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New Car Review

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SEE ALSO: Nissan Buyer's Guide


by Tom Hagin


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 14,149
     Price As Tested                                    $ 15,714
     Engine Type                             2.4 Liter I4 w/MPI*
     Engine Size                                 146 cid/2389 cc
     Horsepower                                   134 @ 5200 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               154 @ 3600 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  116.1"/65.0"/190.0"
     Transmission                              Five-speed manual
     Curb Weight                                     2945 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  15.9 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                     P215/70R14
     Brakes (F/R)                                  Disc/drum-ABS
     Drive Train                   Front-engine/rear-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                        Four-passenger/two-door
     Domestic Content                                 30 percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            21/26/24
     0-60 MPH                                       11.5 seconds
     Payload                                         1400 pounds
     Towing Capacity                                 3500 pounds
     * Multipoint fuel injection

The Nissan pickup, redesigned ten years ago, still competes well in a compact pickup world filled with restyled products. Where other makers have changed their vehicles apparently just for the sake of change, the Nissan soldiers on with respectable sales figures. It can haul furniture, yet transport two comfortably to the movies. For a reasonable price, it can be trimmed with most of the extras truck buyers want.

The Smyrna, Tennessee-built hauler is offered seven ways: four two-wheel-drive models (base, XE Regular Cab, XE King Cab and uplevel SE King Cab) and three 4X4s (XE regular and King Cab, and SE King Cab).

OUTSIDE - Although its styling is dated, the Nissan pickup has been well accepted for a decade. So until a new design is ready (perhaps the shape found on the new Pathfinder?), Nissan has elected to leave well enough alone. Straight lines and creases, along with snubbed ends, make up its exterior features. And unlike the competition, which integrates car-like styling in their new products, the Nissan unmistakably announces it's a pickup. Our XE King Cab tester used Nissan's popular Value Truck Package, which features a chrome grille, bumpers, windshield trim and outside mirrors, along with a rear step bumper and a one-piece sliding rear window. Also part of the Package are alloy wheels and larger tires, along with subdued bodyside graphics.

INSIDE - Inside is where Nissan's passenger car interior designs have influenced its pickup line. A driver's airbag now rests inside the steering wheel. The Value Truck Package includes interior niceties such as a more powerful AM/FM cassette stereo with four speakers, tachometer, air conditioning, trip odometer and variable speed intermittent wipers, as well as a visor vanity mirror, locking glove box and map lights. XE King Cab models come standard with reclining bucket seats up front, and tiny fold-down jump seats in back. Its center console now features dual cupholders, and a small integrated storage compartment, while the hand brake pulls from the easy-to-use console.

ON THE ROAD - All Nissan trucks for 1996 are powered by a 2.4 liter inline four cylinder engine, which gives 134 horsepower and 154 lb-ft of torque. It's been reliable, and certainly powerful enough for most applications, but Nissan truck fans will sorely miss the 3.0 liter V6 that was dropped from the line. The four cylinder engine uses a single overhead camshaft, and four valves per cylinder. Its performance is peppy and acceleration is quick, but when we loaded its tail with weight, the little engine was put to the task. Tow ratings have dropped as well, from the maximum 5000-pound rating of the '95 model, to 3500 pounds with the four cylinder. Its standard five-speed manual transmission is simple to operate, and never missed a shift. A four- speed automatic transmission can be ordered, which takes the work from changing gears but at the cost of a bit of flexibility and power.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Underneath, the Nissan Pickup is pure truck: a solid rear axle supported by leaf springs, and an independent front suspension with torsion links and a stabilizer bar. This no-nonsense approach offers the ruggedness needed for light-duty work, with enough softness designed in to protect from kidney-jarring jolts when the bed is empty. It can carry 1400 pounds, including passengers, which is adequate for most uses. Braking is accomplished with front discs and rear drums, while all models feature rear-wheel anti-lock braking system (ABS). Braking distances were good, with little or no fade even with a maximum load onboard. It is certainly a capable hauler, and easily handled the load we put in its tail. It's still stylish after all these years, but has its work cut out for it in the face of recently stiffened competition, many of whom offer dual airbags and four-wheel ABS, along with rounded, aerodynamic shapes.

SAFETY - Along with a driver's airbag, the Nissan Pickup is equipped with rear ABS, steel side-impact beams, and three-point seat belts.

OPTIONS - The Value Package, offered on XE models, is a $995 option, but well worth the price. Its destinations charge adds $420, while California buyers will find extra emission equipment that costs $150.