The Nissan 1400 bakkie is as entrenched in South African history as the Khoi and the San, having helped basically every sole proprietor artisan go about his business over the last 40 years. When production ceased at the Rosslyn plant in 2008, it no doubt left a hole in South Africa’s light commercial vehicle market.
Unsurprisingly in the years leading up to the end of its production life, the little 1400 was being swamped with more modern and effective offerings from Ford, Fiat and Opel (later rebranded Chev).
However Nissan, in their alliance with Renault, was merely regrouping and reorganising to re-enter the market in 2009 with a worthy replacement in the form of the NP200. While the more eagle-eyed reader would correctly identify the NP200 as a Dacia, you must of course remember that Dacia vehicles were born out of communist Eastern Europe – not a place for the feint hearted, nor a place for pansy light commercial vehicles. These things are built to last a nuclear winter.
Initially launched with a 1.6 litre petrol motor, Nissan later introduced a 1.5 litre turbo diesel, producing 63kW and a whopping 200 torques. It offers sprightly performance, but more importantly plenty of load hauling ability, while on the flip side the little oil burner sips its poison rather slowly, with consumptions figures under 6 litres/100km – perfect for keeping those costs down.
The NP200 is not without it quirks however. Ergonomically the Nissan’s interior is a conundrum of ill-considered layouts and off kilter controls, most notable of which is the steering wheel that sits at a bus-driver-like angle, along with electric window and mirror controls situated along the centre consol.
The underside is also a little unconventional. Having steered well clear of the now antiquated use of rear-wheel drive in light commercial vehicles, the NP200 also avoids the use of leaf sprung rear suspension, opting for a more passenger-car-like arrangement. Boasting an 800kg carrying ability it’s clear that the coil springs can handle a load without much hassle. The NP200 also flaunts the longest load area and the highest volume in its class, making it the ideal vehicle for any reasonable daily delivery or transport needs.
Outwardly I believe the best description for the NP200 would be honest. Its design is simple, with clean lines and no flash, just like its predecessor, revealing more about the little Nissan’s nature than you might imagine. Aside from the aforementioned quirks, Nissan has thankfully not subjected occupants of the NP200 to the comforts of a Siberian coal mine, but instead offer a number of niceties that aren’t always the norm for a commercial vehicle.
I fear that in the modern motoring era, the likelihood of any vehicle’s life spanning across generations is unlikely – at least not in its original format. However that does not mean the NP200 has failed its 1400 forefather. There is much to be said for its understated and assuming replacement, something that has been reflected rather positively in its sales figures over the past 4 years – a trend that will no doubt continue based on the merits of the little diesel.
Price: R 196 500
Engine: 1461cc turbo-diesel
Power (kW): 63
Torque (Nm): 200
Consumption (l/100km): 5.3 (claimed)
First published in Autodealer KZN