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Car reviews - Nissan - Navara - dual-cab utility range

Our Opinion

We like
Style, cabin, car-like creature comforts, diesel performance, off-road ability
Room for improvement
No standard airbags or ABS, single body style for the moment, quite expensive

29 Nov 2005

NISSAN may rule the light truck roost with the D40 Navara by design ... literally.

Styled in Japan with strong input from Europe and America, this eighth-generation post-war Nissan pickup (the first appeared in 1955) manages to juggle good-looking form with modern style.

In contrast, the latest HiLux’s look is controversial while next year’s all-new Triton may even seem too futuristic. Yet nobody seems to have a bad word to say about the Navara’s visage.

It’s the same story inside.

Perhaps it is the Spanish style influence that has seen Nissan expertly blend sober but fashionable grey and black textures and trims in both models. As a result the ambience is spot-on.

Even the base RX – bereft of power windows and mirrors, a split-folding seat or even airbags – is a functional yet comfortable place to spend time in.

The front seats are large and supportive the nicely symmetrical dashboard offers good ventilation, easy switch and control comprehension, dead-clear instrumentation and plenty of storage areas while the driving position is pretty much faultless.

Quibbles run to a too-thinly padded and upright rear bench (a common fault in dual-cab vehicles – at least it’s not so bad in the Nissan), a steering wheel of dubious aesthetic value and a cumbersome turning circle when 4x4 mode is engaged.

Behind the wheel the Navara continues to come across as an unexpected surprise.

Despite being built like one, it doesn’t really feel like a scaled-down truck to drive.

Steering weight and feel is impressively car-like, aided by a high measure of body control through corners, a secure stance at freeway speeds and a supple ride over the rough stuff.

And there’s no reason why the diesel shouldn’t be the engine of choice, even if it doesn’t quite have the punchy acceleration of the rorty V6.

The 2.5-litre unit is willing in the lower gears, eager to spin to the higher rev ranges, and can easily pull up to 3000kg.

Curiously it also seems quieter and more refined overall than the V6. In fact, the diesel seems to be the better fit in the Navara than it is in the more-family orientated Pathfinder.

Better fuel economy is another feather in the diesel’s cap too.

Yet the muscly V6 is certainly no slouch off the line, spinning the rear wheels without too much provocation and providing quite startling acceleration in the 60 to 100km/h range.

In the diesel, the automatic gearbox is probably the better choice since it is amply responsive and quite smooth in operation.

The manual’s shift quality on both engine models is on the slightly heavy side while fifth gear can feel a little notchy sometimes. No auto V6 was available at the launch.

A brief drive through mountainous terrain really highlighted the Navara’s off-road abilities.

In fact, with its low-range ratios, ample ground clearance, short approach and departure angles and strong torque, the diesel-powered Nissan could only impress with its almost go-anywhere attitude.

Nissan should have no trouble at all reaching its 425-odd monthly sales target for the D40.

It has the looks, on-road grace, off-road agility and blokey truck toughness to give Toyota a sooner-than-expected headache.

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