IN THE WORLD OF WORKHORSE UTES, TWO THINGS MATTER MOST - THE ABILITY TO CARRY THE HEAVY LOADS REQUIRED TO GET THE JOB DONE, AND LOW COST.
Creature comforts? A supple ride? A quiet cabin? Your employees might miss them, but you sure won’t.
Enter the Nissan Navara RX 4x2. The average courier doesn’t need 4x4 hardware, plus leaving the 4x4 box unticked saves you $7000 right off the bat, putting the retail price at a reasonable $25,990.
But that’s still about $500 more than competitors like the Mazda BT-50 and Mitsubishi Triton, and quite a bit more than the evergreen Hilux single-cab 4x2 diesel. That said, it’s still cheaper than Ranger, Colorado and D-Max.
But what about what it’s like to live with? We slipped into some high-vis and spent the week behind the wheel of Nissan’s leaf-sprung load-lugger
Vehicle Style: Single-cab utility
Price: $25,990 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 120kW/400Nm 2.3 turbo diesel 4cyl | 6sp manual
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.4 l/100km | tested: 7.1 l/100km
Nissan expanded the Navara range late last year with single and King Cab variants. The single cab models are cab-chassis only, while the King Cab can be had with a tray or a proper tailgated tub. Both bodystyles are conventionally leaf-sprung.
The Navara single cab is positioned as the no-frills, job-focused member of the family, with an emphasis on load-lugging capability and little else.
In fact, the Navara NP300 RX 4x2 tested here can carry the heaviest load out of all Navara models, and its 3.5-tonne tow rating is segment-leading as well. If your business has stuff to haul, it’s the one to get.
- Standard equipment: Air conditioning, power windows (auto up/down on drivers’ side), cruise control, central locking, dusk-sensing halogen headlamps
- Infotainment: AM/FM/USB/CD audio headunit with 4 speakers, bluetooth phone/audio integration standard, with audio controls on steering wheel
- Max payload: 1362kg
It’s spartan in terms of equipment, but the Navara’s car-like interior design makes it feel a little more welcoming than the average base-grade work ute.
The seats are a velour-like microsuede that’s nicer than sticky vinyl or coarse cloth, the urethane steering wheel has a fine-grained texture and there’s carpet - rather than rubber - covering the floors.
The armrests are even upholstered and padded, and the seat cushioning is comfy - but that’s about all the luxury you get.
The controls are large and well laid out, but, like many utes, there’s no reach adjustment for the steering column. The lower part of the horn-pad also extends too far towards the rim, and we found ourselves accidentally honking the horn when twirling the wheel from lock to lock.
It’s also noisy in here. The rear bulkhead is bare steel and devoid of carpet or sound-deadening material, and a lot of driveline, exhaust and road noise makes its way into the cabin as a result.
Even at idle it’s a cacophonous environment, and it only gets louder as speed increases. Is hearing protection required at this worksite? Ask your foreman.
But forget the noise, this ute was built to carry big loads - and it’s well equipped for that job. The factory-fitted tray is well made with strong tie-down rails, fold-down sides and rugged alloy construction.
Got a pallet or two to haul? No problem, especially with the Navara RX 4x2’s useful max payload of 1362kg - the highest in the Navara range, and segment leading at its price point.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 120kW/403Nm 2.3 litre turbo diesel inline four
- Transmission: 6-speed manual.
- Suspension: Double-wishbone coil spring front, live-axle leaf spring rear
- Brakes: Ventilated disc front, drum rear
- Steering: Hydraulically assisted, 11.8m turning circle
- Towing capacity: 750kg unbraked, 3500 braked
The Navara RX’s 2.3 litre single-turbo diesel is a stout engine with strong pulling power, but thanks to a narrow torque band (peak torque is spread between 1500-2500rpm) and fairly closely-stacked gear ratios, you’ll be rowing through its six-speed manual often.
ST and ST-X Navaras get a more powerful twin-turbo version of the same motor, but those model grades don’t exist in the single-cab range.
And with no automatic transmission available for the single-cab RX 4x2, dealing with the manual is your only option. Not a deal-breaker, mind you, and the manual itself is easy enough to use, but the absence of an auto is worth bearing in mind if you - or your employees - prefer one.
But load it up, and the Navara barely breaks a sweat. With a couple of hundred kilos in the tray it remains tractable and easy to drive, with a settled ride on its rear leaf-springs and no real need to work the engine any harder than when it’s unladen.
In fact, there’s really not much point revving the engine beyond its 2500rpm torque peak. Short-shifting is the best approach here, and the Navara is happy to lug around at low rpm all day.
The gearshift has a bit of a notchy feel and a long throw, but no more so than similar work utes. The clutch pedal isn’t too heavy and can be easily balanced on its friction point, so slow manoeuvres - such as backing up to a loading dock - are no challenge.
And when you’re heading back to the depot with an empty tray, the Navara RX still behaves reasonably well even when there’s no weight over the rear.
It’s more prone to wheelspin in wet weather on its economy-focused Bridgestones, but the well-calibrated traction control catches that before it can cause any harm.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - Single-cab versions of the Navara scored 34.01 out of 37 possible points in ANCAP testing.
Safety features: ABS, EBD, brake assist, traction control, stability control, and six airbags (dual front, dual side, driver’s knee and curtain) are standard on all Navara single-cab models.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Rivals like the Mitsubishi Triton GLX single-cab chassis diesel may have more power and torque for slightly less cost, but the Navara RX 4x2 beats most segment rivals when it comes to outright payload capacity.
Only the Colorado LS bests it with a 1474kg payload rating, but that ute retails for nearly $2000 more. The Ford Ranger XL Hi-Rider can also carry more thanks to an uprated suspension, but at $30,890 before on-roads, it’s not in the same league as the Navara RX.
Nevertheless, the Colorado and Triton have the option of an automatic in their entry-level models, something that Nissan doesn’t offer.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
For a dependable, capable and comfortable workhorse, the Nissan Navara NP300 RX 4x2 fills the brief. It’ll lug the most weight out of any model in its family, and do so with little complaint.
It gets outsold by the likes of the BT-50, Triton and HiLux - all of which cost less - but has the 'worker credentials' to match any of them - especially when it comes to towing capacity and payload.
Though its feature list may be a little slim, all of the essentials are there, and - bar some cabin noise - the Navara RX provides a comfortable mobile “office”.
For the workers of Australia who spend much of their time out on the road, that’s gotta be a welcome thing.