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Driven: Nissan Navara. Image by Nissan.

Driven: Nissan Navara
The one-tonne Nissan Navara pick-up remains a quality piece of kit on UK roads.

 



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Nissan Navara

4 4 4 4 4

Good points: Engine sounds more refined than our first experience, it's a great pick-up overall for a reasonable price

Not so good: Ride not quite as good as we remembered, tough competition in this sector

Key Facts

Model tested: Nissan Navara 2.3 190 Double Cab Tekna
Price: Navara commercial vehicle range from 18,376, retail range from 21,995; Double-Cab Tekna from 24,792.50 (as CV, otherwise 29,750 inc. VAT), car as tested 25,796.50 (as CV, 30,955 inc. VAT)
Engine: 2.3-litre twin-turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Transmission: all-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: four-door pick-up
CO2 emissions: 169g/km (CV VED 225 for light commercial vehicles)
Combined economy: 44.1mpg
Top speed: 114mph
0-62mph: 10.8 seconds
Power: 190hp at 3,750rpm
Torque: 450Nm from 1,500- to 2,500rpm

Our view:

Like our recent UK review of the Mercedes-AMG SLC 43, we're not going to go into chapter and verse on the Nissan Navara here, as it's only been a short time since we drove it on the international launch. So the facts remain as follows: we love its butch styling (especially when finished in Savannah Yellow, or gold, if you value plain-speak); that we're hugely impressed by the vastly improved interior finishing; that it still packs a load of kit for very reasonable prices, even when you factor in VAT as a private buyer (making our test car the 'wrong' side of 30 grand if it's not going to be used as a commercial vehicle); and that, in the hard-fought one-tonne pick-up sector, the Navara is one of the leading lights in class.

That's all fine and dandy, then. Which means - and again, this is like our SLC piece - what we're focusing on here in the UK is whether the Nissan's ride quality is as sumptuous on our craggy thoroughfares as it proved to be while we were plugging around deserted Mallorcan roads, and whether that 2.3-litre twin-turbo engine still feels like a wheezy, agricultural mistake that should be forever consigned to the parts bin.

And sorry to keep banging on about the SLC article, but once again it's a case where we find we've altered our opinion on both facets of the Navara's character (as we did with the Merc), in one way positively and the other negatively. The good news is that the engine no longer feels like it belongs in a tractor. That almighty whooshing and blowing the two turbos emitted during our first drive was almost entirely absent; we say 'almost', because it did occur once or twice when the Nissan was starting from cold, but otherwise the noise levels of the 2.3 four-pot were extremely hushed - which allowed us to focus on its almighty torque figure of 450Nm, enough to make the Navara one of the quickest vehicles in class.

Not so excellent is the ride. Nissan had this as the Navara Double Cab's USP when it launched the car at the tail-end of 2015. Unlike the work-oriented King Cab Navara, which rides on the traditional pick-up rear suspension of leaf springs, the Double Cab in its highest (read: private customer-focused) trim grades gets an advanced five-link arrangement with coil springs instead. It's not fully independent rear suspension, granted, but this set-up is designed to make the Navara feel more like a car, or rather, a well-sorted SUV. Shame, then, that here in the UK it doesn't quite prove to be the case.

Yes, the Navara is still definitely one of the comfier one-tonne pick-ups in which to travel, but to say you won't experience 'empty load-bed jiggle' in it on rough roads would be a lie. That rear suspension still has to potentially deal with a pallet of bricks being dumped into the back, so it's a necessarily firm calibration, meaning when the truck is empty, the trailing axle can skip about. Ride quality remains above average on the Navara as a result, but we would say that in the UK, it doesn't conduct itself appreciably better than, for instance, the Volkswagen Amarok, a vehicle that has primitive leaf springs at the back.

Therefore, taking the engine and ride into account is a case of 'you win some, you lose some' for the Navara in the UK, as the gains in sonic refinement are cancelled out by the mildly bouncy comportment. So besides these two points, the only other item to note about this particular Navara is that rather than being the seven-speed automatic we drove overseas, this one was a six-speed manual. It's a great gearbox, the shift action being long but pleasingly mechanical - although first gear is incredibly short, in order to make getting a fully-laden Navara off the line a touch easier; private users who don't often cart about lumber in the back might find they're better off launching the Nissan in second gear instead.

Perhaps more pertinently, sticking with the manual transmission results in slightly better eco-figures of 44.1mpg combined and 169g/km of CO2 emissions; the auto returns 40.3mpg with 183g/km of CO2. Also, while we're on the figures, the manual is 2mph faster flat-out than the automatic, and these increases are all very pleasant bonuses that count towards the Nissan pick-up's favourable rating.

There's no doubting we really like the Navara; in fact, we'd go so far as to say we love it, as the impact of the slightly suspect ride here in the UK is equalised by the improved refinement we experienced from the 2.3-litre diesel, making the Nissan a pleasure to tool around in. We covered 377 miles during a week in it, spending 11 hours at the wheel and seeing back 35mpg in the process; not bad figures for a supposedly rough-and-tumble workhorse that's designed to be a CV first and foremost, rather than some sort of stylish alternative to a normal SUV.

The problem for the Navara is that we could say the same thing about its chief rivals. We like the Ford Ranger. We like the Mitsubishi L200. We like the Volkswagen Amarok. We like the Toyota Hilux... you get the picture. And what with the Renault Alaskan (based on the Navara's chassis) and Mercedes' pick-up both on the way, what you have here is a wealth of one-tonne pick-up choice, all of which are generally excellent machines. So, unless you're particularly badge-loyal to Nissan, the Navara has a tough fight on its hands - but as least it has the requisite items in its toolbox to make a damned fine fist of the job.

Alternatives:

Ford Ranger: Recently facelifted and is another superb truck, although its 3.2-litre engine and suspension are both relatively unrefined in this class.
Toyota Hilux: Long-serving Hilux has just been overhauled and is far less utilitarian than it once was, but it still feels better suited to commercial work rather than private commuting.
Volkswagen Amarok: Despite leaf springs at the back, this thing is extremely civilised. Canyon special model was great, but now Wolfsburg has dropped a 3.0-litre V6 TDI into the 'Rok... glory be.


Matt Robinson - 19 Dec 2016









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2016 Nissan Navara drive. Image by Nissan.2016 Nissan Navara drive. Image by Nissan.2016 Nissan Navara drive. Image by Nissan.2016 Nissan Navara drive. Image by Nissan.2016 Nissan Navara drive. Image by Nissan.

2016 Nissan Navara drive. Image by Nissan.2016 Nissan Navara drive. Image by Nissan.2016 Nissan Navara drive. Image by Nissan.2016 Nissan Navara drive. Image by Nissan.2016 Nissan Navara drive. Image by Nissan.








 

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