The skinny: With a coil-sprung rear end, Nissans latest dual-cab Navara ute promises the on-road feel of an SUV without compromising its capabilities in the rough. That makes it even more able to fill in on family duties after a hard week as a work ute.
Vehicle Style: Dual-cab utility
Price: $39,990 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 120kW/403Nm 2.3 turbo diesel 4cyl | 6sp manual
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.6 l/100km | tested: 7.2 l/100km
At the top end of the Navara range, you could be forgiven for thinking you’d taken a seat in a highly-specced SUV. There’s some pretty luxurious features creeping into the 'once humble' dual-cab ute.
That’s all well and good, but not everyone is keen to drop $50k on a ute, particularly one that might end up a little dog-eared thanks to the rigours of hard work.
At the bottom of the range, the NP300 Navara offers the petrol 4x2 DX dual-cab at $26,490; those in search of value-buying and a diesel engine and 4x4 need to step into the RX being tested here.
Far from bare-boned though, the RX offers four doors, seating for five, plus plenty of handy features. And, in manual guise, comes in at just under $40k before on road costs. That puts it plumb in 'family car' territory.
We gave the new Navara a week of TMR hard work to see where it stood in the competitive dual-cab segment. How'd it go?
- RX standard features: Cloth seat trim, height adjustable driver’s seat, steering wheel mounted cruise control and audio buttons, tilt adjustable steering, manual air conditioning, rear seat ventilation, flip-up rear seat base, power windows, power opening rear windscreen.
- Infotainment: Six-speaker audio with CD/AM/FM/MP3 plus USB and auxiliary inputs. Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity.
- Load area dimensions: 1503mm long, 1560mm wide, 474mm depth, 1130mm between wheel wells.
Step into the Navara and the cabin is pretty sweet for a work ute, but your perspective (and intended use) may have some bearing on that.
The dash presents well, despite the hard plastics and a little too much 'shine' in places. The centre stack and the instrument cluster look as though they might have been lifted from a passenger car.
Seats are trimmed in soft velour-like cloth, which is plenty comfortable - how it will stand up to tool belts, mud, sawdust, and being used as a makeshift lunchroom, remains to be seen.
Same goes for the console lid - velour trimmed and nicely padded - but elbows could make short work of it.
As for space, there’s heaps. Up front there’s no qualms about head, shoulder, or elbow room.
In the rear there’s enough space to throw Baz, Bluey, and Boof in without starting a war. There’s decent width, plenty of headroom and enough space to set down a pair of boots.
The seat cushion can feel a little short and flat for adults, but you’ll have to cover a few miles before anyone complains.
There’s even rear air-vents to keep the crew cool. That’s a genuine rarity amongst dual-cab utes.
To help load the crew, there are pillar-mounted grab handles for the rear and the front passenger. It’s a fair step up too, so it comes in handy.
Vital stats for the tray are a length of 1503mm, width of 1560mm and depth of 474mm - between the wheel arches you’ll fit 1130mm. That’s a touch too narrow for a standard Australian pallet, but a Euro pallets will have room to spare.
ON THE ROAD
- 2.3 litre DOHC turbo-diesel 4cyl, [email protected]/[email protected]
- Six-speed manual transmission.
- Selectable 4WD with dual-range transfer case
- Independent double wishbone front suspension, five-link coil sprung rigid rear axle
- Ventilated front discs, drum brakes rear
- 16-inch steel wheels
- Payload: 1034kg (RX 4x4 manual only)
- Towing capacity: 3500kg braked, 750kg unbraked.
Navara RX is fitted with a 2.3 litre four-cylinder diesel with a single turbocharger. Head for a higher grade ST or ST-X and a more powerful twin-turbo engine is available.
The single-turbo engine provides 120kw of power at 3750rpm, and 403Nm of torque between 1500 and 2500rpm.
Keep it in the torque band and the Navara feels flexible and strong. Let revs drop off and there’s a noticeable dip in pulling power, rev it harder (above the sweet spot for peak torque) and there’s not much gain.
A six-speed manual or seven-speed auto make up the transmission choices. For this test we put the manual box under the TMR addled eye.
It’s a decent setup. The clutch is light enough to crawl through heavy traffic without much fuss, and it has a nice clear take up point - far superior to the sometimes trigger-like clutch in the Amarok.
The gearshift can be a little vague and the 'gate' doesn’t feel quite right. It is too easy to grab fifth-gear in place of third when changing from second (which drops the engine right out of its useful range).
The single turbo engine in this model also seems to be a little more 'vibey' - as in 'a bit rougher' - than its twin-turbo sibling. It certainly sounds like a diesel too, with plenty of clatter and rattle the whole way through the rev and load range.
Navara’s big point of difference though is its rear axle. It’s still a rigid axle, like the rest of the class, but dual-cab Navara models (with a tub) ride on a five-link coil sprung rear end. When the rest of the range arrives, they’ll feature a leaf-sprung rear.
That coil-sprung rear transforms the ride when unladen. It feels instantly more comfortable, less prone to 'skittering about' and a far more family-friendly proposition.
It still drives and handles like a ute for the most part, but there’s no need to carry a few bags of cement in the tub to force some civility out of the ride.
If you do chuck a couple of hundred kilos in the rear, it will settle things a touch more, but we were pleased to find the willing 2.3 litre diesel doesn’t wilt under pressure. You won’t find it struggling with an average haul in the tray.
Electrically engaged 4X4 means selecting high or low range four-wheel-drive is as simple as a twist of a dial. While we weren’t too demanding, 4x4 high was enough to get us out of some damp paddocks that would’ve had two-wheel-drive beat.
Towing capacity maxes out at 3500kg, putting the Navara on equal footing at the head of its class, along with Ranger, Colorado, BT-50, and D-Max, but ahead of Amarok and Triton by 500kg
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 35.01 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: All Navara dual-cab models come with dual front, front side impact, full-length curtain airbags, as well as a driver’s knee airbag. Electronic stability and traction control, ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and emergency brake assist are also included.
Front seatbelts are equipped with pretensioners and height adjust, all seats feature a three-point belt.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
A new Hilux and updated Ranger are both arriving soon, and should cause the Navara some sleepless nights. There’s also Colorado and Amarok, plus D-Max and BT-50, all of which offer more car-like accommodation than ever before.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Fit for the worksite, and for the family. As with the other members of the dual-cab crop, the Navara takes a step in the right direction in terms of comfort and modern features.
With a surprisingly car-like interior, the Navara is modern and well-finished in ways that really make its predecessor look out of date. The noise and vibration from the diesel engine aren’t quite up to modern standards though.
It stacks up well from a value point of view however, offers a strong suite of safety features, and, thanks to the bold chrome grille and mirrors, it’s just a set of wide wheels away from looking like a proper tough truck.
There’s no doubt the Navara RX is appealing. On the inside it offers more space and comfort than most other utes in its class.
There’s plenty of competition out there, and you the buyer stands to win. Be sure to have a good look at what’s on offer, but make certain to include the NP300 Navara on your list.
RANGE PRICING (Estimated drive-away price in brackets)
DX 2WD manual petrol dual cab - $26,490 ($29,977.00)
DX 2WD automatic petrol dual cab - $28,990 ($32,553.00)
RX 2WD manual diesel dual cab - $32,990 ($36,681.00)
RX 2WD automatic diesel dual cab - $35,490 ($39,265.00)
ST 2WD manual diesel dual cab - $38,990 ($42,873.00)
ST 2WD automatic diesel dual cab - $41,490 ($45,457.00)
ST-X 2WD manual diesel dual cab - $44,990 ($49,065.00)
ST-X 2WD automatic diesel dual cab - $47,490 ($51,649.00)
RX 4WD manual diesel dual cab - $39,990 ($43,905.00)
RX 4WD automatic diesel dual cab - $42,490 ($46,489.00)
ST 4WD manual diesel dual cab - $45,990 ($50,097.00)
ST 4WD automatic diesel dual cab - $48,490 ($52,681.00)
ST-X 4WD manual diesel dual cab - $51,990 ($56,289.00)
ST-X 4WD automatic diesel dual cab - $54,490 ($58,873.00)
Note: Nissan bases its drive-away estimates on Victorian data. Speak with your local dealer for a drive-away price specific to your region.