Rough ‘n ready

The first vehicle I used during a 4×4 course a few years ago was a Nissan Hardbody. After a day of pretty scary off-roading, it left the impression that there was little it couldn’t do.

So when Nissan sent out a press release inviting the Mail & Guardian to the upgraded Hardbody launch, I was somewhat reluctant as I thought we would have to do some serious adrenaline-fuelled bundu-bashing to test whether the new NP300 Hardbody was as capable as other Nissan 4x4s.

Thankfully, we didn’t do anything too scary. Instead Nissan used motoring journos to transport 15 tonnes of food and other necessities to the Pecanwood Educational Trust — in the Hartebeespoort Dam area — which distributes the items to needy communities in the area. Not only was it a great idea for Nissan to show that it is trying to do its bit for less fortunate communities during winter, but it also gave us the opportunity to experience the vehicle as a workhorse, rather than as a plaything.

The NP300s are available in short and long wheelbase “workhorse” versions, as well as the more comfy Hi-Rider single-cab and double-cab models. There is a new 2,5-litre turbo-diesel engine, which pushes out 98kW of power and 304Nm of torque, as well as existing 2,0-litre and 2,4-litre petrol engines.

We used the bottom-of-the-range short wheelbase to transport the hefty loads and, although the bakkie did struggle at speeds in excess of 100km/h, you have to remember that this is a bakkie meant for work — unlike most SUVs which tend to sit around on Gauteng’s pavements looking like caged animals.

To enable Nissan to offer the new NP300s with an average of only a 1% increase in price compared with the older model meant that it couldn’t put too much on the vehicles’ standard specification list.

With the exception of the base model, which retails for R109 950, all the Hardbodies now have air con as a standard feature as well as felt head-lining and warning lights for water, fuel and temperature. Service intervals are at 10 000km for all models now, including the diesel.

Although I felt good about schlepping the loads around in a humble, no-frills vehicle, I was disappointed by the lack of cup holders and the non-adjustable steering wheel on the base model — the steering is height adjustable only in top-end models.

After our good deeds we drove the 2,5-litre diesel double-cab. Although space for rear passengers wasn’t generous, this would be my pick as it felt easy to drive and was quite comfortable in traffic and on the open road.

The NP300s range in price from R109 950 to R230 950 for the 2,4-litre Hi-Rider.

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