25 April 2017
The new NP300 Navara has become far more civilised and SUV-like as it vies to take the segment lead away from the excellent Mitsubishi L200. Though its road manners aren’t perfect, faultless load-carrying credentials, build quality and fuel economy put it straight to the top of the class.
As a general rule, pick-ups are neither fast nor economical, but everything’s relative. Relatively speaking, then, the Navara is fairly efficient.
Official fuel consumption is 44.1mpg, so the Navara is slightly more frugal than the L200 it competes with. As a result, it’s marginally better on carbon dioxide emissions. Whereas the L200 hits 169g/km, the Navara manages 167g/km. Nissan makes a bit of a song and dance about it, but the truth is that it makes absolutely no difference in terms of road tax or company car tax.
It’s relatively quick too, with this Tekna model’s 2.3-litre 187bhp turbodiesel engine permitting a respectable 0-62mph time of 10.8 seconds and a 114mph top speed. It won’t worry any M Power BMWs, but it’s more than punchy enough to mix it with motorway traffic.
Because the average pick-up customer is increasingly concerned with refinement over carrying capability, Nissan has worked hard on improving the Navara’s ride with this new NP300 version.
A new five-link rear suspension set-up has been adopted, and though the Navara’s one-tonne payload is unchanged, it has been designed to be more comfortable with lighter loads in the back.
Sadly, all this is just words, and the Navara still has a jiggly, fidgety ride when the load bed is empty. In its defence, it soaks up the big bumps rather well, but there’s still a constant sense that the rear end is bouncing around all over the place.
It is a little more refined than before though, and Nissan’s overall aim of making the Navara feel more SUV-like has largely been achieved.
When it comes to handling, however, let’s just say that the Porsche Cayenne still won’t be having any sleepless nights. The Navara’s body roll isn’t too bad provided you drive smoothly, but sudden movements will set the body lurching about on its springs. Unfortunately driving smoothly isn’t always easy thanks to the feel-free steering, sloppy gearshift and super-light pedals.
It’s a Nissan, and most of the parts have been pinched from other vehicles in the Nissan stable, so of course the Navara is pretty solid. In places the truck’s commercial vehicle colours shine through in the shape of thin plastics and sharp edges, but these are few and far between, and the general feel is that of a budget crossover.
The engine is all new, so we can’t easily comment on how reliable it will prove, but that’s the only real area of uncertainty. The infotainment system and ancillaries are straight from a Qashqai and we haven’t heard of any horror stories, so we would imagine that the Navara will be sound from that point of view.
By providing autonomous emergency braking, Nissan has secured lower insurance premiums for the Navara than many of its rivals, and the Euro NCAP crash test scored it respectably for occupant and pedestrian protection, awarding it four stars.
Practicality is the mainstay of any pick-up, and the Navara scores well on payload and towing capacity. Its 1,047kg payload is pretty much identical to that of the L200, but its 3.5-tonne maximum towing weight puts it 400kg up on the Mitsubishi.
It edges ahead of the L200 in terms of bed size too, with a longer and wider cargo bay than the Mitsubishi, as well as a slightly lower bed, which makes hauling heavy items into the back just that little bit easier.
Room in the cab is also good, with most variants getting the spacious double cab seen here. There’s more than enough legroom in the back and the fact that the rear seats have been reclined by 23 degrees has made sure there’s adequate headroom.
Navara pricing starts from £18,376 plus VAT, and for that you get the entry-level Visia model in two-door King Cab guise and with the 158bhp engine. It’s the workhorse variant and standard kit is relatively meagre, although you do get manual air conditioning, Bluetooth and automatic headlights.
Paying an extra £1,500, however, puts you in the more passenger-focused Acenta model. Boasting keyless start, 16in alloys, a 5in TFT trip computer screen and chrome exterior trim, it’s a far more civilised option.
The civilisation really sets in with the £22,000 Acenta Plus model though. It comes fully kitted out with 18in alloys, the more powerful 187bhp engine, two-zone climate control and a reversing camera and it’s available solely in the double cab bodyshape.
Most customers (90% of them, in fact) are expected to go for the Tekna model on test. Starting from £24,293 plus VAT it’s hardly the last word in budget motoring, but you do get a huge amount of standard equipment.
Leather seats, satellite navigation, a 360-degree top-down manoeuvring camera and heated seats are thrown into the mix, along with roof rails, parking sensors and even LED headlights.
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