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Renault Alaskan pickup review - French version of the Nissan Navara

  • Our first chance to drive new Renault pickup
  • Based on Nissan NP300 Navara, only better looking
  • Plenty of promise, but UK on-sale date still TBC

At long last we have driven the Renault Alaskan pickup – but whether it will ever make it to the UK remains to be seen.

Renault Alaskan pickup review - rear view, driving in city

Our chance to try the Alaskan came at an unusual heritage event celebrating the French manufacturer’s extensive back catalogue of light commercial vehicles – and we do mean extensive, as Renault has been building LCVs for well over 100 years now.

As such, our exposure to the new pickup has so far been brief, and limited to a few miles around largely urban roads – which perhaps isn’t where most are likely to be driven. Nonetheless, the Alaskan makes a good impression, albeit an unsurprisingly familiar one…

What’s the Renault Alaskan based on?

As with the Mercedes X-Class – which we’ve also driven for the first time recently – the Renault Alaskan comes as a double cab (four doors, five seats) only and is based on the Nissan NP300 Navara.

The Navara won our Pickup of the Year gong in the 2018 Parkers New Car Awards, so the Alaskan is already off to a great start.

How has Renault changed the Alaskan compared with the Nissan Navara?

The Alaskan gets a very successful nose job on outside – clearly identifying it as a Renault, and arguably making it a more handsome pickup than its Nissan counterpart.

Renault Alaskan pickup review - front view, country lane, parked, grass layby

However, this, the tailgate and the rear light clusters are about all Renault has changed. Climb on board, and the only perceptible difference in the cabin is the Renault badge on the steering wheel – everything else about the Alaskan appears to have been directly lifted from the Navara.

We have no particular problem with this – the Navara’s cab is nice enough, and the two firms are alliance partners, after all.

Renault Alaskan pickup review - cab interior, dashboard, automatic gearbox

But it is a far cry from the amount of work Mercedes has done when turning the Navara into the X-Class, which features almost all-new exterior panelling and a complete makeover for the interior.

>> What’s the difference between the Mercedes X-Class and the Nissan Navara?

What’s the Renault Alaskan like to drive?

Funnily enough, the Alaskan’s driving experience is very much like that of the Navara. But that also means it’s among the very best in the pickup truck sector.

Renault Alaskan pickup review - rear side view, driving through countryside

Like Nissan – and Mercedes – Renault offers a choice of two 2.3-litre dCi diesel engines:

  • 163hp/403Nm turbo
  • 190hp/450Nm twin-turbo

They come with switchable four-wheel drive and a six-speed gearbox as standard, but a seven-speed automatic is optional (and generally preferable).

We’ve only driven the 190hp automatic at this stage, coincidentally exactly as per the case with the X-Class.

Being one of the most powerful in the entire pickup sector, this engine has plenty of performance, and the auto makes urban driving very much hassle free – although we did find it hunting around between gears quite a bit, and not quite as smooth as the Mercedes-tuned version.

Renault Alaskan pickup review - front view, driving on gravel road in countryside

The Alaskan’s steering is typically weighty but rather numb, while the exotic (for a pickup) multilink rear suspension design with car-like coil springs – as carried over from the Navara – makes the Renault feel precisely planted in the corners versus rivals based on more old-fashioned leaf spring technology.

In fact, we’d be giving the Renault high praise indeed if we hadn’t already driven the X-Class – which takes fundamentally the same components and wrings even better behaviour out of them.

The Alaskan still has a more obviously stumbly, shuddery pickup ride quality, for example. Yet the difference between the Mercedes’ firmer suspension settings and the softer ones of the Renault (and the Nissan) also causes the Alaskan to roll around more in the corners, and squat more noticeably when braking.

Engine noise is louder in the Renault, too. But then you’d expect the X-Class to be more comfortable and nicer to drive, given its entry-level ex-VAT price is over £27,000.

How much will the Renault Alaskan cost, then? And when will it go on sale?

Ah – we’ll just go and get the crystal ball…

Having delayed the UK launch, which was supposed happen before the end of 2017, Renault is now refusing to commit to any UK release date.

Renault Alaskan pickup review - side view, driving in city

That’s not to say the Alaskan won’t eventually go on sale here, but at the moment absolutely nothing is certain.

As such, pricing would be a finger-in-the-air affair, too. But suffice to say, Renault would be looking to be much more competitive with the mainstream, rather than take on Mercedes at the premium lifestyle end of the pickup truck sector.

Therefore, Alaskan rivals would more likely include the Ford Ranger, Toyota Hilux and Mitsubishi L200 than the VW Amarok and the X-Class.

What’s the Renault Alaskan’s load area like?

Would you believe it’s very similar to the Nissan Navara’s?

These are Renault Alaskan’s load bed dimensions:

  • Maximum load length: 1,537mm
  • Maximum load width: 1,560mmm
  • Width between the wheelarches: 1,130mm
  • Sidewall height: 474mm

Payload ratings seem to be surprisingly limited, however, ranging from 1,007kg to 1,035kg, depending on specification. We’d expect an adjustment to this if the Alaskan makes it to the UK.

Renault Alaskan pickup review - load bed, tailgate open

Like the Navara, the Alaskan is rated to tow a maximum of 3.5 tonnes. It offers the same handy C-Channel tie-down system in the load bed as well, alongside accessories such as hard top canopies and bed liners.

Verdict

Nice truck. But then, so is the Navara. And while the pickup market remains stable – and sizeable – in the UK, we can understand Renault’s reluctance to launch the Alaskan here unless it feels it is able to get the business case exactly right.

We hope it does figure something out, however, as we think it would offer British buyers another strong option, supported by Renault’s extensive dedicated Pro+ commercial vehicle network.

Also read:

>> New pickups coming soon – and recent launch round-up

>> The Parkers Vans pickup group test

>> Double cab pickups ranked by payload