By Steve Walker
Back in the mists of time, the pick-up truck was devised to do rough fetching and carrying, often away from well-surfaced roads and usually of items that you wouldn't want in the back of your van, let alone your car boot. It was an unassuming utility vehicle but today, certain models have evolved into some of boldest and most imposing cars on the road. Nissan's Navara pick-up has been at the forefront of this realignment and a used version delivers more flash for the cash than you can get almost anywhere else.
Models Covered: Double/King Cab pick-up [2.5, 3.0 diesel (SE, Aventura, Outlaw, Acenta, Tekna, X-Back, Mammoth, Long Way Down, Die Hard 4.0)]
When it first cropped up on a Nissan on these shores, Navara was more of a trim level than a model in its own right. Nissan's D22 Series pick-up was sold globally with different names in different markets. Known as the Frontier in America, the Winner in the Middle East and the Hard Body in South Africa, the vehicle was somewhat disappointingly called the Nissan Pickup in the UK. When interest began to grow in using pick-ups as leisure vehicles, fuelled by the tax savings that could be accrued by UK business users, Nissan was one of the first manufacturers to react. It introduced the Navara versions of the D22 to cater for this market. Their aggressive looks and car-like specifications were a big hit in this country and when the D40 Series pick-up was launched to replace the D22, Nissan called the new vehicle Navara in the UK. The Navara was launched in 2005 and instantly felt like a major improvement over the old Nissan Pickup. It was a more sophisticated proposition in most respects and targeted squarely at the burgeoning lifestyle sector of the pick-up market. Versions of the old Pickup continued to be sold as basic working vehicles but the Navara took all the attention and most of the sales. The Pathfinder, a family 4x4 passenger car, rides on the same mechanicals. Initially, there were SE, Aventura and Outlaw trim levels offering higher specifications and more visual drama as you ascended the range. A 2.5-litre four-cylinder diesel engine provided the power and there was a choice of Double Cab or King Cab, the latter offering small rear seats accessed through a pair of rear backwards-opening 'suicide' doors. The special edition had long been a popular marketing device in the pick-up sector with manufacturers dreaming up ever more elaborately named and opulently specified models to attract 'lifestyle' pick-up buyers looking to make an impact. Nissan proved to be a master at this and used buyers will find weird and wonderful versions of the Navara called X-Back, and Mammoth as well as the Long Way Down and Die Hard 4.0 models which were tie-ins with the Ewan McGregor TV show and the Bruce Willis film respectively. In 2010, the Navara received a wide-ranging set of revisions, the most salient being the introduction of a 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine to top the range. There was also a power upgrade to the 2.5-lire diesel and tweaks to the styling inside and out. The standard trim levels changed to Acenta and Tekna at this time.
What You Get
The Navara is no shrinking violet in the styling stakes with its aggressive front end and dramatically flared wheelarches. At 5,220mm in length and with a 3,200mm wheelbase, it's a substantial vehicle too, significantly larger than the previous generation Nissan Pickup. That means there's plenty of cabin space, even in the halfway-house King Cab version with its backwards-opening doors and occasional rear seats. The King Cab is a bit of a compromise so nine out of ten Navara buyers went for the Double Cab model. Its wide body and cabin length of 1,511mm means that there's plenty of room for five. The Navara made real steps forward in becoming a more comfortable and luxurious proposition. It's a highly practical vehicle with solid build and materials that are durable without completely forgoing a quality feel. Storage space in the cabin, not usually a strong point for pick-ups, isn't half bad thanks to the inclusion of a 6.0-litre box in the centre console and twin gloveboxes in front of the passenger. There are also specialist spaces for coins, cups and cards along with a neat sunglasses holder which folds down from a console in the roof. It also helps that the seats can be folded into various positions to further boost the capacity. You can flip up the bases of the back seats to access a hidden storage compartment that would be useful to keep valuable tools away from prying eyes. You can also flat-fold the front passenger seat for longish items that won't fit in the pick-up section. The 1,861mm by 1,560mm load deck can support up to 1,045kg of weight and many models will have some form of removable load cover fitted to help protect cargo from the elements. Another popular option that will appear on many used Navaras is the C-Channel system which is comprised of five rails mounted into the loadbay sides and floor. These can accommodate special cleats which slide along and lock into place to provide lashing points for securing loads.
What You Pay
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What to Look For
Some Navaras will have had a very hard life and others will have been treated no more harshly than a typical family estate car. The trick is in discerning which category you're dealing with. High mileages might suggest commercial usage, as would heavy damage to the load bay. Check underneath for the scrapes that speak of regular off-road use and expect a discount if they're in evidence. In general and for all the bling on some models, the Navara is a simple and robust vehicle. The engine and transmission in particular should stand up to the test of time and the cabin shouldn't show its age prematurely. It's worth seeking out the strange special edition versions because they usually came very well-equipped but you might have to put up with some lurid decals down the flank promoting an adventure clothing brand or a best forgotten action movie.
(approx based on a 2005 Navara 2.5 SE) A clutch kit for the Navara retails at around £240 while front brake pads are around £55 a pair with rears retailing at around £45. A new radiator is around £250 with a starter motor also costing about the same and a fuel filter is around £18.
On the Road
The Navara's powertrain may well be its most impressive feature. The vehicle is powered by a version of Nissan's tried and tested 2.5-litre diesel engine. This unit uses second generation common-rail injection technology with a variable nozzle turbocharger and twin counter rotating balancer shafts. The net result of all this is increased efficiency and refinement but the big plus comes in terms of raw power. Buyers used to UK market pick-ups with between 100 and 130bhp will feel their eyebrows raising at the Navara's 171bhp output. There's a massive 403Nm of torque too which gives the Nissan real prowess as a towing vehicle. It will actually tow 2.6 tonnes and carry 1,097kg in its load bay but, if you unhitch the trailer and unload whatever you've got in the rear, it will also average over 33mpg. At the time of the 2010 facelift, the 2.5-litre unit was upgraded to 187bhp and the 3.0 V6 diesel arrived. With the six-cylinder engine, you get 228bhp and 550Nm of torque, 500Nm of which is available from 1,500rpm. That's some serious muscle and ESP stability control is standard on the V6 to help rein it in. The Navara is a fine handling pick-up but its off-road and load-carrying abilities require heavy duty suspension that isn't as at home on the road as we're used to in our passenger cars. There's quite a bit of body roll and the vehicle can become unsettled if you throw it into a series of bends too vigorously. You can counter this to some extent by switching out of two-wheel drive into 4x4 High mode, via the dash-mounted knob. Go a step further into 4x4 Low range and you're at the wheel of something that feels pretty unstoppable off-road. Take things easy on the tarmac and the Navara can be a surprisingly quiet and relaxed cruiser too.
From fashion accessory to tool of the trade, the pick-up truck is put to a wide range of different uses by owners in the UK. Nissan's Navara is one of the best models around with its imposing looks, strong build and the best driving dynamics of all its contemporaries. It looks a tempting used buy too with equipment levels as generous as its dimensions. Remember that careful inspection will pay dividends as some Navaras will have had the hard life for which they were designed.