NISSAN has turned the pick-up market on to a new page with the latest Navara. This double-cab, five-seater has multi-link rear suspension rather than the workaday leaf-sprung axle fitted to all its rivals bar a few lighter-duty models.
Other firsts in the pick-up market are its crash-detecting forward braking and its 360-degree view monitor. Reversing cameras either on screen or in the mirror are standard. It comes to market as winner of the 2016 International Pick-up Award.
Multi-link systems are now common on SUVs and even with an empty load bay the Navara gives what seasoned pick-up testers were calling a “game-changing” improvement in ride and handling. It recognises that more and more pick-ups are being used for general motoring as well as load lugging. It’s here in January.
In the cabin you are facing controls which are similar to, say, the Nissan X Trail, with (on some models) touch-screen infotainment, sitting on bolstered seats which keep you in place if the going gets bouncy.
Nissan says the newly sprung Navara will cope with the heavy-duty workload and backs the new model with a five-year, 100,000-mile warranty. Only time and users will prove its robustness.
We were able to compare it against the old model on both public roads and rocky, rutted, washed-out tracks. Both old and new ride similarly at normal speeds on the highway but hitting any serious road faults and, later, the mountain track, proved the new rear suspension wins on comfort and steering control. By fitting a lateral Panhard rod it is 28 per cent stiffer than leaf springs.
Navara now poses a class-leading challenge to rivals like the soon to be updated Ford Ranger, the new Mitsubishi L200 and, to some extent, the posh one in the sector, the pricy VW Amarok. The Navara will spin off into badged versions from Renault and Mercedes-Benz, while Fiat is readying a re-badged L200 for next autumn. Toyota has a new Hi Ace on the way, too.
The Navara comes with a choice of manual and (from its pukka Infiniti marque) seven-speed automatic gears, and a revised 2.3 diesel with 158bhp and 297lb ft or a twin turbo, giving 187bhp and 332lb ft. This engine has a 24 per cent economy gain over the last version, with better performance. There are five trim levels, with the twin-turbo engine as standard from middle tier Acenta+ grade. Prices start at £23,995 on the road for the 158bhp Visia. Top price is £29,095 for the twin-turbo Tekna with leather seats which brings the 18-inch alloys, reversing camera, NissanConnect 2.0 7” touch-screen satellite navigation and entertainment system fitted to the £27,295 N-Connecta, plus the surround-view vision from the Qashqai and X-Trail. This works at low speed and shows the proximity of bollards in the high street and tree stumps in the woods. For good measure there are also rear sensors. Automatic gears would add £1,700 and there is a (small) sunroof option at £450.
The Navara sits on a newly engineered and substantial box-framed chassis. Traction is either rear-wheel drive, all-wheel drive or the latter with stepped down low ratio gears. You can switch from 2WD to 4WD on the move but must stop and have the Navara in neutral and wheels pointing straight ahead to get the low gears. For extreme conditions real off-roaders can add a rear diff lock at £500.
Standard on all versions are driver, passenger, side, knee and curtain airbags; air-conditioning, speed limiting hill descent control, and hill-start assistance.
A set of 16-inch alloys and useful sliding anchorage points in the load bed are in the Acenta kit while Acenta+ adds the more powerful engine, side steps and climate control.
Nissan also offers a King Cab version – more popular than the Double Cab in some countries. It has a shorter cabin, seating two rear passengers in rather cramped conditions on skimpy seats, and a longer load bed. This is available only with the 158bhp engine in Visia and Acenta trim. It retains an improved leaf-sprung rear suspension and has most of the kit and options offered for the Double Cab. King Cab prices are from £21,995 with 2WD and £22,995 with 4WD.
Nissan has a long history with pick-ups. It made its first, a light-duty model badged as Datsun, in 1955 and pioneered the King Cab design in 1977. Unlike many rivals, which are made in Thailand, the Navara comes from Nissan’s Barcelona factory. For the moment it is the cleanest pick-up in the class, with CO2 as low as 167g and all automatic versions under 170g.
Verdict: Game-changing technology and comfort reach the hard hat truck world.
It is: Nissan NP 300 Navara Double Cab. All-new five-seater pick-up.
At work: It will carry 550kg and pull 3,500kg at the same time. Optional sliding floor extension will support 300kg. Service interval doubled to two years/18,000 miles.
From the outside: New face and bonnet with swept up edges for better sighting; tailgate gets spoiler lip.
Big news: Lower pollution, better ride comfort, car-like interior, five-foot load bed, LED running lights, emergency braking.
Economy: Officially 44mpg but work will halve that. Our routes recorded 35mpg in the King Cab and 32mpg in the Double Cab.