Text: Vince Pornelos / Photos: Patrick De Guzman Cardano | posted April 22, 2015 13:50
Pound for pound
When most people hear the term “pick-up truck”, the most common the things that come to mind are uncomfortable beasts, crude mechanicals, utilitarian workhorses, rough but tough, among others.
Well it seems Nissan is out to change all that with this: the new generation 2015 Nissan NP300 Navara.
Personally this isn't my first time with the NP300; we were able to test all of the variants of this truck in truck-crazy Thailand last year and again a few months ago in Ilocos Norte. The thing is you can only learn so much from spending a day with a vehicle; to truly get to know it, you need to spend a considerable time behind the wheel around town, on the highway, on the way to the grocery and to work.
Seeing the new Navara for the first time in the metal, it's easy to be impressed with the look. It's no longer a boxy vehicle like its predecessors thanks to a front end that looks quite distinguished for a utility vehicle. Nissan used quality details such as the chrome and matte gray grill start off the design, flanked by a pair of first-in-class LED projector headlamps. The bodyshell is smooth and has some muscular details such as the wide arches and creases. Nissan sought a way around the design constrictions of a pick up by using car-style taillamps, a V-motion detail around the Nissan logo and even a tailgate that somewhat resembles a ducktail spoiler, but it's really a sill you can sit on if you're parked.
The 2015 NP300 Navara has also grown in all respects, as Nissan's new pick-up now measures 5255mm long (previous: 5230mm), 1850mm wide (previous: 1795mm) and 1840mm tall (previous: 1780mm). The wheelbase has changed to 3150mm (previous: 3200mm). The bed measures in at 1503mm x 1560mm x 474mm.
The cabin looks and feels very premium too; actually it's so impressive that you could almost swear they lifted it off of a top-spec executive sedan. Ergonomics is quite good though the horn button on the steering wheel is quite long, making accidental horn activation quite a common occurrence when maneuvering. The seats make use of fabric upholstery but it all blends in well with the predominantly black cabin. The front seats are quite remarkable; they're of the same Zero-G design done in collaboration with NASA for minimal fatigue and maximum comfort on long drives. Rear legroom is also good and the seats are quite plush for a pick-up.
There are plenty of cupholders and compartments to go around inside. There is even an umbrella holder on the rear floor-mounted cupholders. The bed is quite large and can handle all kinds of cargo; something I was able to put to the test when moving from one house to another. A worthy accessory to have would be a couple meters of rope at all times.
This being a mid-grade 4x2 variant, this Navara EL Calibre gets plenty of features all around. The usual power features are there like power windows, mirrors, locks and the like, as well as an AM/FM/CD/MP3 and USB capable audio system. Actually the audio system is quite clear and powerful for a mid-range model. The A/C is still a manual one but it does live up to Nissan's legendary coolness, even when faced with our hot weather.
The new generation NP300 actually has a carryover engine from the previous generation. Be that as it may, at 163 PS and 403 Nm of torque, we really don't mind that the 2.5L CRDI engine wasn't changed. Top spec variants get the more powerful version that tops out at 190 PS and 450 Nm. This particular variant gets a 7-speed automatic gearbox with rear wheel drive so tough off-road trails are better left to the 4x4 boys. Nevertheless, there's plenty of ground clearance (218mm for this 4x2) and though the 600mm water wading capability isn't class leading, it should be more than enough.
Around town the Navara 4x2 is surprisingly comfortable; so comfortable in fact that it's very much comparable to several 7-seat SUVs. The reason for that is that unlike other pick-ups in its class, the NP300 Navara actually has double wishbones with coil springs in front and a multi-link suspension with coil springs in the rear. To put that in perspective, all of its competitors have the same front suspension but with the far stiffer leaf spring rear suspension, leading to a typically huge front/rear disparity in terms of suspension behavior. The result is a ride that is far more progressive in terms of damping and bound/rebound as opposed to the jarring ride of leaf-springers that can turn body fat into butter. Handling is good, comfort is good, and maneuverability is good in the city. Potholes are handled with ease and confidence, thanks to the tires, wheels and suspension.
Fuel economy is also good, as the Navara returned 8.9 kilometers to the liter in moderate to heavy traffic (20 km/h average). Consumption also improves on the highway (thanks to the 7-speed auto) to 12.9 kilometers per liter under normal driving (89 km/h average) and straight line stability is also good.
Overall, the 2015 Nissan NP300 Navara EL Calibre 4x2 is as impressive as they come, and that's not even counting the price yet. At PhP 1,108,000, this variant of the Navara makes a compelling case for itself, especially since it significantly undercuts many pick-ups in terms of price. It's even more affordable than many top-spec compact cars and crossovers, yet the NP300 offers the size, versatility, ruggedness, ground clearance, toughness, comfort and so many more qualities in its list of capabilities.
If this year will be all about pick-up trucks, then Nissan certainly has a strong pound-for-pound fighter in their stable.