Giant shoes


Here was the crème d’ la crème of the continent’s motoring journalists and his words could make or break the brand. “Please don’t photograph that just yet,” he said, pointing at the Nissan NP200. “Its details aren’t ready for public consumption yet.” He then continued to explain the car as a successor to the iconic Nissan B140 pick-up, as he showed as the last remnants of the run-out model. “These are on their way to dealers throughout the continent, the last of the series,” he continued, pointing at 100 or so white-coloured units lying on an expansive yard.

One year since the launch of the NP200 in South Africa, the car has finally arrived in Kenya. It was launched early in 2010 and has the enormous challenge of reclaiming a market share so aptly carved by the B140.

The B140, sold in Kenya since the 80s was beloved by poultry farmers and small scale business men. It had the same load capacity as the NP200 (sub- tonne), the pace and agility of a week-old chick. Besides its awkwardly crumpled cabin - that made the driver feel he’d be mowed down by trucks - the B140’s braking left a lot to be desired.

But Nissan seems to have rectified these woes, upping the load potential of NP200’s older sibling and integrating some ‘car comforts’ to come up with a car that’s not only a veritable workforce but its comfy and beautiful. This is a case of a different approach becoming a welcome departure.

‘N’ in the NP200, by the way, stands for Nissan, ‘P’ for pick-up and the 200 is its series number in the commercial line-up. Without doubt, the NP200 is one of the most important models on the local market. Why? It ups the game for Ford Bantam (sold by CMC) and Opel Corsa (by General Motors), the other sub-tonne competitors by major franchise dealers. The Tata Ace, Maruti Suzuki Omni, Piaggio Ape Truk and Chinese made FAW complete this Light Delivery Vehicle kaleidoscope.    

The B140, by the way, was reputed for its strong build quality and good fuel economy that didn’t compromise on performance. A rear wheel drive system meant that the ‘kanniedoodnie’ (cannot die) would throw a lot of mud on the way to deliver sukumawiki to markets. The same cannot be said about the Johnny-come-latelies in this category.  Low cost ownership was B140’s indelible image, which the NP200 is eager to emulate.

Compelling urgency

The new car has a 1,598cc Multipoint fuel injection engine that develops 64kW at 5500rpm and 128 Nm of torque at 3,000 rpm.

One of the most significant changes in the new model has been the shortening of the first three gear ratios to give the car more punch, especially when loaded. If you though the B140 was responsive, you’ll be amazed by the NP200’s compelling urgency.

Nissan says the NP200 can carry up to 800kgs. That’s 33 bales of flour or 16 bags of Nguvu cement. Its load box (rubberised, by the way, to protect against the elements) measures 1.8m long and 1.37m wide. Its tail gate can support up to 300 kg and has 16 anchorage points. Hurling this kind of load, Nissan couldn’t afford to repeat the braking flaws in the B140. The NP200 has disc brakes at the front and drum brakes at the rear.

The front suspension comprises a MacPherson setup, with wishbone arm and non-damped cradle and a front anti-roll bar. The reinforced rear suspension uses an H-type torsion beam, plus coil springs and extended-travel vertical dampers calibrated for African road conditions.

In keeping with the NP200’s practical nature, the cabin Extensive features numerous stowage areas are littered throughout the cabin, including a 300-litre storage compartment behind the seat, accessed by tipping the driver’s seat forward. This compartment is ideal for more valuable, compact items such as toolboxes, which can be safely stowed out of sight.

Standard features

Standard features aboard the NP200 include power steering, 4-speed fan and heating system with recycle function, bucket seats with cloth upholstery, and height adjustable headrests. A radio sound system is available as an optional extra. As with the majority of half-ton pick-up’s in this country, the NP200 features styling cues equally suited to private, as well as business use. Body coloured bumpers both front and rear, tinted glass all round and 15-inch steel wheels with a full size spare wheel are among the notable exterior features.

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