MSN Cars
08/07/2009 06:01 | By Alexander Popple, contributor, MSN Cars

Nissan Navara review (2001-2004)

Nissan Navara (© Nissan)


Bodystyle: 4-door pick-up
Engine: 5 litres in-line 4-cyl turbocharged
Fuel type: Diesel
Transmission: 5-speed manual, selectable four-wheel drive, with low ratio
Date of test: July 2002

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What is it?

One of the most luxurious pick-ups you can buy, with a cab that can seat five, a powerful engine, a four-wheel drive transmission system offering significant off-road ability, a good handful of luxury features including air conditioning and a CD player, and - last but far from least, chunky, fashionable styling.

Where does it fit?

Sizewise, it's the length and width of a family car - though somewhat taller. Cabin space is restricted by the rugged suspension set up - plus, of course, the rear cargo bed. It will carry a good load, but not as much furniture, say, as you might think - because that cargo bed is shortened by the large cab structure. Priced at under £20,000, it's expensive compared to a car of similar dimensions, but at the price, few other vehicles can offer this combination of carrying capacity, cabin comfort and off-road ability. Even fewer look as appealing. What's more, you can reclaim the VAT if the vehicle is for commercial use.

Is it for you?

If you want to bring a bit of Texas onto your front drive, then the Navarra may be for you. Unlike in the USA, where these vehicles are highly fashionable, in the UK few people who don't absolutely need a pick-up would choose one. But if you do want a pick-up, and you want one that's more than a workhorse, then this could be the answer, with its two-tone paint, chunky alloy wheels and range of bright and brash accessories - like 'stylish' (ie non-functional) rollover bars, driving lamps, and so on. In fact even if you don't harbour George W Bush-style ranch-ranging fantasies, it could have a certain appeal. If you need a pick-up for your work, but want to use the vehicle for leisure travel as well - in reasonable comfort and style - the Navara could be just the thing.

What does it do well?

Its styling may or may not be to your taste, but this vehicle looks the part. It's solidly built, has a comfortable cabin in comparison with most pick-ups, and has real off-road ability thanks to four-wheel drive, a low-ratio final drive option, and excellent ground clearance. The engine is powerful and well engineered, and performance is strong - delivering lots of pulling power as well as decent acceleration with no obvious plateaus or nasty habits. The high-set driving position affords good visibility, and air conditioning, a CD player, adjustable seats and other features lend a touch of sophistication. ABS (rare for a pick-up), side impact protection and large crumple zones add to a feeling of security. It's very dominant on the road: other vehicles will scurry aside to let you pass.

What doesn't it do well?

Tough construction and plastics make it seem durable, though of course you won't want to knock this fashion-conscious monster about as much as you might a more prosaic pick-up - a fact that's at odds with its tough-guy attitude. The high stance makes it prone to body roll, while leaf springing makes the ride very bouncy; and the recirculating ball steering is even more ponderous than you'd expect on the road. In fact, it's potentially nausea-inducing on a twisting, undulating road, especially when unladen. Pregnant women, those prone to car sickness and people who have recently undergone surgery need not apply. The cabin is quite noisy, too, so sustained high speed travel isn't comfortable - and it can be made to feel worryingly roly-poly long before the average car is affected. These shortcomings may limit its appeal as a true all-purpose vehicle, but they need to be kept in context. Compared to many pick-ups, the Navarra is an oasis of sophistication and calm, and if that's the sort of vehicle you need, this Nissan with a difference remains very appealing.

What's it like to live with?

If you can accept the limitations alluded to above, fairly easy. The generous specification and terrific engine will reward month after month and year after year, and if you don't tire of the look-at-me styling, you'll continue to appreciate its characterfulness. 27mpg consumption means it won't be the cheapest vehicle to run, but the fuel tank is capacious and being a Nissan, the Navarra should last fairly well. On the downside, it's an unusual vehicle, so you may have to work a bit to find someone to will pay the best price when you come to sell it.

Would we buy it?

No - but then we don't need a pick-up. The compromises in ride comfort and economy compared to a standard car are way too telling. If we needed four-wheel drive, or a car with a high-set seats, a small SUV for similar money would be a better option. But if you really must have a pick-up, and you don't want a basic, utilitarian, one, then this one would be a good choice.

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