When it first came to the UK a couple of years before the new millennia, the Nissan Navara was true to the virtues of a thoroughbred working truck – and was aptly named the Pickup. It was designed purely for a working life with the second row of seats forged with a work crew in mind, as opposed to a whole family. A rather limited spec list also supported a life of graft, but then when the early Noughties lifestyle trend gathered pace, that soon changed.
From 2002 onwards, there were a few updates to the Navara that brought about more power and a facelift in a move that capitalised on the market trend, resulting in a 200% increase in sales for 2003. As a consequence, there’s no shortage of options on the used market for interested parties.
But for those seeking a simply workaday utility truck, there was a king-cab offering that did away with the back row of seating in favour of a bigger load bay and prioritised practicality. This was even brought back to market after the D40 hit the shelves, under the name of NP300 Pickup.
Comprising of hard-wearing materials in a no-frills design, the black and grey interior seems to have survived rather well. All models featured a radio and air conditioning, however we found many trucks on the used market have since been fitted with an aftermarket, double-din system, which will only enhance the functionality of the cabin. When the high-flying Outlaw trim came into being, the notable enhancement to the interior included either leather or velour upholstery in both the front and back, heated seats and a CD player.
For a double-cab pick-up, the D22 is among the best when it comes to rear legroom. The central seat isn’t very big and only comes with a lap belt, but compared to other trucks – contemporary or otherwise – few can match it in this regard.
For the king-cab models, this obviously doesn’t apply. The interior fittings are equal to those in the simpler D22s, except behind the front (aka only) seats, there’s a limited secure storage space for toolboxes and other valuables that are not to be left for the taking in the bed.
The upgraded version of the 2.5-litre Di engine meant that despite having very utilitarian driving characteristics, the D22 was suddenly much more fun to drive. Posing a good driving position and the bolstered unit boasting 131bhp and 224lbf.ft, the D22 was the most powerful diesel pick-up in the UK, and other little influxes of power throughout its lifespan meant that it ended up with a braked towing capacity of three tonnes and a payload that sat at 1,055kg for Outlaw models.
This was all well and good, as the Navara performed well on-site and on the commute, but the fuel economy did suffer. Whilst most of the D22s competitors would attain around 30mpg, the Navara’s fell as low as 26.3mpg.
It was fun to drive, but it wasn’t quiet with it. A driving flaw of this vehicle was that the engine was very loud. Not so much an annoyance around the noisy worksite, but on a daily commute or long-haul trip to the coast in the summer, it can become tiresome, as the engine was known to be loud even at idle.
More of the Navara’s workhorse character was portrayed through the suspension. Independent at the front and leaf sprung at the rear, the ride is particularly unsettled and buoyant at the back when unladen. Fitted with a limited slip-diff, the tail-happy nature of empty pick-ups is reined in.
Another odd feature of the D22 was that unlike the models that came after it, it didn’t have a centre diff, so even though it has a switch for ‘4WD high’, it can’t realistically be piloted in this setting on the road.
The D22 Navara was a solid truck, but not one without issues – so there are a few things to look out for.
With the power upgrade came some suspect reliability issues. Namely, the M-Fire common rail diesel unit demands meticulous maintenance to ensure its longevity. The whole extent of the issue is unknown in its entirety, but there have been reports of the engine simply failing outright. To give yourself the best shot at avoiding this rare eventuality, pay particularly close attention to the engine bay of any prospective purchases. Check there are no signs of oil leakage around the front of the sump and also be sure that the ancillary drive belt is properly tight.
The industrial gearbox in these trucks were fine and suffered no common issues, however the same cannot be said for the clutch – there are whispers that some have burnt out after just 6,000 miles…
Another issue, that may in part have come from the sudden interest in a lifestyle truck, is that some owners have cited difficulties with the cargo-carrying abilities. Some of these may have been induced by non-commercial owners seeing capacities as just a number and overloading the truck at the garden centre, or something as naïve as that. So, it’s worth checking the rear leaf springs for any cracks or significant signs of wear, but a subtler sign could be crumbling suspension bushes. Obviously, as with any truck, a scarred and battered load bed is also a giveaway of unjustly rough and damaging treatment of a vehicle.
Adding further to this list, there may be a knocking sound that emanates from the front end, particularly when tackling potholes and speed bumps – don’t overtly panic about this, it’s more likely than not just wear on the anti-roll bar bushes. These aren’t expensive to replace, but if you notice it on a test drive, you’re well within your rights to ask for some new ones to be fitted before purchase.
Despite reeling off that list of things to look out for, the Navara is still a solid and reliable truck. There’s a strong chance that you’ll need new brake pads and a replacement clutch, but if you run a keen eye over a truck and then take care of it, you’re unlikely to run into issues. You’ll find the mechanical workings are fairly simple and a wide range of places can offer you a supply of spares. If you’re mechanically minded and are happy to get stuck in, you can save a lot of money, as both Nissan spares and servicing are not cheap. But, your own time and pattern part equivalents, not so much. If you’re particularly worried about the M-Fire unit giving up the ghost, owners in the past have replaced the original big-end bearings and cap bolts for sturdier, upgraded variants – which isn’t the most expensive or complicated of procedures.
Like most trucks, there isn’t a definitive answer as to whether this is the truck for you, and like every second-hand vehicle purchase it doesn’t come risk-free.
If you get an example with a clean bill of health and look after it (and touch wood) you shouldn’t have any issues. But what you will have is a truck that is more focused on passenger comfort than anything of similar age.
But that isn’t to say that if you’re after a truck to use as a tool in the day and then moonlight as a family taxi that your search should end here. In judging it against the first criterion, the D22 is excellent. The only genuine grievance is that the truck bed on five-seater models isn’t quite as big as some of its competitors – owing to the extended effort to make passengers more comfortable. But judge it as a hack and it is loud, bounces over undulations and doesn’t achieve boast-worthy efficiency. It should go without saying, but if you will need to carry more than one passenger, the king-cab can be ruled out of reckoning in favour of the double-cab.
Where it can be a dual-purpose truck is if you enjoy off-roading as a pastime. Despite having a sizeable rear overhang, the D22 is much appreciated in off-roading circles and can be formidable simply with the addition of a more aggressive tyre pattern.
With the varying models, ages and performance figures that came during the D22 generation, prices differ across the board.
It is possible to pick up a D22 for a couple of grand – these will more than likely have over 100,000 miles on the clock and have probably seen some graft. Looking at examples with fewer miles than that will cost in the region of double the figure – which doesn’t sound great, but is still good money for a very good truck.
When perusing the market there are a few signs that can highlight whether a truck was originally made for the domestic market or not. This isn’t a bad thing, in fact it shows how good the truck was, because they were only imported to meet demands. Many of them came over from Cyprus, with variation in paint colours and engine specifications. UK versions were only fitted with the 2.5-litre diesel unit, so any with a 3.0- or 3.2-litre diesel, or a 2.5-litre petrol were made for foreign markets – standard green paint and a chrome rear bumper signify this, too. There aren’t any huge grumbles associated with imported D22s, with the only murmur being that they possess a marginally poorer level of build quality when it comes to the interior.
But whether you opt for an import or not, the D22 Navara isn’t a banged to rights bargain, but if you buy with nous it may as well be.