Road tests by motoring journalist Tim Saunders
Above: Tim Saunders with Vicki Butler-Henderson
By Tim Saunders
“You just push that button to start,” says my daughter Harriett (5), as I try and figure out how to get the Nissan Navara going. She’s a clever girl but then she would be with me as her father…
Harriett loves the orange colour of our test truck and the chrome sidesteps, which she enjoys using to make her way around the vehicle. “Can we keep it Daddy?”
It’s a high up 4x4 and the double cab complete with hardwearing black leather seats allows for five passengers to be easily transported in comfort. One of the first things I notice is the electrically powered tilt/slide glass sunroof, which is a welcome addition to the cabin. And this is in addition to air conditioning. The six-speed manual gearbox is notchy and takes some time to get used to but the more it is driven the better it gets. Nevertheless this brute is a joy to drive. Its chunky tyres and raised ride height provide an excellent command of the road. Although a sizeable truck it does not feel overly cumbersome. There’s an attractive and distinctive sound from the diesel engine as it makes progress.
The joy of such a vehicle is its sheer load carrying capacity and when moving house as we are, few vehicles could in fact be any better. And I am comparing it to vans as well. As I sit behind one with our massive tandem kayak strapped to the rear it is quite clear that such a cumbersome load would never fit in a standard van. Additionally, there is a tray that sits at the rear enabling the Navara to transport 300kg, making it a builder’s delight. The open back means that such things as settees and chests of drawers or bricks and concrete can be transported with ease, as long as the weather behaves itself and fortunately it does. It is also helpful that the strap holes at the rear can be easily adjusted to accommodate most loads.
A car is parked outside our new house making reversing such a sizeable vehicle almost impossible. There’s a sloping grass verge above the kerb opposite and so the Navara allows me to use the verge as a means of manoeuvring, not ideal but it’s either that or move the neighbour's car. This still does not give me the turning circle I require so I have to drive up the steep verge. Not a problem in the Navara because four wheel drive can be selected at the turn of a dial. And then we reverse without fuss slowly and carefully with the help of the reversing camera, into the driveway. And that’s with a massive Chesterfield settee on the back. It’s as easy to perform this manoeuvre in the Navara as it is in my tiny Ford Fiesta. I like the traditional handbrake, none of this electric nonsense, which is finding its way into so many vehicles these days.
Later, as I drive to collect my daughter from school, I spy a black Navara sitting on a pavement outside a plot of land just sold for development. Yes, I can see how the Navara appeals to builders and property developers. Not overly expensive, bags of street cred and nobody argues with you. Moving from our old house I park on the busy main road outside and nobody dares to complain as they see me jumping up into the back and then out again to load various items. This is certainly a heavy duty vehicle and very user-friendly. I think it would be helpful if anti-scratch paint could be applied to the rear and the roof so that if any awkward loads need to be carried the driver can rest in the knowledge that the paintwork can stand up to it.
Facts at a glance
Nissan NP300 Navara 2.3dCi 188bhp Tekna
Price: start from £24,293
Engine: 2.3-litre diesel
By Tim Saunders
Having children is a great help to a motoring journalist because they invariably discover things about cars that could potentially pass by unnoticed.
This point is highlighted on collecting eldest daughter Harriett (5) from school one Friday afternoon in the Seat Alhambra people mover.
Excitedly she jumps into her seat and no sooner has she done this she pulls up a sun visor on her window. “Can you fix it for me daddy?” This is the first day of driving the vehicle and I certainly wouldn’t have discovered that feature until much nearer the end of the test.
The picnic tables on the back of the front seats also score highly with Harriett and sister Heidi (3), who proceed to pull them up to place their brunch bars upon. Yes, life with my daughters is anything but dull and now that they have a little brother, Henry (4mths) we have all but forgotten what peace and quiet used to be like.
The Alhambra, finished in pure white, is an appealing vehicle to a family like ours because where space is an issue in normal cars it really isn’t in this cavernous beast. There’s a third row of seats in the boot which are easy to push into place as you can see in the video at testdrives.biz should extra seating be needed for friends or relatives.
The van-like sliding rear doors are extremely practical when parking in tight spaces because they take up so little room. However, they are heavy to operate.
Exterior colours are getting snazzier all the time and the wing mirrors and alloy wheels demand a second look as the sun catches them revealing a hint of sparkling dark metallic blue, which is a very neat touch. In fact this snazzy blue continues into the interior.
The Alhambra is an extremely practical vehicle; it’s large enough to be a van with admirable load carrying abilities but it can also be a minibus, seating seven passengers in absolute comfort no matter how long the journey. There is plenty of storage space.
It comes crammed with luxuries including all round electric windows, air conditioning and cruise control. The stalk for the latter is underneath the indicators and over a long journey this can become irksome due to ever-changing motorway speeds, resulting in a numb thumb.
Privacy glass and a luggage cover are neat touches for added peace of mind with regards security. I am a fan of the power folding wing mirrors; on a wider vehicle like this, this function is helpful when the vehicle is parked by the roadside to prevent them being clipped by passing traffic.
The raised driving position is always enjoyable providing a good view of the road ahead. It quickly comes to attention that there are houses that pass you by on the school run when in a smaller vehicle but with extra height it is possible to see over those hedges.
Over time the sat nav becomes easier for us to operate and relatively trustworthy. It stores your destinations so that you don’t have to keep inputting them. Trying to find the postcode function is a bit fiddly, though. Thankfully my wife tends to deal with this for me.
The reversing camera is certainly helpful because the Alhambra is a large vehicle but overall easy to manoeuvre.
Total cost of test vehicle: £31,390
Top speed: 124mph