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The Nissan Navara has long been considered one of the most comfortable and refined pickups you can buy, and this latest NP300 version has raised that bar even further.
In fact, the Navara impresses us so much it received the Pickup of the Year Award in the Parkers New Car Awards 2018.
Introduced in 2016 and updated to Euro 6 emissions requirements in September the same year, the NP300 Navara is powered by Nissan's 2.3-litre turbodiesel engine, which was specifically developed for use in commercial vehicles.
The Parkers Vans pickup group test - every major model compared
The result is not only a choice of two power outputs – 163hp from the single turbo version (confusingly, Nissan rates this at 160hp in its technical details) and 190hp from the twin-turbo, making it one of the most potent pickups on sale in the UK – but also the most fuel efficient (and cleanest) pickup range available.
What’s more, the sophisticated car-like rear suspension design fitted on Double Cab Navaras helps to make them particularly suitable for lifestyle buyers, with grip, handling and ride comfort all above the pickup truck norm.
Yet it is still rated to carry over 1.0 tonne, and meets the important 3.5-tonne towing benchmark.
The Navara is available in five basic trim levels and two bodystyles:
There are manual and automatic gearbox choices, and while most Navaras are four-wheel drive there is a two-wheel drive entry-level King Cab for those who simply need a practical workhorse.
For the first time, Nissan even offers a chassis cab version of the Navara, suitable for specialist conversions. However, a basic single cab model is not available.
Key Navara rivals include the Ford Ranger, VW Amarok, Toyota Hilux and Mitsubishi L200, while both the forthcoming Mercedes-Benz X-Class and Renault Alaskan are based on the NP300 Navara platform, and built by Nissan in Spain.
It's a winner for us because it's a great all-rounder. The Navara is sharper than your average pickup to drive, nicely finished inside, offers class-leading fuel economy and 3.5-tonne towing capacity.
Add an extensive model range with lots of standard equipment, a five-year, 100,000-mile warranty and lengthy servicing intervals, and you can easily understand why it’s a popular choice.
We also have the following individual model reviews:
Nissan NP300 Navara 190hp Tekna Double Cab – tested February 2016
Nissan NP300 Navara 190hp Tekna Double Cab automatic – tested November 2016
Nissan NP300 Navara 190hp N-Connecta Double Cab – tested May 2017
Nissan NP300 Navara 190hp Trek-1° Double Cab automatic limited edition – tested August 2017
The Nissan Navara has one of the more car-like cabs in the current pickup truck sector, with design themes familiar from the firm’s passenger SUV range.
It’s still not the most inspiring interior to look at, but it is highly functional, with sensibly laid-out buttons and a relatively user-friendly infotainment system (albeit one that’s also rather dated by modern car standards).
There’s plenty of passenger space front and rear in the Double Cab models – rear space is compressed in the King Cab, as you’d expect given the additional load area behind – and Nissan claims the seats were designed by NASA. The lower-end fabric versions are particularly comfortable.
Access to the back of the King Cab is via a pair of stubby, backwards-opening doors and there's a set of fold-down seats that are very much for occasional use only. The Double Cab has four full doors and proper rear seats – these even have Isofix mountings for child seats.
We have seen some complaints about forward visibility in the NP300 Navara – and indeed the seats are mounted quite low while the dashboard and bonnet are quite high. But we didn’t think this made the Nissan particularly difficult to drive; in common with most pickups, this is a large vehicle and some additional care when manoeuvring is required.
The available 360-degree camera system is amazingly helpful for this, and an unusually high-tech feature for a pickup.
There are five standard Nissan NP300 Navara trim levels: Visia, Acenta, Acenta+, N-Connecta and Tekna.
Visia and Acenta trims are offered as both the King Cab and Double Cab but with the 160hp engine only, and are aimed more at working operators and fleets. The posher Accenta+, N-Connecta and Tekna are only available as 190hp Double Cab models.
Here’s what you get as standard.
As you can see, standard equipment is generous right across the range, and helps the Navara deliver strong value.
In 2017, Nissan also launched a limited run of Trek-1° models. Based on the range-topping Navara Tekna, just 400 were offered to UK buyers in a choice of black or white paint. Unique features included black alloy wheels, LED spotlights mounted on a sport styling bar, and an unusual hard load cover.
Click here to read an individual road test of the Nissan Navara Trek-1°.
Nissan’s 2.3-litre diesel engine, developed specifically for commercial vehicles, provides the power. There are two outputs: a single-turbo version with 163hp and 430Nm of torque, and a twin-turbo version with 190hp and 450Nm of torque. The latter is standard from the Acenta+ trim and above.
There is a smooth, though sometimes hesitant, seven-speed automatic gearbox available at extra cost alongside the standard (and slightly long-winded) six-speed manual transmission on higher-spec models, too.
Both engines are quiet and responsive, and even the 163hp unit seems suitably powerful (which shouldn't be too surprising given the smaller difference in torque).
Tested with a 400kg load, the lower output struggled only briefly when travelling up a 25% ascent on a low traction surface; little will trouble the 190hp variant.
In terms of driving manners, the new Nissan NP300 Navara Double Cab performs far better than the majority of its competitors. This is thanks to the multilink rear suspension, which features coil springs – much like a regular car.
Most pickups still use a traditional leaf springs at the back (and by traditional we mean dating back to the horse and cart), which are typically strong but jittery.
While the Navara is by no means as cosseting as a Qashqai, it absolutely does do a much better job of coping with inconsistent road surfaces than almost every rival. It also offers lots of grip and far more precise steering than most pickups, making it well-suited to lifestyle buyers who may be switching to a pickup truck from a conventional car or SUV.
The Navara King Cab, however, still uses leaf springs. This makes bumps and potholes a lot more noticeable, and means it’s a lot bouncier when unladen. That said, neither version rolls overly much in the corners, and the steering remains light and accurate.
Four-wheel drive is an option on the entry-level Navara Visia, but standard-fit on all other models.
A completely new electronically controlled system, this has three settings labelled 2Hi, 4Hi, and 4Lo. The 2Hi system is for normal road conditions, 4Hi is for wet road, gravel tracks and other moderately slippery surfaces, while 4Lo is for more extreme and muddy conditions.
A mechanical centre differential lock is also available should your needs require one. An electronic limited slip differential is standard at the rear.
We’ve tested the Navara in locations as exotic as the Sahara Desert, and can confirm it copes very well with off-road challenges.