This is the home of automobile road tests in South Africa. We drive South African cars, SUVs and LCVs under South African conditions. It also just happens that most of the vehicles we drive are world cars as well, so what you read here probably applies to the models you can get at home.
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Pics: Front and inside by author and rear view by Quickpic
Published in The Witness Motoring on Wednesday August 10, 2011
It looks like a slightly reworked version of the Dacia Logan pickup from Romania, because it is. Although early Renault 12-based examples were, how can we say this politely - dreadful - a local motorman tells us he knows someone who scored with them. This chap reckoned they were so cheap, especially second hand, that he couldn't go wrong buying a few. He did that and found that they simply refuse to die. Go figure.
Whatever the case, Nissan NP 200s are available with two versions of the 1598cc Renault petrol engine or a 1.5 litre diesel, in three levels of trim and with or without air conditioning and safety kit. I drove a basic eight-valve 1600 with air conditioner and the optional package that gives you two bags, height adjustment for the seat belts and ABS brakes with EBD. While we accept the reasoning that buyers should be free to choose, safety-conscious journalists do take manufacturers to task about what they believe should be included as bare minimum, at every entry-level vehicle launch. One day, we shall overcome.
Despite the extras fitted, this NP 200 is still pretty basic with hand-wound windows, manually adjustable mirrors, steel wheels and no radio. The windows wind back to front in the grand French tradition and the wiper setup is European, sweeping to clear best on the left. It's a commercial working vehicle so don't look for girly makeup mirrors on the sun visors - there aren't any on the base model. If you must have alloy wheels, a sliding back window and power-everything, the SE version with 16-valve motor costs R155 700.What you do get, is a roomy cab with 300 litres of space behind the seats, door storage, a nicely sized glove box and a big rubberised bin with plenty of lashing eyelets, both inside and out.
The bin is 1807 mm long, 1200 mm wide (1024 mm between wheel arches) and 535 mm deep. Its floor is 636 mm above ground level and its rated capacity is 800 kg. In practical terms it accepted both my 750x750x750 mm garden refuse bags with room for a few loose branches. A double-cab driven recently was not quite as accommodating. Protective cladding around the rim of the bin and the rear of the cab is a nice touch although a formal cab protector isn't available. The tailgate is either "good and solid" or "unexpectedly heavy" - we can't decide which just yet.
Driving impressions: The seats are rather firm and plain, but comfortable enough. Fore and aft adjustment is just sufficient for six-footers, so the very tall might feel a little short-changed. It pulls strongly in top (fifth) gear leaving something in reserve for hills. Gearing is about 3600 rpm at 120 in top. It rides comfortably on dirt and tracks well. Interior fit and finish is neat and tidy without too many textures. You cannot depress locking buttons before closing the doors, so it would require unbelievable creativity to lock your keys inside. As a no-nonsense working pickup, the NP 200 ticks all the right boxes.
Prices: Basic - R109 400 or R122 500 as tested
Engine: 1 598 cc, eight-valve four cylinder
Power: 64 kW at 5 500 rpm
Torque: 128 Nm at 3 000 rpm
Zero to 100: Not given
Maximum speed: 192 km/h
Fuel index: 9,72 l/100 km
Tank: 50 litres
Turning circle: 11,4 metres
Ground Clearance: 170 mm
GVM: 1 890 kg
GCM: 2 540 kg
Payload: 800 kg
Maximum braked trailer mass: 650 kg
Warranty: 6 years/150 000 km
Service intervals: 15 000 km
Please note that the roll bar and tonneau cover are optional extras on this model
This is a one-man show, which means that road test cars entrusted to me are driven only by me. Some reviewers hand test cars over to their partners to use as day-to-day transport and barely experience them for themselves.
What this means to you is that every car reviewed is given my own personal evaluation and receives my own seat of the pants judgement - no second hand input here.
Every car goes through real world testing; on city streets littered with potholes, speed bumps and rumble strips, on freeways and if its profile demands, dirt roads as well.
My articles appear every Wednesday in the motoring pages of The Witness, South Africa's oldest continuously running newspaper, and occasionally on Saturdays in Weekend Witness as well. I drive eight to ten vehicles most months of the year (press cars are withdrawn over the festive season - wonder why?) so not everything gets published in the paper. Those that are, get a tagline but the rest is virgin, unpublished and unedited by the political-correctness police. Hope you like what you see, because there are no commercial interests at work here. As quite a few readers have found, I answer every serious enquiry from my home email address, with my phone numbers attached, so I do actually exist.
I am based in Pietermaritzburg, KZN, South Africa. This is the central hub of the KZN Midlands farming community; the place farmers go to buy their supplies and equipment, truck their goods to market, send their kids to school and go to kick back and relax.
So occasionally a cow, a goat or a horse may add a little local colour by finding its way into the story or one of the pictures. It's all part of the ambience!
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