D is for Nissan: Nissan has pledged its commitment to developing its diesel range. Neil Nixon recently tested the vehicles in Sunderland, including the company’s latest star …

D is for Nissan: Nissan has pledged its commitment to developing its diesel range. Neil Nixon recently tested the vehicles in Sunderland, including the company’s latest star … – market update

Neil Nixon

Nissan has been fairly vocal about its plans to increase its share of the diesel powered LCV market, mainly through range extensions and improvements. The range, which covers the Primastar, Interstar, Cabstar, two-wheel drive pick-up, Navara pickup, Terrano Van, and now the new Kubistar, offers a vehicle for most applications.

Nissan’s commercial vehicle division has experienced a 50% year-on-year increase in sales, and is aiming for a market share of 2.5% (8000 units) by the end of this year. It looks to further grow this share to 3% by the end of 2004 (9500 units), largely thanks to the introduction of the Kubistar.

The Kubistar

The newest member of the Nissan LCV fleet, Kubistar goes on sale in October, and provides the company with an offering for the highly competitive car-derived van sector. Currently, 25% of LCVs sold in the UK are car-derived vans, and Nissan is determined to claim its share.

Nissan’s Alliance Partner, Renault, has already enjoyed success with its Kangoo and it is this vehicle, in recently revised form, that the Kubistar is based on. The Kubistar, like the Kangoo, claims to be the most compact vehicle in its sector. It is just over 4m long yet still offers a load volume of 3[m.sup.3] when fitted with the innovative swivel bulkhead. It will be available in payloads ranging between 600 and 800kg and, although the UK line-up has yet to be finalised, as many as six different engines could be offered including three dCi units. When available, the Kubistar will be priced from around 7000 [pounds sterling] and, despite ambitious sales forecasts, there is just one planned body style–no windowed, rear-seated or 4×4 versions are planned for the near future!

4x4s and pick-ups

The recently released Outlaw is an eye-catching addition to Nissan’s already popular range of pick-ups. It is powered by the same 133PS 2.5-litre turbo diesel engine that is found in the standard Navara, but has several styling changes to set it apart. Driving the Outlaw takes some getting used to, with a lot of power being delivered to the rear axle. Unladen, the rear end requires some holding onto, particularly on wet roads. There’s plenty of power and loads of appeal–a vehicle that turns heads, but one that you would think twice about tipping a load of building sand or bricks into.

The star of Nissan’s LCV range, in terms of sales growth, is the Terrano Van; 66% up year on year. Nissan is expanding the range from one model to three, topped by a new 156PS 3.0-litre Di version.

Panel vans

Since its launch last October, the Renault-derived Primastar has made significant inroads into this sector of the market. Available in three variations–E, SE and Access, the Primastar offers a 1.9dCi engine in either 82PS or 100PS versions.

Later this year Nissan will add a long wheelbase option and more engines to the range.

The Interstar is available in short, medium and long-wheelbase options with low, mid and high-roof alternatives. Three dCi engine sizes, ranging from 1.9 to 2.5-litres, are also available.

While closely allied to the Renault range, Nissan’s vans have built themselves a credible place within the UK LCV market. In the 4×4 and pick-up sectors, the dedicated range has carved a strong market position for the brand, and extensions, like the Outlaw, only serve to secure and build upon this success.

The Terrano Van, which drives well and offers a high level of comfort and practicality, will do well to maintain its phenomenal growth rate … but there is no sign of it slowing up just yet. And the Cabstar? In Nissan’s own words, it continues to be Bob the Builder’s favourite.

COPYRIGHT 2003 DMG World Media Ltd.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group