Posh pick-ups: Nissan Navara v Mitsubishi L200
As we discovered earlier this year, the UK’s pick-up truck market is hotting up. Customers rush to take advantage of these two-tonne ‘dual-purpose’ vehicles which bridge the gap between van and SUV.
Competition in the market is fierce, with two of the most recently updated pick-ups leading the field. Mitsubishi’s new ‘Series 5’ L200 has been up at the head of the field for a good six months now, but its position has been threatened by the new Nissan Navara.
When we drove Nissan’s SUV-mimicking truck back in March, we couldn’t be sure whether it would better the L200 if driven back to back. We promised you a showdown, and here it is.
It’s difficult to sum up the external qualities of these two without using the word ‘big’ (or synonyms thereof), so we won’t bother. No matter which of these trucks you choose, you’re leasing an awful lot of vehicle.
A simple war of numbers sees the Nissan come out victorious, with its 5.33m length and 1.85m girth eclipsing the L200, albeit by pretty narrow margins. The biggest difference, though, is in the wheelbase, which is 15cm longer in the Navara. As a result, the overhangs are shorter and it’s slightly more in proportion than the L200, which looks a touch too long at the back.
But either way, you’re getting a 5.3m-long vehicle that’s almost six feet tall, six feet wide and weighs about two tonnes, and that gives them serious road presence.
It also means there’s a lot of empty space on the bodywork, but any blandness that might create has been cancelled out by the accoutrements of these top-of-the-range variants. Flashes of chrome have been liberally applied to both vehicles, and big alloy wheels look fitting on such imposing trucks.
Of the two, we find the Navara the more attractive, with its chunkier looks giving it a more workman-like demeanour, but the more delicate L200 has a certain style that makes it a close-run thing.
It might surprise some readers to know that the majority of vehicles such as these are sold in their range-topping trim levels, and it’s those models we have here.
Mitsubishi and Nissan have worked hard to create a car-like atmosphere with smarter plastics, more intuitive infotainment and more refined cabins, while both get goodies like leather seats, satellite navigation and push-button keyless start. As a result, the two vehicles feel far more civilised than their predecessors, but it’s the Nissan that wins out.
Much of the Navara’s switchgear has been nabbed directly from the popular Qashqai crossover, as have the steering wheel and the infotainment system, and the softer plastic of the dash rounds off that impression of an overgrown X-Trail.
Likewise, the L200 has pinched parts from the Outlander and the Shogun, but the quality on show simply can’t match that of the Nissan. The seats are marginally less comfortable in the Mitsubishi, too, and the touchscreen isn’t as intuitive.
Even though these dual-purpose trucks may be more commonly used as SUVs than as light commercial vehicles, they still have to be capable of cutting the mustard as workhorses.
Both trucks carry a payload of about 1,045kg and have beds of around 1.5 square metres, but the Nissan benefits from 223mm of ground clearance (18mm up on the L200) and an additional 400kg of towing capability over and above the L200’s 3.1-tonne limit.
If you’re looking for capability, then, you’ve come to the right place. These two are pretty much unstoppable across the rough stuff and they’ll carry everything you need.
On the road
Nissan has made much of the Navara’s new multi-link rear suspension, which replaces the leaf springs of the old model, and the difference is tangible. Even though it is still jiggly when the load bed is empty, it rounds out the bumps far better than the leaf-sprung L200.
It handles with slightly more finesse than the Mitsubishi, too, although neither vehicle is exactly sporty. They’re tall and they wallow through the corners, but the Navara has a heavier steering rack that feels more natural than the L200’s lighter and less feelsome helm.
That isn’t to say that the L200 doesn’t have its plus points, though. For a kick-off, the Mitsubishi is slightly quicker than the Nissan, despite its 2.4-litre engine producing about 10bhp fewer than the 2.3-litre Navara. Managing 0-62mph in 10.4 seconds, the L200 has the best part of half a second on the Navara.
It has better gearboxes than the Navara, too, no matter whether you go for manual or automatic. Yes, the L200’s five-speed auto could do with another ratio at the top end, but it’s smoother than the comparable Nissan transmission.
The manual, meanwhile, has that sixth ratio, and a more accurate shift action than the Navara, as well as a lighter clutch that makes traffic less of a burden.
These trucks are closely matched when it comes to economy, as both claim to return in excess of 40mpg and CO2 emissions of around 170g/km. If the official test results are to be believed, the Navara’s 44.1mpg thirst and 169g/km emissions edge the L200’s headline figures of 42.8mpg and 173g/km.
During their time on test, however, the L200 proved itself marginally more efficient, returning 38mpg on a long run while the Navara could only manage around 36mpg. Whichever way you cut it, though, differences are minimal.
There is a little more difference when we look at lease rates, however. Business lease rates for the range-topping manual Navara seen here average around £244 per month, while the equivalent L200 Barbarian averages about £262 per month.*
The Navara has re-written the rulebook when it comes to pick-ups and though the L200 is good, Nissan has clearly taken the game to a whole new level. It’s brilliant.
*Average lease rates calculated using ContractHireAndLeasing.com data and based on typical 6+35 10k lease agreements; correct at time of writing.