Car reviews - Nissan - Navara - range
Engine outputs, cabin noise, seat comfort, vision, improved resilience under load
Room for improvement
Sporadic loud engine fan and intake noise, turning circle and steering ratio, horn pad protrudes past wheel rim for unwanted honks
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21 Mar 2017
THE light-commercial vehicle market in Australia is demanding and competitive – reflecting the wider market in general, which is spoilt for choice given its size in volume terms.
Nissan’s new Navara launched two years ago and the introduction of the single- and twin-turbo diesel drivetrains – as well as six speed manual and seven-speed auto – equipped it with competitive power and torque levels, and good fuel economy claims.
That side of the Series II is unchanged – the seven speed auto is smooth and the ratios are largely well-matched to the engine outputs, even if it is a little tardy on the downshift and prone to holding a higher gear for better fuel economy.
A comfortable, reasonably spacious and quiet cabin remains one of the Navara’s best attributes, with comfortable seats and excellent forward vision.
Only some sporadic engine noise – which sounded like a mix of induction and cooling systems – was apparent in the ST dual-cabs sampled on the launch drive.
Occupant facilities are numerous, with three 12-volt (plus one in the tray of most models) power sockets and one USB outlet up front, as well as rear vents and useful amounts of storage in the doors and centre console.
Floor-mounted rear cupholders in the dual-cab have – like the NP300 naming – been removed, leaving the rear occupants with bottle holders in the doors.
Rear vision is a little interrupted by the sliding rear window, but the benefits to cabin ventilation probably outweigh any restriction – the exterior mirrors are a good size.
The absence of reach steering adjustment remains unresolved but a reasonable driving position is still attainable, although the storage nook on the side of the transmission tunnel becomes a leg rest for taller drivers as a result.
The driver gets steering that feels a little meatier, benefitting from the change in front suspension, although the number of turns of the wheel in tighter corners, as well as the wide turning circle, might take the sheen from the tighter suspension.
Under a load of around 300kg in the tray, plus two adult males and baggage, the Navara (in the case of the launch drive, an ST) doesn’t drag its tail as much as previously experienced.
The ride quality is firmer but still within the parameters of the segment norm, but the use of an independent rear (over a well-sorted leaf spring set-up) is still not a quantum leap over its primary opposition.
The ST was also sitting on 16-inch alloys and appropriate rubber, but the lower-profile tyres and 18-inch wheels of the ST-X might not be quite so supple on rougher roads.
Remembering the workhorse nature of the vehicle, its ability to carry a load probably over-rides such concerns – but there’s still some room for further improvement.
A stint behind the wheel of another dual-cab Navara with a small camper trailer in tow showed the engine outputs were up to a load-lugging task, although it exacerbated the annoyance of the transmission’s frugal focus.
Fast dirt (in 4x4 high at the suggestion of the Nissan crew) and the Navara never felt afflicted by the camper beyond the tardy acceleration and kick-down from the auto.
The electronics were rarely disturbed and the tightened chassis has all but eradicated the vague wandering that could sporadically disturb its predecessor.
A brief stint in an unladen example was undertaken at the end of the drive and it felt far more at home on Australian roads – certainly firmer than its ancestor in ride terms but also offering greater composure and more connected demeanour than that offered by the Series I vehicle.
The resulting road manners are an overall improvement from the Series I, which was apparently left with a chassis tune for South-East Asia.
Rough sealed and unsealed roads of the Snowy Mountains were tackled with more confidence, although the steering and chassis are still short of the segment yardsticks.
The Navara feels as though it pushes its nose wide without much provocation, not to the point of feeling nose-heavy on either surface but lacking the dexterity of the Ford Ranger/Mazda BT-50 or the much-improved Holden Colorado.
Nissan’s Navara is following in the tyre tracks of Holden's improved and similarly-priced Colorado – it too started with the handicap of a global development program that didn’t tailor it to local driving tastes and conditions.
The new Holden is back in the hunt and Navara feels as though it is back in a place where it demands to be on a test-drive list.
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