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Thursday 24 August 2017

Nissan NP300 Navara 2015 - Test Drive Review

Nissan NP300 NavaraNissan’s Navara was undisputed king of the one tonne 4x4 pick-up castle when it was first launched in 2005. But of late it has been successively nudged towards the back of the queue by a string of newer contenders offering lower running costs, better on-road manners and updated technology.

The all-new NP300 Navara (notice the addition of the NP300 prefix to bring it in line with the rest of the world), set to be available in the UK from January 2106 — order books are open now — puts Nissan firmly back at the head of the pick-up pack. It’s thanks to a combination of best-in-class features such as fuel economy, CO2 emissions figures, payload, load area and towing weight. Oh, and there's one more thing…

New Navara also boasts a unique feature in the ride and handling department too, being the first in its class to offer an independent five-link rear coil suspension system on double cab versions. All the mainstream contenders use more traditional leaf spring systems, more of which later.

Nissan NP300 NavaraWe'll be seeing quite a lot of this truck in the future as it is also slated to be rebadged as the Renault Alaskan (name to be confirmed) later in 2016 and a yet unnamed 4x4 pick-up to join the Mercedes-Benz LCV stable further down the line.

Priced between £18,376 and £24,293, the new Navara is being offered in king cab and double cab formats. Although there won't be a single cab 'cooking' variant, Nissan will be offering a basic two-wheel drive version of the king cab for farmers and suchlike at the bottom end of the price range.

Nissan has also ramped up the warranty on Navara to five years/100,000 miles in line with the rest of its extensive LCV line-up; and it's a guarantee that can be passed on to second owners.

Drivetrain
Nissan NP300 NavaraGone is the Navara's old 2.5-litre Nissan powerplant, replaced with a Renault-derived 2.3-litre dCi unit which pumps out either 160hp (single turbo) or 190hp (twin turbo) and 400Nm and 450Nm of torque respectively at a low 1,500rpm. This translates into huge amounts of grunt at low speeds, as we discovered on our test drive in the mountains of Majorca. For the record, the more powerful diesel is available solely on the double cabs.

But it's not all about power, there is good news on the fuel economy and emissions front too. The new generation Navara is up to 24 per cent better on fuel — up to 44.9mpg on the combined cycle — which roughly translates into a saving of £1,300 over three years/60, 000 miles.

Meanwhile, CO2 figures are best in class too, at between 167g/km and 183g/km. To show how much cleaner this engine is, the old Navara pumped out anything up to 235g/km.

There's a choice of gearboxes; a six-speed manual or a seven-speed auto and while we rate the latter highly, it's going to be on the options list even on top spec models. And it ain't exactly cheap at £1,417 ex-VAT.

Four-wheel drive is electronically selectable via a turn wheel. Moving from 2WD (rear-wheel drive) to 4H can be undertaken at up to 62mph (100kph), but switching to low range 4x4 requires it to be stationary and in neutral; no big deal. An electronic rear diff lock can be engaged via a facia-mounted push button

Load Area
Nissan NP300 NavaraNot a great deal has changed in the load area, although it is now slightly bigger to make it best in class. The double cab’s bed is 1,573mm long at the top and 1,578mm at the floor, and measures 1,130mm between the wheel boxes. Length increases to 1,750mm and 1,788 respectively for the king cab. Gross payload is 1,047kg – 1,203kg dependent on model.

Towing capacity has now increased to 3.5 tonne on all 4x4 variants (4x2 king cab provides 3.01t) and there is a variety of goodies on the options list to customise the rear end, such as a hard top, racks and a sliding tray so that cargo can be loaded more easily. Disappointingly, a plastic load liner remains on the options list and prices haven't been revealed yet.

In-Cab Comfort
As with the rest of the Navara, the cab is all new and very smart it is too in our book. There's a snazzy new dash that brings the truck bang up to date and the seats are noticeably more comfortable and supportive than the old ones.

Nissan NP300 NavaraWe quizzed the designers on the launch and discovered that they had used information about pressure points gained from experts at NASA when they were designing seats for astronauts. So if they are good enough to go into space, they should be fine on UK roads too.

Rear seats in king cab versions are really designed for occasional use. There are only two and they fold down rather like those you find in London cabs; there isn't much legroom either. Rear hinged half doors give good access to the rear which is a useful area for secure storage. Double cab versions, however, have the full complement of three seats and there was plenty of legroom for us to ride comfortably.

On the all-important coffee cup holder front (well important to us anyway, we're all coffee addicts) there are two in between the front seats and there's even a sunglasses holder which pops out from the roof, a pretty unusual addition for a commercial vehicle.

Our two test vehicles (king-cab and double-cab) both featured natty touchscreen sat-nav units and the double-cab had the all-round camera fitted. It's something new to us and while being a great boon inasmuch as you can see the sides as well as the front and back of the truck, it did take a bit of getting used to as it isn't always obvious what you are actually looking at.

Nissan NP300 NavaraA total of five spec levels will be available; Visia, Acenta, Acenta+, N-Connecta and Tekna. Standard spec on even the entry level is impressive and includes forward emergency braking which guarantees to prevent a crash at low speeds, Hill Descent Assist and Hill Start Assist, USB connectivity, air conditioning, driver/passenger/knee and curtain airbags, and cruise control among others.

Acenta adds alloy wheels, keyless ignition, chrome grille and other additions, while Acenta+ adds bigger alloys, fog lights, rear reversing camera with a colour screen as part of the rearview mirror, climate control and side steps. Moving up to N-Connecta we find a 7in touchscreen sat-nav and entertainment system, while Tekna adds a 360° camera, leather seats and heated front seats.

This, by the way, is a summary of the full spec list and we'd need a whole website of its own to list everything, but fortunately Nissan has taken care of this here.

Safety
Check out all those airbags mentioned earlier, add the now-standard items such as ESP and ABS and then add on the hill-hold and descent control features plus the automatic braking and we reckon if you crash this truck, then you really shouldn't be on the road!

If you do happen to have a prang, there's a massive box frame chassis under this vehicle and with a gross vehicle weight of just over three tonne, we reckon the Navara should come off best in any argument with a car.

Behind the wheel
Nissan NP300 NavaraWe joined a fair throng of journos for the launch event in Majorca and king and double cabs were both there for the driving. As it happened we tried the king cab first, which turned out to be a wise move as this version has the old leaf spring suspension set-up in the rear, which isn't half as good as the new coil spring one.

To be fair we didn't have a problem with ride and handling until we climbed aboard the double cab later in the day and realised just how much better it was. The guys who tried the double cabs first all moaned like mad about the king cabs afterwards.

Our king cab featured the manual gearbox and we were surprised to find a long-throw gearstick aboard. The cogs did snick into place satisfactorily, but we felt the length of the gearlever gave it a rather imprecise feel.

No such problems in the double cab auto, which is hardly surprising as the seven-speed ’box comes courtesy of the Infiniti side of Nissan's business. Although ride and handling were impressive, with nice taut steering, all the roads we drove on were like billiard tables, so we'll reserve final judgement on the Navara's on-road capabilities until we've tested it on the appalling bits of Tarmac they jokingly call roads in the UK.

Suffice to say it was easy to forget that we were driving such a big vehicle, such was the smoothness of progress. The ambience in the cab, meanwhile, was one of total peace and serenity.

Nissan NP300 NavaraWe particularly like the shape of the Navara's bonnet, which has rather jaunty raised haunches, setting it apart from most of the other contenders in the looks department. When we quizzed the designers, it turns out that this isn't purely a styling item, the central dip helping the driver keep the vehicle on course in awkward spots.

And talking of awkward spots, we ended up on a pretty hairy mountain track for our off-road test, but with the dial set in 4WD Low and the auto box in drive mode, the Navara simply blasted up and down the test route as though it was on the M25; although probably more quickly. Very impressive, nonetheless.

The hill hold and descent features meant we hardly had to do anything at all, apart from steer the truck so it didn't pitch off the edge of the track and over a cliff. For novices it's a great boon, but for experienced off-roaders who have honed their skills over a number of years, it's a bit too easy and a lot less rewarding.

Verdict
Following our first experience of the NP300 Navara we're hugely impressed with this new pick-up and now look forward to testing UK models, to ensure that what we found in Majorca translates to the UK. Judging by the murmurings of the other hacks on the event, we reckon Nissan’s newcomer could well be picking up a raft of awards in the coming year.

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