Nissan’s new NP300 Navara arrives in UK showrooms in January 2016 carrying added interest and significance because the 12th generation of the manufacturer’s pick-up will form the basis for the subsequent sector debut models coming from Renault and Mercedes-Benz.

The Navara (the NP tag stands for Nissan pick-up) is also the second truck to break cover in a raft of new and facelifted contenders set to come to market within the next 18 months, following the arrival of the Mitsubishi L200 in July.

Jamie Maclean, Nissan’s European truck product planning manager, calls the Navara the “Swiss army knife” of the brand’s line-up because of its adaptability, the number of iterations and options available and, not least, the fact that it is for the first time available as a chassis cab primed for conversions in both king and double-cab guises, much like the larger NT 400 Cabstar.

Maclean points out that due to UK tax laws, which since 2005 have allowed customers to claim back VAT, pick-ups have been popular as recreational vehicles as well as workhorses combining load carrying and off-road capabilities. The Navara, he reckons, marries “the professional and personal” to the best possible degree.

The demand for dual purpose vehicles , he claims, plays into Nissan’s hands, because the manufacturer, as well as having 80 years experience of making rugged pick-ups, also has expertise in the 4×4 SUV market with models such as the Xtrail and Qashqai. It has borrowed styling features and designs from these passenger cars to improve interior refinement in the NP300.

“It [the Navara] doesn’t have to compromise on comfort,” Maclean says.

Ponz Pandikuthira, Nissan’s boss of LCVs in Europe adds: “You could be in an Xtrail, it combines the two things we are known for in Europe,” (4x4s and crossover vehicles).

The NP300 Navara now uses the 2.3-litre diesel engine that powers the NV400 van. It replaces the 2.5-litre unit that served the previous model and is available with outputs of 160 and the 190hp. The latter is the first twin-turbo engine Nissan has used in an LCV. Just as significantly, double-cab versions also get the sophisticated new multi-link (five-link) with coil spring rear suspension. King-cabs and chassis cabs once more come with rigid leaf spring rear suspension.


All the trimmings

The new Navara is up for grabs in five trim levels: Visia, Acenta, Acenta+ N-Connecta and Tekna. Prices (all excluding VAT) start from £18,376 for the king cab 2WD Visia.

The bottom two trim levels are offered in either king or double-cab formats whereas the top three specifications come just as double-cabs. The entry-level Visia is the only derivative available in 2WD.

The Visia 4WD king cab is priced £19,209 and the step to double-cab 4WD is £833 to £20,043.

The Acenta comes in at £19,834 for the king cab and rises to £20,688 (£833) for the double.  The Acenta+ is priced from £22,084, the N-Connecta from £22, 793 and the flagship Tekna starts at £24,293. Nissan expects double cabs to account for 95% of UK sales.

Of the new wave of competitors coming to market, the new Mitsubishi L200, available as yet only in double-cab mode, has a price range of £19,749 to £25,199 while Ford has announced that prices for its facelifted Ranger will start from £18,571 for the 2WD XL super cab and rise to £26,177 for the top of the range Wildtrak when it goes on sale in early 2016.

From the Acenta+ upwards the Navara is offered with seven-speed automatic transmission brought over from Nissan’s premium Infiniti passenger car brand as well as the standard six-speed manual gearbox. Opting for the auto adds £1417 to the starting price.

The N-Connecta trim is a new addition to the line-up. James Oliver, marketing manager for the Navara in the UK, says it closes a gap for Acenta+ customers who want a lot of extra kit but do not want to step up to the top of the range Tekna.

Standard safety features across the Navara range include forward emergency braking on double-cab models, driver, passenger, side, knee and curtain airbags on all models and electronic limited slip differential, hill start assist and hill descent control on 4WD models.

Nissan has endowed the new Navara with generous specification levels from the entry level upwards.

The Visia gets manual air-conditioning in 4WD format and, of course, the double-cab version comes with the five-link rear suspension set-up. Bluetooth telephone integration,  steering wheel mounted audio controls, an AUX socket for MP3 connectivity, a USB port, three 12v sockets, automatic headlights with ‘follow me home’, cruise control and speed limiter are also included in the package for the base model.

Opt for the Acenta and customers get extras such as 16-inch alloys, a good deal of exterior chrome trimming, the Nissan Intelligent Key System, which incorporates an engine start/stop button and a five-inch high-definition TFT flat screen on the dash.

The 190hp engine comes on board with the Acenta+, which also brings with it 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic air conditioning with dual zone climate control, a rear  reversing camera (shown in the rear view mirror), side steps, electric folding heated door mirrors and rear privacy glass.

Move up to the new N-Connecta trim and customers get the Nissan Connect 2.0 7” touchscreen satellite navigation and entertainment system incorporating features including DAB digital radio, a rear colour reversing camera, Bluetooth audio streaming, app integration and live traffic updates.

The flagship Tekna adds the brand’s Around View Monitor, which uses cameras to give the driver a bird’s eye view of the car, as well as rear parking sensors, leather seats with heated front seats, roof rails and LED headlights.

The Navara holds up well as a workhorse, despite the fact that maximum payload limits are lower than on the previous model. Obviously all payload capacities remain above the critical 1.0t mark that releases the trucks from VAT liability.

The highest payload now listed across the whole Navara line-up is 1203kg for the Visia king cab chassis-cab variant. For pick-ups, the Visia king cab 2WD can hump 1136kg, the Visia and Acenta double cabs 1062kg and the Acenta+, N-Connecta and Tekna can carry 1047kg with manual and 1052 with automatic transmission.

Ford has announced that the revised Ranger will retain the current model’s maximum payload of 1152kg. Mitsubishi’s payload limit of 1045kg for the L200 is now more in line with the Nissan model, which had boasted a capacity of 1250kg for the previous generation double cab.

By way of comparison, the current Toyota Hilux double cab goes up to 1060kg, the VW Amarok goes to 1112kg and the Isuzu D-max peaks at 1072kg in double cab mode.

In terms of towing capacity, the Navara’s 3.5t limit remains the joint beefiest alongside the Ford Ranger and Isuzu D-max.

When it comes to fuel economy on the other hand, Nissan has dramatically improved the Navara’s performance, making Mitsubishi’s claim to be the greenest pick-up of the bunch short-lived – although it should be noted that the numbers quoted are the manufacturers’ official figures.

Whereas the previous generation truck achieved just 33.6 mpg on the combined cycle, the new Navara manages 44.1mpg for the most frugal Visia king cab, Nissan claims, compared to the L200’s 42.8mpg.

What’s more, the Navara now boasts a fresh-air friendlier 167g/km CO2 against the Mitsubishi’s 169g/km.

Ford lists stats of 43.5mpg and 171g/km Co2 for the forthcoming Ranger and the next best contender is the D-max’s 38.7mpg and 192g/km CO2.


On the road, and off it

What Van? came face to face with the new Navara in left-hand drive mode on the international launch of the 12th generation pick-up in Majorca, Spain.

The model has a bold, muscular stance when stationary with the V-shaped grille and curvaceous flanks echoing the styling of the brand’s passenger car crossover models such as the Xtrail and Qashqai.

We got behind the wheel of the double-cab Navara in the flagship Tekna trim level (expected to be the top seller) with the new seven-speed automatic transmission that Nissan has brought over from its Infiniti prestige car line-up. This derivative gets the new five-link rear suspension and our test vehicle also came with a rear diff lock to increase off-road traction under challenging conditions, for an extra £417 and a sunroof, which is a £375 option exclusive to the Tekna trim.

Even without a load in the cargo bay the ride is strikingly smooth and consistent without any of the bounciness one would normally expect when driving an unladen pick-up. For this we have to thank the new multi-link suspension system and it is hard to dispute Nissan’s claim that the Navara drives like one of its soft-road crossover vehicles.

On-road the driving experience is enhanced by the automatic ‘box that goes about its business smoothly and with minimum fuss although it can be pushed slightly out of its comfort zone when accelerating hard and is perhaps not quite so slick as the eight-speed auto available on the VW Amarok.

The steering is concise and true and delivers a sense of stability at higher speeds and when cornering although we did find it a little light and lacking in feedback. But on the other hand, this lightness does take the strain out of parking, as does the Around View Monitor display, which is particularly handy off road in letting you know where obstacles are that might otherwise go undetected. The steering column is adjustable for rake but not reach, unlike that of the new L200, which goes both ways.

Nissan has reduced the Navara’s wheelbase by 50mm, which improves maneuverability by enabling a turning circle of 12.4m, although this still exceeds the L200’s 11.8m.

Off-road a central dial lets you simply select 4LO mode to tackle the toughest conditions such as steep and slippery inclines.  Hill descent control can be activated by pressing a button on the central console to help control descents while hill star assist stops the vehicle rolling backwards when starting on a slope.  

An accessory we particularly liked on our test vehicle was the sliding load tray located in, and extendable from, the load bay to ease loading and unloading from the side by using a fork-lift truck, for example. It has a weight capacity of 300kg. Nissan has not yet confirmed UK prices for its range of accessories.

Nissan Navara NP300 Tekna 2.3 190hp
Price (ex VAT) £25,710
Price range (ex VAT) £18,376-£25,710
Insurance group TBC
Warranty 5yrs/100,000mls
Service intervals 2yrs/18,000mls
Load length 1578mm
Load width (min/max) 1130mm/1560mm
Load bay height N/A
Gross payload 1052kg
Engine size/power 2298cc/190hp
On sale January
Combined fuel economy 40.3mpg
CO2 183g/km