Towcar review: Nissan Navara
Pick-ups can work particularly well as towcars and the Nissan Navara has proven pedigree having won its class in the Towcar of the Year 2021 awards. Lesley Harris assesses its merits.
The Nissan Navara isn’t just another pick-up – it’s a winning one, having claimed the Pick-Up Category crown in the Club’s Towcar of the Year 2021 awards. We Brits don’t have quite the same love affair with these types of vehicle as other countries, but they are more popular than ever before – not only with the country’s workforce, but as versatile family cars too.
COMFORT – 85%
This latest generation Navara – launched in 2016 – was given a minor facelift in 2019. While you won’t see any big exterior changes, Nissan has made a number of key enhancements elsewhere. These include upgraded suspension, increased payload, a new six-speed manual gearbox and improved front and rear brakes.
Its rugged exterior has just the right amount of chrome, which on this model surrounds the grille, LED light clusters, fog lamps, side steps and roof rails. The 18in alloy wheels look really smart as well.
Inside, the Navara is more similar than you’d think to its SUV stablemates. With design themes and switchgear taken from the X-Trail, the interior is more car-like than some rivals. Chrome touches and leather trim give it a slightly more premium feel, and although not all the materials used are plush – it is still a commercial vehicle after all – it is well built and feels solid.
The seats are really comfortable and ideal for longer journeys. However, even with the eight-way electric adjustment in this model, they are set fairly high, and with the absence of any steering wheel ‘reach’ adjustment, taller drivers may struggle to find a perfect driving position. Behind the wheel, a small digital driver information screen sits between the more traditional dials. Everything is nicely laid out and the 8in touchscreen is simple to use, offering smartphone connectivity as standard. This Tekna model also gets cruise control and speed limiter, heated seats, power-folding heated door mirrors and Nissan’s Around View Monitor, giving you a 360° view to help with those tight parking manoeuvres.
Up front you’ll find three 12V sockets, a USB port and an AUX socket. There’s also a reasonably sized central cubby and cup-holders, but the glovebox is pretty tight, as are the door bins. Rear passengers are afforded the same quality upholstery as up front, but may be disappointed by the lack of any charging facilities or an arm rest. And while there’s plenty of head and legroom, the seat backs are particularly upright. For families, there are Isofix points on both outer seats.
DRIVING – 87%
The Navara comes with just one engine option – a 2.3-litre twin-turbo – with two power outputs. Lower-spec models get the 160bhp version, while N-Connecta and above receive the 187bhp option with 450Nm of torque.
Depending on the model, there’s an all-new six-speed manual gearbox or a seven-speed auto from which to choose. Our car was fitted with the six-speed manual and it proved to be a major improvement on its predecessor. Longer ratios and a shorter shift really made a difference. For a large pick-up, the Navara handles remarkably well and there’s surprisingly little body roll when cornering. It’s not the fastest, but it will cruise quietly and smoothly at motorway speeds and delivers a comfortable ride, thanks to the multi-link suspension. There’s no denying it’s big, yet when in town you do have the advantage of the lofty driving position and a commanding view of your surroundings. The all-round cameras on our model were a real bonus.
TOWING – 85%
With a noseweight of 140kg and hefty kerbweight,the Navara will tow practically anything. As long as you are prepared for a leisurely journey, you’ll be just fine. It needs a bit of gas to get off the line, but once you’re on the move, you’ll be rewarded with a comfortable and relaxed drive.
Overtaking requires some forward planning as acceleration is a little languid, but the gearbox is smooth and easy to use. There was a touch more movement from the Navara when passing lorries than I expected, and a little tugging when travelling at lower speeds, but overall, it’s a competent and stable towcar.
All Navaras are fitted with a selectable four-wheel drive system along with Trailer Sway Assist, Hill Descent Control and Hill Start Assist as standard. It was good to see that a full-size spare was also standard. Obviously the boot is vast, although you might have to think about a load cover to keep luggage safe and dry.
VERDICT – 86%
Nissan has over 80 years’ experience designing pick-ups – and it shows. The Navara’s car-like performance and interior appeal means it is perfect as a weekday workhorse or for a family adventure weekend.