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Nissan Interstar 3.0 dCi 2004 Van Review

Nissan Interstar 3.0 dCi 2004 Van Review

The 2004 Nissan Interstar, with its heavyweight 3.0-litre diesel engine, is giving the Japanese maker a great deal of clout at the big end of the market.

If any butchers, bakers or florists are happening to read this article, I might as well say here and now that there is nothing of interest for you - sorry!

Nissan's mighty Interstar, with its whopping 3.0-litre common rail diesel powerplant, its long wheelbase and medium high roof which will swallow up to 12.6 cubic metres of cargo, is built for heavy duty fleets. These vehicles will be seen thrashing up and down the motorways of Britain, lugging anything up to 1,540kg and showing a clean pair of heels to the rest of the traffic. When it comes to 3.5-tonne panel vans, they don't come much bigger than this, unless you opt for the high roof version which will hold 13.9 cubic metres.

Nissan hasn't offered this mighty vehicle for long. Until the company's takeover by Renault, its light commercial vehicle line-up was less than complete. But thanks to the French link-up, Nissan now has one of the biggest ranges of offerings in the business, from the Cabstar and Pickup, through the Interstar (a re-badged Renault Master/ Vauxhall Movano) and Primastar (a re-badged Renault Trafic/Vauxhall Vivaro) to the Kubistar (a re-badged Renault Kangoo). All that is missing is a microvan. Maybe we will one day see a Dinkistar based on the Nissan Micra.

Back with our test vehicle, the Interstar comes with the usual range of options, such as gross vehicle weights between 2.8 tonnes and 3.5 tonnes, three wheelbase options between 3,078mm and 4,078mm and three roof heights - standard, medium and high. Engine offerings are 1.9dCi, 2.5dCi and ZD30, the same engine as offered in the Nissan Patrol. Thus our test model sits at the top end of the range and comes in at £22,117 ex-VAT. (Prices current as at Nov 2004)

It is the type of vehicle that is becoming increasingly popular as anything bigger requires a tachograph, which in itself will present a whole fresh set of problems.

Outside

The Nissan Primastar might not be one of the most aesthetically pleasing vans on the roads today but when you get to this size and weight, vans tend to be slabs and nothing more. But it isn't ugly by any means and recently the van's makers treated it to a few tweaks such as different-shaped headlights, which gave it more of a 'family' look.

It is certainly top marks to the Interstar for all-round protection. There are large plastic bumpers at the front and rear, huge rubbing strips down each side and plastic protectors for each wheel arch. These vans usually get more than their fair share of knocks and scrapes during their fleet lives, so this excellent set of protectors should keep them looking smart right up to disposal time.

Our test model came in a rather fetching metallic plum colour, which turned out to be a £300 ex-VAT option.

Inside

Climbing aboard is by remote plip locking and the cabin proves light and airy yet chunky and businesslike too. First point of interest is the driver's seat - it's a dream. It is hard and supportive and has plenty of length in the squab and at the back. You would think designing a seat would be simple enough but it's amazing how many manufacturers get it wrong.

Not only is the driver's seat comfortable but the two passenger ones are as well. Once again, many van manufacturers scrimp on the passenger seats and provide horrible hard objects that would feel more at home in a city bus. The driver's seat adjusts for rake and height but the steering column doesn't move. There is no need for it to, however, as  a comfortable position should be easily obtainable for any height and weight.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of cubby holes, including large cola bottle bins in each door and there is a handy holder for sheaves of A4 paper in the dashboard's centre, along with a document clip. In the roof there are grab handles both on the passenger side and in the centre so the occupants don't get too matey with each other on fast bends, while there are coat hooks on both sides which could double up as Chinese takeaway holders - a small but important addition.

In SE format, the Interstar comes with a CD player and ABS brakes as standard, along with a driver's airbag, electric windows and mirrors and a reversing sensor. Optional extras include a passenger airbag at £220, a climate pack featuring air conditioning and heat reflective windscreen at £750, a technology pack with sat-nav, pre-telephone wiring and cruise control at £1,600 and a glazing pack with glass bulkhead and rear doors at £200.

In the back

Entry into the rear in standard vans is by a single sliding door on the nearside or unglazed rear doors that open to 180 degrees. A second sliding door can be bought for an extra £300 while 270 degree rear doors cost an extra £225. The cargo area of our test van didn't have any protection and was already showing signs of scuffing and scraping. Any disposal expert will tell you that plywood cladding is a must. It will pay for itself and more at selling time when your van's rear end will be revealed to be sparking and spotless. Our long wheelbase model featured eight load lashing eyes in the floor, along with two lights which really weren't man enough to light up the cavernous interior. It's a fault many larger panel vans suffer from.

Meanwhile, the spare wheel is mounted over the nearside wheel arch, thus taking up cargo space.

On the road

The Interstar's 1.9-litre and 2.5-litre engines come courtesy of Renault - and are both cracking units. But this big, powerful 3.0-litre giant is Nissan's own and what a wonderful unit it is. It doesn't rattle and roar in the morning like old style diesel units used to, but its common rail technology gives a quite meaty thrum that promises enough power and more even under full load.

At 136bhp and 236lb-ft of torque it isn't the most powerful van on the road - that honour goes to the Volkswagen LT 158, with 158bhp and 244lb-ft of torque. But those extra cubes in the Nissan seem to give it a quiet air of superiority that the VW lacks.

The Interstar's steering wheel is almost horizontal, unlike in some vans which have the wheel tilted at an angle to give a more car-like feel. Nissan no doubt feels that the kind of driver using this van will be a professional who is well used to commercial vehicles. The dash-mounted gearstick snicks into place smoothly and clutch and power steering are both nicely weighted.

In fact, once out on the road, the sheer bulk of this van can be largely forgotten. That standard reversing sensor is a Godsend at parking time as this vehicle is no small beast. Quite often it means you don't need a banksman to help you into those awkward little spaces. There are six gears to choose from and such is the huge amount of torque on offer that the driver can almost pick any gear at any speed. Meanwhile, oil changes only come once every 24,000 miles, glowplugs are rated to last for 120,000 miles and timing chains need to be replaced only at 240,000 miles, making for low running cost figures.

Verdict

The Nissan Interstar is a star among heavyweights and will bring a smile to any driver's face, with its powerful motor and upmarket interior. If I was a van fleet operator choosing this vehicle my only question would be 'Can I get away with one of the smaller engines to save cash?' For example, the 2.5-litre unit in this size of vehicle offers either 100bhp or 115bhp at £19,717 or £20,917 to the 3.0-litre's £22,117.

(All prices current as at Nov 2004)

Download the Nissan Interstar brochure.