CommercialFleet

Nissan Navara

Review

BRITAIN’S double-cab 4x4 market is set to take a dramatic turn in August with the launch of the new Nissan Navara.

Until now, while all the offerings in the sector are tough and macho-looking, none manage to achieve a car-like driving quality on the road. All are slow and all, except the Toyota Hilux, have old-fashioned diesel engines rather than the more modern common rail versions.

With the launch of the new Navara, the Japanese maker has not only moved the sector’s goalposts – it has set a whole new playing field of its own. In short, the Navara is head and shoulders above the rest in handling and power.

Across Europe, the new vehicle will be available in two power outputs – 145bhp and 174bhp. But British buyers will only be offered the higher-powered version, putting the new Navara in a league of its own power-wise.

Torque is up, too. The old Navara was already market leader at 224lb-ft but the new model has a stonking 297lb-ft, putting it way ahead of the nearest rival, the Isuzu Rodeo, at 206lb-ft. Finally, British double-cab buyers have a vehicle to choose from that goes as well as it looks.

The new vehicle is based on the Nissan Pathfinder – it will roll off the same production line in Barcelona and shares its platform and even its dashboard.

There will be two models available – double cab and king cab – and prices will range from £14,695 for the standard king cab to £21,970 for the top-of-the-range double-cab Aventura (all prices exclude VAT). All have a payload above 1,045kg and a maximum towing weight of 2,700kg. As with most vehicles of this type, a myriad of styling accessories is available.

The basic spec models have standard driver and passenger airbags, ABS brakes with electronic brake force distribution, alarm and immobiliser, remote plip locking and a CD player.

The basic model has steel wheels while the SE version adds 17-inch alloys, rail side steps, dual-zone climate control, leather steering wheel and electric heated door mirrors.

The Outlaw version adds roof bars for double-cabs, front foglamps, headlamp washers, rain sensing windscreen wipers, a six-CD player with steering wheel controls, cruise control and under-seat rear storage compartments while the Aventura has an electric sunroof, leather seats, power/heated front seats, side and curtain airbags, Nissan’s Birdview sat-nav system and Bluetooth phone integration.

Behind the wheel

THE island of Crete – the destination for the launch of the new Navara – proved an ideal testing ground with its mixture of fast, flat roads and twisty mountain passes.

The problem with most of the present crop of double-cabs is that on smoother surfaces, the suspension is just too hard for comfort. Most of these vehicles spend the majority of time on normal roads, so getting the balance right is important.

However, Nissan has finally achieved this particular holy grail with the new Navara. Heading out of Heraklion on the island’s grandly named National Road in a double-cab auto-box model, I could for all the world have been driving a large car. I’m so used to paltry performance in these vehicles that it was something of a shock to find that, when accelerating, the vehicle surged ahead lustily, making a glorious roar as it did so. Nissan puts the 0-62mph time at a creditable 11.5 seconds and top speed at a tad over 106mph.

I was soon in the mountains on tracks and it became apparent that this vehicle is not just a pretty face. Gone is the old floor-mounted lever to change into four-wheel drive – it is done now with the simple twist of a switch. As I negotiated switchback routes, the Navara thundered on, never giving me the slightest hint that it might not cope.

Next day I swapped for a king-cab manual and, disappointingly, the gearchange felt imprecise and rubbery and reverse was almost impossible to find sometimes. I was testing left-hand drive versions and I’m not used to changing gear with my right hand so maybe British models will be easier.

In contrast, the power steering is weighted just on the heavy side to give the right amount of feel for what the wheels are doing.

Driving verdict

THE launch of the new Navara effectively means that the muscle truck market will change forever. This vehicle has upped the ante to such an extent that the rivals will just have to respond with more powerful models which handle better or they will simply be left trailing in the Navara’s dust.

Engine (cc): 2,500
Max power (bhp/rpm): 174/4,000
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 297/2,000
Max speed (mph): 106
0-62mph (sec): 11.5
On sale: August
Prices (ex-VAT): £14,695-£21,970

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.