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Forbidden fruit: Nissan’s NP300 Navara blurs the line between truck and crossover

The current Nissan Frontier has soldiered on virtually unchanged since the 2005 model year, but Nissan did recently unveil a new midsize truck. The NP300 Navara went on sale in certain Asian markets last year. Now, it’s coming to Europe, though U.S. buyers will still get the same old Frontier.

The Navara features much more car-like styling than any truck currently sold in the U.S. Nissan is hoping to blend the pickup with its crossover lineup, and even claims the ride and handling reflect the more civilized character of a crossover as well. Both extended-cab and crew-cab models will be offered in Europe.

However, European buyers will only get one engine choice. It’s a 2.3-liter diesel engine which produces either 158 horsepower, or 187 hp. Transmission options include a six-speed manual and seven-speed automatic, and both rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive are available.

Nissan has toyed with putting a diesel engine in the U.S.-spec Frontier, even building prototype trucks with a 2.8-liter four-cylinder from Cummins, which also supplies the new 5.0-liter V8 for the 2016 Titan XD full-size truck. General Motors also recently introduced diesels for its Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon midsize trucks.

The Navara also includes a decent amount of tech features, such as Nissan’s AroundView Monitor camera system and NissanConnect telematics service and app suite. Other notable features include automated emergency braking, hill descent control, and parking sensors.

When the Frontier was last redesigned, trucks were still thought of primarily as work vehicles. Over the past decade, though, manufacturers have more fully embraced their potential to be both simple tools and alternatives to sedans and crossovers. Many of the newest trucks can be had with as many convenience features as any other type of vehicle.

Nissan seems to have moved in that direction with the NP300 Navara, although it’s unclear exactly what the Japanese firm has planned for the next Frontier. That truck had better arrive soon, though, because the previously moribund midsize segment is springing back to life.

The redesigned GM twins mean Nissan can no longer rest on its laurels. The Toyota Tacoma also got a significant update for the 2016 model year, so the ball really is in Nissan’s court.

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