As double-cabs with a payload capacity in excess of 1000kg are treated as goods vehicles, VAT can usually be reclaimed by registered businesses. What’s more, if you run one as a company vehicle, you are treated in the same way as a van driver who gets private use of his Vauxhall Combo or
Ford Transit Connect so far as income tax is concerned, and that can be advantageous.
Unfortunately, though, changes to the taxation regime in recent years mean that it’s not quite as advantageous as it once was. Meanwhile, drivers who have switched from a car to a double- cab to capitalise on the tax benefits, haven’t always been delighted by their decision, discovering that the latter doesn’t always handle or ride as well as the former, and can be awkward to park.
That’s not to say that the double-cab 4x4 is dead, however. Far from it – indeed, several manufacturers are hoping to breathe new life into the sector as the economy gradually recovers from recession.
Among those leading the charge is Nissan. Earlier this year it launched a revamped version of the Navara 4x4 pick-up, with modest external and internal styling changes and a longer options list.
Outside it gets a new bonnet, a revised front grille and a new bumper assembly. Inside it gets new door bins, switchgear and dials among other revisions.
The significant alterations, however, have occurred under the bonnet with the introduction of a top-of-the-range 3.0-litre V6 diesel belting out a hefty 231hp and with a whopping 550Nm of torque on tap.
Complying with the Euro5 exhaust emission regulations it features a compacted graphite iron block instead of one made of cast iron or aluminium. It also offers high levels of stiffness and noise absorption.
For many Navara customers, though, the V6 will be something they aspire to rather than actually buy. Odds are that they’ll go for the more prosaic 2.5-litre Euro4 dCi diesel instead; and if they do, there’ll be no need for them to feel short-changed.
Based on the engine used in the previous Navara and available with either a five-speed automatic or a six-speed manual box, it’s received an 11% or 19hp boost in power to a pretty generous 190hp at 4000rpm. Torque is up by 11%, too, by a healthy 47Nm to 450Nm at 2000rpm. CO2 emissions are down by 40g/km, however, to 224g/km.
Changes to the four-cylinder 16-valve unit include the introduction of a new high-pressure common rail direct-injection system operating at 2000 rather than 1800 bar, a reworked cylinder head and a new variable-geometry turbocharger. It employs electric as opposed to hydraulic control
for faster response times.
We tested the manual 2.5-litre four-door Double Cab. It arrived in upmarket Tekna trim, rather than the lower-grade Acenta, which nevertheless still features plenty of goodies.
It’s worth noting that the Navara is also sold in King Cab guise, offering a shorter cab and thus a longer cargo bed. You still get four doors, but the back doors are half the width of the standard ones, hinged to the rear and open onto a handy stowage area with a couple of occasional perches
that can be folded away when not in use. Double Cab provides full rear seating accommodation for three adults.
It’s a great shame there isn’t a Single Cab version, or a model with entry-level spec. While all the goodies are fine, some pick-up buyers simply want a basic workhorse.
The Navara Double Cab 2.5-litre is equipped with double-wishbone coil-over-strut front suspension, with rigid leaf springs helping to support the rear. You’ll find disc brakes at the front, drums at the back, and the braking system includes ABS, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and Brake Assist. Electronic Stability Programme is fitted too.
Power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering offers the driver a 13.8m turning circle wall-to-wall and a 13.3m turning circle kerb-to-kerb, with 3.8 turns lock-to-lock.
Our demonstrator sat on 17-inch alloy wheels shod with Bridgestone Dueler H/L 400 255/65 R17 tyres.
A rotary switch on the dashboard is used to engage four-wheel-drive along with a low-ratio set of gears if required. A limited-slip differential is also installed.
Gross weight is 3210kg with a gross payload capacity of 1125kg and you can haul a braked trailer grossing at 2600kg. Our Navara was fitted with a towbar that costs £216 plus £198 for the 13-pin electrical kit and £52 for the 13-pin adapter. Not cheap, and that excludes VAT.)
Access to the cargo bed is by means of a lockable tailgate that can be released with one hand by using a centrally mounted handle. Although the tailgate can be secured horizontally, it cannot be dropped down completely because the bulky rear bumper, which incorporates a step, gets in the way.
While there’s no ladder rack mounted behind the cab, C-channel movable cargo tie-down points are fitted. Our truck was additionally equipped with a robust-looking plastic load bay
liner – £215 – to provide protection from minor scrapes and scratches.
Load length is 1511mm. Load width is 1560mm, narrowing to 1130mm between the wheel boxes, while load height is 457mm. Rear loading height is 825mm.
Tekna trim includes so many niceties as standard that it’s almost impossible to count them. The list includes leather-trimmed seats all round, a leather-covered steering wheel, gear knob and handbrake lever, heated and electrically adjustable front seats and an electric sunroof. There’s dual-zone climate control, remote central locking, electric windows front and back, and electrically adjustable and heated exterior mirrors in chrome casings too.
Cruise control is fitted, too, as is a radio/CD player plus an MP3 aux input. Steering-wheel-mounted audio controls are also provided.
One optional extra we benefited from was what Nissan describes
as its Connect Premium package.
It includes satellite navigation and a rear parking camera, with a screen in the middle of the dashboard shared with the satellite navigation system. At a whopping £1300 it doesn’t come cheap. That said, the camera is superb, offering clear vision and likely to save anybody not used to reversing a relatively large vehicle with potentially restricted rear vision – we’re talking almost 5.3m long – a few bob in bodywork repairs. It may prevent somebody from being injured too. That said, the Navara is manoeuvrable for its size Bluetooth connectivity, voice recognition and a trip computer are among the other features.
Side steps ease cab access as well as enhancing the vehicle’s looks, complementing the roof rails nicely.
The floor mats add £34 to the bill, but really should be included as standard.
The driver’s seat offers lumbar and height adjustment, and the steering wheel is tilt-adjustable.
Safety is taken care of by airbags for the driver and front passenger, side and curtain airbags and active front headrests. It seems a pity, though, that the rear centre passenger is not protected by a headrest at all and that legroom for all three rear-seat occupants is limited.
Foldable and splitting 60/40, the rear bench offers under-seat storage. There’s no lack of storage space elsewhere in the cab, including a deep bin complete with a drink holder in each of the front doors, bins in the back doors, a lockable glove box, a lidded bin between the seats and another lidded bin in the middle of the dashboard.
All the performance on tap from the 2.5-litre engine makes us wonder whether anybody is really going to need the V6 other than
The smaller engine still allows the Navara to accelerate strongly from rest, forge purposely through the gears, and finish up as a rock-solid high-speed motorway cruiser. The smooth, user-friendly gear-change helps too.
It handles surprisingly well for a big vehicle. Rather than performing a series of ungainly lurches, it swings smoothly through bends, with no evidence of the sort of back-end twitchiness exhibited by at least one of its rivals in recent times.
Noise, vibration and harshness are all well suppressed, and the 4x4 has a commanding presence on the highway.
On the downside, however, the unladen ride is poor, but put some weight in the back and it calms down. As for fuel economy, we averaged 31mpg.
Off-road the amount of torque on tap allows drivers to tackle steep, muddy embankments with some confidence. The ability to switch to low-ratio gears is a boon when the going gets really rough, while the amount of engine braking that can be called on should be sufficient to hold you back on most descents.
Finished in metallic paint – price £404 – our Navara was equipped with an alarm as well as an immobiliser. It comes with front fog lamps too, not to mention pop-up headlamp washers, rain-sensing windscreen wipers and automatic headlamps.
Service intervals are set at two years/18,000 miles and the Navara is protected by a three-year/ 60,000-mile warranty.
Well-equipped, and with an impressive four-cylinder engine, Nissan’s 4x4 Navara Tekna Double Cab offers ample performance. It rides well, too, and noise, vibration and harshness are all well suppressed. A practical crew and cargo carrier with a respectable payload as well as plenty of towing capacity, it can act as a workhorse during the week and as private transport at the weekend. And it won’t disgrace itself in either role, especially if you splash out and specify the extra-cost satnav plus reversing camera package. The camera and its sensibly positioned screen could save owners a small fortune in bodywork damage. On the downside, the Navara’s unladen ride is poor, and it’s not especially frugal, but its advantages outweigh the drawbacks. What’s more, while we’d like to see a base-level specification available – and a Single Cab version – in Tekna trim it cocks something of a snook at the new age of austerity, and that’s no bad thing.