The same thinking applies to Nissan’s new Navara – it’s a big pick-up which blends Tonka toy looks with the most powerful engine in its sector, a 174bhp 2.5-litre turbodiesel.
That figure makes it the most powerful vehicle of its type, beating the new Mitsubishi L200’s 136bhp (a power kit is available to take that up to 160bhp) and the latest Toyota Hilux’s 102bhp, although more powerful models arrive next year.
And it’s not just power which is impressive. The Navara looks the part, too, with a front end shared with its Pathfinder SUV stablemate. It looks big, chunky, solid and ready to tackle anything.
The Navara is the first of the new breed of pick-ups to arrive in the UK – just beating the Hilux which has just gone on sale and well ahead of the L200 which doesn’t arrive until March next year (Fleet News, October 6).
It’s all a far cry from 10 years ago when these vehicles were mere workhorses. Practical, yes, but the thought of spending hours on the motorway in one was a different story. That was before the Japanese started targeting the more fashion-conscious buyers. And while they can’t compete with saloons for ride comfort, they make a much better stab at it than before, making using one every day a more realistic prospect.
And the tax situation helps, too. Employees running one of these pay company car tax based on a £500 flat rate, costing a 22% taxpayer £110 a year. However, that changes from April 2007 when the benefit-in-kind loading rises from £500 to £3,000.
As a result, Nissan expects a quarter of the 10,000 Navaras it hopes to sell in 2006 will go to fleets. But that figure could be higher, as Nissan includes sales to sub-25-vehicle fleets as retail sales, and this area is where it expects the lion’s share of Navara sales to come from.
Nissan is offering two models – the Double Cab and King Cab – with four trim levels: the Standard, SE, Outlaw and, as it’s built in Spain, the aptly-named Aventura (Spanish for Adventure). The only other choice is either a six-speed manual gearbox or a five-speed automatic.
Behind the wheel
THANKS to its brawny 2.5-litre turbodiesel engine, the Navara makes light work of hauling its not inconsiderable two-tonne-plus weight around.
With 174bhp and a huge 297lb-ft of torque, the Navara simply bullies its girth around with a huge swell of mid-range grunt. Much like its Pathfinder SUV cousin, the Navara accelerates surprisingly well for such a big vehicle, helped by its short gearing.
It’s also the most car-like of the pick-ups, with limited bodyroll despite the high centre of gravity, and light steering which makes manoeuvring easy.
I drove a manual gearbox version first, and was disappointed by the vague, long-throw shift. A follow-up drive in the automatic showed this to be the transmission of choice, offering smooth upshifts with little slur between ratios.
A quick splash into the off-road course showed how capable the Navara is in the muddy stuff.
Selecting four-wheel drive via a switch on the dashboard (no low-ratio ’box here) gave the Navara all the traction it needed.
WITH so much smooth power and car-like ride and handling, the Navara is the new king of the pick-up crop. Mitsubishi’s new L200 will have to be very good indeed to better it.
Model: 2.5 dCi
Power (bhp/rpm): 174/4,000
Torque (lb-ft/rpm): 297/2,000
Max speed (mph): 105
0-62mph (secs): 11.5
Fuel consumption (mpg): 33.2
CO2 emissions (g/km): 226
Transmission: 6-sp man
On sale: Now
Prices (OTR): £17,231-£25,779