The question of load restraint can be an issue on any ute used for work.
Nissan NZ reckons diesel fuel economy is a crucial consideration for light commercial vehicle buyers these days. Contributing to the NP300’s efficiency gains are improved aerodynamics in the design, which includes frontal area reduction, low friction gearbox and rear differential, electric power regeneration and mass reduction in the body and rear suspension.
Topping the range of engine options is a twin-turbo 2.3L 4-cyl DOHC diesel unit that produces 140kW of power, with 450 NM of torque available low in the rev range at 1500-2500rpm. It has a two-stage turbocharger so torque delivery is far more linear than the old Navara and largely eliminates the lag experienced in many turbo diesels.
In 2WD dual cab manual versions this engine uses 6.3L/100km, emitting just 166 grams of CO2 per kilometre. In the top-of-the-range automatic STX 4WD we drove it uses 7L/100km.
The mid-range RX model gets the same diesel engine but with a single turbo, producing 120kW of power and 403 NM of torque.
An interesting addition to the range is the 2.5L DOHC petrol engine, the same one used in the X-Trail and Altima. It produces 122kW and 238Nm, and in DX 2WD double cab form, is priced at a sharp $31,990, well within reach of buyers of cheaper Chinese and Korean utes. The market demand for petrol utes is unclear but, at this price, some buyers will be tempted by the prospect of an upgrade to a Navara.
Gearbox options for all models are a 6-speed manual or 7-speed automatic.
A coil sprung 5-link rear suspension in double cab models delivers better handling and off-road capability than most leaf-sprung utes. However, because load and tow capacities had to match that of leaf-spring setups, ride quality is still firm on Kiwi roads. Nissan argues that this rear end setup improves lateral rigidity and saves weight.
Braked towing capacity on all diesel grades is 3500kg, an important feature in this segment.
Offroad the NP300 offers a wading depth of 450mm and a lateral tilt of 50 degrees. Active brake limited slip (ABLS) optimises the driving force of each wheel in slippery conditions on 4WD models. ABLS functions on all wheels, whereas mechanical LSD only works on rear wheels.
Hill start assist holds the truck on a slope for two seconds after the brake is released, allowing for a smooth change from brake to accelerator pedal, while hill descent control maintains vehicle speed during steep downhill driving without the need to use the accelerator or brake pedals.
Much was made at the launch of the ‘spinal support’ front seats which apparently reduce fatigue during long drives. Nissan says “the seat distributes body pressure on the seating surface through the middle section in the folding seat back, promoting a ‘neutral’ posture to reduce pressure on the spine and muscles”.
We’ll reserve judgement on that until we get a longer drive. They were comfy enough, especially the heated, leather, electric ones in the STX. Buyers of this posh variant will also enjoy dual-zone climate control, a sunroof, ‘intelligent’ key with remote keyless entry and illuminated push button engine start. It also has a 7-inch integrated colour display with touch screen, including satellite navigation with 3D mapping.
Double cab versions of all models – DX, RX, ST and STX – are on-sale in New Zealand now. Single cab and king cab variants go on sale in the third quarter of 2015, with full specification and pricing for those models to be confirmed at a later date.
Prices of the double cabs start at a sharp $31,990 for the DX 2WD petrol through to an eye-watering $64,990 for the STX 4WD with all the fruit. All Navaras come with a three year/100,000km warranty and three year roadside assist.