THE new Nissan Navara that was launched in 2005 has been a fantastic success for the Japanese firm.
It was a quantum leap forward from the old model in terms of power, ride and handling and is now the No 1 seller in the 4x4 sector.
It is also the current holder of the coveted title of ‘Best Working Vehicle’ in the 2008 Fleet News Awards.
But amid all the razzle dazzle of this burgeoning part of the fleet market, it’s all too easy to forget that a sizeable proportion of buyers aren’t interested in leather seats, bluetooth capability and MP3 players – they want a basic, down-to-earth vehicle that’s cheap to run and won’t get stuck in the mud when the going gets tough.
When the new Navara was launched, Nissan continued to sell a low-cost option called the PickUp which was basically an old-style Navara, but the firm didn’t seem to put too much emphasis on this working class brother.
But with a new Euro IV engine under its bonnet and with a new name – the NP300 – the old Navara lives to fight again.
At the launch in Gloucestershire, Nissan’s LCV sales manager Paul Gozzard told me: “As a workhorse of unquestioned ability and robustness, Nissan’s D22 Pickup has become legendary.
Now, the new NP300 builds on that reputation, extending the line-up with new king and double-cab options as well as a
single-cab, while offering an enhanced specification and even better value for money.”
The single-cab accommodates three people across a bench seat and is offered with the option of part-time four-wheel drive, aimed at self-employed sole traders typically working in remote locations, on construction sites and landscaping projects or in agriculture.
In king-cab configuration, the NP300 seats two on individual front seats while providing secure storage space inside the cabin for tools and materials.
The double-cab, which will be available later in the year, can accommodate five, those in the rear sitting on a bench seat equipped with two outer three-point seatbelts and a centre lap belt.
Both king-cab and double-cab have the same overall length so the king cab has the larger load bed – 1,865mm compared to the double-cab’s 1,485mm.
The 4x2 single-cab is plated at 2,630kg and 4x4 models at 2,860kg gvw, which means maximum payload is provided by the 4x4 single-cab at 1,135 kg.
The 4x2 single-cab is not far behind at 1,120 kg, with the heavier king and double-cabs at 1,115kg and 1,080 kg, respectively.
The load bay features a drop-down tailgate and a mesh rear window grille.
Single-cabs have external lashing hooks, king and double-cabs instead have a smooth outer cargo bed with internal lashing hooks.
A rear step bumper that provides easier access to the load bay when the tailgate is closed is optional on king-cab.
The NP300 uses Nissan’s four-cylinder 2.5-litre Di turbodiesel engine, which has 133bhp and 224lb-ft of torque on tap.
Combined cycle consumption as a result ranges from 38.7 mpg on single-cab 4x2, 31mpg on single-cab 4x4 and king-cab 4x4, to 30.7 mpg on double-cab 4x4.
All models feature a manual five-speed gearbox transmitting power to the rear wheels, while 4x4 models use a system that’s driver selectable using an auxiliary lever to the left of the gearshift and with a low range transfer box for serious off-road forays.
All four models feature a limited-slip differential, conditions.
Standard specification includes cloth seat trim, a single CD/radio, tilt adjustable steering, one-touch front electric windows, a heated rear window and keyless entry.
King and double-cabs have a centre console, while the double-cab is also equipped with rear power windows. All models feature a black front bumper and chrome grille with steel wheels, while 4x4 models have black wheel arch extensions with mudguards and front foglamps.
Every NP300 has driver and front passenger airbags, pre-tensioners for the two outer front seatbelts and three-sensor, four-channel ABS brakes.
Prices range from £11,630 to £15,030.
Behind the wheel
CLIMBING aboard the NP300 for the first time was rather like stepping back in time to the days when pick-up trucks were working vehicles rather than tax-cheating style machines for estate agents and accountants.
That doesn’t mean to sound derogatory in any way – I like the smoothness and style of the new generation of
off-roaders but I also admire the tough, chunky feel of these more basic models.
Let’s face it – when was the last time you saw a smart Navara Aventura in a field plastered in mud?
My first drive of the NP300 was in the single-cab 4x4 and at first glance that curious bench seat looked a right old pain.
I soon found I was wrong – it turned out to be quite firm and supportive with plenty of padding in the lumbar area.
There are precious few storage spaces in the single-cab and not a lot of legroom for tall specimens like me either.
A later drive in the king-cab saw a lot more leg space, so if I was buying an NP300 myself I’d have to go for the
bigger model. I’d also want that handy storage space behind the seats too.
Standard spec isn’t at all bad. I wasn’t expecting electric windows and remote plip locking but that’s what you get in the basic price, along with twin airbags and a radio/CD player.
I did like the overbody lashing hooks on the single-cab, which make tying loads in much easier than with the king-cab, which only has four eyes on the inner side of the load area.
And talking of load areas, I’d also recommend a plastic load liner to keep the back end looking fresh.
The NP300 fires up with a nice growl and eventually settles down to a meaty thrum when it warms up.
There is certainly no shortage of power – that 133bhp (remember the days when most of these trucks had
around 100bhp?) and 224lb-ft of torque makes this truck lope along at a quick pace and nicely-weighted power steering adds to the general driving enjoyment.
At first glance the gearlever looks old-fashioned and clunky but nothing could be further from the truth – it’s slick and sure and a delight to use.
We didn’t manage to take the trucks off the road at launch but having driven old versions of the Navara in demanding situations before I can assure buyers that they won’t get be disappointed.
It’s cheap, not badly specced, very capable and a practical choice.
However, we’d ignore the 4x2 base model as it lacks four-wheel drive and won’t hold its value like the true
We’d also bite the bullet and pay extra for the king-cab as it offers a lot more secure loadspace.
Gross vehicle weight (kg): 2,630-2,860
Max power (bhp/rpm): 133/3,600
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 224/2,000
Payload (kg): 1,080-1,135
CO2 emissions (g/km): 193-242
Prices (ex-VAT): £11,630-£15,030