VEHICLE TEST: Nissan NP300 Navara

VEHICLE TEST: Nissan NP300 Navara

Alex Juggins puts the newly-crowned International Pick-up of the Year through its paces over some of the UK’s most unforgiving terrain.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park is famed for its patchwork of green upland pastures, drystone walls and network of charming villages. But despite the area’s picture-postcard beauty, the landscape poses a rugged, hilly, and challenging driving environment – perfect for a no holds barred van test! Could the NP300 cope with everything we threw at it, both on and off-road?

Nissan claims that improving refinement and delivering a Crossover-style driving experience were key elements of the NP300 Navara’s development. The aim was to create a vehicle for both work and leisure, providing the comfort of a car without compromising durability and load capacity. To help achieve this without diminishing the vehicle’s acclaimed off-road ability, the company designed an all-new five-link rear suspension system for the Double Cab model, providing significantly improved ride comfort and improved handling.

While the first part of my journey in the NP300 was relatively relaxed – in no small part due to the notable comfort in the cab, with its NASA-designed seats – we were soon able to test the new suspension to its absolute limit as we navigated our way up and over a treacherous off-road pass. It quickly became apparent that the NP300 is as capable off-road as it is on, with the four-wheel drive system building on the strengths of the previous generation model to deliver surefooted traction over even the roughest of terrain.

Further highlighting the NP300’s off-road credentials is the facility to engage low range. Designed to help the vehicle up steep and slippery inclines, the 4LO setting provides even more torque at the wheels and for those in tricky off-road situations, a mechanical diff-lock is available. I’ve never encountered a more technical route than the one I found myself traversing in the Navara but the vehicle was more than up to the challenge – even if my own off-roading skills weren’t quite up to scratch.

Back on the road, we joined the peloton of vehicles and began to take in some of the 2014 Tour de France route as we climbed the Buttertubs Pass and descended towards Thwaite. It has to be said that our convoy of ‘Savannah Yellow’ Navaras snaking down the iconic pass was a site to behold! On the subject of aesthetics, the NP300 in both its King Cab and Double Cab guises has been designed to deliver a rugged yet sporty overall style, with a mix of convex and concave surfaces providing a dynamic and bold look. The signature V-motion grille and boomerang-shaped LED daytime running lights are also said to provide distinctive Nissan design cues.

With the vehicle having proved its worth as a leisure vehicle and a more than capable off-roader, how does the Navara earn its keep as a workhorse? Firstly, the load carrying and towing ability across the range is improved. With payload ratings in excess of one tonne across the range and an excellent towing capacity of 3,500kg, the NP300 Navara is ready for the toughest and most demanding of jobs.

The load bed itself is home to further Nissan innovations in the form of the brand’s C-channel load system. With heavy-duty channels on the rear cabin bulkhead and bed sides, owners have complete flexibility when it comes to securing vulnerable loads. Because the clamps slide along the C-shaped channel tracks, even the most unusually shaped load can be secured with ease. To help you go further with more, the new Double Cab’s load bed is 67mm longer than the previous model, with a length of 1,578mm. The King Cab’s load bed measures 1,788mm.

Nissan believes that, in developing and bringing the NP300 Navara to market, it has reinvented the workhorse. Boasting a powerful engine and stylish good looks, coupled with impressive payload and towing capacity, this really does look like a pick-up for both work and play.

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