NISSAN NAVARA REVIEW
Vehicle Style: 4x4 Dual-cab Ute
Price: $60,990, $64,990 (with optional Premium Option Pack)
Fuel Economy (claimed): 9.5 l/100km
Fuel Economy (tested): 11.3 l/100km
It’s the cornerstone of Nissan’s local range, the Navara. The ST-X 550, which sits at the top of the range, comes with a super grunty 3.0 litre turbodiesel V6 packed under the bonnet.
This is one muscled-up truck. With a stout 550Nm of peak torque and a 3000kg tow capacity, it’s got a lot more brawn than its four-cylinder stablemates. It’s also more refined, thanks to the smooth V6 and seven-speed automatic.
Its main handicap however is the pricetag. At $60k-plus, it’s priced substantially higher than the newer competitors from Ford and Mazda, the Ranger and BT-50.
Quality: It’s a work ute, so hard plastics feature prominently. It’s not to the detriment of cabin ambience though, as the Spanish-built Navara’s interior is screwed together tightly, and the dash plastics are finely textured.
All switchgear feels solid, and the sat-nav controls are pinched from the 370Z. The leather upholstery has a supple premium feel, and the steering wheel is also leather-bound.
Comfort: There’s no reach adjustment for the steering column, but that’s not unusual in the dual-cab ute segment.
Having power adjustable and heated front seats is a plus (part of the Premium Option Pack), and the tall seating position affords good visibility.
The front backrests have nicely contoured bolsters, and adjustable lumbar support. The rear bench, on the other hand, offers little lateral support thanks to its flat cushioning, however there’s room to seat three abreast.
Equipment: As standard, the Navara ST-X 550 is equipped with dual-zone climate control, cruise control, Bluetooth, auxilliary audio input, six-disc CD stacker, hard tonneau cover, foglamps, privacy glass and 17-inch alloy wheels.
Our test car was fitted with the Premium Option Pack. This adds sat-nav, electrically adjustable seats, iPod connectivity, a DVD player, 9.3GB of onboard music storage, premium Bose speakers (including a subwoofer under the back seat) and a reversing camera.
Storage: Aside from being able to tow 3.0 tonnes braked (750kg without trailer brakes), the ST-X 550 has a hefty payload of 909kg; the tray measures 1511mm long, 1560mm wide and 457mm deep. The standard fibreglass tonneau-cover however is heavy and cumbersome (we’d remove it).
Inside, there are netted storage trays beneath the rear bench, and the seat-squab flips up for bigger items.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: It’s the buckets of torque, all 550Nms available from just 1750rpm that defines the ST-X 550. And power, topping out at 170kW, isn’t too shabby either.
Squeeze the throttle and the Navara accelerates smoothly and swiftly, with a turn of speed that’s impressive for a 4x4 work ute. There’s a small amount of turbo lag, but not as pronounced as in smaller-capacity turbodiesels.
The smooth-shifting seven-speed auto is also good; it can be operated in manual mode and has more than enough ratios to cover everything from towing to highway driving.
It has the engine working a little harder in urban driving than we expected (it won’t shift up into higher gears at lower speeds, even in manual mode; designed no doubt to protect the life of the transmission) and fuel economy around town suffers.
Our testing returned an average of fuel consumption of 11.3 l/100km - 1.8 l/100km higher than Nissan’s claim.
Refinement: The 3.0 litre turbodiesel V6 was originally designed for Nissan’s (and Infiniti’s) high-end passenger cars - it’s exceptionally refined as a result with none of the clatter and vibration that you normally expect from a turbodiesel work ute.
Suspension: An independent front wishbone suspension is coupled with a live rear axle; it’s commercial-fare but on-road comfort and bump absorption is generally quite good. Typically, the back feels a little loose when there’s no load in the tray.
Braking: We didn’t test the brakes under full load, but they performed well during some prolonged downhill use and pedal-feel remained smooth and consistent.
Off Road: The Navara ST-X 550, like the rest of the D40 4x4 range, gets a dual-range transfer case with adjustment between 4x2, 4x4 and 4x4 low-range modes via a rotary dial.
There are no mechanically-locking differentials, but Nissan’s VDC system compensates by braking individual wheels when they lose traction, sending drive to the wheels with more grip. It works well in the real world and it’s smooth intervention doesn’t produce unwanted driveline shock.
What doesn’t work as well as it should off road is the transmission’s manual mode. On steep descents in low range, it will frequently upshift even when well short of redline - potentially dangerous when you want to control your rate of descent via engine braking.
ANCAP rating: 3 Star
Safety features: Front, front side and curtain airbags are standard, along with three-point seatbelts, ABS, EBD, brake assist, traction control and stability control.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: 3 years/100,000 kilometres
Service costs: Under Nissan’s capped price service scheme, standard services cost between $290 and $445, with servicing intervals of 6 months/10,000km. The scheme covers the first six years or 120,000km of the Navara’s life.
The first major service is due at 24 months/40,000km and costs roughly $930, while the next major service is scheduled for 48 months/80,000km and costs $1010.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY:
Ford Ranger Wildtrak 4x4 Double Cab 3.2 TDCi automatic ($59,390) - The Nissan has the new Ranger Wildtrak beaten for power and torque, but the Ford sets a new standard for the segment, has more equipment and also comes with a locking rear-differential. (see Ranger reviews)
Volkswagen Amarok TDI 400 Ultimate ($58,490): Volkswagen’s Amarok is good, but is let down by the unavailability of an automatic transmission. On the plus side, it’s got excellent on-road dynamics and a sizable tray. (see Amarok reviews)
Mazda BT50 3.2 GT Dual Cab automatic ($50,810) - Mazda’s all-new BT-50 shares a lot with the Ford Ranger, including its 147kW/470Nm 3.2 litre turbodiesel engine.
It might be lacking some grunt compared to the Navara 550, but the BT-50 makes up for it by having an equipment list that’s just as generous while costing nearly $15,000 less. (see BT-50 reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Thanks to the muscular turbodiesel V6, the Nissan Navara ST-X 550 is an impressive drive. And that stump-pulling torque makes it an ideal tow vehicle.
However, as enticing as the engine is, you pay a hefty premium for it. The range-topping Ford Ranger and Mazda BT-50 have equipment lists that are just as impressive as the Nissan’s, but both cost significantly less.
The Mazda in particular is exceptional value, and, with a maximum towing capacity 350kg higher than the Navara, it’s a hard one to go past - if you can ignore its polarising styling.