Born in the 1960’s & growing up in the 1970’s meant watching an awful lot of films set in WW2. We even had comics like Warlord & Victor which contained stories set in WW1 & WW2, where characters such as “ Union Jack Jackson,” the only Brit fighting with the US Marines, fought the Japanese & drove an army Jeep. On film too, soldiers driving Jeeps or their British versions, adorned most of our Saturday night fare. Is it any wonder then that men aged between 40 & 60 are drawn to an off-roader & in recent years towards a pick-up, which in many cases, especially in North America, have come to define a lifestyle.
As I’m sure you’re thinking, down-town Surbiton, isn’t empty Montana, but the popularity of the pick-up here in the UK is still increasing, as more & more customers buy one for work, that can now double as a comfortable family vehicle, a competitor if-you-will to the urban SUV. This phenomenon has increased since 2005, because UK tax laws have allowed customers to claim back VAT. I for one have more enquiries from people about any pick-up I’m driving, than any other type of vehicle & the main question asked is “ Can it be used as a family car ? “ Of course, there is no concrete answer to this, because every driver is different. But, the fact that pick-up customers now expect their truck to offer SUV comfort & tech, means that brands such as Nissan are having to update & improve their models on a regular basis & this is exactly what Nissan has done with it’s Navara which made it’s way to CC&V recently.
Whilst from the outside, the latest Navara looks pretty similar to the Navara pre mid-2019, quite a lot has changed under the bodywork. We were testing a 6-speed manual version of the Navara, a Tekna Double Cab & the new gearbox is noticeably easier to use. It features longer gear ratios & a shorter shift lever, with cable operation, meaning you change gear less, a godsend in traffic, so will us less fuel & that has to be a good thing. In fact, all engines now meet latest Euro 6D Temp emissions regulations, another important upgrade for company drivers.
Navara now comes with 308mm disc brakes at the back in place of the previous drums & larger 320mm front discs & a larger brake booster, so braking distances are reduced & the effort to brake has been reduced by 40%.
All models now get the multi-link rear suspension system with coil springs, that has always set the Navara aside from most other pickups. The new suspension, also raises the rear of the Navara by 25mm, giving it Nissan say is ‘ an upright & more powerful looking stance.
Other upgrades include, all Navara’s now coming with Trailer Sway Assist as standard, the new smallest wheel size is 17″ & the maximum payload for a new Navara Double Cab pickup is now set at 1,180kg, up from 1047kg on the manual double-cab of old. The 163PS version now offer’s more torque, via a second turbo charger, meaning theres 423Nm’s on offer up 22Nm.
Squint & you may notice some exterior upgrades, with new 17” & 18” alloy wheel designs & new black bezel inlays to the LED headlamps. Inside the cab, fitted as standard from N-Connecta grade, is Nissan’s latest generation Nissan Connect entertainment system featuring an 8” touch screen with Apple CarPlay, to give owners the latest in-car connected technology. This really is the single, best thing that the new version has added, a must for anyone looking to choose a pick-up over an SUV. It includes smartphone integration, with customers able to locate the vehicle, lock/unlock the vehicle, check vehicle health (fuel and fluid levels) & send their destination to the vehicle’s satnav ahead of departure.
The Navara Tekna Double Cab we were testing uses a 2.3-litre 190PS diesel engine. The range is available in the following trim levels: Visia, Acenta, N-Connecta, Tekna & range topping N-Gurad. It’s priced from £21,850, for the 4WD King Chassis Cab Visia 6 Speed Manual, rising to £31,125, for the range topping 4WD Double Cab N-Guard 7 Speed Auto, both excluding VAT, VED & FRD. The manual Tekna we drove, comes with a claimed combined fuel economy of 41mpg & CO2 emissions of 183g/km
Many of the Navara’s advanced safety features are standard across the range. This includes Forward Emergency Braking on all double cab models; driver, passenger, side, knee and curtain airbags; electronic Limited Slip Differential (eLSD); Hill Start Assist and Hill Descent Control (on 4WD models). At the risk of sounding repetitive, anyone used to having these safety features in their car, will be happy to know that they’re also offered in a pick-up & will therefore be more likely to consider one as their family vehicle.
Our test model came with eye catching 18″ alloys, roof rails, side steps, a tailgate spoiler, load restraint hooks, mudguards, C-Channel moveable tie-down points & chrome door handles, door mirrors, wheel nuts, front grille & running light surround. The updates actually make the Navara look more X-Class than before, which is no bad thing.
Climb aboard & the Navara cabin is well thought out & also very comfortable. The dashboard is sensibly laid out, with the solid plastics in the cabin built for hard wear & practicality. Equipment is definitely a match for an SUV, with leather seats, which are 4 way adjustable passenger & 6 way adjustable for the driver. The front seats are also heated, there’s a leather handbrake, steering wheel & gear knob cover, front & rear headrests, rear privacy glass, all round electric windows as well as the new 8″ infotainment touchscreen, which gave us access to DAB radio & Bluetooth phone connectivity.
Storage includes twin cup holders, deep door pockets, an armrest with storage underneath, a dash top area with a clip to attache paper to & a smallish glove box.
At the beginning of our week in the Navara, a trip to Warwickshire was on the cards, a journey of 220 miles there & back with almost all of it on motorway’s. The first thing you notice with the manual gearbox, is how light it is compared to the old one. Personally, I would opt for an auto box in a pick-up, but to be fair to Nissan, the new manual six-speed gear box we tried was excellent & a definite improvement over the outgoing version.
Once up to motorway speed, we selected cruise control on the steering wheel, sat back & relaxed for the 100 miles ahead. The 190PS diesel engine is very refined & quiet at motorway speeds & the journey passed in no time. We utilised the front USB by connecting our iPhone to access Apple CarPlay & Google Maps for our journey & took advantage of hands free text & Whats App messaging.
There’s acres of space up front for both front passenger & there’s decent headroom in the rear as well. Rear legroom though, is about average for the class.
The rest of our week was pretty mundane, using the Navara for local journeys, supermarket shopping, going to the gym etc.. & it’s an easy vehicle to live with. Obviously it’s larger than most cars being both wider & longer than most SUV’s, so parking is more difficult, but the light power steering & reversing camera make this task relatively easy.
We drove the entire week in 2WD & did not venture off road all week. Having experienced an off-road day with the Navara though, we can confirm that the it will go almost anywhere you want it to go. For urban warriors, Nissan have added features such as the Around View Monitor display, an option on our test model, help you park better & for those serious off-roaders, this also helps you know where obstacles are when you’re driving through the toughest terrain. A tick in both boxes. The increased payload will also add appeal to customers who actually dare I say it, want a Navara as a work horse.
At the end of our drive, the $64,000 question we all wanted an answer to, was partly but not completely solved. Is the latest Navara a match for the urban SUV ? For those of us lucky enough to drive a lot of vehicles in a year, the answer is unquestionably no. It’s a pick up. However, the tweaks & changes that Nissan have added to the latest Navara, bring it ever closer to the kind of vehicle an SUV customer would consider & that has to be a good thing.
If you are looking for a practical family vehicle that will double as a work horse & go off-road over the toughest terrain, then the upgrades to the Navara are very welcome indeed. And, as company car driver, you’ll save on your BIK tax bill as well.
Better & more competitive than before 4/5