Nissan recently expanded the NP200 bakkie range, and made some subtle changes to its appearance while they were at it. The result is a more rounded vehicle that promises to appeal to a much wider demographic. GG VAN ROOYEN reports
When the Nissan NP200 first appeared on the scene in October of last year, it didn’t really generate a lot of excitement. There was nothing wrong with it – in fact, it had a lot in its favour – but it was a bit bland. Its predecessor – the much loved 1400 – was one of South Africa’s favourite bakkies, and the NP200 just didn’t seem worthy of taking over the torch.
Ironically, it was a better vehicle on paper. Technologically it was light years ahead of the 1400, and owing to its significantly larger payload capability, it was a much more sensible and economical light commercial vehicle (LCV) than its predecessor.
But it lacked the character and charisma of the 1400. There was little about the NP200 that appealed to those looking for a halftonner that was both practical and trendy – a balance Ford’s Bantam and Opel’s Corsa Utility manage to strike very effectively.
The generic look and feel of the NP200 was all the more disappointing, because Nissan is more than capable of producing striking, stylish vehicles. Its Murano, Qashqai, Pathfinder and Navara are all unique, attention grabbing vehicles, so there was no reason why the NP200 had to be so dull.
Luckily, Nissan seems to have realised that it was alienating a core market by focusing purely on practicality, and is now setting its sights on Bantam and Corsa Utility buyers.
“The NP200 range is diversifying with the introduction of the new S and SE models, packing the additional specs needed to be a contender across the full spectrum of the segment. The NP200 range is defined by its fusion of practicality and performance, underlying strength and overt style. It’s the practical, yet stylish option for the younger buyer who knows what his growing enterprise needs, but also needs a vehicle which he doesn’t have to park out of sight when undertaking an after-hours urban adventure,” states Nissan’s media release on the new NP200 range.
From the above it’s clear that Nissan is intent on coaxing young bakkie owners out of their Fords and Opels, and with the new extended NP200 range, they just might succeed.
The range now also consists of a midlevel S model and a high-spec SE model that offers 77 kW of power compared to the base model’s 64 kW. In addition, both models sport luxuries such as air-conditioning and a radio/CD/MP3-compatible audio system, and aesthetic enhancements such as wheel arch extensions, a new sill cover and 15” alloy wheels (standard on the SE).
With the introduction of the new models, Nissan has also used the opportunity to make a few changes to the range as a whole. Most noticeably, the NP200’s front has changed. The front bumper’s design is now very reminiscent of the Livina X-Gear, and more in keeping with Nissan’s general styling. While not a massive change, it does improve the bakkie’s appearance significantly by giving it a more aggressive look.
Overall, the NP200 is now far better equipped to compete against the Bantam and the Corsa. The base model that was launched late last year might have been an affordable, practical LCV, but it didn’t appeal to the young and trendy. The new extended NP200 range looks set to change that.