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First drive: Nissan NP300 Navara. Image by Nissan.

First drive: Nissan NP300 Navara
Nissan improves its Navara pick-up in many respects - including the rear suspension.

   



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Nissan NP300 Navara

4 4 4 4 4

The big, tough Nissan NP300 Navara still does all the things a workhorse pick-up truck should do, but the influence of the brand's super-successful crossovers can be felt in the vastly improved interior quality and the smoother ride, courtesy of an advanced, first-in-class multilink suspension for the rear axle. What a shame the outdated engine wasn't overhauled, too, because otherwise it's a fine 4x4 vehicle.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Nissan NP300 Navara 2.3 190 Double-Cab Tekna
Pricing: commercial range from 18,376, retail from 21,995; Double-Cab Tekna from 29,095, car as tested 31,745
Engine: 2.3-litre twin-turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Transmission: all-wheel drive, seven-speed automatic
Body style: four-door pick-up
CO2 emissions: 183g/km (VED Band I, 350 first 12 months, 225 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 40.3mpg
Top speed: 112mph
0-62mph: 10.8 seconds
Power: 190hp at 3,750rpm
Torque: 450Nm from 1,500- to 2,500rpm

What's this?

Nissan's pick-up truck, a type of vehicle that was once a minority interest in Europe, but which has become increasingly popular thanks to its versatility. The NP300 Navara therefore tries to wear two hats; in its more basic forms, it's a commercial vehicle, available in chassis-cab (essentially, either of the passenger compartment sizes but with the load bed removed so different bodies can be bolted on its back) and king-cab formats for the working types of this world - farmers, builders, decorators and so on.

But as the more luxurious double-cab model, replete with four proper doors into a spacious, five-seat cabin, it appeals to private buyers as the ideal compromise between a full-on SUV and a van; think of it as something used by people who like to go riding dirt bikes of a weekend, or who try out hang-gliding on a regular basis, or similar adrenaline-fuelled pursuits that cannot be catered for by a 'mere' SUV.

So Nissan has taken a commendable decision and fitted advanced, five-link rear suspension to the double-cab models (the king-cab makes do with the old-fashioned leaf springs, currently found on every other European-spec pick-up going) to make the NP300 Navara more SUV-like. This is a pioneering move in this market sector. It has also taken learnings from its phenomenally successful crossovers (Juke, Qashqai and X-Trail) and improved the interior quality no end, adding in a stylised centre console, a wealth of toys and more upmarket materials.

The NP300 Navara can still perform all the tough duties expected of it, of course. In double-cab format, the pick-up bit can carry payloads of slightly more than a tonne (1,052kg in the case of this fully-loaded, top-spec Tekna model with an automatic gearbox) and it can haul up to 3.5 tonnes of braked trailer - and with a gross combined weight (people on board, stuff in the load bed, a trailer out back) of 6,000kg, it should be more than versatile enough for even the most active and varied of lifestyles.

While the chassis- and king-cab versions come in very basic specs with just single-turbo diesel engines and the manual gearbox, it's the double-cab that offers the most variety, with a choice of single- or twin-turbo diesel engines, five trim levels (Visia, Acenta, Acenta+, N-Connecta and Tekna) and two transmissions: the six-speed manual used in the rest of the line-up, or the choice of a seven-speed auto on the 190hp, 450Nm twin-turbo.

To reinforce the 'jack-of-all-trades' message, the kit list on this Tekna is enormous - including (but not limited to) forward emergency braking, hill descent control, hill start assist, LED lights all round, Isofix child-seat points in the rear, a six-speaker stereo with DAB, USB and aux-in connections, Bluetooth, a multifunction steering wheel, cruise control, climate control, keyless entry and go, 18-inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery with heated seats, heated and folding door mirrors, front fog lights, NissanConnect 2.0 infotainment incorporating satnav and a seven-inch touchscreen, the around-view monitor (360-degree cameras)... seriously, we could go on, but we'll have to stop there. So it's as well-equipped as any self-respecting SUV, although the Tekna costs nearly thirty grand; retail Navaras begin, ostensibly, at 21,995 for the king-cab 2WD but in reality the double-cab's 23,995 entry ticket for a Visia is the way into NP300 ownership.

How does it drive?

Nissan was pretty savvy on the launch, by letting us drive this fully-loaded luxury road-biased model with the optional automatic transmission (1,700), rear diff lock (500) and sunroof (450); a sparser specification manual king-cab with the less powerful, single-turbo iteration of the 2.3-litre diesel (160hp/403Nm) and its archaic rear leaf springs; and even a bog-basic example of the preceding Navara on an off-road route. The comparisons threw up some interesting details.

For starters, the ride quality with no weight on board is superb on the double-cab and traditional, bouncy-bouncy pick-up on the king-cab. So that advanced multilink rear suspension has a quantifiable improvement on the Navara's road-going manners; in fact, so equipped, its ride is better than any other truck we can think of. Second, the cabin quality is in another league compared to the old model's hose-down affair - all the dials, that stack around the touchscreen, the switchgear used... all of these are far more Juke than junk. OK, the dash top plastic and the door cards are a touch basic by modern cabin standards, while a Volkswagen Amarok's interior is a step up again, but nevertheless the Nissan feels a quality product. And all the equipment works brilliantly, especially that around-view monitor, which comes in very handy when low-speed manoeuvring a 5.3-metre long, two-tonne brute.

Third, the automatic, leather-lined double-cab NP300 is every bit as capable at traversing a steep, rocky incline as a 'white goods' workman example of the old Navara, even though the new one's all-wheel drive drivetrain was in '4Hi' while the outmoded Nissan was using '4Lo' (low-ratio, in case you're wondering). You can shift from rear-wheel drive to 4Hi and vice-versa on the fly at up to 62mph in the NP300, yet it also has a 4Lo setting - which requires you to be in neutral with the wheels pointing straight to engage it - if the going gets really heavy.

At this point in the summation, we're thinking that with its perfectly chunky, acceptable looks, a practical and pleasant cabin, great on- and off-road manners, and a price tag that undercuts any number of similarly premium SUVs, things look very rosy indeed for the NP300 Navara. Until we come to the 2.3-litre engine. Dynamically, everything is in place - the ride's excellent, the body control is acceptable (there's a bit of roll but nothing out of the ordinary and the grip levels are high), the rack-and-pinion, power-assisted steering is weighty and informative, the brakes are fine (although, for the first few applications, you underestimate just how much stopping even a lightly laden Navara takes) and the seven-speed auto, while not the slickest or quickest we've ever encountered, is another tick in a long line of boxes for the Nissan. So dredging this lumpfish dCi out of the NV400 van - presumably for reasons of cost - and slotting it into an otherwise polished package is a real disappointment for us.

The twin-turbo unit is fine in terms of the shove it provides the Navara with but it's ever so noisy compared to any other diesel you can think of; the turbos in particular make a right racket, whirring away like gigantic turbines in an industrial factory. Revved past 2,500rpm, the 2.3 four-pot becomes coarse and strained. There are plus points, in that it's cleaner than before (this auto double-cab is the least 'green' of the lot, at a still-reasonable 183g/km of CO2 emissions) and when it's cruising, it's not so loud, but the turbodiesel proves to be the weakest point in the Navara's armour. Try out the Amarok with the biturbo 180hp unit and you'll see what we mean about the Nissan's relative lack of refinement.

Verdict

A largely superb pick-up truck from Nissan, the NP300 Navara should find plenty of buyers in a growing market because it's certainly up there with the class leaders in this segment. Strangely, the Navara has always performed better for Nissan as a retail purchase than as a CV here in Europe, so while headquarters has insisted that more commercial users of the NP300 are found, it's clear that the focus still remains on tempting private owners out of their SUVs. On that basis, adding multilink rear suspension was a stroke of genius on the part of Nissan; sticking with the agricultural 2.3-litre turbodiesel was not so clever. Drive one, and if you can live with the considerable hubbub of the motor, you'll find no real reason to dislike the NP300 Navara.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

5 5 5 5 5 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Comfort

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Driving Dynamics

3 3 3 3 3 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 19 Nov 2015



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2016 Nissan NP300 Navara Double Cab. Image by Nissan.2016 Nissan NP300 Navara Double Cab. Image by Nissan.2016 Nissan NP300 Navara Double Cab. Image by Nissan.2016 Nissan NP300 Navara Double Cab. Image by Nissan.2016 Nissan NP300 Navara Double Cab. Image by Nissan.

2016 Nissan NP300 Navara Double Cab. Image by Nissan.2016 Nissan NP300 Navara Double Cab. Image by Nissan.2016 Nissan NP300 Navara Double Cab. Image by Nissan.2016 Nissan NP300 Navara Double Cab. Image by Nissan.2016 Nissan NP300 Navara Double Cab. Image by Nissan.



2016 Nissan NP300 Navara Double Cab. Image by Nissan.
 

2016 Nissan NP300 Navara Double Cab. Image by Nissan.
 

2016 Nissan NP300 Navara Double Cab. Image by Nissan.
 

2016 Nissan NP300 Navara Double Cab. Image by Nissan.
 

2016 Nissan NP300 Navara Double Cab. Image by Nissan.
 

2016 Nissan NP300 Navara Double Cab. Image by Nissan.
 

2016 Nissan NP300 Navara Double Cab. Image by Nissan.
 

2016 Nissan NP300 Navara Double Cab. Image by Nissan.
 

2016 Nissan NP300 Navara Double Cab. Image by Nissan.
 

2016 Nissan NP300 Navara Double Cab. Image by Nissan.
 

2016 Nissan NP300 Navara Double Cab. Image by Nissan.
 






 

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