We get to grips with the Nissan Navara, one of the world's most popular pick-up trucks.
Winner of the prestigious International Pickup Award and crowned What Van? Pick-up of the Year (both in 2016), the Navara follows UK market leaders, the Ford Ranger and Mitsubishi L200, in the increasingly competitive one-tonne pick-up sector.
It's available as a King Cab (essentially a two-seater with two smaller rear doors, but featuring a longer loading bed) and a Double Cab (four full-size doors and seating for five).
The Double Cab is by far the most popular option, providing a clever combination of working pick-up for weekdays and family-friendly transport at the weekends, if you so wish.
Power comes from a 2.3-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel producing either 161bhp or 187bhp with the choice of a seven-speed automatic or six-speed manual gearbox.
Starting at £20,500 (excluding VAT) the Navara has a maximum payload of 1,045kg and can tow up to 3,500kg. And for that extra peace of mind, it comes with a five-year/100,000 warranty.
I tested the flagship Navara N-Guard which shows off this muscular pick-up's dark side. The front grille, door handles, mirror covers and rear bumper are all finished in black, as are the side steps, roof rails and 18-inch alloy wheels.
Priced from £28,575 (exc VAT), my test vehicle (a Double Cab) included a few accessories including a black roll cover for the loading bed, a bedliner, towbar and chunky, black styling bars.
Inside the cabin there's part leather and cloth upholstery featuring yellow stitching, N-Guard carpet mats, plus black and yellow side decals and a sunroof.
Available in Metallic Black, Storm White or Twilight Grey, generous standard equipment includes Hill Start Assist, Hill Descent Control, Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), a 360-degree top-down style camera system, rear parking sensors and a 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with built-in sat nav.
A little on the vocal side on start-up and during heavy acceleration, the powerful engine soon settles down. There's plenty of torque where it's needed and it's capable of a top speed of 112mph and a 0-62mph time of 10.8 seconds.
On the road, the Navara shifts surprisingly well for a big beast of a vehicle and the seven-speed automatic gearbox is smooth enough.
CO2 emissions are 183g/km and Nissan claims it can return up to 41mpg, though in the real world it's closer to 30-35mpg.
Road noise is well supressed and the cabin is a good blend of comfort, practicality and durability. There's plenty of space up front and in the rear, though here taller passengers may struggle for headroom.
Naturally, the driving position is commanding, to say the least, but you're aware you’re driving a large vehicle, especially when manoeuvring in car parks. That said, it drives well (a bit like an old school SUV), even if at times you feel you're not so much driving as skippering it.
It's probably at its best cruising along A-roads. On more challenging roads it needs a bit of manhandling, but generally it feels planted and safe with remarkably little body lean when cornering.
The Navara is a go-anywhere 4x4 pick-up and it breezed through a spot of soft-roading, so I have no doubt that it can cope with tougher terrain and extreme weather conditions too. There are three driving modes – 4WD High for light off-roading, 4WD Low for serious off-road driving in sand, snow or deep mud, or 2WD for when you’re on tarmac.
As with all one-tonne pick-up trucks, it’s worth remembering they’re classed as Light Commercial Vehicles (LCVs), which means they benefit from lower company car tax, regardless of CO2 emissions or the price of the vehicle. Also, LCVs currently pay a fixed rate (£260) of VED, or road tax, rather than follow the CO2-based regime laid out for cars.
Verdict: The mighty Nissan Navara N-Guard doesn't just look the part; it delivers both as a dependable daily workhorse and family runabout. Offering a serious amount of 4x4 pick-up for your money, it’s safe, well built, comfortable and practical, and it drives surprisingly well.