DURBAN - Who can forget the original Nissan 1400 bakkie, later called the Champ? There were several editions and trim offerings over the course of its near four-decade production cycle. And Nissan has again performed this trick with its current entry-level bakkie, the NP200.

So, what's different?

As with the 1400 bakkie, the NP200 is also manufactured at Nissan's Rosslyn plant outside Pretoria. Called the ICE, this special edition includes a long list of additional equipment to make the NP200 more appealing and useable for individuals who need a bakkie for work purposes, but would also benefit from having one to fit their active lifestyle.

On the exterior, the ICE can be ordered in Bright Silver or Starling Blue metallic paint. It also comes with a nudge bar at the front (which integrates two horizontal LED day-time running lights), a sports-bar at the rear, dark-tinted windows and new 15-inch alloy wheels.

Usefully, the loading bay gains a rubberised finish to make it more durable, as well as a tonneau cover. There are also decals on the side of the bakkie, further setting it apart from the standard NP200 derivatives.

And the cabin?

Move to the interior, and you'll find leather upholstery and rubber mats. In terms of technology, the ICE receives an updated Bluetooth audio system. Priced marginally lower than the 1,5-litre dCi SE, it's interesting to note that the ICE drops electric windows for manual winders, while the side-mirrors are also manually adjustable. However, safety has not been compromised, as the ICE offers two airbags and ABS. Unfortunately, as with the rest of the range, a service plan remains optional.

For a 1,87-metre-tall person like myself, the driving position is slightly compromised. The top part of the steering wheel blocks part of my view of the speedometer and rev-counter. Also, when I sit up straight the edge of the windscreen is lower than what would be ideal. All the controls easily fall to hand though, and there is enough space behind each seat for a couple of laptop bags.

Behind the wheel

As is usually the case with special editions, the drivetrains remain unchanged, which means buyers have a choice of a 1,6-litre petrol mill (the 8V version) and this test unit's 1,5-litre turbodiesel. The latter pulls eagerly from around 2 000 r/min. Although the rev needle can travel through to 4 500 r/min, there is little point in changing gear after 4 000 r/min, as the engine delivers its best performance up to that mark. With no load in the back, and another passenger onboard, the NP200 pulled convincingly.

Summary

While the additions that set the ICE models apart from the standard derivatives are largely cosmetic, they do at least offer something different in a segment that serves up very few choices. And Nissan will be hoping that they help to further extend the life of the NP200, too ... just like the 1400 bakkie of yesteryear.