NISSAN HAS NOW LANDED ITS FULL RANGE OF NP300 NAVARA UTES IN AUSTRALIA, ADDING SINGLE AND EXTRA-CAB MODELS, AS WELL AS CAB-CHASSIS DUAL-CABS, TO JOIN THE DUAL-CAB PICKUP LAUNCHED IN MAY THIS YEAR.
The new models are the workhorses of the Navara range and all ride on a load-carrying leaf-spring rear suspension. The dual-cab pickup blazed a trail here with a coil-sprung rear end.
Everything else though remains the same. There are 2WD and 4WD options, one petrol and a pair of diesels, auto and manual, adding up to a total of 27 variants across the range.
Vehicle Style: Single-, extra-, and dual-cab utility
Price: $19,490 (DX 4x2 petrol single cab-chassis manual) - $ 51,490 (ST-X 4x4 diesel extra cab pickup auto) plus on-roads
122kW/238Nm 2.5 litre 4cyl petrol | 6spd man, 7spd auto
120kW/403Nm 2.3 litre 4cyl turbo diesel | 6spd man, 7spd auto
140kW/450Nm 2.3 litre 4cyl turbo diesel | 6spd man, 7spd auto
Claimed: 2.5 petrol 6.4-9.9 l/100km | tested: not recorded
Claimed: 2.3 diesel 6.3-7.1 l/100km | tested: 8.8 l/100km
When Nissan’s new NP300 Navara arrived in the middle of this year, it came equipped with something rather unusual for a commercial vehicle - a coil-sprung rear axle.
That move was to ensure the comfort of occupants for a vehicle that's as likely to be used as a family truckster, as it is a rough-and-tumble workhorse.
The coil-spring rear is only to be found under the dual-cab pickup (that's Nissan-speak for ute tub).
For all other applications, a more work-ready leaf-spring rear has appeared, granting the Navara the ‘work Visa’ it needs to become a tool of trade for businesses and farmers around the country.
The blanks in the range have also been filled with single-cab and extra-cab models joining the line-up as well as cab-chassis models.
Specs and features span DX, RX, ST and ST-X models - from low-cost workhorse to something a little more luxed-up.
- DX: Cloth seat trim, tilt-adjustable steering column, cruise control, power windows, air conditioning, vinyl floor covering, power windows, halogen headlights with dusk-sensing.
- RX (in addition to DX): remote central locking, chrome interior door handles, rear window demister, carpet floor covering
- ST (in addition to RX): leather-wrapped steering wheel, gearshifter, and handbrake, compass in rearview mirror, colour instrument cluster display, LED running lights, side steps, reversing camera, alloy sports bar
- ST-X (in addition to ST): leather seat trim, heated front seats, power adjustable driver’s seat, dual zone climate control, proximity key with push-button start, reversing sensors, tub liner
- Infotainment: AM/FM/CD, Bluetooth connectivity, USB input, four speakers (single and extra cab), six speakers (dual cab), 5.0-inch display audio (ST and ST-X), satellite navigation (ST-X)
- Payload: 901kg-1362kg depending on engine and specification
Get behind the steering wheel and the NP300 Navara does a convincing job of looking and feeling quite like an SUV.
Even in the lower trim-grades, the plastics quality is high. There are silver highlights across the range, and the cloth seat trim is plush enough to feel (dare we say it) upmarket… and you get it in the cheap-as-chips DX.
The rear fold-up seats in the extra cab are pretty tight - the'lly work great as jump-seats (at a pinch) but their real purpose is to be folded out of the way and allow for extra gear to be crammed in.
By the same measure, although there doesn’t appear to be a huge space behind the seats of single-cab models, we could fit a camera bag back there no worries (you could also slot in a motorcycle helmet back there).
Of course, the dual-cab is the way to go if people take precedence over cargo. The rear seat there feels natural enough - no bolt upright backrest, and enough legroom and width for the crew to pile in.
Rear air-vents are standard too, rare for the category but well and truly welcomed - particularly as we were testing the range out on a day nudging 35 degrees celsius.
There’s two cupholders in the dash and two in the centre console, the glovebox and lidded console provide a decent amount of room too. A 12v outlet and storage shelf in the top of the dash should come in handy too.
ON THE ROAD
- Engines: 122kW/238Nm 2.5 litre four-cylinder petrol, 120kW/403Nm 2.3 litre four-cylinder turbo diesel, 140kW/450Nm 2.3 litre four-cylinder turbo diesel
- Transmission: Six speed manual or optional seven-speed automatic ($2500). Rear wheel drive and selectable 4x4 with dual-range transfer case
- Suspension: Double wishbone front, leaf spring, rigid axle rear
- Brakes: Ventilated front discs, rear drums
- Towing capacity: Up to 3500kg depending on specification
The bulk of our time behind the wheel was spent in a 120kW diesel, mated to a six-speed manual, but the 140kW diesel auto and 2.5 litre petrol also got a quick spin.
The single turbo 2.3 litre engine in the RX feels like it has plenty of pull. Peak torque of 403Nm is available between a narrowish 1500 and 2500rpm and pushing it beyond 3000rpm just doesn’t feel necessary.
The shift action of the six-speed manual is well defined, with a clutch that isn’t overly weighty for open-road touring.
It could be a little more challenging to balance precisely in off-road low-range crawling, but more time behind the wheel should soon sort that out.
The gruntier twin-turbo engine in ST and ST-X offers a fatter 450Nm of torque, and feels stronger across the board. The auto isn’t really our pick - it seems to hold lower gears a touch too long, we’d short shift the manual much sooner.
That’s only really a problem because both diesel variants are fairly noisy - and with a sea of more refined workhorses coming to market the NP300 could do with some extra sound deadening.
As for surprises, the petrol variant - smooth, swift, and strong behind the wheel - caught us off guard. We didn’t expect it to be so good.
The 2.5 litre petrol four-cylinder engine is shared with Altima and X-trail, but feels more stout in this application.
And the rear end? While the coil-sprung Navara sits at the top of the heap for ride-comfort, the leaf models are all about carrying ability.
As you would expect, the ride when unladen is firmer. You feel it through the rear; it bobs around on patchy tarmac, feeding imperfections through the whole car, but it doesn’t buck or skip - even on corrugated gravel.
We also had the chance to try the same cars out with 325kg load into the tub (most owners are expected to carry a similar payload in day-to-day use).
With this load, the Navara feels more settled, the rear is happier with some weight on it (but that’s what it’s built for after all).
Spring and damper rates are the same across all leaf variants; the front-end settings are the same for both variants too. Off-roaders note that the coil rear gives greater wheel articulation.
After an extended spin on and off-road, with plenty of time idling in the sun (the utes may be tough, but my soft-centre demands the air-con be kept in its most Arctic setting) fuel consumption for both the single-turbo manual, and twin-turbo auto settled at a very commendable 8.8 l/100km
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - the NP300 Navara model scored 35.01 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: ABS brakes with brake assist and electronic brakeforce control, Traction and stability control, seatbelt reminders for all seats, three-point seat belts for all seats, front height adjustable seatbelts with load-limiting pretensioners.
All NP300 Navara models also come with dual front, dual side, full-length curtain, and driver's knee airbags.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
A new Hilux, with improvements to refinement and interior, looms large over the Navara, as does the recently updated Ranger, with a bevy of high-end technologies higher up the range.
Triton has taken a decent leap up in refinement too, while Isuzu’s D-max is a genuine hard worker - not as flash inside, but certainly capable on the jobsite.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
For buyers not quite sure of the merits of Navara’s smooth-riding coil-sprung rear, here’s the answer. Admittedly it comes packaged a little differently (the only leaf-sprung dual-cab is the RX cab-chassis) but these are workers.
They’ll do it day-in and day-out. The cabin is as comfy as you’ll find in an SUV, but the rear end means business, whether carrying cargo in the tray, or towing - with a maximum 3.5 tonne capacity on offer.
The diesel engines feel muscular, the manual transmission is nice to use, and, off-road, the Navara shows no fear.
Yes, it's better with a load on the rear, but then it wouldn’t be much of a workhorse if it wasn’t.
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