Nissan’s Navara is widely acknowledged as Europe’s best selling pick-up truck, but five years have passed since the latest shape Navara first rolled on to UK farms, and the Japanese maker is keen to ensure its dominance remains intact.
Believe it or not, this is the new model. Yes, the big Navara looks remarkably familiar and, at first glance, seems little different from the one it replaces - but look closely.
The front end is 80mm longer and now uses slightly rounded off wings, bonnet and headlamp clusters to refine, rather than change, a distinctive and familiar look.
Inside there is a cleaner, easier-to-use centre console and the instrument cluster has been refreshed too. Buyers can also choose from Acenta and high-spec Tekna grades.
The new Navara is quicker and cleaner - the Tekna-spec 2.5dCi we tested (there is a hairy-chested V6 diesel with seven-speed auto ‘box too) came with a revised version of the four-pot YD25 engine, which now delivers 190hp and a hefty dose of torque - 450Nm.
Boasting 11 per cent more power and torque from a much cleaner engine, the Navara is now a far smoother truck to drive, with a sharper, keener level of performance on tap when you step on the throttle.
It was never a crude pick-up to drive, although the suspension of the unladen truck does get fidgety on a long journey. It is far better to throw a few rolls of bale wrap or bags of feed into the load bay just to take the sharpness from the rear suspension.
However, the new truck’s extra performance from the heavily-revised 2.5 turbo-diesel does not penalise its owner at the pumps.
Nissan’s combined cycle now quotes 33.2mpg, and a week’s spirited driving saw 32mpg achieved without trying too hard. You should, at least, expect the new version to deliver a few mpg more compared to the previous 170hp Aventura it replaces.
Okay, so it still keeps that low first gear, and existing owners will instantly identify the lazy take-off from rest that the manual ‘box
Navara still has - particularly if you try to get away without a bootful of clutch-wearing revs.
Once rolling, it offers a very unstressed driving experience, and the brakes now have a more reassuring pedal, which bites the Navara’s front discs and rear drums without needing much movement from your right foot.
Inside the truck, the interior is much more modern - the central console has become a pinnacle of clarity.
The optional Nissan Connect Premium sat-nav and on-board computer, with its touch-screen functions, is nigh-on idiot-proof, and includes a clever reversing camera system built into the tailgate handle to help drivers come to terms with the big Nissan’s bulk when backing into confined spaces.
The heating and ventilation controls are equally as straight-forward to fathom. For those who like the convenience of buttons on the steering-wheel, cruise control responds much quicker to inputs, and the activation button also operates as a useful self-setting speed limiter.
Most of the changes inside the cab have been designed to boost quality, but with VW’s long-awaited Amarok just around the corner, we think Nissan could have done a little bit more to stave off the challenge from an all-new pick-up truck contender.