As it looks to regain a hefty slice of the UK’s pickup market, Nissan has given its once-popular Navara a much-needed over-haul. But has it done enough? Geoff Ashcroft reports.
Interior styling cues are taken from the X-Trail, and you’ll still find hard plastics inside the cab.
Nissan’s Navara has been a popular pickup choice among farming businesses for many years. But recently the D40 version has fallen out of favour, as newer models from its adversaries have delivered better refinement along with improved payloads and higher towing capacities.
Even the peachy V6 version, with its silky-smooth seven-speed auto box, could not halt the slide in sales.
Now the Japanese maker is back on track, with an all-new range that promises better ride comfort, improved payload capability and, greater efficiency.
This latest Navara occupies a broadly similar footprint to the model it replaces. There is 67mm more load bed length; a 50mm reduction in the wheelbase and a 34mm increase in overall length.
Overall height remains unchanged, save for the new-fangled high-edge front wings. Nissan says that having more clearly defined front wings will help drivers to position the truck on the road. Having driven it, we are not convinced, as we feel they give the new Navara a taller, bulkier feel when sat behind the wheel.
Double Cab models still boast lift-up rear seat to boost load space, plus storage compartments in the floor.
A concave bonnet that looks like an elephant has sat on it, is said to offer better visibility to the front too.
Underneath the bonnet is a 2.3-litre dCi four-pot diesel packing either 160hp or 190hp.
Engine outputs are defined by hardware and mapping. The 160hp unit gets a single turbo and musters 403Nm of torque, while the 190hp unit gets twin turbochargers in series and serves up 450Nm of twist.
Having 450Nm of torque and 190hp goes some way to filling the boots of the now defunct V6, which packed 231hp and 510Nm of torque.
Twin turbos give a greater spread of usable torque that surpasses the previous 2.5-litre’s off-idle flat spot, with peak torque arriving at 1,500rpm. And they also help contribute to a 24 per cent reduction in fuel consumption too.
Around-view monitor is found on top-spec Tekna, cuts out at 6mph though.
King Cab and Double Cab versions, of course, with the former appealing to a price-sensitive market. The latter is expected to account for 90 per cent of all Navaras sold in the UK, and around 60 per cent of those are likely to be six-speed manual.
The three-pedal experience now includes a beefed up clutch combined with a wider spread of ratios, which should appease those who tow. And we think this is increasingly more important now the Navara packs a hefty 3,500kg towing capacity. It does at least get a longer first gear.
Those wanting a self-shifter will be pleased to know the woeful five-speed auto has been dropped in favour of a reworked seven-speeder that was previously used in the V6 Outlaw. Revised software has brought better shift quality too.
Like SsangYong, Nissan has opted for a coil spring rear suspension package. The softly sprung rear end contributes to car-like comfort and refinement, but is kept in check using a five-link system including a panhard rod, that is said to be 280 per cent stiffer than leaf springs.
Its integration does not effect payload, which extends from 1,047-1,203kg, depending on spec.
However, the comfier rear suspension is only found on Double Cab models. King Cab models still use leaf springs.
4wd transmission retained, rear diff-lock an option.
There are five trim grades. The entry-level Visia and Acenta grades give you 160hp and a six-speed manual gearbox, and a mix of specification, that also includes hill start assist, hill descent control and forward emergency braking.
Choosing Acenta+, N-Connecta or Tekna grades gets you 190hp, Double Cab only, and with the option of a seven-speed auto box.
In addition to 18in alloy wheels and rear privacy glass, Acenta+ brings heated door mirrors, a colour reversing camera whose image is displayed in the rear view mirror, and side steps.
Technology gets piled on the further up the grades you go. N-Connecta adds DAB radio, 7in touchscreen navigation and infotainment system, traffic updates and Eco driving aids.
Tekna adds more, and gets you sat on leather trimmed seats with front seat heating, LED headlights, rear parking sensors, roof rails and an Around View Monitoring system.
Cameras offer a 360-degree digitally stitched image and a rear view on the screen, to help you negotiate tight spots at slow speeds. Annoyingly, the camera image cuts out when you exceed 6mph.
Five-link rear suspension with coil springs boosts ride comfort without sacrificing payload.
A chance to try the Double Cab with its multi-link rear suspension reveals just how far Nissan has pushed comfort. And a back-to-back driving opportunity off-road with the outgoing D40 version hammered home just how comfortable the new truck is, on every surface we drove.
Bolstered seat bases hold you on the perch and padded elbow rests on the door cards improve comfort, yet Nissan still chooses to fit a steering column which only has rake adjustment and no reach.
A more modern interior, based on that found in the latest X-Trail, gives an up-market feel. Though the cab interior still includes too many hard plastic surfaces and its not quite the SUV quality we had hoped for from the Japanese maker. Which is a shame, because when it comes to the more powerful engine and seven-speed auto box, the Navara delivers.
C-channel load bed fixing has been retained, and the tailgate now gets a spoiler.
Pleasingly, there is no irritating stop/start. Nissan says such a function is aimed only at reducing CO2 and hitting emissions targets – something it says can be achieved without needing this technology.
It also views stop/start as being impractical on a pickup, adding that it would affect off-road functionality. And we agree.
Switching to the manual gearbox, but in a 160hp King Cab model, reveals an improvement in ratios. First gear is now longer, and as such is the useful start-off gear that its predecessor lacked.
But at higher speeds, it really would benefit from taller fifth and sixth gear ratios.
Compared to the auto box’s extra gear and higher final drive ratio which delivers lower cruising revs than the manual, this one won’t make short work of high-speed runs. It’s a more vocal and less refined engine too.
Our first choice would be the 190hp engine with the auto ‘box, though you will pay an extra £1,400 for the self-shifter. However, we will test the higher-powered engine with a manual ‘box as soon as UK models become available.