When it comes to the double cab bakkie, I'm still skeptical about it being used as a daily drive. I believe all vehicles have their purpose and a bakkie shouldn't be a family car unless the said family is quite into outdoor activities and will be making use of the bin quite often. With this in mind, my next vehicle that came in for testing was the Nissan Navara. Now while this car has been getting attention in the motoring world a lot over the past few months, it was actually due to it sharing its underpinnings with the Mercedes-Benz X-Class. What many fail to grasp is that these two bakkies are completely different apart from a few minor things but soon as you hear that it's built on a similar platform, all logic goes out the window for any argument but even so, if the X-Class was almost similar to the Navara, why would that be a bad thing? Nissan have been building bakkies for decades now and their Hardbody's (apart from the latest NCAP safety ratings) have achieved legendary status in the market, so if you're going to want to build a bakkie, Nissan are the right people to talk to. So given this time with the Navara, I wanted to see what was "so bad" about it.
With the double cab being very popular in the market, design is one of the main aspects that sway the buyer. The Navara certainly looks the part and has matured a lot since its previous generation. There's nice lines and flares to the body which add to that aggressive nature, bits of chrome to give it that luxury feel and its raised appropriately to give it a good stance. The headlights and front grille draw your attention first, with the hood slopped in at an angle, which is the first I've see in a bakkie design, this improves visibility from the driver seat of the front end. The side profile is pretty attractive too, with the rear passenger window having a more pronounced chamfer at the end, the roof racks and side step add to this as well as the chrome finished door handles. Over to the back, I love what they've done with the angled lip to the bin, gives an element of sportiness to the van, if I have to be over critical, I'd say the rear lights could have been a bit better and maybe throw in some LED's there but again, that's me being over critical. The interior of the van is quite nicely laid out as well. with much of the outside design flowing in the inside. The materials are of good quality and generally a nice place to be in.
What every bakkie ultimately boils down to, is performance, they're meant to be work horses so pointless having the looks but not the performance to back. The Navar comes fitting with a twin-turbo diesel motor which doesn't take much to get it going, as I soon discovered by taking it on the open road. Even with it's massive size and weight, the 2.3L engine delivers 450Nm of torque, combined with the 7-speed automatic gear box with timeous changes make getting up to speed effortless. Nissan claim their new improved turbo diesel generates more power and torque than their old engine and also has a 27% fuel saving, making it super efficient. I did a lot of mixed driving with the Navara and I can vouch for it, getting close to 700km in the week with it and still have a decent range of over 100km when handed back. While it's performance on tar was impressive, I took the Navara out on some dirt road driving and it really was at home there as well. The large tyres gripping the loose gravel as I navigated some of the sugar can trails up Durban's North coast, kicking up a trail of dust as I meandered my way through to God knows where, I was having way too much fun to realise where I was going.
A big gripe of mine is the comfort on these double cab bakkies, with many choosing it to use as a family car, I feel the rear passengers get the raw deal. Having sat in the back of a Hardbody, it isn't the most spacious place in the world and very cramped for someone like me, however, not the case with the Navara. There is ample room at the back, when I say ample I don't mean like S-Class vibes but bigger than your average double cab and a long journey won't result in your legs getting pins and needles. Over in the front, the dash is laid out quite well and doesn't sit too low, which allows for decent leg room for both the drive and the front passenger. The cabin's temperature is maintained by a aicron, unfortunately not climate control though. Ride quality on the Navara is superb, with it using a coil rear suspension which you would fine on larger SUV's. The heavy-duty 5-link coil rear suspension when compared to the traditional rear leaf suspension absorbs more of the bumps.
Overall, the Navara as a double cab bakkie is pretty impressive and while it isn't on the NAMSA top 2 selling list it is worth the price tag. There are a few things that could be improved on, especially on the interior but with upcoming models in Nissan already adding these items to their portfolio, it would be long till it's adapted to the Navara. I still don't see this as a family vehicle though, it is one of the more luxury looking bakkies out there but it's just not practical in my honest opinion but as I said in my introduction, if you're the type of family that is into outdoor activities and make use of the features in one, then by all means the Navara is worth the look. The fuel economy and engine performance seriously is impressive for a vehicle of this size and you can see why Mercedes-Benz chose this particular van to share it's underpinnings with.
2.3L Twin-Turbo Diesel
7 Speed Automatic