive is selectable and easy to engage. You can opt for either ‘4H’ or go to
low-ratio ‘4LO’ for more rigorous off-road terrain.
Chassis and steering
The Navara NP300’s ladder-frame chassis employs a double-wishbone coil-over-strut set-up at the front and the aforementioned independent five-link arrangement at the back. The truck’s impressive-looking 18-inch alloy wheels – the spare is an 18-inch alloy too – were shod with Continental Conti Cross-Contact 255/60 R18 tyres. Rack-and-pinion power-assisted steering delivers a 12.4m kerb-to-kerb turning circle.
You start the vehicle by depressing the clutch and pressing a button on the dashboard. Acceleration away from rest is not all that brisk, but the engine packs plenty of mid-range and top-end punch. Both make their presence felt as you move through the gears, a task made easy by the smooth change.
The NP300 Navara handles well, and in-cab noise is not an issue bar a bit of (not unpleasant) growling under heavy acceleration. However, the on-road ride is not as smooth as we hoped it would be.
In our case, perhaps the tyre choice had something to do with it.
The Navara NP300 will happily traverse wet, rutted fields and scoot up farm tracks without getting stuck. The low-ratio gears can be deployed if you encounter any really sticky bits and the Hill Descent Control switch comes in handy if you need to head down steep muddy banks.
Buying and running
It’s good to see that the NP300 Navara is protected by a five-year/100,000-mile warranty that includes roadside assistance for the duration. A five-year paintwork warranty is provided too, along with a 12-year corrosion warranty.
Service intervals are set at two years/18,000 miles but we would advise interim safety inspections if you regularly drive off-road.
The official 44.1mpg fuel economy figure is class leading, and though we spent plenty of time on urban and suburban roads, and tackled rather a lot of high-speed motorway runs, often when quite heavily laden, we managed 35.1mpg, according to the onboard computer. That said, we weren’t always driving with frugality in mind.
|Price (ex VAT)||£24,012|
|Price range (ex VAT)||£18,095-£25,429|
|Load width (min/max)||1130mm/1560mm|
|Load bay height||474mm|
|Gross vehicle weight||3010kg|
|Braked trailer towing weight||3500kg|
|Cost per mile||42.0p*|
|Engine size/power||2298cc, 190hp @ 3750rpm|
|Torque||450Nm @ 1500-2500rpm|
|Fuel tank||80 litres|
|Price as tested||£24,980|
|*after 4yrs/80,000mls; source: KeeResources.com|
Updates should certainly ensure Nissan remains a strong contender as the pick-up market hots up over the next couple of years.