First Drive

Nissan NP300 Navara 190 Double Cab first drive review

With its plush cabin and sophisticated suspension, the new Navara Double Cab is looking for customers from beyond the usual pick-up buyers

Words by: First published: 16th November 2015
Auto Trader verdict:
The Navara brings previously unimagined comfort and sophistication to the pick-up class. It delivers all the traditional strengths you’d expect of a robust pick-up and nicks quite a few a tricks from its SUV cousins, making it the best top-end truck you can buy.
Need to know:
  • New Double Cab Navara targets the outdoors brigade, as well as its traditional market
  • Multi-link suspension; interior more in keeping with that of a luxurious SUV
  • On sale now, with prices from £26,445
What is it?
The Navara’s rugged construction, robust reliability and unstinting ability to get the job done have earned it the hard-fought respect of many a burly builder. However, capturing the imagination of the great outdoors adventurer brigade is what the all-new Navara is really all about.

Although you can still buy a no-nonsense, two-plus-two King Cab Navara, with the essential flat-bed loadbay, four-wheel-drive and a rear axle suspended from agricultural leaf springs (and very few frills besides), Nissan reckons the luxuriously appointed Double Cab Navara will hold far more appeal for its target audience. Complete with ride-enhancing multi-link rear suspension, leather seats, hill descent control and all-round cameras, it can even come with a 188bhp twin-turbo 2.3-litre diesel engine and a seven-speed automatic gearbox.

Even with the more sophisticated suspension, Nissan claims this plushest Navara can still handle a one-tonne payload and pull a trailer carrying 3.5 tonnes, so Dobbin can travel to the gymkhana with gay abandon.
Nissan NP300 Navara
Nissan NP300 Navara
What's it like?
There’s no arguing with the forcefulness of the Navara’s 2.3-litre twin-turbo diesel engine. Producing 187bhp and 332 lb ft of torque, it pulls strongly and progressively, making light of the Navara’s two-tonne bulk, so you don’t need to cover a lot of ground before you’re motoring along at a respectable cruising speed.

It’s a pretty refined lump, too. Yes, you’re aware of a muttering of combustion rattle under initial acceleration, but it’s relatively remote, so you don’t really pick up much vibration and, once into its stride, it’s nicely hushed.

The smoothness of the gearshifts is impressive, too, with the automatic 'box slipping up through the ratios with undetectable ease. It’s only the odd lurch as you downshift and decelerate that takes the edge of matters.

We struggle to think of many low-traction situations that will get the better of the Navara. With high and low ratios, as well as hill descent control, all of which you can engage on the move, it’ll scrabble down rocky gullies and climb muddy banks like the proverbial mountain yak.
Nissan NP300 Navara
Nissan NP300 Navara
Less impressively, thanks to its surprisingly heavy steering and wide turning circle, trying to perform three-point-turns in 5.3 metres of Navara in the middle of a busy street can quickly turn into an embarrassing, sweaty-palm experience.

That same problem also affects the Navara’s ability to go round corners. In fact, keeping to the correct side of the road when tackling tight switchback bends can present something of a challenge. However, Nissan’s engineers reckon a pragmatic ‘stability over agility’ steering approach is responsible, as the last thing anyone wants is a sharp-steering Navara loaded to the gunwales ending up on its ear.

If you’ve driven this top-spec Navara and then jump back into a leaf-spring model, the difference is night and day. Imagine sitting on top of a washing machine when it switches from delicates to full spin mode and you’ll get some idea of how stark the difference is.
Nissan NP300 Navara
Nissan NP300 Navara
Pick-ups tend to lead strenuous lives, so most are decked out with robust, no-nonsense materials. Not the Navara. With a dash and interior materials more in keeping with those in a luxurious SUV, it feels a bit sacrilegious to be clambering in and out of the cabin with muddied wellies.

The double cab layout means there’s loads of space for five; and, because there’s so much glass to the front, side and rear, it’s bright and airy, no matter where you’re perched.

It is a bit of an effort to hike yourself up into the driver’s seat, but once you're in, it’s surprisingly easy to find a good vantage point. This is despite the fact the steering wheel only goes up and down, and the pedals are slightly offset inboard.

There’s also plenty of useful cubbies to hold sarnies, flasks of tea and the latest copy of the Screwfix catalogue. And, further back, the signature drop-down tailgate and load bay are pretty much on par with the rest of the pick-up class, easily swallowing an industry-standard single pallet.

Of course, because of the height of the flat bed above the ground, you’ll need a willing mate - or a substantial ramp - to help load your dirt bike. Thankfully, if you’re into jet skiing and need to travel with the tailgate lowered, Nissan’s clever C-channel system, which uses movable cleats that can be locked into tracks built into the floor and three sides of the flat bed, mean it’s oh-so-easy to strap your load down securely.
Nissan NP300 Navara
Nissan NP300 Navara
Should I buy one?
The Navara is capable of hauling some significant loads and is also a first-rate recreational vehicle thanks to its serious off-roading abilities. Sure, it’s not as easy to drive as an SUV, but it is surprisingly comfortable and civilised, with some impressive luxury touches; and, it adds a level of versatility that no SUV can match.

So, if you’re in the market for a top-end truck, then you should look no further than the new Navara.
Key facts:
  • Model: Nissan NP300 Navara
  • Price: from £26,445
  • Engine: 2.3-litre, 4cyl diesel, six-speed manual or seven-speed auto
  • Power/Torque: 187bhp/332lb ft
  • 0-62mph: 10.8 secs
  • Top speed: 112mph
  • Economy: 40.3mpg
  • CO2/ BIK tax liability: 183g/km/34%
Also consider:
Toyota Hilux
Feels like it’s built to last for ever and a day but it also feels underpowered and is too much of a chore to drive

Mitsubishi L200
Good economy and low CO2 emissions translate into low running costs, but it's not as a civilised as a conventional SUV.

Ford Ranger
Practical, well-priced, loaded with safety kit and not half decent to drive.

Interested in buying a Nissan Navara?