A few years ago, pick-up manufacturers thought they had struck gold. Their practice of producing double-cab 4x4 pick-ups groaning with extras (leather- trimmed seats, aircon and so on) and touting them as a tax-efficient alternative to the company car paid off handsomely as drivers, formerly wedded to their saloons and hatchbacks, switched to something completely different.
Fashion is a fickle mistress, however, and while some stuck with pick-ups, others reverted to what they had before, or tried something else instead: an SUV for example. Recession took its toll too, and some users discovered that pick-ups were not quite as tax-efficient as they hoped they would be.
As a result, while goodie-laden double-cabs certainly still sell, some manufacturers have decided to revisit the utilitarian end of the market, especially with the arrival of budget pick-ups such as the Great Wall Steed. To serve it they are producing vehicles that, though designed primarily as workhorses, boast at least some of the creature comforts all drivers expect to enjoy these days.
Nissan has decided to enter the workhorse sector with the Navara Visia 4x4 four-door five-seater double-cab pick-up, in effect a stripped-down version of some of the better-specified models in its well-established Navara range.
Though somewhat on the dull, grey, side, the cab is a sensible working environment with a decent amount of storage space for oddments.
Aside from the deep, lockable glove box, you get a lidded compartment between the front seats with a holder for small change for parking machines positioned just beneath the cover. Also between the seats are two cup-holders and a trinket tray. There’s another, larger, tray just ahead of the gear stick and one on top of the dashboard.
You will find bins in all four doors, each with a moulding to hold a can of drink or a bottle of water.
Offering plenty of legroom, the driver's seat can be altered for reach and rake, but not for height. The steering wheel is tilt- adjustable, though.
The foldable rear bench seat can be split 60/40 to carry loads in the rear of the cabin. While the seating position that has to be adopted by all three occupants can best be described as ‘sit up and beg’, it is fine for short, local journeys. If it gets rocky off-road then the front passenger can hang on to a grab-handle on the A-pillar while the outermost rear passengers have grab-handles on their B-pillars.
Unlike other models in the Navara line-up, the interior door handles are finished in black, not chrome, in a bid to save pennies. Externally, the front bumper is body-coloured rather than two-tone, the front grille struts are painted rather than chromed, and conventional rather than flat wiper blades are fitted.
Access to the cargo area is by means of a heftily constructed, lockable, drop-down tailgate with a centrally positioned release. The tailgate falls to a horizontal position and remains there: it cannot be lowered any further.
Maximum load length is 1511mm. Maximum width is 1560mm, or 1130mm between the rear wheel boxes while maximum sidewall height is 457mm. Rear loading height is a fairly steep 800mm, the consequence of the truck's relatively high ground clearance, which is invaluable when you are off-road, but perhaps not quite so welcome when loading and unloading heavy stuff.
In our vehicle the load area, which features four tie-down points, was protected by a handy, lockable, Roll-N-Lock cover for an extra £1265.99 (all prices quoted here exclude VAT). A long strap enables you to pull it shut easily if you have pushed it fully open.
Grossing at 3210kg, the Navara Visia can handle a 1250kg gross payload and can haul a braked trailer grossing at 2600kg. Pull something that heavy and you may need to have a tachograph fitted, which can be mounted in the lower dash or centre storage box.
Power comes courtesy of a 2.5-litre four-cylinder in-line turbocharged and intercooled common-rail dCi diesel generating 144hp at 3600rpm. Top torque of 350Nm kicks in at 1600rpm and the engine satisfies the Euro5 exhaust emission regulations. To help it achieve that goal exhaust gas recirculation is fitted along with a particulate filter.
Relying on a dry-plate clutch, a six-speed manual gearbox is installed, while a rotary knob on the dashboard is used to switch the vehicle to four-wheel drive. It can also be employed to engage a lower-ratio set of gears if required.
Anybody who feels that 144hp is insufficient can choose a 190hp version of the 2.5-litre or even a 231hp V6 3.0-litre diesel, though these are only available in higher trim levels rather than the budget Visia. An extended two-door cab is available, too, and there are five different specification levels.
Chassis and steering
The Navara Visia's suspension system is basic, with a double- wishbone coil-over-strut package helping to support the truck at the front, and rigid leaf springs deployed at the rear. A set of 17-inch alloy wheels comes as standard – surprising perhaps, given the Visia’s supposed workhorse credentials – as are the Goodyear Wrangler 255/65 R17 tyres.
Power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering offers a 13.8m turning circle wall-to-wall, shrinking to 13.3m kerb-to-kerb with 3.8 turns lock-to-lock. Like so many large pick-ups, the Visia is not all that manoeuvrable in tight spaces.
Handling far better than many of the big 4x4 pick-ups we have encountered in the past, the Nissan lets itself down when it comes to its on-road ride. Progress is accompanied by a somewhat nervous pitter- pattering as the tyres, wheels and suspension react to every imperfection in the road surface.
This is a heavy vehicle almost 5.3m long, so with 144hp on tap the performance is adequate rather than inspiring, with drivers having to get used to being at the back of the traffic light grand prix pack when heavily laden. Noise levels are well-suppressed, however, and although the quality of the gear-shift is not outstanding, it is at least acceptable.
When the ground is bone-dry due to summer sunshine and there is more dust than mud around it can be difficult to assess off-road capabilities. However, the vehicle was happy to climb some quite steep embankments and chug safely down the other side, although we would have liked a slightly stronger braking effort from the engine. A decent level of suspension articulation allowed the truck to cope with deep ruts and the odd boulder or two.
While the Visia is not as fancily specified as its Acenta, Tekna, Platinum and Outlaw stablemates,
opting for one does not mean the driver has to don some sort of automotive hair shirt. For your money you benefit from manual aircon, big, electrically adjustable exterior mirrors with a puddle lamp and an indicator apiece but no wide-angle section, and electric windows front and back.
An MP3-compatible combined CD player and radio is provided and the cab is Bluetooth-enabled. Our vehicle was fitted with a tow-bar for an extra £232 plus the necessary electrical kit for a further £383.
Buying and running
We averaged 30.0mpg compared with an official combined fuel economy figure of 34.5 mpg. At 12 months/12,500 miles and three years/60,000 miles respectively, the service interval and warranty cannot be classed as over-generous, although there is an argument that says that a working tool like the Navara Visia should make reasonably regular visits to the workshop given the hammering it is likely to take. Meanwhile, it’s a shame the body is not protected by side rubbing strips.
Disc brakes are installed at the front while drums provide the braking effort at the back.
Electronic Stability Programme should help save the day if the driver suddenly has to swerve on a wet or greasy road and is at risk of rolling the vehicle over, while the ABS system is supplemented by Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and Brake Assist. Driver and front passenger airbags are also fitted, and it is good to see that all three occupants on the back seat are held in position by lap-and- diagonal belts.
We are, though, unhappy about the absence of a headrest to protect the middle passenger, an omission we have witnessed on other pick-ups. That’s because if the individual in that seat is thrown forwards under heavy braking they will be propelled backwards a second or so later and hit the back of their head against the rear window.
Remote central locking is part of the deal – you can also lock and unlock all four doors by hitting a
button on the dashboard – and thieves will hopefully be frustrated by the standard engine immobiliser and alarm.
A solid, unglamorous product designed to tackle a hard day’s graft. A well-built working tool.