Car reviews - Nissan - Navara - range
Sharp price, diverse variant range, tough looks
Room for improvement
High NVH levels in cheaper variants, no reverse camera option for some versions
19 Nov 2015
THE popularity of one-tonne utes in the Australian market continues to grow with unrelenting pace, and fans of the high-riding multi-purpose vehicles have never been so spoilt for choice.
While it appears nothing can aberrate Toyota's HiLux from its clear lead out in front, the other competitors jostle for positions in its wake.
In its previous generation, the D40 Navara once ranked second, but as the model has aged and other, newer rivals have joined the party, Nissan's offering has slipped down the ladder.
The most significant change for the new Navara has been the move to a more comfortable coil-spring suspension layout for the rear of Dual Cab Pickup variants (read our review from its launch in June) but now the more customary leaf spring version is here.
Owners wanting to use their Navara as a multi-purpose family wagon will most likely favour the more compliant ride of the Dual Cab Pickup, but those wanting to put the NP300 to work will be focusing on the variants added to the now complete range.
Kicking off the line-up is Single Cab DX – the sole petrol version, and the most affordable Navara at a bargain basement $19,490 plus ORCs. To find anything as cheap you would have to enter Chinese or Indian built territory, so already the Thai-built Nissan is looking like a tempting proposition.
We didn't spend long in the base variant, but a short blast on open roads was enough to realise anyone looking to shift things and two people from one spot to another without shelling out big business budgets would be very happy with the DX.
Its 2.5-litre atmo petrol might not be the most efficient – it uses 9.9 litres of jungle juice every 100km – but neither would it break the bank. Nissan says about five per cent of Navara sales are for the petrol, but it plans to target a few more fleet customers with the new model. We wouldn't be surprised if the 2016 version constituted a few more registrations.
Yes, its interior is spartan and no, the performance won’t excite, but the most affordable Navara is a workhorse that will do its job without complaint. We especially liked the almost charming simplicity of two-wheel drive combined with a six-speed manual and rugged no-nonsense interior.
Nissan is expecting the diesels to constitute a vast majority of sales, so we sampled one of the more affordable versions in the Single Cab RX with 4x4 and an optional automatic transmission. Before on-road costs, the RX we drove would be $32,990 but the seven-speed auto adds another $2500.
Despite having a little more in the way of kit, the RX still feels very utilitarian with a basic interior, although the RX does have carpet in place of the DX's hose-out flooring.
With 120kW and 403Nm on tap, the four-cylinder diesel has a decent amount of grunt low down in the rev range where it is most useful. Wringing out the revs is needless and noisy, but we found the automatic transmission was well-matched and resisted kicking down to maintain the optimal engine speed.
Engine noise was well insulated, but the interior NVH levels were let down by the other end of the cabin, with the rear window and panel letting in the most road noise and engine intrusion.
Our Navara was loaded up with 235kg of ballast and the combination of grunty torque, smooth transmission and leaf-sprung rear axle made light work of the cargo. With a relatively light kerb weight our test car could handle up to 1278kg in the back.
Driving position is suitably commercial but comfortable and, while we would have liked a little more in the way of adjustment, spending some time in the pilots seat was comfortable.
We were puzzled why a two-seater vehicle needs four cup holders, but the two central spots double as a phone or nick-nack holder. The clever fold-away side cup holders are stable enough to house those essential caffeine hits, but are also accommodating if you want to slip in something larger.
Getting into a King Cab costs $28,490, but we climbed a little further up the range and tried out the more generously equipped ST with automatic transmission, which increases the price to $45,490.
For your cash, you get a good dose of extra kit, which makes a noticeable improvement to cabin comfort. Rear tinted windows and darker materials create a cosier cabin environment even with the extra space, which is enough for two fold-down jump seats.
The bolt-upright posture required to occupy one of the rear seats would not be comfortable for long, but the bonus pews are fine for ferrying a couple of extra workers from one end of the site to another, or a couple of mates home from the pub.
Generally speaking, the ST’s level of specification and the King Cab is a big step up in perceived quality, but an occasional door trim wobble was a reminder of how Nissan has managed such a tempting price tag for the Navara.
In addition to the extra kit, ST versions also get a second turbocharger, which boosts power and torque to 120kW and 450Nm. The added kick would be welcome day to day.
Despite the improvement to performance and towing capability, the twin-turbo 2.3-litre diesel is still frugal, using 6.5 litres per 100km when fitted with a six-speed manual or 7.0L/100km when running the auto.
Added features such as a 5.0-inch colour display, reversing camera, part-leather steering wheel and handbrake gaiter make a big difference to the interior feel, and we would recommend stretching the budget to accommodate either the ST or the top-of-the range ST-X.
We particularly liked the good-looking optional alloy bull bar, which was designed and developed in Australia and does not compromise the Navara's five star ANCAP safety rating.
To round out the day, we tested the King Cab's off-road ability and discovered it upholds the go-anywhere reputation forged by the three previous generations.
The leaf-sprung rear end may be a little on the harsh side on-road, but a bit of the rough stuff seems to be the Navara's natural habitat.
Making smooth progress over rough ground with the manual option in low range required concentration, whereas the automatic option making light work of some technical challenges. The off-road course was not the most gruelling we have experienced, and we feel the Navara could handle a lot more.
The new Navara has created some controversy by adopting a more road-tailored rear suspension for some variants, but purists can rest assured the newest leaf-sprung arrivals perform exactly as a tough one-tonner should.
In raw Single Cab and cab chassis form, the NP300 is a functional work truck as essential as any other tool in a tradie’s belt, but in the posher King Cab and higher-grade specification, it offers a more comfortable option that would suit private buyers.
With a competitive price across the entire range, Nissan's new Navara has the performance, looks and choice to return fire in the light commercial segment after being adrift for too long.
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