The Nissan Navara treads a somewhat unique path in the dual-cab ute sector as the only ute of its kind to feature a coil-sprung rear end. Single and extra cab utes feature traditional leaf springs, so does the cab-chassis model, but Nissan appreciates the equal family/workhorse roles its utes will play opting for a more comfortable coil rear.
Not long after the current Navara launched in 2015 owners discovered shortcomings related to the rear - yes it was comfortable and handled Aussie road conditions well, but it didn’t carry a load like a ute should.
Come 2017 and Nissan has addressed the issue, retuning the Navara’s suspension to cope with the kind of punishment it's likely to endure locally, leaving most of the rest of the range untouched apart from a few small running changes.
Vehicle Style: 4x4 dual cab ute
Price: $54,490 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 140kW/450Nm 2.3-litre 4cyl turbo diesel | 7sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 7.0 l/100km | Tested: 8.6 l/100km
At the top of the range, the Navara ST-X combines the same carrying and off-road capabilities as other dual cab models, but blends in extra features that help it blur the line between rough-and-tumble workhorse and plush family transport.
Where climate control, leather trim, and push-button start are hardly unusual at the top of the dual cab ute tree now, just a decade ago they were far from common.
The ST-X comes only as a ‘pick-up’ with a ute body on the back, as do the lesser ST and SL models, leaving the RX model as the sole cab chassis in the dual cab range.
For 2017 Nissan has removed the standard sunroof of the ST-X, placing it instead on the options list. Pricing is unchanged at $54,490 plus on-road costs for the seven-speed automatic tested here, with Nissan’s flagship twin-turbo 2.3-litre four-cylinder diesel engine providing 140kW and 450Nm of grunt.
- Standard Equipment: Leather appointed seats, powered driver’s seat, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, tilt-adjustable steering column, keyless entry and start, dusk-sensing headlights, trip computer with colour display, rear seat air vents, LED headlights, rear alloy sports bar, power-sliding rear windscreen, roof rails, 18-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 7.0-inch touchscreen, satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, NissanConnect smartphone app connectivity,
- Payload: 941kg (ST-X 4x4 dual cab only)
- Load Area Dimensions: 1503mm long, 1560mm wide, 474mm depth, 1130mm between wheel wells.
Nissan has left the interior of the Navara alone for the most part, and arguably little needed to be fixed.
The one lingering problem that we experienced is the design of the steering wheel, which sees the bottom of the horn pad meet the wheel rim leading to unintentional horn-chirping in close-quarters moves.
Aside from that though, the Navara’s interior is well kitted and comfy, particularly in ST-X guise. The standard sunroof has been removed, but you can option it back in if you’d like. Leather trim, a powered driver’s seat, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, and a power-opening rear windscreen remain.
Overall it's a smart-looking interior, not too far off what you might expect to find in the more passenger-focussed Pathfinder, but sensibly Nissan has kept hard dash plastics on the dash and tops of the doors in preparation for the rough-and-tumble treatment likely on worksites.
Seat comfort is right where it should be with front seats proportioned to accept solid Aussie frames. The rear seat is roomy enough to take passengers of all ages too, and while the Navara isn’t short on rear legroom there’s not quite enough to stretch out fully.
The interior also benefits from face-level air vents in the rear, and four cup- and two bottle-holders in the front, plus enough room under the centre stack for a wallet and phone, and out-of-sight storage in the console and glovebox.
Infotainment tech isn’t as cutting edge, despite the standard 7.0-inch touchscreen and satellite navigation, with advanced features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto missing, with a proprietary NissanConnect app delivering access to services like Google, Facebook, and Pandora.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 2.3-litre twin-turbo diesel, 140kW @3750rpm 450Nm @1500-2500rpm (output and configuration)
- Transmission: Seven-speed automatic, dual range 4x4
- Suspension: Double wishbone front, five-link coil-sprung rear
- Brakes: Ventilated front discs, rear drums
- Steering: (type, electrically assisted, variable-ratio rack, etc, turning circle)
- Towing Capacity: 3500kg braked, 750kg unbraked
Nissan has kept the Navara’s engine without any major changes, meaning the twin-turbo diesel four-cylinder continues with 140kW of power and 450Nm of torque. At 2.3-litres it’s one of the smaller engines in its segment, but still manages to hold its own with impressive outputs.
Nissan also claims best-in-class fuel consumption at 7.0 l/100km officially, and our tested average of 8.6 l/100km over a mix of highway, urban, and light off-roading, plus the occasional tub full of gear, sits well with that.
Nissan offers a choice of six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic, and the auto tested here cooperates well with the engine, changing gears smoothly and keeping the engine where it can work best.
Nissan’s suspension work is by far the most noticeable change, but even then the change is one you’ll need to be actively on the look-out for.
Nissan has modified the front and rear dampers with the aim of improving ride, particularly when laden. The result is perhaps most obvious with an empty tray, where the Navara can feel a little bouncy over small bumps, something the previous model avoided.
With a little extra weight in the tub, or on the towbar, the Navara does settle, and considering most will spend their working life with gear in the rear the solution is a sensible one. The changes made are aimed at resisting ‘sagging’ with a full load on board, but our testing reveals it hasn't solved the issue and the Navara will easily hit its bump stops before reaching its full load-carrying capacity.
Nissan has also missed the opportunity to address the Navara’s refinement shortcomings, with plenty of clatter and rattle from the engine, both at idle and as revs rise, though once settled into a cruising speed the noise levels are much more respectable.
Heavy steering makes the Navara feel somewhat less nimble than some of its competitors, particularly 4x4s like the Ranger and Colorado, not to mention the almost car-like Amarok, but on unsealed roads the weighty feel provides a more sure-footed feel.
ANCAP Rating: 5 Stars - the Nissan Navara dual cab scored 35.01 out of 37 possible points when tested by ANCAP in 2015. Extra cab and single cab variants have been tested and scored separately.
Safety Features: All Navara dual-cab models come with seven airbags (dual front, front side impact, full-length curtain airbags, and driver’s knee airbag), electronic stability and traction control, ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and emergency brake assist and front seatbelt pretensioners. A reverse camera is standard on ST and above, while only ST-X adds rear park sensors, hill start assist and hill descent control.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km
Servicing: The Navara has 12 month/20,000km service intervals (whichever comes first) and a capped-price servicing program that covers the first six services with pricing for the diesel Navara automatic set at $547, $571, $714, $571, $547, and $738 for each respective service. Your Nissan dealer will be able to explain full terms and conditions of the program.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Like the Navara, the Toyota HiLux bridges the gap to SUVs on the inside, though it hangs onto robust plastics. The top-spec SR5 model doesn’t quite match the Navara ST-X (you still have to pay extra for leather trim for instance), and the engine is just as grunty.
In a case of ‘you get what you pay for’ the Ford Ranger is a more expensive proposition, but with standard safety features including adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, forward collision alert and driver impairment monitor, plus more power and torque from its five-cylinder engine, the step-up to a Ranger Wildtrack (or XLT with optional Tech Pack) could be well worth the extra spend.
If your budget’s a little tighter, then a Mitsubishi Triton might be the way to go. Priced under $50 before on-roads, a Triton Exceed packs in plenty of kit, but is down slightly on power and torque. As a family car the Triton’s impressive refinement is sure to please, though as a workhorse its lower towing capacity might not suit all applications.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
For buyers that perhaps don’t want to ditch the familiarity of a passenger car or SUV the Navara is an ideal stepping stone, and the well equipped ST-X provides plenty of equipment, a modern look and feel and the kind of comfort car buyers are used to.
Its gruff diesel engine won’t fool anyone into thinking it’s a regular SUV, but at the same time that engine delivers decent fuel economy and has enough left in reserve to be able to tow up to 3.5 tonnes, so it can be forgiven.
So as a family car that doubles up as a work ute or a weekend getaway machine, the Navara gets most things right, but as a purebred workhorse the Navara may not be the ideal first choice depending on your situation. There’s still plenty to like about the roomy and comfortable Navara though, provided you use it as intended.
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