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First drive: Nissan Patrol – on sale end of October

Nissan

Factsheet

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Review

Nissan is becoming THE supplier of 4x4 vehicles. It has more models in its UK line-up than any other manufacturer (five, soon to become seven with the Murano and Pathfinder), and predicts total sales of 21,000 next year and a market position of fourth.

The Patrol is the daddy of the lot. Introduced in 1951, it has always suffered from an ascetic interior – somewhere for farmers to scrape their boots, but not for the family to enjoy. Buyers, when faced with the choice, have tended to go for the home favourite, the Land Rover Defender. That changes next month when the facelifted Patrol goes on sale.

Nissan has refurbished the interior (and given the exterior a major overhaul with new bonnet, grille, headlights, bumpers and wings). Out goes the austere appearance, in comes a contemporary dashboard with soft-feel materials, revised instrument panel and optional Alcantara trim.

The Patrol now compares more favourably with the Land Cruiser and Shogun.

Sales targets have consequently doubled, although they remain reasonably conservative at 800 units next year (2003: 248). The SVE will account for the bulk of sales, attracting small business owners who need work and family transport, while the S will appeal to the towing brigade, according to Nissan. It says around 60-70 of its 267-strong retail network will account for 80% of sales, due to a combination of location and attitude.

One criticism is the lack of options. Buyers get one engine – the 3.0-litre diesel, which feels a big sluggish – and five doors. The 2.5-litre petrol is dropped due to lack of demand. The standard five seats can be upgraded to seven for a £5,400 premium.

To drive, the Patrol is much improved on-road, offering smooth, quiet motorway transit and adequate cornering. Off-road it masks potholes with assurance, while the high torque levels shrug aside hill climbs.

The Defender will still have the edge in the farmer’s field, but the new-look Patrol is now an appealing option for many 4x4 dual users.

The knowledge

Price: £24,500 (five-seat S) to £29,900 (seven-seat SVE)
Engine: 3.0-litre 160bhp, 216lb-ft 4-cyl diesel
Transmission: 5sp man/ 4sp auto, ltd slip diff (rear diff lock), rwd/ part-time 4wd Performance: 0-62mph 15.2s; top speed 99mph (160kph) Efficiency: 26.2mpg; 288g/km CO2 CAP RV (3yr/30k): 41-42% Rivals: Shogun, Land Cruiser, Defender

Strength

Good interior, bold new looks

Weakness

Sluggish 3.0-litre diesel, pensive auto gearbox

Opportunity

Win sales from Land Cruiser and Shogun

Threat

Just one option – 5dr 3.0-litre diesel – limits market

The USP

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