AS I WRITE, WE’VE JUST WRAPPED-UP A SUMMER-LIKE LONG WEEKEND. AND, MAYBE BECAUSE WE’RE DRIVING THE 2016 NISSAN NAVARA KING CAB ST-X, WE’RE ASTONISHED AT THE NUMBER OF TRADIES HEADING BACK INTO TOWN IN PICKUPS JUST LIKE THIS.
But, instead of tools and Bobcat in tow, with surfboards poking out of the tub or dirt bikes or jet-skis tucked in behind. You’ll see it any weekend, in fact.
The ramifications from those observations are multiple, but here are some to mull-over. Firstly, new car sales figures confirm that tradies are buying new utes and pickups in big numbers.
Secondly, a pickup with good performance gets you into those recreation activities faster and in reasonable comfort. Thirdly, nearly all come with a lusty powerplant that can tow three or more tonne with relative ease.
And lastly, the combination of work and play means many buyers are prioritising luxury and refinement, and going for the up-specced models (priced close to what you’d otherwise pay for a premium sedan).
So, would a ute or pickup suit your work and play lifestyle? Perhaps Nissan has the answer for you in the smooth and capable NP300 Nissan Navara King Cab.
Vehicle Style: King-Cab Pickup
Price: $48,990 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 140kW/450Nm 2.3 litre 4cyl twin-turbocharged diesel | 7sp automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 7.0 l/100km | tested: 10.2 l/100km
Nissan’s comprehensively-equipped all-new NP300 Navara line-up comes comparatively well-priced across the range.
The range-topping ST-X versions rival the Ford Ranger XLT and Toyota HiLux SR5 for features and creature comforts.
Originally launched in dual-cab specification only (with King Cabs and Cab Chassis versions following quite some months later), we’ve now finally managed to get behind the wheel of a King Cab in range-topping ST-X specifications.
So that means we get the YS23DDTT 2.3-litre twin-turbo diesel engine, driving through a seven-speed automatic transmission. It’s a mighty engine, and immensely smooth.
Some of the extras scored by Nissan NP300 Navara King Cab ST-X models include 18-inch alloy wheels with 255/60R18 Toyo ‘A25 Open Country’ tyres, nice ‘leather accented’ seats (fronts heated), satellite navigation, dual-zone climate-control air-conditioning, reversing camera (also in the ST model), reversing sensors, hill start assist and hill descent control.
- Standard features: ‘Leather-accented’ seats (fronts heated); satellite navigation;, climate-control air-conditioning; eight-way power adjustment for drivers’ seat; keyless entry; push-button start;
- Infotainment: Single CD player with AM/FM radio, AUX and USB/iPod connectivity and NissanConnect smartphone integration
- Cargo Bed: Floor length 1750mm; floor width 1560mm; width between wheel arches 1130mm
- Payload: 966kgs
- Towing Capacity: 3500kgs (braked) 750kgs (unbraked)
When it comes to interior style and accoutrements, the Navara ST-X ranks among the best of the current generation of pickups.
The rear seats though will be restricted to young apprentices (for short trips) or simply used for ‘mini-esky’ lunch boxes… (a full-size adult in the rear would be going bananas within one hour of motoring).
As usual, the ST-X variant scores the driver-selectable instrument display directly in line-of-sight, which can include directions from the satellite navigation (7.0-inch touchscreen to the left houses the regular sat-nav screen and audio display).
For lateral support, Navara’s front seats are amongst the best in-class but we found under-thigh support to be a tad short compared to the Ford Ranger.
And, for an all-new design, we continue to be surprised the Navara doesn’t offer reach adjustment for the steering wheel (rake only).
Where Navara ST-X scores big points is for the quality of materials used inside – and that’s a major improvement over the previous generation.
The ‘leather-accented’ seats, thick carpets and top-notch highlights confirm our comments that pickup buyers’ tastes and expectations have changed. In fact, for the quality impression and style of the accommodation, the Navara in up-spec trim feels for all the world like an SUV.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine/transmission: 2.3-litre four-cylinder twin-turbocharged diesel/seven-speed automatic
- Power/torque: 140kW at 3750rpm/450Nm between 1500-2500rpm
- Suspension: Independent double-wishbone (front); leaf springs (rear)
- Brakes: Ventilated discs (front); drums (rear)
Nissan makes a serious claim that its twin-turbocharged diesel engine is the best of the four-cylinder turbo-diesels available in this segment of the market.
We’d venture that Mitsubishi Triton’s 2.4-litre powerplant slightly shades the Nissan for refinement but the Navara’s surge from both a standing-start and mid-range (aided by that seven-speed automatic transmission) is tremendous.
It won’t leave you wanting when overtaking, and, even with a load in the tub, is untroubled by hills and long inclines.
With 140kW and 450Nm, it’s got the numbers to do the business, but it’s the combination of the characteristics of the twin-turbo (one for lower-down urge, the second adding boost to the mid-range) and the seven-speed automatic that is responsible for the Navara’s alert and responsive feel when on the move.
This is a very well-matched diesel and auto combination; vastly better and considerably more-refined than the drivetrain of the previous Navara.
At highway speeds, the 2.3 litre diesel is barely evident, with just a distant but quite appealing gravelly growl to remind you it’s there.
While the Dual Cab’s five-link coil rear suspension has raised some eyebrows in a working ute, but has nevertheless won a lot of buyers for its smoother ride, the NP300 Navar King Cab comes with a leaf-spring rear.
Out on rural roads and our off-road test route, it can be prone to jiggle on corrugations with no load in the tub, but a trail bike will have it nicely settled down.
Otherwise, the NP300 Navara King Cab does a reasonable job of soaking-up the bumps and provides more than acceptable comfort on the highway.
We can’t however rank the front-end and steering on the same level as Ford Ranger and Mazda BT50 – it’s just a bit too ‘doughy’ and imprecise.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 35.01 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Reversing camera; reversing sensors; seven airbags; ABS anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD); traction control system; Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) with Brake Limited Slip Differential (BLSD); Active Brake Limited Slip (ABLS); Brake Assist (BA); Hill Descent Control (HDC); Electronic rear differential lock.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The closest Ford Ranger model to the Navara King Cab ST-X is the XLT Super Cab; priced at $52,390 it’s $3400 more than the Nissan. As always Ford’s 3.2-litre five-cylinder is a diesel benchmark but we’re backing the Navara ST-X’s standard equipment over the Ranger.
Mazda has the BT50 XTR ‘Freestyle Cab’ smartly priced at $47,675. BT50 shares the 3.2-litre five-cylinder with its Ranger relative but you’ll need to carefully cross-reference features against the Navara ST-X to get the true value comparison.
The still-dominant Toyota HiLux enters the fray with the SR5 ‘Extra’ priced at $51,990. A HiLux is a HiLux and while the opposition has definitely closed the gap…well, it’s still mighty impressive.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
A mate who drives a twin-cab as his everyday car, put it this way: “The best pickup would have Nissan’s twin-turbo diesel engine, the interior of the HiLux and the looks and chassis of the Ford Ranger”.
Close, we’d reckon. We’d rate the Navara NP300’s interior ahead of the HiLux - but we can see where he’s heading.
The significant point from that ‘sermon from the barbeque’ is that, yes, with the twin-turbo diesel, Nissan Navara NP300 is a bolter for performance - if not refinement - and many buyers in this segment translate kilowatts and Newton-metres into load-lugging ability (and a faster trip home for surfing, fishing, dirt bike riding etc).
We weren’t too keen on the old Navara - too coarse and too many question-marks over the old 2.5 litre diesel.
But, for buying value and performance, and for the stylish interior, we rate this one a 4-star buy. The NP300 Navara King Cab is a lot of ute for your coin.
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