Revamped Navara is the pick of the pick-ups
Pick-up trucks used to be work-a-day vehicles driven by builders or farmers who needed the flexibility of being able to go anywhere and carry anything.
They still fulfil that role, sure, but they have also been adopted by the lifestyle set who have adopted them as a fashionable outdoor activity vehicle.
The modern pick-up, at first glance, might not appear to have changed too much – there is no disguising that huge flatbed and its ability to accommodate anything from cement mixer to hay bale to fancy jet ski. It is their raison d'etre, of course. But look closer, look inside, and boy have they changed.
The birth of the double cab was the thing that changed pick-ups forever. No longer was it sufficient to merely add bullbars and fancy paintwork to appeal to the upwardly mobile; instead we were offered car-like space and home comforts. Suddenly these were vehicles that we wanted to be seen in, vehicles that made a statement.
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And importantly, for many, a vehicle that could, quite feasibly, be a one size fits all choice for use at work, home or play. Complete with tax breaks for those who could demonstrate a business need.
One of the very best is the Nissan Navara, particularly in range- topping Tekna trim, which must be one of the best-equipped pick-ups ever sold in the UK.
A subtle refresh in 2012 has kept it ahead of the opposition, with most notable outward signs being a new bonnet and grille, along with redesigned headlights – now complete with their own pop-up washer system on Tekna models.
Inside, enhanced styling embraces new designs, trim and fabrics for the door panels, centre console and seats. There is a clearer new dashboard display, extra concealed storage tray and reworked switchgear. A simple-to- operate speed limiter has also been incorporated into the cruise control of the Tekna models.
Nissan Connect Premium, a whole new "infotainment" system, replaces both the previous DVD sat-nav and CD autochanger.
The Hard Disk Drive-based system brings state-of-the-art navigation, music storage and playback. The 40GB sat-nav offers 3-D street-level mapping and extensive POI (points of interest) data. The 9GB music centre will automatically download and store music from the equivalent of 250 CDs, while also offering full iPod connectivity and a facility for wireless audio streaming using the built-in Bluetooth.
The system even includes a reversing camera offering improved visibility when parking especially when the bed is loaded or a hard top fitted. And if you get tired of looking backwards you can always pop in a DVD to watch (but only while the vehicle is stationary).
Perhaps the most significant changes to the latest Navara, however, are the revisions to the 2.5-litre diesel engine which deliver more power at the same time as boosting fuel efficiency. In its latest guise the turbocharged and intercooled common rail unit provides peak power of 190PS (188bhp) with peak torque of 450Nm (332 lb/ft), figures which represent an 11 per cent improvement.
The result is an exceptional combination of drivability and economy. Navara now has a top speed of 112mph, takes 11.1 seconds to reach 62mph from rest, yet returns 33.2mpg in manual form and 31.4mpg as an automatic over the combined cycle (previously 28.8 and 27.7).
A fall in CO2 emissions brings Navara in line with rivals with less power – the official figures are now 224 and 238g/km for the manual and automatic, respectively.
Navara comes in two styles – the King Cab with rear "half" doors that hinge backwards, and the longer Double Cab, as tested here, with four conventional doors. Both have the same wheelbase and overall length and the King Cab therefore has the larger load bed.
The King Cab features two occasional forward facing seats in the back of the cabin suitable for children or, over short journeys, for adults. The area can also double as a home for dogs thanks to seat squabs that can be folded up against the rear bulkhead. Access is easier than in most of its competitors thanks to its pillarless four-door configuration.
The double cab version has a three-seater rear bench in an enlarged cabin, providing ample room for five. It too has a full roster of interior storage spaces and its rear seats also flip up – on a 60/40 split – to create extra storage space behind the front seats.
The Navara uses Nissan's proven part-time four-wheel drive system which provides drive to the rear wheels under normal conditions or a 50/50 torque split to all four wheels when 4WD mode is engaged.
There are also high and low-ratio modes, the crawl ratio being best in class and providing outstanding levels of traction over slippery surfaces, especially on tricky hill descents. All three modes are selected electrically via an easy-to- use rotary dial on the dashboard, selection being confirmed by a dashboard mode indicator.
With its Double Cab body and choice of manual or automatic transmissions, the Navara Tekna is loaded with equipment that will have the average pick-up driver thinking he (or she) has died and gone to SUV heaven – graphite leather seats, heated and power adjustable in the front, automatic headlamps, headlamp wash, rain sensing windscreen wipers, a trip computer, cruise control, footwell illumination, electric glass sunroof, aluminium front door entry guards, a six-CD autochanger with steering wheel controls, power fold mirrors, rear dark tinted glass and roof rails.
As a result, the Navara Tekna is considerably more affordable than its main rivals once you adjust their specifications to match. Nissan Connect Premium is the only option.
Is there another vehicle on the market that can carry 1125kg and tow a 2.6-tonne trailer yet guide its occupants to their destination by DVD sat-nav while they sit in climate controlled, Bluetooth linked, leather trimmed comfort? Nissan doesn't think so.
Navara owners can equip their vehicles with a choice of five hard tops for the load bay, from Snugtop, Nissan's sole UK official supplier.
Excluding the dreaded VAT that most business users will be able to claim back, most Navaras sell in the £17,800 to £23,300 bracket. The pick-up sector continues to punch above its weight in the UK, thanks both to advantageous tax breaks and the excellence of products like this Nissan.
Just as competitors started to edge closer to the class-leading power of its diesel engines, a package of mid-term Navara revisions lifted this model further clear of its rivals.