Nissan Navara NP300 | Pick Me Up

BY Azfar Hashim

Nissan’s civilized Navara now comes with creature comforts usually seen only in its sedans - is that a good enough reason to buy one?

Photos by Azfar Hashim & Jonathan Lim

Now this is quite a risk for Nissan, introducing such a niche product here into our market. Consider this: The Navara is more of a lifestyle vehicle and it could only be registered as a goods vehicle – buying this car means you are relegated to only the slowest lane, going beyond 70 km/h means hearing a bloody beep hounding you to slow down and some parking places might force you to park at their loading bay instead. On top of that, driving it into Malaysia would be quite a hassle, having to face the amount of paperwork from both authorities.

With all that, the golden question that keeps ringing in my mind is simply, “Who would want to buy it then?”

Despite all that, lets not deny the “man driving their pick-up” syndrome is symbolism at its best - pure machismo. I’m referring to those men in their massive pick-ups, with equally massive biceps who usually live an active outdoor lifestyle; I don’t know about you, but I somehow (just somehow) look up to this sort.

Motocross, downhill biking, wakeboarding and water-skiing, you name the lot - they are the ones usually going at it. Therefore, it is only natural for this bunch to drive a pick-up: The flat bed provides ample lugging abilities, and the extra rear cab ensures three other pax get to enjoy the radio and air-conditioning.

Speaking of creature comforts, the Navara has the best we’ve ever seen in the pick-up segment. The leather-clad steering wheel with multi control buttons, modern dashboard design and supportive seats give the Navara a premium touch and, surprisingly, a more SUV feel rather than a commercial vehicle. Driving position should be highly likeable for drivers of any sizes as the seat offers good amount of support. Auxiliary input for smartphones, including Bluetooth connectivity, is factory-fitted.

Needless to say, the rear passenger compartment feels bigger than most large sedans. Tried and tested, it has the ability to sit up to four adults without any problem. It also comes with a plethora of storage spaces — handy when you need to keep tools and equipment, or to hide things away.

Just for the curious, the Navara comes with power windows all around too (so you don’t need to use your arm muscles for those wind-up thingies). And if you lack self-confidence at parking, a reverse sensor and camera is also fitted. Ahh… Life is good.

Dieselgate aside, ‘a diesel engine is nearly as good as a petrol engine’ is a phrase that’s being trotted out more and more often these days. It is only natural then that Nissan fitted into the engine bay a 2.3-litre turbocharged diesel engine.

Our test car came with a 7-speed automatic transmission, with a manual selection mode. To sweeten things even more, it comes with a 4WD transfer box that enables the driver to switch between 2WD (the rear wheels are driven) and 4WD — when off-roading, a turn of the dial is all you need to get more traction from the Navara.

In terms of digits, maximum power output is nothing much to scare off a, say, GTI: 188 bhp. But it’s the torque figure that has the potential to outrun and make even a hot-hatch nervous; 450 Nm that kicks in from as low as 1,500 rpm. To put things into perspective, the Golf GTI whips out 350 Nm, the Megane RS 360 Nm and Focus ST 345 Nm.

The pedal needs a hard prod to get it moving, but once the momentum kicks in, the Navara functions extremely well - put your foot down on the accelerator and you will quickly realise how surprisingly responsive this turbodiesel is; which was why it's always a riot outrunning everything else… until that speed limiting beeper comes along and spoils the party. Thank heavens the well sorted audio system was loud enough to overpower that speed limiter.

Going sideways in a pick-up, against all odds

Going sideways in a pick-up, against all odds

For a vehicle of its nature, the steering inputs and feedback give one a precise, real time feeling. One is able to point the Navara exactly where it needs to head, and it complies wonderfully. That said, you could actually have some fun; oversteering on dirt and diving into water holes, for example.

In a nustshell, The Navara is a joyful multi-tasker. It is a vehicle suited to those living the rugged lifestyle, and the answer to the businessman who might need lots of moving around, has a family of five, and knows a world of joy outside the bland SUV or MPV.

After all, the diesel engine has come a long way, and in the 21st century, it can be said to be every bit as good as a petrol engine in many aspects. And if you have a small business registered to your name, then you can’t deny that the lower price at the black fuel pumps means running a diesel is indeed cheaper than a petrol, not to mention the fact that it also returns better mileage.

228 mm ground clearance means the Navara can run over anything

228 mm ground clearance means the Navara can run over anything

Sadly, the Navara can only be registered here as a goods vehicle. Imagine the number of Navaras we’ll be seeing on the roads, if it were otherwise. By the way, every single bloke I’ve met while reviewing the Navara drooled at it endlessly; ‘so macho’ were the favourite words to describe it...