The skinny: Nissan’s new NP300 Navara takes a slightly different tack: the coil-sprung rear suspension, neat lines and SUV-like interior dresses it up in a smarter, classier suit.
But it’s still the worker. With a segment-matching 3.5 tonne tow rating (braked trailer), a stout 2.3 litre diesel punching out 450Nm of torque, and a hard-working 4X4 system down below, it can still wield a shovel when asked.
Vehicle style: Dual-cab 4X4 Ute
Engine/trans: 2.3 litre intercooled twin turbo diesel, DOHC | 7spd Automatic
Power: 140kW @ 3750rpm | Torque: 450Nm @ 1500-2500rpm
Fuel Consumption (Claimed): 7.0 l/100km (Automatic) | (Tested): 9.1 l/100km
Unless you have been living under a rock you would know Australia is experiencing a commercial vehicle boom: three in the top ten models in July 2015 being utility vehicles, all built in Thailand.
Nissan is seated at that party with its new NP300 Navara, built in – you guessed it – a brand new Thailand plant.
Officially the D23 Navara, Nissan has confusingly decided to name it the NP300 Navara in Australia.
This introduces a name long used in other markets, and quite likely a subtle move by Nissan Australia to distance it from the previous D22 and Spanish-built D40 offerings.
NP stands for Nissan Pickup; why this name was chosen in Australia where we call a ute a ute is a strange choice, almost as baffling as Ford trying to convince us its Ranger is a “truck”.
On top of that, the market is awash with new models like the recently released Mitsubishi Triton and Ford Ranger, and, coming shortly, the Toyota Hilux.
- ST-X Standard features: Dual-zone climate control, power windows and mirrors, cruise control, remote central locking with smart key push-button start, eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, reverse camera and reversing sensors, electric sunroof.
- Infortainment: 7-inch colour touchscreen with steering wheel controls, satellite navigation, smart phone integration, Bluetooth hands-free phone with steering wheel controls, Bluetooth audio streaming
Like most of the recent dual-cab offerings, Nissan has tried hard to make the interior feel more like sitting in a car rather than a 4WD commercial vehicle.
And, while the Navara greets occupants with acres of hard black plastic, the effect is softened in the ST-X with leather accents on the seats and steering wheel, as well as the shifter and handbrake.
Heated front seats are a welcome addition on cold mornings and Nissan has worked to improve the comfort of the seats.
The usual short squab, once common in utes, has been eliminated, replaced with a generously-padded base allowing body weight to be distributed across the seat.
You’ll appreciate this on longer journeys (and afterwards appreciate the reduced numbness). The steering wheel is of a good diameter and thickness, however it lacks telescopic (reach) adjustment and felt too close for me to get comfortably settled.
Ergonomically, things otherwise work well with controls mostly well-placed and the 7-inch touchscreen clear and easily used.
Standard sat-nav is welcome, but a reasonable expectation at this price – also welcome is the reversing camera (and sensors).
If any adults draw the short straw and get a back-row seat, they will be pleased to find that rear head and legroom is adequate and with a seating position not too upright.
Any misplaced boots will make short work of the rear cupholder though. In an apparent afterthought, Nissan has secured it to the floor, right at the feet of the rear occupants.
A rear power-sliding window is fitted for carrying long items or to allow easy access to the tray (which we really like).
- Engine: 2.3-litre intercooled twin turbo-diesel 4cyl DOHC
- Power/Torque: [email protected] / [email protected]
- Transmission: 7-speed automatic with manual shift mode
- Dual range 4x4 with electronic ‘shift-on-the-fly’ 4WD selection
- Independent double-wishbone front suspension; multi-link coil sprung rear
- Ventilated front discs with twin-piston calipers, rear drum brakes
- 18” alloy wheels
- Load area: 1503mm(l) x 1560mm(w) x 474mm(h)
- Payload: 930kg (ST-X Automatic)
- Towing Capacity: 3500kg (braked)
The new Navara sees the introduction of a downsized diesel engine, shared with Nissan’s alliance partner Renault.
The ST-X has only one engine choice, the YS23DDTT, a 2.3-litre twin-turbo unit that promises better fuel economy, more power and better NVH levels compared to the previous YD25 motor.
Torque remains unchanged at 450Nm, however arrives 500rpm earlier and stays flat until 2500rpm.
The ST-X 550 V6 turbo-diesel has been dropped from the range.
On the road the YS23 delivers a solid kick of torque right at 1500rpm, particularly noticeable in lower gears, the seven-speed auto smoothly shifting up and keeping the engine at peak torque.
Give the accelerator a firmer push however and the transmission holds gears too long – a criticism levelled at the seven-speed gearbox in the previous ST-X 550 Navara – the motor protesting with increasing clatter.
Initial steering feel is slightly heavy and vague off-centre. When first behind the wheel, you may find yourself compensating for this vagueness (as I did) by winding on more and more steering angle when cornering.
It takes some more kilometres in the driver’s seat to become accustomed to the mildly indirect response.
The test vehicle also suffered from a slightly spongy brake pedal which didn’t inspire much confidence, with 4-wheel disc brakes sadly not standard dual-cab ute equipment in 2015.
The NP300’s party trick over competitors is undeniably the multi-link rear suspension.
The coil-sprung rear end certainly reduces the bouncy ride - notorious with leaf sprung utes – while also increasing off-road capability.
Five-link rear suspension is a first for the dual-cab ute segment and this feature alone promises to lure buyers to the Nissan.
Off road, the Navara tested well in boggy sand dune tracks despite the 1921kg (ST-X auto) mass. It barely raises a sweat in loose sand, the transmission holding gears and letting the sequential turbos pull the ute out of trouble.
Steep and soft inclines are also easily conquered without a need to reduce pressures in the Toyo H/T tread.
However, before traversing a churned-up bowl in the dunes we did stop and reduce the tyre pressures on the NP300 to 20psi. Then, with low-range selected, the ST-X made short work of the mire before subduing another dune hill.
The NP300 is equipped with the ubiquitous Nissan shift-on-the-fly 4WD dial which allows changes into 4WD High up to 100km/h.
Despite its flat-bottomed rear diff and a respectable clearance figure of 228mm, the biggest limitation to the NP300s off-road ability is its ground clearance, with the front end bottoming out regularly on the dune tracks.
Approach and departure angles on the ST-X are 32.4 and 26.7 degrees respectably, any buyers with off-road aspirations will do well to install an aftermarket raised height suspension kit and higher performing off-road tyres.
ANCAP RATING: 5-Stars
Safety Equipment: ABS with electronic brake force distribution, traction control, vehicle dynamic control with active brake limited slip differential, brake assist, three-point seatbelts on all seats with front pre-tensioners.
The ST-X is equipped with seven airbags including a driver’s side knee airbag, LED daytime running lights and auto LED headlights which offer better visibility and longer service life. To help on undulating terrain the Navara also has hill-start assist, hill descent control and a locking rear differential.
HOW IT COMPARES:
The diesel dual-cab utility market is a crowded one, and there's no shortage of rivals ranging in price from the ultra-cheap Indian Tata Xenon and Great Wall V200, to the pricey Ford Ranger and Volkswagen Amarok. Here are some of the better options:
- Mitsubishi Triton
- Ford Ranger
- Mazda BT-50
- Volkswagen Amarok
- Holden Colorado
- Toyota HiLux (new model launching October)
VERDICT | OVERALL
The new NP300 Navara 4x4 ST-X is loaded with features at a price that places it mid-pack among rivals. But with the Triton Exceed so similar for features and capability, yet so much cheaper than the ST-X, it loses half a star,
However, the NP300 Navara's five-link rear suspension offers buyers a clear-cut difference in this segment. Certainly, you will notice that the all-coil suspension removes the jittery handling and nervous rear common to most commercial utes.
It also improves on-road comfort and extends the off-road capability of the NP300.
With a motor that delivers plenty of low-down grunt, a well-equipped and comfortable cabin coupled with good payload figures, the NP300 Navara ST-X 4x4 successfully blurs the line between ute and car.
In many ways, it feels more SUV than ute. That said, it has no trouble getting dirty on an off-road trail, nor carrying a load when needed.