New bakkie will do Nissan proud

Bruce Fraser

Bruce Fraser

Replacing what has become a legend in bakkie folklore - the indestructible Nissan 1400 - was never going to be easy.

With a 35-year-history and sales of around 275000 units locally, Nissan nevertheless decided to move with the times and late last year launched its replacement - the Nissan NP200 in a standard 1.6-litre form.

Last week saw the expansion of the range with the launch of four more derivatives, although the two diesel models will only be available later this year.

The two new petrol versions - a 1.6-litre 16V S and SE - provide options to those wanting a more powerful engine coupled with upmarket finishes.

Engine output is increased from 64kW to 77kW and, equally important, safety features are improved.

The top-of-the-range SE comes with all the bells-and-whistles you can think of - power steering, airbags, tinted windows, air-conditioning and so on.

At the launch only the SE model was available for the media to briefly test drive.

First impression was how neat and attractive the interior of the cabin is.

Nice touches of aluminium complement the black dashboard and side panels while the new 16V engine proved very willing.

A short drive up Johannesburg's M1 highway and even at 120km/h it was still pulling away with plenty to spare.

Often without a load in the rear a bakkie can feel slightly "twitchy" when travelling at speed, but the little NP200 felt safe and secure and there was no sideways movement at all.