Until the arrival of the Volkswagen Amarok in 2011, the Nissan Navara was pretty much the acknowledged leader of the field in the 4x4 truck sector when it came to car-like drivability.
Since then, the Navara has gradually been slipping down the list as newer and better rivals were launched against it. It was only this year that Nissan was able to vie for this crown again with the new NP300 Navara, launched in January – and it certainly rocked the boat. The new model has already picked up a raft of awards since launch and looks set to put Nissan firmly back among the off-road class leaders.
The Amarok has always had a major problem when it comes to fleet sales – it is only offered in double-cab format, whereas some company buyers want smaller, more down-to-earth models. True, Nissan also doesn’t offer a single-cab ‘cooking’ truck, but king-cab versions with small rear fold-down seats are available – and these should help to tempt prospective fleet buyers in Nissan’s direction.
Having driven left-hand drive versions in Majorca, we were keen to try UK variants so snapped up the first one on offer from Nissan, which admittedly isn’t exactly the most ‘fleety’ version there is – but at least it gives us a chance to try out all the goodies that are on offer from higher spec versions.
The vehicle on test is the Navara Tekna – the top of five spec levels – and as can be seen from the picture, it came in a dazzling metallic gold colour (which turned out to be a £495 option) and dripping with all sorts of extras that fleet drivers won’t get. Mind you at £24,013 ex-VAT, there are an awful lot of bangs for your buck.
Under the bonnet is a 2.3-litre dCi turbodiesel powerplant blasting out a meaty 190bhp, while standard equipment includes roof rails, alloy wheels, side steps, moveable
tie-down points in the back, body-coloured front bumpers, side, curtain and knee airbags, all-round view monitor, a Nissan Connect navigation and entertainment system and enough safety gadgets in place to make even the most timid of drivers feel safe in the rough.
The truck is slated to return a creditable 44.1mpg on the combined cycle and emits 169g/km of CO2.
The NP300 Navara goes along with most of the rivals in the sector by offering chunky, macho yet stylish looks, so it’s down to personal preference which one looks the best. My money is on the Nissan.
Meanwhile just about everything has been updated and improved over the old Navara to the extent that the vehicle offers as car-like a ride as a truck is ever going to, albeit with the seats at a rather different angle.
The cab is stylish in the extreme, with huge comfortable leather seats and a dash that wouldn’t look amiss in the most expensive car. Rear legroom, though, is rather at a premium.
In the rear our test vehicle had a plastic load liner which was an option at £360 – rather a surprise as in our view this is a must to keep the rear of the truck safe from scrapes and scratches that will badly affect its resale value.
The Navara fires up with a muted growl which is unobtrusive but loud enough to let the occupants know there is serious horsepower on offer – and on the road, the driver will never be caught short of oomph. The only gripe is that the rather old-fashioned long throw gear lever made for some notchy changes at times. We didn’t manage to take our test vehicle off-road, but had already tried the Navara in the dirt at the international launch in Majorca; even novices won’t take fright on the scariest inclines as hill start assist and hill descent control systems do all the work automatically.