There was a fantastic question from a journalist in our contingent at the Middle East-market launch of the new Nissan Navara, (which took place in Spain…) that went, “Who the heck would buy a pick-up truck in our region?”
Well buddy, probably the same kind of people who bought 190,000 of the things last year? The segment is a serious treasure trove for any new pick-ups coming into the market — 60 per cent of all sales are in Saudi, 80 per cent of all pick-ups in the segment are double cabs, and around 85 per cent are petrol powered.
For Nissan to make up some ground in terms of market share the Middle East operation will double its showroom count in the Kingdom to 57 over the coming years. The target for the new-gen Navara regionally (already on sale elsewhere since last year) is to increase Nissan’s pick-up sales by 41 per cent over three years with incremental success and improve on the current market share of 12 per cent. Normally that’s a pretty decent slice.
But Nissan’s got a problem, and it’s called the Toyota Hilux. And the Hilux isn’t normal. The indestructible Toyota owns the segment, with 75 per cent market share. Of course, we’re talking about commercial applications here, which I know nothing about, but as far as the lifestyle consumer goes the new Ford Ranger is top dog.
To have a shot, Nissan has rethought the Navara, a nameplate it readily admits doesn’t have the greatest customer perception in terms of durability (the previous model had a reputation for soft frames). Beats me why it wants to stick with the same name then (still a newcomer to our shores), but the new version does come with the advancement of a fully boxed-in frame, in fact, a trick so advanced, hot-rodders used to employ it in the Fifties…
It’s good to know the truck’s been tested in the Middle East not just for heat durability but for off-road terrain capabilities as well.
Then there are the claims of class-leading interior space and largest truck bed area amongst its rivals (2.5 square metres — drop the tailgate and you can fit a motorbike in), cool colour options like red, orange and blue within all the greys, and interiors that come in either red, grey and black. (The red is more of the sort of brown you’d get in an Eighties Cedric estate.)
Now, on to dealing with the real challenges, such as bad resale value, old technology in trucks, and most of all, the low social class perception of pick-ups. I mean, what will the neighbours think? That, oh dear… you work with your hands for a living?
The Japanese giant reckons it’s met all these challenges head on. Maybe so, but the 2.5-litre four-cylinder naturally aspirated petrol engine isn’t the most powerful, especially when you consider that loading bay can take up to one tonne of cargo. Going uphill requires quite a few downshifts from the seven-speed auto ’box. However, in the six-speed manual version that’s not such a chore. So the idea would be to take the manual and pair it up with Nissan’s available 403Nm diesel, which hardly any of you will do. In any case the Navara comes in two configurations, the narrow body for commercial sales and the lifestyle-oriented wide body version that doesn’t ask everyone behind you how your driving is and if you could please call this number for any complaints…
The amount of trim levels and specs give you a total of 16 choices of Navara, and it’s good to know the truck’s been tested in the Middle East not just for heat durability but for off-road terrain capabilities as well.
Private owners will appreciate the quiet ride and wind-noise suppression, but the Navara can’t be had in our market with optional coil-sprung suspension over the leaf-springs at the live-axle rear to improve road use. It’ll brake (drums at the rear), turn and handle fine, and after some light off-roading (you get low-range and locking diff) it wasn’t troubled at all. Still, why you would walk into the Nissan showroom and buy this over an X-Trail or Pathfinder or whatever other crossover they have on the floor is beyond me. I mean, do you expect anyone to believe that you actually work with your hands?