The petulant masses should technically hate this vehicle. For a start, it’s a 4×4, enough to send liberals across the country into a spasm of knee-jerk reactions while chanting “ban the middle classes!” It also weighs over two tonnes, and takes up more ground space than a Land Rover Discovery, facts that should send the greens scurrying for cover inside their Toyota Priuses.
But somehow, the Navara avoids all that. The assertion of Nissan’s advertising campaign, that the Navara “gets respect” might just be bang on the money.
Let’s deal with the uncomfortable truth first: the Navara is based on a bona-fide SUV, the Pathfinder. It’s built on the same production line in Barcelona, shares most of its twisty-turny parts underneath, and its tubey-pipey parts up front under the bonnet. However, to maintain its load-carrying credentials, the rear suspension is by leaf-spring over a solid axle.
On the road, this set up gives a surprisingly comfortable ride, although the skippy rear-end characteristic of so many other pick-ups when unladen is still evident.
The steering requires more revolutions of the wheel than you might think and, when coupled with the long stretch required to reach the manual transmission’s gear lever, the driving experience can feel a little remote.
The brake pedal on our test model needed a hefty hoof to achieve rapid retardation, although we weren’t able to verify if ours had an isolated fault.
The Navara is powered by the most powerful diesel engine in its class – a 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbo unit, producing 174PS at 4,000rpm and 403Nm at a load-carrying friendly 2,000rpm. When coupled with the standard six-speed manual transmission, that’s power enough to propel the Navara to 62mph in 11.4 seconds, while the five-speed auto (unusual in this class) is just 0.1 seconds slower. Both top out at 105mph, but most surprising is the economy: 33.2mpg on the combined cycle for the manual.
Despite the impressive on-paper figures, and an undeniable wave of low-end torque, the engine’s output is confined to a somewhat narrow power band; extend the engine much beyond 3,000rpm and there’s little to be gained.
That said, barrelling along country lanes at speed is quite within the Navara’s capabilities; the problem is just that the sensations are so subdued that you often feel a little out of control. We might go as far as to say it’s not unlike driving under the influence.
Inside, the view is dominated by tough but scratchy plastic. While it looks low-rent in places it is no doubt hard wearing enough to withstand abuse by builder’s boots. There are plenty of places to stow hard-hats and high-vis jackets, most notably under the rear seats that flip-up to reveal a pair of removable storage boxes, while the front passenger seat folds forward to accommodate long loads inside the cabin.
Larger loads will likely find themselves in the pick up bed – 1,130mm wide between the wheel arches, 1,511mm long (2,066mm with the tailgate dropped), and able to accommodate a payload up to 1,097kg.
Securing your gear is easier, too, with the Navara’s new C-Channel system, a series of rails placed around the load bay: two run the length of the bed, plus one on each fixed side of the load bay, into which self-locking cleats can be attached.
Standard equipment on the Aventura is impressive, and includes leather upholstery, heated and electric front seats, dual zone climate control, four electric windows, heated door mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlights, cruise control, in-dash six-disc CD autochanger and voice-activated DVD satellite navigation with Bluetooth integration.
This all comes at a price, of course: £24,874 for the Aventura with the auto adding a further £1,145.
Recognising that most Aventura customers are likely to be private purchasers, Nissan now quote on-the-road prices inclusive of VAT instead of the previous practice of quoting CVOTR (commercial vehicles pricing) that consumers found confusing. Much of the UK dealer network still insists on selling the Navara from its commercial outlets, though, and many private buyers will be put off by the occasionally blunt buying experience.
But then, we haven’t mentioned the Navara Aventura’s best aspect: it looks damn cool. In black with pimp-tint windows, chrome grille and roof-mounted sport bars, the Aventura casts an imposing shadow across anything in its path.
It definitely deserves respect.
Disappointong interior plastics, skippy rear-end handling, dull steering, reluctant brakes, distant gearshift, narrow power band, and expensive for private customers. But my God it’s cool and, on that basis alone, we consider it King of the pick-ups.