|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
When Nissan called the NP300 Navara a next-generation pickup, I greeted that, admitted, with some skepticism. After all, having driven my fair share of pickups in the past few years, I knew they had a pretty high bar to overcome. I may be late getting on the Nissan freight train, but now that I’ve brought it through its paces, I’ve got a very simple conclusion: this is the new standard, end of story.
Flying into the largest pickup truck market outside Metro Manila, Cagayan de Oro, it’s easy to see the importance of a well-engineered product for the people living here. More than just good-looking machines, they have to negotiate the peculiar situation of the city. Jeff Rolida, Nissan Cagayan de Oro dealer principal, explained that the city is a boom town. Situated near the mountains, a powerful and torquey vehicle is important. Plus with infrastructure development in full swing around the city, a vehicle has to negotiate a lot of rough roads. This is the sort of market the NP300 Navara had to prove itself in.
Grabbing the keys at the first chance I got, I settled in the driver’s seat. Getting in and out is a bit hard since the pilot doesn’t have the convenience of a grab handle (all others do). Once you get onboard though, the cabin’s very car-like. The fit and finish are great and the use of metallic accents and piano black inserts add to the techy feel. The seats are plush and the ergonomics are spot on. At first, I thought this would be a leisurely ride and drive. However, it felt more like a scene from Mad Max with the way everyone was pushing. There are no qualms though since it showed the capabilities of the NP300 Navara. With 190 horsepower and 450 Nm of torque, it may not have the most output in its class, but in practice, the way the power is delivered is linear and usable. In full attack mode, it pulls strongly from a standstill, enough to dig you into the Zero Gravity seats. What’s more, the engine is willing to sing to its redline—a rarity in a diesel. And it’s mighty quiet even at full song.
Nissan likes talking about the unique five-link coil spring suspension and for good reason: it works. The ride quality is actually better than mid-sized SUVs. Even with just four people and no cargo onboard, it’ll absorb everything you throw at it. There’s still some shake coming from the cargo bed (a common thing among pickups), but the frame feels sturdy nonetheless. Road bumps, cuts, ruts and even the more notorious speed ribs (and there are a ton of them here) are reduced to nothing more than a slight nuisance. Even when the roads completely disappear, sometimes without warning, the NP300 Navara’s generous suspension travel enabled me to tackle deeper potholes without difficulty (or even a reduction in speed). And even if Nissan’s not saying it, the cabin’s also quiet with controlled wind, tire, and road noise even at high speed. If there’s some gripe though, it’s that the steering does loosen up tremendously at high speed (past 120 km/h) making it feel less grounded and stable.
The quick stop at Iligan City for a lechon brunch necessitated some maneuvering into a parking slot. It was a test for the NP300 Navara’s visibility and maneuverability. It may be one of the largest, if not the largest, offering in its class, but from behind the steering wheel it doesn’t feel it. It takes just a few turns to slot it into place and the visibility is good even when judging the ends of the cargo bed. What’s more, there’s a rear back-up camera.
From Iligan City, the convoy backtracked to Cagayan de Oro before climbing up to our final destination: Dahilayan Adventure Park in Bukidnon. On the way, we had to tackle some twisty mountain roads similar to Marcos Highway heading up Baguio. In these circumstances, the NP300 Navara shone with the responsiveness of its drivetrain package. The stability of its chassis also helped. There were times when you can hear tire screeches from the unladen pickup, but the Vehicle Stability Control didn’t light up even once. I figured then that it had everything under control. It did tip and understeer from time to time, but any other vehicle with a high center of gravity will. Still, it’s one of the most controlled in the pickup and mid-sized SUV category. Plus, the Zero Gravity Seats give surprising support, besting even the X-Trail’s!
The biggest test of comfort was done when we entered the Del Monte pineapple fields. With no roads to speak of and the convoy maintaining speeds past 60 km/h, I decided to swap driving duties to being a passenger for the first time. Compared to a pickup experience just two weeks ago, the riding comfort of the NP300 Navara is in a world of its own. There are no unwanted jiggles and niggles here. It’s downright perfect. Even if you find yourself in the back, the comfort is just as good with rear A/C vents and a wide bench that fits up to four adults with ease.
At first glance, the Nissan NP300 Navara may lack some of the toys of its competitors: the VL for instance doesn’t have leather seats or a bed liner. But I’d give up those for things that actually matter: driving experience and passenger comfort to name just two. After all, you can install a bed liner in Banawe, but you can’t say the same thing with excellent engineering. It easily lives up to its promise as the segment’s most advanced offering and as a whole pushed the benchmark by which all pickups will be measured against by a mile. This is truly the next-generation pickup truck.
2015 Nissan NP300 Navara 4x4 VL A/T
|Ownership||2015 Nisan NP300 Navara 4x4 VL A/T|
|Body Type||4-door + 1 tailgate pickup|
|Engine / Drive||F/4WD, Part Time w/ Low|
|Under the Hood|
|Aspiration||Common Rail Direct Injection, Turbo|
|Layout / # of Cylinders||I4|
|BHP @ rpm||190 @ 3,600|
|Nm @ rpm||450 @ 2,000|
|Fuel / Min. Octane||Diesel|
|Dimensions and Weights|
|Curb Weight (kg)||1,945|
|Suspension and Tires|
|Front Suspension||Independent, Double Wishbone|
|Rear Suspension||Five-Link Coil Spring|
|Front Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Tires||Toyo Open Country A25 255/60 R 18 H (f&r)|
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes|
|Traction / Stability Control||Yes|
|Parking Sensors||No, Rear Camera|
|Fog Lamps||Yes, Front|
|Steering Wheel Adjustment||Tilt|
|Steering Wheel Material||Urethane|
|Folding Rear Seat||Yes|
|Power Door Locks||Yes|
|Power Mirrors||Yes, with Fold|
|Climate Control||No, w/ Rear Vents|
|No. of Speakers||6|
|Steering Wheel Controls||Yes|