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Japan puts diesels in pickups to boost the workhorse mileage

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The first thing a friend said to me about the new Datsun King Cab diesel truck was: "It's so quiet." Indeed, the friend bought a Volkswagen diesel-engine sedan a few months ago and says the Japanese pickup, by contrast, makes less noise. Whether it does or not, that was his impression, at least.

At cruising speed on the highway, and with the transmission in fifth gear, the Datsun diesel truck purrs gently, so much so that you can almost forget the engine is there.

Also, the King Cab, restyled along with Nissan's other pickups a year and a half ago, is cheap to run. On the highway under steady-state driving, the diesel-engine pickup will easily top 40 miles per gallon -- and even approach 45 . In city-type driving, the figures expectably fall.

The gasoline-engine version of the King Cab costs hundreds of dollars less and gives far faster response to a push on the accelerator. But over the long pull, the slower-responding diesel will save money because of the generally lower cost of diesel fuel and the better mileage to boot.

The diesel engine starts readily although it may take 20 seconds, and longer in cold weather, to get under way. If you don't want to wait for the engine to start, then the diesel is not for you.

A diesel-truck buyer has to remember that a truck is a workhorse and not a car. Thus, while the appointments are good as small trucks go, a truck is still a truck. In other words, the King Cab is poised to do a job even while ready to take you to the beach or the hills. Then the next morning it can go back to work along with the driver.

Leg room is phenomenal -- and there is plenty of space behind the seat to stow whatever you want to stow, so long as it will fit through the door.

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