Nissan Navara pickup
"The Nissan Navara is a full-on pickup truck with the practicality to match, but it also drives well, making it one of the class leaders"
- Interior nicer than most rivals
- Drives well
- Tricky manual gearbox
- Underwhelming performance
- Unsophisticated King Cab suspension
Pickup trucks may not be as popular in the UK as they are in North America, but they're still important: models like the Ford Ranger, Mitsubishi L200 and Volkswagen Amarok sell in big numbers. The Navara is Nissan's load-lugger, and the product of 80 years of experience in the market.
You can pick from two body styles – the King Cab has two small rear-hinged back doors that allow access to two small rear seats, but the Double Cab is a far more practical family transport proposition. It has four full-size doors and a rear bench seat with space for three, and is far roomier, too. It's hardly surprising that the Double Cab is by far the more popular of the two.
Every version of the Navara now comes with a more sophisticated suspension system, replacing the old leaf-springs fitted on many pickups. It's more comfortable and SUV-like to travel in as a result, as well as feeling nimbler in corners.
The upgrades don't quite go far enough to disguise its rather functional interior, though. It may boast a long list of standard equipment, but it's presented in a far less aesthetically pleasing way than in an SUV like the Nissan X-Trail. You’ll need a Volkswagen Amarok or Toyota Hilux for a more upmarket pickup experience.
As is fairly typical of pickups, the materials are hard-wearing and businesslike instead of being tactile and attractive. The feeling is improved by some switchgear and controls that are shared with the X-Trail and Qashqai, though, and everything is easy to operate.
The King Cab is rather a marginal part of the range and is only available in entry-level Visia and Acenta trims as its designed predominantly for commercial rather than private use. You can choose those on the Double Cab, too, opt for the better-equipped, N-Connecta or Tekna trim levels, which are familiar from other Nissan models, or go for the more aggressively styled N-Guard trim level. The higher specs have extra design touches inside, but we're unsure how well the piano-black trim will last if exposed to the kind of hard use a pickup is often put to.
All Navaras in Visia and Acenta trim use a 158bhp 2.3-litre diesel engine, while Double Cab models from N-Connecta trims upwards use a 187bhp version of the same engine. An automatic gearbox is available with the more powerful engine and all comply with the latest Euro 6 exhaust emissions regulations.
The 187bhp engine is by far the more enjoyable to use and doesn't cost a lot more to run than the less powerful version. Every version of the Navara is now four-wheel drive, and this gives it impressive towing capability – it'll haul a 3,500kg braked trailer. Four-wheel drive is handy if you need to drag a boat trailer up a greasy slipway, or extract a caravan from a wet campsite, as well as providing extra traction on poor road surfaces. The four-wheel-drive Navara can cope with a bit of moderate off-roading, too.
The Navara lacks some of the comfort and family-friendly aspects of a large SUV, but is a capable and hardy single-vehicle solution for working weekdays and leisure-packed weekends. The Ford Ranger and Volkswagen Amarok are a little more polished, and the Mitsubishi L200 a bit more rugged, but the Navara is an honest all-rounder. The N-Connecta Double Cab is our favourite model for its blend of power, standard equipment and value.