We’re expecting no fewer than eight new pickup launches over the next two years and, following on from the Series 5 Mitsubishi L200’s debut over the summer, Nissan is second to show its hand. We’ve put the first brand-new Navara for a decade to the test on the dirt tracks of Mallorca.
The latest Navara incarnation has been a ‘blank canvas’ project, and even the name hasn’t escaped without a makeover. The ‘NP300 Navara’ designation follows the new global house style for Nissan commercial vehicles, denoting the type of vehicle (Nissan Pickup) and gross vehicle weight (three tonnes).
Arriving in dealerships in January 2016, the new pickup will be a breath of fresh air for fretful Nissan dealers. Its predecessor, launched in 2005, set the standard for comfort and refinement at a time when pickups started to appear on the Chelsea tractor scene, but it’s since lost ground to newer competition from the likes of Ford, Volkswagen and Isuzu.
Leaf springs banished
Nissan claims it has set a precedent once again with the latest Navara. Gone is the bone-shaking leaf-sprung suspension on double-cab models, replaced by a new five-link coil system which provides a much more refined, SUV-like ride.
Under the bonnet is Renault-Nissan’s 2.3-litre dCi unit, developed specifically for commercial vehicles. It’s chain-drive, to extend service intervals to two years or 25,000 miles, and is available in single- (158bhp) or twin-turbo (188bhp) form.
The designers have played it safe, opting for an appearance that treads a neat middle ground between no-nonsense industrial operators and the family and lifestyle set, with a more rounded appearance and chrome detailing prettying up the reassuringly beefy grille and broad-tracked body.
Lots of new toys
In the cab, again, Nissan has opted for modesty. The mix of black plastics with chrome detailing makes for a smart and presentable cab environment, although we found the leather seats too firm and uncomfortable.
The large, high bonnet may provide an imposing appearance but it’s also a major hindrance to vision when parking and manoeuvring in tight spaces. That aside, pickups are becoming more car-like with each generation, and the NP300 Navara’s no different with reversing cameras and 360-degree Around View Monitoring (AVM) making their pickup debut.
On (and off) the road
Road manners have been dramatically improved thanks to the new suspension system. The independent coils deal with potholes and speedbumps with ease, rather than sending 8.2 magnitude tremors through the chassis.
Turning off the beaten track, the NP300 is just as dependable. Nissan’s proven electronically controlled four-wheel-drive system has three settings: 2Hi, 4Hi, 4Lo, with the option of a locking differential. A more lightweight design helps the NP300 feel more nimble and agile than its predecessor, while the 295lb ft of torque means there’s plenty of push to get up those tough ascents.
At the business end, loading capabilities haven’t been compromised. The towing capacity has been increased to a class-leading 3.5 tonnes, payload has increased to 1045kg (although this still falls short of the flock’s best), and the load length on the double-cab extends to 1578mm.
The pickup market is rapidly transforming, with more and more trucks being used as a family vehicle. By making the ride more comfortable, making the interior and exterior more visually appealing and adding a host of safety and driver assist systems, the NP300 Navara is well positioned to meet the new-age demands of the market. Now we just have to wait for the rest of its competitors to reveal their hands.