Nissan Cabstar — January 2007

Date: Thursday, February 01, 2007

Nissan's Cabstar has always been a favourite of owner/operators and small fleets involved in the landscape gardening and building trades thanks to the high payload factory-built dropside models.

 

Previously, however, it tended to be a bit on the utilitarian side, which was all well and fine so long as the distance between home or the depot and the work site was relatively short. The all-new Cabstar is a very different proposition.

For a start it's the first Nissan light truck to be based on the new Global Platform (see tint box) to go into production. The height and length of the cab have been increased to better accommodate the European body shape and lastly there's a new range of Euro 4-compliant common rail turbodiesels.

Powerplants

Cabstar remains a forward control, cab-over-engine design — the single cab is tiltable — which means that more of the vehicle length can be dedicated to load-carrying without extending the overall length and disrupting the compact nature of the design.

A brace of 2.5-litre engines have been engineered specifically for the new Cabstar with power outputs of 110 bhp and 130 bhp. They produce peak torque of 184 lb/ft at 1,600rpm and 199 lb/ft at 1,800rpm respectively. Both feature double overhead camshafts and a second generation common rail injection system.

The third option is a reworked version of the 3-litre unit from the previous line-up. Power is up significantly, however, from 125 bhp to 150 bhp and it's capable of developing peak torque of 258 lb/ft at 1,600rpm. The performance gain has been achieved by the addition of a variable geometry turbocharger and a more efficient intercooler.

Cabstar remains rear-wheel drive and all of the short-wheelbase derivatives — chassis cab, Dropside and Tipper — come with a five-speed manual gearbox regardless of whether they're endowed with the 110 bhp or 130 bhp 2.5dCi.

Medium- and long-wheelbase models have a six-speeder as standard. In the case of the former it's mated to the 130 bhp 2.5dCi and the latter benefits from the 3.0dCi.

All of the engines use Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) and a Diesel Oxidation Catalyst (DOC) to comply with the latest emissions regulations. EGR reduces NOx (nitrous oxide)emissions by recirculating a proportion of the exhaust gases back into the combustion chambers where they are mixed with the fresh air intake which in turn lowers the combustion temperature and as a consequence, the levels of NOx.

It's interesting to note that Nissan has managed to extend the service intervals to 18,000 miles, a 50 per cent improvement over the previous generation units.

Easy Hill Start

Medium- and long-wheelbase models are fitted with Nissan's electronically controlled Easy Hill Start system. It holds the Cabstar on the brake when stopped on a hill without the driver having to use the handbrake or service brake. It's released only when the system detects that the clutch pedal has been released and engine torque is sufficient to move the vehicle. Apart from improving driver comfort it also preserves clutch life and reduces strain on the driveline.

Suspension

Suspension is independent at the front with double wishbones, transverse springs, dampers and an anti-roll bar while at the rear there's a solid live rear axle with leaf springs, dampers and an anti-roll bar.

Brakes are discs all-round with those at the front ventilated, and all 130dCi and 150dCi variants have ABS as standard. The steering is power assisted rack and pinion across the range.

The 3.4-tonners have single rear wheels, everything else sits on twins at the back end.

Ladder Frame Chassis

Nissan has developed a new global ladder frame chassis platform for light duty trucks and the new Cabstar is the first production vehicle to make use of it.

The platform, and a platform for panel vans, will replace Nissan's 11 unique light commercial platforms by 2010 in a bid to maximise efficiency. Some light commercials will continue to be built on passenger vehicle platforms.

Nissan's engineering division in Barcelona developed the latest platform in co-operation with Nissan engineers in Japan. A new generation of light trucks will make use of it in the future.

As well as being stronger and therefore a more capable load carrier than a van-derived truck, being based on a ladder frame chassis also means that it's easier for specialist bodybuilders to use as a base for conversion.

Weights & Measures

With three wheelbases (2,500mm, 2,900mm and 3,400mm), single or double cabs, and two gross vehicle weights — 3.4t and 3.5t — there really is a model to suit just about any application.

The shortest of the trio is available as a single cab at both GVWs. It can be had as a Chassis Cab, Dropside and Tipper (both factory-fitted) at both weights and as an example the Dropside provides a gross payload of 1,521kg at 3.4t and 1,588kg at 3.5t.

The medium- and long-wheelbases are all rated at 3.5t and there is a selection of chassis and bodied single/double cabs to choose from.

Bigger Cab

The all-new cab is 80mm taller, 100mm longer and 150mm wider than that of its predecessor. It may not sound like much, but it makes a substantial difference for the occupants.

Driver ergonomics have also been improved and the designers seem to have been given a brief which includes siting storage cubbies wherever there is any unused space. There's an A4 slot for paperwork above the new instrument binnacle which usefully prevents any reflections in the windscreen.

It's complimented by another similar sized, but taller slot at the top of the facia above the centre console — in front of the middle passenger seat — which houses the heater/ventilation controls, radio/CD player and digital tacho, if required.

The base of the centre section is taken up by a drop-down cubby which can be refrigerated and take a couple of 0.5l water bottles — or beers. The centre section of the middle seat folds down to provide a clipboard tray for completing paperwork rather than using the steering wheel.

There's also a large, lockable, glovebox directly in front of the outermost passenger seat, but this is lost if an optional passenger airbag is specified. Not a problem, however, as there's a spare drop-down cubby beneath it.

On the Road

We managed to spend some time on UK roads in a SWB 34.11 and a SWB 35.13 (the figures refer to GVW and bhp) and we have to say that Nissan seems to have done an excellent job; both were Dropsides.

Both vehicles were loaded with 800kg of ballast and even the lower powered engine provided respectable performance. It also seemed much more at home at speed on a dual carriageway than its predecessor ever was, with general stability the most noticeable aspect. A definite indication that the suspension has improved.

The steering is much more responsive and crisper than before, but the gearchange still suffers from a certain amount of notchiness; but these were low mileage examples and this is likely to loosen up with use. We approve of Nissan dumping the 'umbrella'-style handbrake lever protruding from the facia in favour of a conventional lever sited to the left of the driver's seat.

The cab is a much more civilised environment although three burly workmen sitting abreast will still have to be good friends.

Visibility is improved thanks to a larger windscreen and deeper door windows, and the large mirrors give a good view down the flanks.

VERDICT

The new Cabstar shows improvement in every department and for those potential customers worried about the safety aspect of driving a bonnetless LCV, it has been engineered to meet passenger car crash standards.

 

 



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