Believe it or not Nissan actually have 80 years of experience in the pick up sector and sold over 14 million worldwide. But this new Navara NP-300 takes on some more soft roader, crossover cues than the outgoing model.
We jumped in one and took to the Yorkshire moors.
Starting at £18,376 the NP300 (it’s just a Navara really, Nissan head office made them use that name in the UK – it will probably be dropped eventually) hopes to bring the brand back to the top of the pick-up pile.
Our top spec auto in Tekna trim cost £25,429 (excl VAT) but it does feature Nissan’s clever drone style around view monitor, rear parking sensors, leather seats, heated front seats, roof rails and LED headlights.
Powered by the 2.3 litre dCi Twin-Turbo it produces 188 BHP, 450 Nm of torque and will get to 62 in 10.8 seconds.
It also has a gargantuan 80 litre fuel tank, it can tow 3,500 KG and has a payload rating in excess of a tonne across the whole range.
This all new Navara is far beefier than the previous generation, the front bumper is a lot deeper, the bonnet is more heavily styled, arches are wider and the rear even gets some fancy styling lines.
Nissan are trying to bring the Navara more into line with the high up, crossover segment. Rather than being a utilitarian workhorse, you could opt for one of these instead of say an X-Trail.
It works rather well, especially with the optional hard top – although that is a rather costly option at £2,600.
Setting out on normal roads the difference in ride was nearly instantaneous.
You see the thing with pickups is, that in their unloaded state the rear leaf springs are completely stiff. So the front travels car-like over a bump, the rear axle hits it and starts to skip and bounce. This completely disappears once you have weight in the flat bed, but for the majority of driving situations the rear will most likely be empty.
Nissan have decided to go with an all-new five link rear suspension setup for the double cab model. This gives the new Navara an almost car like driving experience, it’s far more supple and a lot less crashy inside.
In fact you can really push on at a fair old lick in the Navara, ride seems to improve with speed, becoming even svelter as the speedo rises.
Steering feel is numb to the core but once you get off road you find you can place the NP-300 accurately. We took them through some serious terrain too. Boulders kicked up out of water crossings scraping bumpers, alloys were trashed and pick-ups were ground along the Yorkshire countryside.
But they all managed the terrain without issue. This was genuine Defender country, proper off-roading. Unfortunately we were stuck in an automatic for this part of the drive, but even that scrabbled its way up the sides of rocky hills without so much as a sideways slide.
Switching between low and high 4WD modes we spent a good 4 hours traversing some of the finest green lanes Yorkshire had to offer. Once we had finished we were through a gate, and in a hail of flying mud back onto tarmac. All of our off-roading was completed in the same cars we had all day, on normal road tyres – impressive.
The auto was actually the pick of the day. Whilst the manual makes the NP-300 feel nippier the movement of the ‘box is the worst bit of the whole car.
If Nissan want to appeal to crossover buyers they have to make the gear shift far tighter. The gear stick has a laughably long throw, it’s vague and just feels far more farm machine than anything else.
In the auto the changes are suitably quick and smooth, you lose out on a smidge of pace but at the cost of not having to interact with the stirring spoon of a manual it’s worth it.
Sitting in Tekna trim you get the fancy gloss black facia on the centre console, leather seats, NissanConnect 7 inch touchscreen and the futuristic around view camera system.
Ideally, you want to at least go for the N-connecta trim, as that is the bare minimum you need to gain Sat Nav and the more aesthetically pleasing center console.
Everything inside on Tekna spec is easy on the eye, it feels up market and far more car like than a utility vehicle. Again, that’s a big reason why the manual gearbox lets it down massively. You have a nice premium interior, yet the gear change feels like a tractor.
Seeing what the Navara can do off road was very impressive. This wasn’t a tame, purpose built off road course. This was real world.
Pickups are more often being used by tradesman as alternatives to vans, and the new Navara can now really be used as a workhorse and a daily driver for the family.
Just be careful with speccing options as all those cool clip ons can come to a pretty penny once you are finished.
Nissan Navara NP-300 – Even butcher looks, drives like a crossover, stick with the auto!