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Click for pictures“Recreational vehicle
  or workhorse, Nissan’s
  new Navara Double
  Cab is the business!


Even though the UK's new car market is showing signs of faltering, pick-up sales — driven by the popularity of the versatile Double Cabs and King Cabs — continue to grow. While new car sales for the first ten months of this year are down by 5 per cent, sales of pick-ups have risen by 5 per cent — with 29,711 vehicles sold.

The models on offer from Ford, Mazda, Isuzu, Toyota, Mitsubishi and Nissan generally include two- and four-wheel drive, single, double
and cab-and-a-half type models. However, it's the double cab variety that appeals most to customers as they can be used for work or recreation and will seat five passengers in comfort. Because of the
VAT exemption for companies on these essentially commercial vehicles, and the lower personal taxation for drivers of pick-ups as company cars, the sales of pick-ups have risen rapidly over the last four or five years.

And now Nissan's Navara brings improved driveability, handling and
a really high level of car-type specification to this sector.

Since it's launch in August this year, the Navara has been the top-selling pick-up every month, knocking Mitsubishi into second place.
Out of the total number of pick-ups sold in September, over 40 per cent wore the Nissan badge.

No surprise then, that the Navara has just been voted 'Best Pick-Up' in the 2005 What Van Awards after beating off stiff competition from the Toyota Hilux and eight-times winner Mitsubishi L200, which still accounts for 35 per cent of the UK's pick-up market. commenting on the Navara's win, What Van's Editor said that the Navara is one of the best-performing diesel 4x4 pick-ups they have ever encountered.

The current talking point is whether Nissan can overturn Mitsubishi's long dominance of this market sector with their new, and very powerful, Navara range before Mitsubishi launches their all-new L200 range on March 1st, 2006. Toyota, too, have launched their new Hi
Lux range, so they should be able to improve on their 7 per cent
share of pick-up sales.

Nissan is expecting to sell 9,000 Navara pick-ups in the UK this year,
of which half will be the new five-seat Double Cab and four-seat King Cab. Next year Nissan expect Navara UK sales to reach 10,000 units.

The new Navara is built in Spain alongside Nissan's recently launched Pathfinder, itself a Land Rover Discovery class SUV. As the Navara and Pathfinder share much of the mechanical layout and adopt many of the best technical features, it's not surprising that the new Navara brings — for the first time — SUV qualities and characteristics to the pick up sector.

Even though the Navara still has a ladder frame chassis and leaf springs for maximum load carrying and workhorse durability, the improvement in the handling and comfort of ride normally experienced
in a pick-up is remarkable. At the front it now looks much more like
an SUV rather than an upright commercial vehicle.

Just as remarkable is its new and powerful direct injection diesel, which has an impressive 171bhp of power and 297lb ft of torque — the best by a long way out of all its competitors. The new Navara is also better where it matters most — load carrying. The King Cab version has
the longest, widest and deepest load bed in its class while its sister-ship, the Navara Double Cab, has the widest and deepest load bed
in the sector, which endows it with the largest load area for a double cab.

The all-important width between the wheel arches for both models
has been increased to 1,130mm. The bed length of the King Cab is 1,861mm; on the Double Cab it is 1,511mm. The payload is 1,070kg, and the maximum braked towing weight is a massive 1,600kg. The
new Navara may look trendy and cool but underneath the glistening metalwork it is a real workhorse. Worthy of a special mention is its extremely strong tailgate — one that will not bend or buckle during heavy loading and unloading.

Also deserving of praise is the fact that its load bay comes equipped with a C-Channel load securing system of rails and cleats. Furthermore, there is a whole host of bespoke accessories to tailor the new Navara to the owner's exact load carrying requirements — whether they be workhorse or recreational. It's all very impressive, and shows thorough attention to detail. I wasn't too keen on the chunky roof bars, that
I felt detracted from the overall neat styling. I also found the side-sill steps could be restrictive when driving in deep muddy tracks — although they do protect the body sills from damage.

The new Navara range is priced from 17,466.10 and rises to a hefty 26,014.23, but you need to remember that these are on-the-road prices including VAT (Other manufacturers — because pick-ups are commercial vehicles — do not generally quote OTR prices with the VAT element included). As companies buy many of these vehicles, the
VAT is reclaimable and the company car tax element, although due to increase, will be lower than that for a passenger car.

My test model was the near top-of-the-range Navara Double Cab Aventura with a 6-speed manual transmission, priced at 24,868.60 including VAT. The top model in the range gets a 5-speed automatic transmission. All models have selectable two- or four-wheel drive
and a four-wheel low ratio transmission, easily operated by a facia-mounted dial-type switch. ABS braking is standard, and there's a
rear differential lock for use in severe off-road conditions.

The interior specification of the Aventura models really does bring
pick-ups into the same league for equipment as up-market 4x4 SUVs. There is nothing left to add to these vehicles as everything is already included, from full front and curtain airbags, leather upholstery,
heated and electrically adjustable front seats, 60/40 split folding rear seats, electric windows, electrically-operated and heated door mirrors, climate control, a premium sound system, Bluetooth mobile phone connection, a DVD satellite navigation system, automatic headlights, rain sensor wipers, cruise control and much more.

With its purposeful new looks, the Navara is an imposing vehicle without being brash and the kit is fantastic for a pick-up. It looks a quality product, not just a tarted-up workhorse. Again, the use of chrome for the large grille and rear bumper is a tad heavy-handed for my taste but, where it matters, the driveability and performance is
way ahead of anything in its class. In fact, it drives like a very good SUV.

For looks, specification, performance, load carrying and towing, the Navara now sets the standard for both work and recreational pick-ups. And because of its power, fine on-road handling and equipment levels
it is, I believe, the best pick-up on the market today. — David Miles

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Nissan Navara 2.5dCi Double Cab Aventura | 24,868 incl VAT
Maximum speed: 105mph | 0-62mph: 11.5 seconds
Test MPG: 30.7mpg | Power: 171bhp | Torque: 297lb ft

Visit Nissan's website Click to go there now

--------------------------------------------------- Nissan Navara Double Cab