It doesn’t take much to convince me to get away for a weekend, especially when it’s to celebrate the birthday of a very close friend. But when that weekend involves camping with three young children all under the age of 5, let’s just say I need to think about it. After weeks of deliberation we found ourselves rustling up as much camping gear as we could (because we don’t own any) and stuffing it into the back of TG’s Nissan Navara. Family and camping gear aboard we began a 220km trek to Loskop Dam in North Mpumalanga.
The drive wasn’t as easy as a Friday getaway should be. We lapsed in and out of heavy traffic for about 100kms before we eventually settled onto the busy but flowing N4 towards Emalahleni/Middelburg. In traffic and on the open road, the Navara was unfussed. The engine delivers a grumbly 140kW of diesel compression so even fully loaded, power delivery for overtaking was never laboured even with the 3-tonne bulk.
What kept the family happy, was a spacious, comfortable and practical cabin with dual-zone climate control, rear seat vents and good music. There’s nothing notably new in the cabin – basic switchgear and a layout that we’ve seen before yet partly fits with the bakkie mould. Nissan has retained the ancient infotainment system plucked from last decade which was probably the biggest criticism of the cabin with insipid graphics in direct sunlight beamed across from the reflective chrome open-gate shifter. There’s a nasty mish-mash of materials and colours too, I counted three varieties just on the steering wheel.
It was around 17h30 in the evening that we found ourselves cutting through a mountain pass about 10km from our destination. The orange sunset, breathtaking as it was, wasn’t going to wait around for the orange Nissan Navara to arrive and set up camp. And so it was that we arrived in the darkness and clumsily set up two large tents and all the paraphernalia that goes with the ‘pleasure’ of camping.
Significant praise about the 5-Link coil spring setup on the rear axle needed validation so I found a gap in the weekend for a test-drive off the tar roads and into the gravel tracks around the mountains surrounding Loskop. It doesn’t magically turn gravel roads into silk as some would have you believe, but there is a notable difference in ride comfort and rear balance especially when unladen which is one of the menaces of bakkies on slippery surfaces. Push button controls for the 4×4 as well as a diff lock were all tested out – and the Nissan Navara performed obligingly.
In this ‘tough’ bakkie market, the second generation Nissan Navara has much going for it. It’s one of the more handsome designs, it feels tough and robust when it’s called for and then comfortable and pliant all the other times. It’s also backed by a stalwart brand in South Africa and will soon be built at the Nissan plant in Rosslyn. Is it enough though? I’m not sure it is, but if you do find yourself heading out to a campsite with a 5yr-old, 3yr-old and 1yr-old in tow – the Nissan Navara comes out unscathed. AVON MIDDLETON
- R587 900
- 2298cc 6-cyl, twin-turbo diesel, RWD, 140kW, 450Nm
- 6.5l/100km, 172g/km
- 0-100km/h 9.9secs, 196km/h