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OFF-ROAD TEST: Nissan Patrol 3.0TD Pickup

29 August 2016

The Nissan Patrol Pickup is a no-nonsense, old-school type of workhorse 4×4 that is so spartanly equipped that its windscreen wipers are listed as a ‘standard specification’. We spent some quality time with the Nissan, both in town and in the bush.

It’s fair to say that the modern customer demands more from their car and nowhere is this more evident than in the world of bakkies. The double cab was built so Oom Frikkie could carry his sheep and his kids at the same time. When the first Hilux double cab was introduced, it was as basic as the single cab. Over the years, however, this segment has grown spectacularly decadent. You can now buy a bakkie with more standard luxury features than a Mercedes C-Class. But what if you don’t live within the confines or the city? What if you live in the Karoo and you don’t need a double cab, because life has been kind enough to supply you with a Mercedes GLS, or something similar for when the kids need a lift? You need a proper old-fashioned plaasbakkie… then you can always knock on your Nissan dealer’s door.

Comfort and convenience
You have to prepare yourself for life behind the wheel in a Patrol Pickup. If you’re the kind of person who enjoys climate control and seat warmers, this is so not the 4×4 for you. Reading the Patrol’s standard specification list is rather refreshing, because it’s over and done with in 20 seconds and you aren’t left wondering what 50% of the stuff does. The standard feature highlights include air-conditioning, windscreen wipers (we kid you not), cloth seat trim, cupholders, sunvisors, door pockets, electric windows, cigarette lighter and an ashtray.

Our test unit was fitted with a few accessories, which we’d recommend for the most part. There was, however, one accessory that grinded the gears of every single editorial member – the aftermarket radio. It’s a horrifyingly modern unit that has no place in a gloriously old-school machine such as this. We tried for days to make some sort of Bluetooth connection, but we gave up and settled for radio.

The various lights that emanate from the sound system’s screen are ridiculous and completely at odds with what is otherwise a rather basic interior ambience. That’s before you even get to the placement of said radio, which takes up both dashboard slots. We know for a fact that Patrol owners like those slots, because they’re quite handy for storing equipment that gets used often on a farm, like wire strippers, knives, screwdrivers and walkie-talkies. You’d think that all of this translates into a less than ideal inner-city driving experience, and you’d be 100% right. It’s pretty useless at commuting between Johannesburg and Pretoria, but it wasn’t designed for that purpose. With that in mind, we set one day aside in which we could drive it on terrain more suited to its talents.

Plaasbakkie thrills
The Patrol starts making sense the moment you use it in on any sort of rough and tough environment. It would take a fairly ominous obstacle to put a stop to its progress. We use the same off-road tracks at Hobby Park 4×4 trail for most of our serious off-roaders and the vehicle simply idled through an obstacle that stopped a new Hilux dead in its tracks. This should come as no surprise, as everything about the Patrol screams pukka 4×4. It has a three-litre common-rail, 16-valve turbocharged diesel engine that produces 110kW and 371Nm of torque. It’s mated to a five-speed manual, which does an acceptable job as far as manual cog swapping is concerned.

It’s also fine with a diet of 500ppm diesel, but the best thing about it is the average fuel consumption of 11.3l/100km and the 1 500km range from the 175-litre dual fuel tank system. One of our missions on the off-road trail was to get one of the wheels to lift off the ground for a wheel-in-air photo. This was much easier said than done, as the Patrol’s coil-sprung front set-up and solid axle at the back simply refused to lift a wheel on the trail. We eventually had to resort to a man-made obstacle that was built to showcase the benefits of an aftermarket suspension. It simply idled through there as well, but at least it lifted one of its wheels in the process.

There’s definitely something to be said for tried and trusted 4×4 systems. You don’t get any fancy grip controlling computers in here, which means you have to rely on low range, manual locking hubs (auto but with manual override), matching tracks front and rear and a rear locking differential to get you through the tricky bits. It was a nice change of pace to rely on mechanical, rather than silicone-based support. There’s no hill descent control, so you have to rely on compression. Luckily, the gear ratios are perfectly suited to the task. First is perfect for crawling up and over, while second is completely suited to everything in between.  As far as climbing up is concerned, you simply feed the throttle until it starts moving again. And when the back wheels start spinning pointlessly, you engage the diff lock and try again. What a novel concept. Well, these days at least.

It’s not great at all in the city (the blind spot created by the positioning of the spare wheel is one major city-bound gripe), but what a joy it is when you break free from those confines and show it a piece of gravel road or rough 4×4 track.
It’s wonderfully old school in the sense that it forces you to sit back and actively drive it. It comes equipped with a host of nothingness, which improves the off-road experience by a huge margin. You also have to look at it and see all the possibility. It would be possible to take the cattle rails off and fit a canopy and tent. Imagine the overland experiences two people could have…

Engine 2 953cc, four-cylinder turbocharged diesel
Power 110kW @ 3 500r/min
Torque 371Nm @ 1 800r/min
Gearbox Five-speed manual
Drivetrain Part-time four-wheel drive, with low-range transfer case
Driving aids ABS, rear differential lock
Ground clearance 205mm
Fuel tank 95 + 80 litres
Average consumption 11.3l/100km
Range 1 548km
Maintenance plan Optional extra
Price R554 900