Navara conquers

Sahara

Nissan Navara, sand action 1
Nissan Navara, sand action 2
Nissan Navara, sand action 3
Nissan Navara, sand action 4
Nissan Navara, sunset
Nissan Navara, sand static
Nissan Navara, on road front
Nissan Navara, rear seats
Nissan Navara, loadbed
Nissan Navara, dashboard
Nissan Navara, static on rock
Nissan Navara, on road rear
Nissan Navara, engine

YOU will probably never take your off-roader deep into the Sahara but it might be good to know it would laugh off a sand dune or two if you did.

If it's the new Nissan Navara you had in mind, you can relax. It will claw its way up and down a Saharan desert landscape all day and come back for more.

There might be the odd rearrangement of a front bumper or two, but the Navara will get you through. And in the desert, where only nomads manage to live with the sand, that's reassuring.

The latest Navara in fact arrived a few months ago but Nissan wanted to remind the world how tough its newcomer is, built high and strong to take on the worst of the desert - or high street kerb in a more likely everyday scenario.

So off we went to the eastern edge of Morocco to try the 4x4 in extreme conditions where the favoured means of transport is a foul breathed and grumpy camel, not a gleaming new Navara - or gleaming at the start of the day, at least.

By journey's end - in fact just a few miles at walking pace (and 7mpg) - the point was proved. The Navara can take it - and then take some more.

So, of course, could many of its rivals; all built with the same aim in mind, projecting an unbreakable image for buyers who won't ever test them at the limit but want to know they'd go there and come up smiling.

So the car needs qualities other than sand storming if it is going to pull potential punters into a Nissan showroom, or set them Googling 'new Navara' into their PCs.

Before the Navaras reached their desert playground there was some on-road driving to get there, on roads so free of traffic they were better surfaced than many a British B-road and made more comfortable still by the Nissan's unusual five-link rear suspension.

Most pick-ups make do with a couple of crude but sturdy (and cheap) cart springs at the rear but Nissan moves the game on usefully, at least in dearer versions of the Navara.

The ride is still firm enough to be alert to a possible one tonne-plus payload, but at least within hailing distance of a modern hatchback.

The cabin, especially in leather lined top spec Tekna trim also does a decent impression of a passenger focused family car, with lots of space front and rear and trim and fittings that are obviously rugged but spiced with sophistication too.

Heated front seats were not really needed in the Sahara (surprise) and the around view monitor's four cameras showed - you've guessed - a lot of sand.

Back in a cooler, less sandy Britain both features would come into their own, of course.

The new Navara range starts from £23,635 (£19,743 without VAT for business users) and tops out with the Tekna at £31,845 (£26,585 without VAT) and they all come with a five year or 100,000 mile warranty, unique in this part of the market.

Common to them all is a 2.3-litre diesel engine, with 160 or 190 horsepower depending on grade. They will all take at least a tonne of payload and tow up to 3.5 tonnes, with the cheaper King Cab models sacrificing rear passenger room for a longer load bed than the more people-focused and dear Double Cab.

The entry level Visia King Cab makes do with two-wheel drive, all the others use a part time four-wheel-drive system that can be switched into use when needed, helped when the going gets tough (and sandy) with a low ratio gear setting.

Which came in handy when we got stuck in the desert and were extricated with shouts of 'more gas' from our expert helpers and four chunkily treaded tyres scrabbling for traction.

FAST FACTS

Navara conquers Sahara

Price: £31,845

Mechanical: 187bhp, 2,293cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving four wheels via 7-speed automatic gearbox

Max Speed: 112mph

0-62mph: 10.8 seconds

Combined MPG: 40.4

Insurance Group: 12

C02 emissions: 183g/km

Bik rating: 34%

Warranty: 5yrs/100,000 miles

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