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Car reviews - Nissan - Navara - King Cab 4-dr utility

Our Opinion

We like
Clever cabin access and occasional seating arrangement
Room for improvement
Body flex, patchy ride quality

30 Jul 2008

IT IS the age-old dilemma when you buy a ute: You want a big, long tray for loading as much stuff as possible but you still want to be able to give your friends a lift now and then.

The dual-cab ute is perfect for taking along four passengers, but is always a compromise on load space. The single-cab ute has as much cargo space as you can hope for, but any more than two passengers are going to be left behind.

The King Cab is the perfect compromise (if there is such a thing) in a one-tonne ute.

Nissan’s King Cab follows the lead of others in the market such as Mazda’s BT-50 and Ford’s Ranger in that the rear section of the cabin is accessed via rear-hinged doors.

These doors have recessed handles to open them in the aperture, so they’re hidden from the outside and can only be opened when the front door is opened (which is like other extended-cab arrangements such as in the Mazda/Ford).

The downside of this is that you need to have a front occupant let you out, as it’s almost impossible to reach around from the jump seat to open up the door.

The rear seating area for two is cramped for adults, with knees up at chest level splayed around the front seat. It is not unbearable but any adults forced to ride in there for an hour or two will need to be unfolded and ironed out at the other end.

The jump seat base cushion folds up facing the backrest to open up an unfettered raised floor storage space - perfect for securing items in a dry secure area rather than exposed to the elements in the tray.

The tray itself is the same maximum width as the Dual Cab (1560mm) but is longer (1855mm versus 1511mm).

The rest of the cabin is familiar D40 fare: a very car-like dashboard that has instruments and controls mounted so you can actually find them easily.

While the whole ute class has caught on quickly to the notion of making a working ute cabin more user-friendly and car-like, the D40 Navara is one of the best in that regard.

It’s hard to pick how good build quality is after a short test, but there is every sign that the Thai-built D40 King Cab will have slightly better fit and finish than the Spanish-made Dual Cab, if first impressions are anything to go by.

The 2.5-litre turbo-diesel is among the best in the one-tonne ute class. There is not much low-rpm lag as you wait for the turbo to spool up and the response in the mid-range is very strong. Even better, the 2.5-litre is not as noisy as some of its competitors.

The five-speed manual version we drove had good, positive gearshifts and, unlike some six-speeders, it is direct and not easy to mistake a gear, even when unfamiliar with it.

The Navara has a reasonably plush ride and the handling is quite predictable. It tracks well for a ute (although it is not as enjoyable for its dynamics as the BT50/Ranger twins are). The Navara manages to take the middle road, providing a blend of bump-soaking ride and acceptably responsive handling.

There will be occasions though, where the body bolted onto a separate chassis design becomes obvious for its shortcomings. The ride quality on a corrugated dirt road for example, is very good, but you can’t help but notice how much the steering column shakes and the body quivers: body flex is still an issue.

Driving off-road, the Navara King Cab is all business. Low-range reduction is excellent, making it easy to carefully choose a line on a steep track, and together with the ample torque the Navara can usually be motored up a steep, slippery incline without the sickening feeling that there might not be enough guts to get to the top.

Ground clearance will be a downfall at the front, as the independent suspension will ground more easily than a live axle as it compresses, but then again, all the Navara’s direct competitors are in the same boat with this one.

The Navara King Cab Ute serves as a useful expansion to the Navara range and exploits the advantages we’ve already seen in the D40 Dual Cab - such as a powerful, torquey engine and good ride/handling compromise - and adds a dash more load space while still providing seating for four.

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