Off-road test: The Fight


Words and pictures by Andrew Middleton

One of only three remaining pick-ups with solid axles front and rear, the Nissan Patrol occupies a small section of the market which favours indestructibility above all else. Solid axles have been chosen for the Patrol, Defender pick-up and Land Cruiser, solely for their strength. While the rest of the automotive industry races ahead, these three bruisers have stagnated in a technological timewarp, just one step ahead of the tractors they work with. Of course, having too little technology has never been an issue for the breed, but to pass modern emissions legislation, advances must be made. The main change to 2014 Patrol is, of course, its new ZD30 engine.

For a vehicle as rugged as the Patrol, the interior isn’t of much concern; Nissan have kept the old donkey lever for the selection of 4WD and low-range. There’s an electric switch to actuate a rear diff-lock. Aircon is standard, while a front-loader sound system is optional. I do wish there was a little more space behind the seats, though – you may squeeze a leather jacket and two six packs behind the chairs, but not much more. Instead of a bench seat, there’s a large cubby-hole on top of the transmission tunnel, big enough for a GPS and portable compressor.

In keeping with the theme of ruggedness before elegance, everything is grey, and seemingly made from granite. Thankfully, the cloth seats are soft; and, even after 500 km, I didn’t feel uncomfortable or cramped in the airy cabin. Watch out in the mud, though, as light-cream carpeting will quickly show the dirt.

Along with the plastic front bumper, reminding me of a boxer’s fat bottom lip, large plastic wheel arches protect the Patrol’s paintwork. They proved to be extremely tough: while I ground my way along degraded trails, I was extremely thankful for the bumpers’ unpainted finish. In such thorny conditions, a Land Cruiser’s painted front bumper would have been scratched beyond reckoning.

Though the Nissans’ bumpers might be among the toughest around, it was sad to note that both the Cruiser and Patrol have single-skinned load bays. This means that if you dent the load bay sidewall from the inside, bumps will appear on the outside as well. By comparison, so-called leisure bakkies like Nissan’s Navara or Toyota’s Hilux, have double-skinned load bays all round. Luckily, the Patrol’s bay is rubberised as standard, which should provide some measure of protection; cattle rails are an optional extra – farming is the clear intent here.

Both the Cruiser and Patrol offer similar cargo areas (2 150 x 1 800 mm for the Patrol and 2 235 x 1 600 mm for the Cruiser), and an almost identical load capacity of just under 1 100 kg. Although even rarer than the Nissan Patrol, Land Rover’s High Capacity pickup can carry slightly more weight than either Japanese bakkie, despite being narrower and riding on more comfortable coil springs.

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