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The ever-popular half-tonne bakkie segment gains a cool new derivative. Is it enough to keep a restless buying public interested? 

Two years ago, ran an April Fools' Day spoof article claiming that Volkswagen SA had confirmed plans to launch the Saveiro half-tonne bakkie. Much to the ire of local dealerships, whose switchboards lit up for days to follow, this "news" feature remains one of our most popular online pieces to date, drawing a record number of comments on Facebook, the majority of them welcoming the prospect of a new contender to this popular segment. While the possibility of the Saveiro arriving in South Africa seems more likely now that a right-hand-drive model has been confirmed, the widespread reaction to our 2015 story serves to highlight not only how popular Volkswagen is in our market, but also just how starved fans of the half-tonne bakkie have been of late.

Indeed, the last time we published a road test of a half-tonne bakkie was in March 2013 in the form of a then-new Chevrolet Utility. Before that, the December 2009 issue of CAR featured a comparison test between the Opel Corsa Ute (the forebear of the Chev-branded example), the long-since-retired Ford Bantam and the new Nissan NP200. A spiritual replacement for the much-loved “champion of Africa”, the Nissan B140 (or 1400), the NP200 soldiers on alongside the exclusively petrol-powered Chevrolet Utility range to service around 3 000 new customers in this segment a month, fulfilling myriad roles, from small-business workhorses to weekend-warrior recreational duties. Aimed at offering a best-of-both-worlds scenario for prospective buyers is the recently introduced NP200 Ice.

Brandished with no fewer than seven reminders that this is the Ice edition, it’s disappointing that the colour-coded bumpers found on the higher-spec SE model have been ditched in favour of black-plastic items (the side mirrors and door handles are unpainted, too) on this “coolest” variant. Where the spaces allocated for front foglamps on the R8 000 more expensive SE model remain covered in this execution, Ice models are nevertheless distinguishable via a bespoke, brushed-alloy nudge bar and similarly finished roll-bar sections at the rear. Fifteen-inch alloy wheels and standard smash-and-grab-protection window tinting complete an exterior package that’s offered with a choice of either a silver or Starling Blue paint finish.

Although decidedly more spacious than the B140, the cabin of the Ice edition is compromised by the omission of the height-adjustable driver’s seat offered in the SE. Together with a fixed steering column, this means a one-size-fits-all seating position that’s not ideally suited to taller drivers. Standard leather upholstery does, however, add a touch of sophistication.

Dispelling any confusion that Ice may otherwise stand for “in-car entertainment”, the standard JVC front-loader, while conveniently having Bluetooth, MP3 and USB connectivity, still requires the owner to remove its face for security considerations when not in use. The omission of a locking function on the generously proportioned glovebox compounds this problem.

The Ice comes with either a 1,6-litre petrol- or 1,5 dCi turbo-diesel engine, and it’s the latter (as tested here) that offers the most favourable consumption (6,9 L/100 km on our fuel run) while matching the petrol-powered option in terms of straight-line performance. Boasting a healthy 200 N.m of torque at 1 900 r/min, the 1,5 dCi is effortlessly kept on the boil via the slick five-speed manual transmission.

With a class-leading 800 kg payload, the NP200’s MacPherson front struts and torsion-beam rear arrangement offer an acceptably compliant ride quality obviously engineered to still comfortably accommodate a full load. Despite being somewhat lifeless, the electrically assisted power steering has enough weight and precision to make the NP200 easily manoeuvrable in and round town. Standard ABS assistance on the ventilated-discs-fore/drums-aft brake setup ensures the NP200 provides fuss-free stopping in an emergency situation.
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.


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.

Full Manufacturer Specifications

Standard - standard Optional - optional
  • Seats quantity: 2
  • Air conditioning: Standard
  • Cup bottle holders: Standard
  • Antilock braking system (ABS): Standard
  • Electronic brake distribution (EBD): Standard
  • Driver airbag: Standard
  • Front passenger airbag: Standard
  • Airbag quantity: 2
  • Power steering: Standard
  • Highlevel 3rd brakelight: Standard
  • Rear fog lamps lights: Standard
  • Metallic pearl escent paint: Optional
  • Fuel Type: diesel
  • Fuel range average: 943 km
  • Driven wheels: front
  • Driven wheels quantity: 2
  • Gearratios quantity: 5
  • Gearshift: manual
  • Transmission type: manual
  • Front tyres: 185/65 R15 T
  • Reartyres: 185/65 R15 T
  • Spare wheel size full: Standard
  • Length: 4499 mm
  • Width excl mirrors incl mirrors: 1735 mm
  • Height: 1554 mm
  • Wheel base: 2905 mm
  • Ground clearance minimum maximum: 177 mm
  • Turning circle wheels body: 11.4 m
  • Load volume / capacity: 1250 L
  • Load volume / capacity: 1250 L
  • Unladen/tare/kerb weight: 1096 kg
  • Load carrying capacity / payload: 800
  • Gross weight (GVM): 1940 kg
  • Towing capacity - unbraked: 605
  • Towing capacity - braked: 650
  • Fuel tank capacity (incl reserve): 50l
  • Fuel consumption average: 5.3 l/100km
  • CO2 emissions average: 140g/km
  • Emission control phase Euro EU level: EU 2
  • Power maximum: 63 kW
  • Power maximum total: 63 kW
  • Power peak revs: 3750 r/min
  • Power to weight ratio: 58 kW/ton
  • Torque maximum: 200 Nm
  • Torque peak revs: 1900 r/min
  • Torque maximum total: 200 Nm
  • Torque to weight ratio: 182 Nm/ton
  • Acceleration 0-100 kmh: n/as
  • Maximum top speed: n/a km/h
  • Engine position/ location: front
  • Engine capacity: 1461 cc
  • Engine size: 1.5l
  • enginedetailshort: 1.5TD
  • Engine + detail: 1.5 turbo diesel
  • Cylinder layout: inline
  • Cylinders: 4
  • Cylinder layout + quantity: i4
  • Cam: sohc
  • Valves per cylinder: 2
  • Valves quantity: 8
  • Turbocharger: Standard
  • Warranty time (years): 6
  • Warranty distance (km): 150000 km
  • Service interval (distance): 15000 km
  • Brand: Nissan
  • Status: c
  • Segment: LCV
  • MMcode: 470176311
  • MMVariant: NP200 1.5 DCi A/C SAFETY PACK P/U S/C
  • Introdate: 2015-12-01
  • DuoportarecordID: NissNP201rup6

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New NP200 1.5dCi safety pack availbale from the following auto dealer:
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