Over the past 10 years, the Mitsubishi L200 and Nissan Navara have been two of the best-selling pickups in the UK. A new generation of both models has been launched in the last 12 months, with the respective manufacturers claiming far greater levels of comfort, refinement, practicality and efficiency.
However, which one has what it takes to come out on top? We pitch the flagship trim level of each model, the L200 Barbarian and Navara Tekna, together in our gruelling head-to-head test…
Both vehicles have a long history serving farmers, construction firms and other demanding industries in the UK for almost 30 years, which means they are no strangers to hard graft. The Navara can trace its heritage back to the Nissan D21 pickup which hit UK dealerships in 1986, while the L200 has kept its same name since its launch in 1988.
Most the early sales were made up of single-cabs and even chassis-cabs and were as comfortable to drive as a Grey Fergie. Changes in the tax laws at the turn of the millennia opened pickup trucks to the lifestyle sector, and it’s a telling sign that neither manufacturer is offering a single-cab.
In the cab
These two vehicles are firmly targeting the lucrative lifestyle sector, and the Barbarian and Tekna are the most luxury trim levels. In terms of layout and dashboard design, both vehicles have opted for the smart and functional black with chrome detailing,
The heated and six-way adjustable seats on the L200 are the more comfortable and more accommodating with legroom, as it has the longest cab in the class. The visibility is far better on the L200 (the view is obscured on the NP300 due to the very bonnet) although the NP300 has more storage spaces.
Both vehicles are similarly specced, and come with fully-adjustable heated leather seats, keyless entry and ignition, dual-zone climate control, cruise-control with speed limiter, reversing camera with sensors and a seven-inch touchscreen display with steering-mounted controls and Bluetooth, USB and auxiliary connectivity.
There are slight differences, however. The L200 comes with blue ‘Barbarian’ LED lights in the foot well, while the NP300 gets the new around-view monitor, which gives an aerial-view of the vehicle which is useful when parking in tight spaces.
At the business end, the NP300 Navara emerges as the clear winner. The load bed measures 1,578mm long by 1,560mm wide (and 1,130mm between the wheelarches) compared the L200’s 1,470mm square (1,085mm between the wheelarches) – which makes it one of the smallest load beds in its class.
Very little separates the two in terms of payload (1,052kg for the NP300 and 1,050kg for the L200), although the NP300 is capable of towing 3.5 tonnes compared to the L200’s meagre 3.1 tonnes.
On the road
The Navara is powered by a 2.3-litre (188hp/450Nm) which has powered Nissan, Renault and Vauxhall vans since 2010, while the L200 features a newly-developed 2.4-litre (176hp/400Nm) engine.
Despite the lesser output, the L200 feels a lot quicker off the mark and will outperform the Navara in a 0 to 62mph sprint (10.4 versus 10.8 seconds) because of the broader torque curve and lighter chassis.
It may be smaller, but the roar from Nissan’s 2.3-litre is certainly louder during acceleration but once it’s up to speed, the Navara is king. It’s more refined, there’s less road noise and the independent rear coil suspension negotiates the bumps and divots of the road a lot better.
The NP300’s steering is more direct, while the L200 tends to wallow and, at times, feels disconnected although it’s a lot lighter so, combined with the tighter turning circle, means the L200 is a lot more manoeuvrable and easier to park.
Winner: NP300 Navara
Off the road
Driving off the beaten track, the Mitsubishi L200 comes into its element. The chassis is 100kg lighter than the NP300 which means it feels more agile, although the approach (30 versus 30.4 degrees) and departure (22 versus 25.6 degrees) angles and ground clearance (205mm versus 223mm) aren’t quite as high.
The 4-wheel drive system is also better on the L200. The fly-on-the-wheel system allows you to 2WD Hi to 4WD Hi at speeds of up to 62mph, and there are two additional settings (4WD Hi with locked centre-diff and 4WD Low with locked centre-diff) for more extreme operations, while the NP300 just has three settings (2WD Hi, 4WD Hi and 4WD) but an electronic limited-slip differential (eLSD).
Total life costs
While the L200 is cheaper to buy (Nissan NP300 Navara Tekna manual £24,250 plus VAT; Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian manual £23,799 plus VAT), the NP300 Navara will work out cheaper overt the life of the vehicle.
Residual values, which has the biggest impact on total life costs, are far better on the on the NP300 Navara. Fuel economy is also superior, at 44.1mpg combined (official NEDC cycle) compared to 42.8mpg on the L200, although this is still a respectable figure.
Service intervals are twice as long on the NP300, at two years or 25,000 miles compared with one year or 12,500 miles. Both vehicles come with a five years manufacturer warranty, although this is limited to 62,500 miles on the L200 and 100,000 miles on the NP300.
Winner: NP300 Navara
The NP300 Navara and L200 are both respectable vehicles in their own right, but it’s the NP300 that runs out as winner. There are many areas where the L200 comes out on top; it boasts a more spacious cab, better visibility, tighter turning circle, its quicker off the mark and better off-road.
However, the NP300 triumphed in many of the key areas for pickup operators. It’s a lot cheaper to run with better residual values and fuel economy, the warranty has a much longer mileage limit, there is a larger load area and towing capacity and its far more comfortable to drive.
Overall winner: NP300 Navara
The Professional Pickup & 4×4 team would like to express our appreciation to Mike and the rest of the C&W Berry team at Leyland for help with loading tests and on-site photography.
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