FOR those needing a working vehicle that will double as the family transport there has never been more choice and the all-new Nissan Navara NP300 is a pick-up truck that should definitely be on your shortlist.
Nissan produced their first pick-up back in 1935 so they had plenty of experience to draw on when designing the new Navara which is available in both King Cab configuration with tiny, rear-hinged back doors and fold-down rear seats or the more family-friendly Double Cab layout which provides regular 3-seat accommodation and full-sized rear doors.
There is just the one engine available – a 2.3 litre diesel unit in either single-turbo 160PS guise or the more powerful twin-turbo 190PS. Either way it’s a well-proven, rugged unit capable of up to 46.3mpg.
The model range consists of 5 trim-levels starting with the Navara Visia (from £24,480 inc. VAT) which includes such goodies as Bluetooth, multi-function steering wheel, cruise control, Hill Start Assist, Hill Descent Control (4WD), an electronic Limited Slip Differential and a 5in. HD full colour TFT screen combimeter. The Double Cab version also gets a 5-link rear suspension for a comfier ride and Intelligent Emergency Braking which will also bring down the insurance premium.
The Navara Acenta (fom £26,280 inc. VAT) adds some exterior styling as well as 16in alloys, Nissan Intelligent Key and push-button Start. There is also a chrome rear step bumper and the excellent C-Channel moveable tie-down points for the load bay.
Navara Acenta+ (from £28,980 inc. VAT) provides 18in alloys, auto air-con (dual zone), side-steps, a reversing camera and rear privacy glass.
If media connection is your thing then you’ll want the Navara N-Connecta (from £29,830 inc. VAT) which includes NissanConnect Sat Nav and entertainment system with smartphone integration and Bluetooth audio streaming.
Finally there is the Navara Tekna (from £31,630 inc. VAT) which also gets you a 360-degree monitor, leather seats, LED headlights, roof rails, heated front seats and rear parking sensors.
All Double Cab versions get part-time 4WD and the option of a 7-speed auto gearbox, while the manual-only King Cab can be optioned with 2WD-only.
I’ve been driving a Navara N-Connecta Double Cab with the more powerful 190PS diesel engine and manual gearbox. It is in a very striking Savannah Yellow metallic paint and includes a couple of options: A Rear Differential Lock at £500 and a Premium Hardtop for £3,300.
As you would expect it looks a bit of a beast, especially that battering-ram front end. However, this is true of all the Navara’s rivals. The Mitsubishi L200, VW’s Amarok, the Ford Ranger and the Toyota Hilux are all quite aggressive in their looks as well as their stance.
And the stance is tall. You climb up into the cab rather than step into the cab like you would in a regular SUV and once there you have a commanding view of the road ahead.
The load bed is lined in a thick plastic to help keep things from getting very tatty very quickly and the sliding cleats for tie-downs work very well. The Navara can carry a full tonne load in the bed and can also tow 3.5 tonne if needed.
The rather expensive Hardtop fitted very well with no rattles and I was impressed that it also integrated with the central-locking. It is also glazed front and rear so the rear view isn’t blocked out. Beware low-slung cars getting quite close though as they can disappear below the window level.
While the hardtop certainly makes the rear bed much more secure for storing tools, etc. it is rather low and therefore restrictive when it comes to taller objects.
Once up and into the cab you’ll find plenty of space both for yourself, your passenger and any items you may wish to store away. The glove box is particularly spacious and there are deep door bins for holding a tablet computer and more. There is also a storage space behind the central cup-holders and 2 hidden storage bins beneath the rear seats.
Both front seats are comfortable and adjustable enough for long journeys and I found the driving position good with everything falling easily to hand. The leather-covered, multi-function steering wheel feels robust enough as do the plastic surfaces of the cab which are pleasant enough to look at but still feel quite hard compared to what you may find in a Qashqai or X-Trail.
The main instruments are clear with a 5in TFT multi-display between them that is easy to work and gives the usual info: average speed, mpg, trip info and eco-driving info.
The 7in infotainment system includes NissanConnect 2.0 Sat Nav and a reversing camera as well as smartphone app integration, DAB radio and Bluetooth connectivity. It looks a little dated but the screen is responsive enough and the most-frequently used features have decent-sized push-buttons arranged around the screen for easy access.
Rear passengers fare very well in the Double Cab Nissan Navara with plenty of leg room and head room that easily accommodates those over 6-foot.
With a multi-link rear suspension rather than the old-fashioned leaf-spring setup of the King Cab, the Double Cab Navara rides the lumps and bumps of our roads very well with no significant rebounding over undulations to make rear passengers feel queasy – even with an empty load bay.
I wouldn’t say the Nissan Navara is as good to drive as your average SUV or Crossover, of course, after all it is a working vehicle first and foremost. You are always aware of its size, both in length and weight.
The Navara will truck-on down the motorway quite easily, although with significant wind noise from those large door mirrors. At speed it feels very stable and quite relaxed with responsive steering while A-road blasts are not so much fun as all that weight is bound to play a part in trying to get around corners quickly. Don’t get me wrong – for a pick-up the Navara is relatively well composed when changing direction quickly – just don’t expect defy the laws of physics.
Switch the rotary traction dial from 2WD to 4WD though and much fun can be had off-road as the Navara excels on tough terrain and a half-mile stretch of steep, broken-road I navigated in the Peak District was despatched easily without having to revert to low-range.
All in all the Nissan Navara NP300 is a work-horse with a plush saddle. Buyers moving from a conventional hatchback and thinking about an SUV would be much better served with the likes of the Nissan X-Trail or SEAT Ateca. But those who need to shift and load heavy gear on a regular basis and don’t want to destroy the inside of their SUV will find a lot to like here. Just make sure you have a long driveway.
AT A GLANCE:
Nissan Navara N-Connecta Double Cab
OTR Price: £29,830
Engine: 2.3 turbo diesel
Power: 190 bhp
Transmission: 6-speed manual
0-62mph: 10.8 secs
Top Speed: 114 mph
Combined Economy: 44.9 mpg