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First drive: Nissan Navara - on sale August



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Nissan’s determination to dominate the 4x4 market continues unabated with the all-new Navara, its seventh vehicle competing in this sector.

The Navara also marks a dramatic change for Britain’s double-cab pick-up market which, until now, has been dominated by tough and macho-looking vehicles that fail to achieve a car-like driving quality on the road. All are slow and all, except the Toyota Hilux, have old-fashioned diesel engines rather than the more modern common rail versions.

With the new Navara, Nissan has not only moved the sector’s goalposts, it has set a whole new playing field of its own.

Across Europe, the new vehicle will be available in two power outputs: 145bhp and 174bhp. British buyers will only be offered the higher-powered version.

Torque is up, too. The old Navara was already market leader at 224lb ft but the new model has a stonking 297lb ft, putting it way ahead of the nearest rival, the Isuzu Rodeo, at 206lb ft.

The new vehicle is based on the Nissan Pathfinder: it will roll off the same production line in Barcelona and shares its platform and even its dashboard. Two models will be available, double cab and king cab, and prices will range from £14,695 for the standard king cab to £21,970 for the range-topping double-cab Aventura (ex-VAT).

All models have a payload above 1,045kg and a maximum towing weight of 2,700kg. And as with most vehicles of this type, a myriad of styling accessories is available. Basic specification includes standard driver and passenger airbags, ABS brakes with electronic brake force distribution, alarm and immobilizer, remote plip locking and a CD player. It also has steel wheels while the SE version adds 17in alloys, rail side steps, dual-zone climate control, leather steering wheel and electric heated door mirrors.

The Outlaw version adds roof bars for double-cabs, front foglamps, headlamp washers, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, a six-CD player with steering wheel controls, cruise control and under-seat rear storage compartments. The Aventura has an electric sunroof, leather seats, power/heated front seats, side and curtain airbags, Nissan’s Birdview sat-nav system and Bluetooth phone integration.

Nissan dealers should focus on business owners, mostly in construction, farming or service industries, for the bulk of sales. Target this year is 5,000, rising to 10,000 in 2006, making Navara the second most popular pick-up after the Mitsubishi L200.

Strengths: Modern, powerful engine
Weakness: New, softer looks won’t appeal to some
Opportunity: Business users wanting flexibility of pick-up with car-like driving
Threat: Market has plenty of decent competition
USP: A whole new pick-up driving experience
Prices: £14,695-21,970 (ex-VAT)
Engine :2.5-litre turbo diesel, 174bhp @4,000rpm; 297 lb ft @2,000 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual; five-speed automatic
Performance: Top speed:106mph; 0-62mph: 10.8-11.5sec
Efficiency: 226-245g/km CO2; 30.7-33mpg comb
Rivals: Isuzu Rodeo, Mitsubishi L200, Toyota Hilux

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