The Nissan Navara promises rugged practicality allied to an SUV-like cabin ambience, but what is it like to live with?
Henry Ford, the clever man that he was, saw an opportunity to cash in on farmers’ habit of modifying the simple and rugged Model T automobiles they used for working on their fields, and thus the ‘pickup’ was born.
For nearly a century, the pick-up truck has been used to combine everyday transportation with commercial activities. Here in Blighty, the American idol remains about as popular as country music, but perhaps not for much longer.
You see, the government still classes pick-ups as light commercial vehicles, provided they have a payload of more than one tonne, which means you pay a flat tax rate irrespective of the CO2 output. There are even competitive rates on fuel allowances and the first year’s VED is £130 less than it would be if it were classified a normal car.
For the 2016-2017 tax year, BIK is set at £3170. So if you pay tax at 20%, that’s £634 a year, or £52.83 a month; for a 40% tax payer, it works out at £1268 for the year, or £105.66 a month. Electric cars aside, then, a pick-up is most likely the cheapest company car you can own — especially compared with a conventional SUV.
With this in mind, manufacturers have been getting more savvy, offering SUV levels of interior quality and the modern-day amenities that families have come to expect from a vehicle in 2016, along with, of course, the ability to carry all their stuff — at least a tonne of it, in fact. Who needs a Ford Transit?
This new Nissan Navara NP300, the latest addition to the Autocar fleet, is a perfect example of this canny pickup repurposing. Not only is it aimed at tradesmen but it’s also designed to keep their families happy. Admittedly, though, that’s not immediately obvious from the outside. While it certainly sits within the modern Nissan family, it doesn’t exactly ooze chic style — unless you think chrome is the new black.
If you decide to lift the bonnet (remembering to bend your knees; that steel sheet is surprisingly heavy), you’ll find a 2.3-litre diesel sourced from the NV400 van. Deceptive? Yes. Underwhelming? Hopefully not, because it’s a twin-turbo set-up making 187bhp, along with a rather useful 332lb ft from just 1500rpm in this top-of-the-range model. Lovely. The water butt-sized 80-litre diesel tank does make me sceptical of the claimed average of 44.1mpg, though.
At 5.33 metres long, which is 100mm more than a medium-wheelbase Transit van, my first experience of parking up at the multi-storey close to our office was a baptism of fire. But the 360deg surround-view camera system displayed on the 7.0in touchscreen is a life-saver. It was the one feature I dearly loved on the X-Trail I previously ran, and I’m glad to have it on the Navara too.
Our pick-up is finished in striking Savannah Yellow. I haven’t been to the savannah, so I might be wrong, but to my eye it’s more ‘Terry’s Chocolate Orange’, which brings us back to Nissan’s efforts at pushing the Navara upmarket; I can’t imagine many tradesmen taking the pencil from behind their ear and checking the ‘Savannah Yellow’ option box.
Aside from the looks, our car comes with a good specification. This model is the five-seat Double Cab in Tekna trim, so it comes with everything you could think of except a horseshoe ornament. It has a heavily Qashqai-influenced interior but with a better-configured dash (in my opinion). There are plenty of usefully placed cubbies for stuff to hide in and no fewer than three 12V sockets in reach of the driver, with a medialink USB for good measure. It’s even got two-stage heated leather seats, folding mirrors and remote locking for the optionally fitted (for £3300) premium rear hard-top. Disappointingly, the hard-top’s rear aperture isn’t exactly wide and apparently you can’t have its side windows open while moving.
All in, the options on this car add roughly £5000 to the price, giving an on-the-road total of just under £30,000. That’s not bad, especially given the Navara’s practical ability and its company car advantages, but you might not want to include as many options if the money is coming directly from your own pocket.
If you’re looking at a Navara in order to make use of it as a workhorse, I have to recommend the fixed tool box for £300. Even at first glance it’s impressively cavernous, and I can now stow all those cumbersome bits and bobs, such as tripods and ratchet straps, without fear of them rolling around during transit. What’s more, it still leaves a healthy amount of space for bulkier items, such as myself, when filming out of the rear if necessary.
I’m looking forward to getting to know the Navara and making use of its practical talents while enjoying that rather plush interior. The big question from my perspective, though, is can it be a better workhorse than the revered Land Rover Discovery? Let’s find out.
Nissan Navara NP300 Tekna Double Cab
Price £24,792 Price as tested £29,621 Options Premium hard-top £3300, electric sunroof £450, fitted toolbox £300, bedliner protection £360, electrically operated towbar £275, aluminium entry guards £89, front and rear mats £55 Economy 32.0mpg Faults None Expenses None