With doublecab pick-ups becoming plusher and more expensive by the day, Nissan’s new NP300 marks the welcome return of the no-nonsense workhorse. Emily Padfield and David Cousins pitched it against its luxurious big brother to see what each gives you for your money.
Doublecab pick-ups have a tough job to do these days, being called on to be farm truck, family runabout, on-roader and off-roader at different times. But what about those who want a plain and simple work vehicle that doesn’t cost too much: Could the NP300 fill that role?
There’s certainly something plucky about the NP300. It’s sparse and a bit rough round the edges, but it doesn’t pretend to be anything that it isn’t. But how, we wondered, does it compare to its £4000 more expensive sibling, the Navara in Outlaw spec?
Viewed from the front, the NP300 isn’t as intimidating as the Navara. It has the same family look, but it’s slightly more delicately-wrought and loses the shiny chrome radiator.
It’s not as slabby and bulky as the Navara, either.
Though the Navara sits higher than the NP300, the load area in each vehicle is pretty similar – 1520mm long by 1510mm wide in the NP300 and 1560mm wide and 1511mm long in the Navara.
Loading heights are slightly different, too, 750mm on the NP300 versus 730mm on the Navara.
The NP300 is certainly cheap and cheerful inside, but it’s not a bad place to be. The dashboard is reasonably subtle and doesn’t impinge on cabin space, whereas the Navara’s cockpit-style layout can feel slightly claustrophobic.
Controls hark back to standard 1980s and 1990s Japanese pick-up fascias before they got trendy, with familiar levers controlling fan speed, heat and vent direction. Cubby holes are a bit sparse, with a tray underneath the handbrake and door pockets just big enough to hold a manual. However there is a useful storage bin in the centre armrest with two cupholders.
Electric windows all round were a pleasant surprise but the wing mirrors are totally manual – there wasn’t even a little stick to adjust them with. At least if you break them they won’t cost much to replace.
Build quality is generally fine but a bit cheapo in places. Flooring is all-rubber and you could hose it through if you wanted. Little details like staples joining some of the plastic floor trim remind you that this is a utilitarian vehicle.
|NP300 lacks air-con and electric mirrors, but has a bright cab.||Navara has more modern and luxurious interior, but dash is bulky.|
Shift to the Navara and you get a lot more stuff. Clever gadgets surround you, like a multi-function steering wheel, Bluetooth, cruise control and a six-disc CD player, and the stalks for lights, indicators and windscreen wiper are more modern. There’s more in the way of storage, too, like a lidded tray on top of the dash and bigger door pockets.
Four-wheel drive is selected on the Navara by turning a dial, whereas the NP300 requires you to stir traditional mechanical levers. Things like door pockets and door handles are generally more sturdily made in the Navara than the NP300.
In the back
It’s here that the Navara comes into its own with some people-carrier style touches, including three proper seat belts (the NP300 has two standard plus a centre lap-belt) and split-folding rear seats. These can be folded so that the seat backs lie horizontally, giving extra load space. The NP300’s rear seats simply shift forward to give access to the jack and first aid kit and that’s it.
What about rear passenger legroom? The NP300 does have a bit less room than the Navara, but there are worse pick-ups in terms of space and quality.
|NP300 has good space and limited number of internal rope hooks.||Navara has Nissan’s clever moveable screw-down hooks. Load liner optional.|
Behind the wheel, the NP300 feels similar to the previous-generation Nissan Pick-up.
Despite its lower power (133hp compared to the Navara’s 171hp), in a drive-off from standstill it kept up well with its bigger sibling. However, as speed rises, the Navara starts to pull away and its sixth gear keeps revs and noise down.
Driving each truck at right angles to field tramlines to test the suspension, the NP300 produced a lot of harsh jiggling while the Navara was smoother with less shuddering.
The NP300 is fairly manoeuvrable – its book turning circle of 11.2m beats the Navara by around 100mm and driving tight circles on a flat field confirmed its advantage.
On the road, the NP300 has that typical jiggling gait of pick-ups, whereas the Navara feels a lot more like a car. The two trucks sound different too.
The NP300, especially when cold, is a little more gravelly – think Tina Turner rather than Leona Lewis – and its traditional dieselly start-up clatter more audible, whereas on the Navara it is far more subtle.
While the Navara is quieter and smoother-riding, the NP300 certainly doesn’t let itself down.
You can cruise happily on the motorway, though maybe for shorter journeys. And though it handles like an older-generation pick-up it does feel lighter and more nimble than the Navara, and somehow smaller to drive and to park. Which, for some people, could be a big advantage.
As a budget-priced, utilitarian pick-up, the NP300 does its job and doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not. The Navara, at roughly £4000 more, is a lot more car-like to drive and has all the bells and whistles.
But if you are looking for a farm truck that doesn’t have to double up as a long-distance family vehicle then the NP300 is certainly worth the money. And it is ideal for ferrying farm staff around in without having to worry about ruining the carpets or dirtying the plush seats.
Not to mention the fact that you can hose it out when it gets muddy, has no alloys to ding and a loading bay which looks better with scratches.
Don’t expect luxury, but the NP300 does grow on you.