GO
GoAutoLogo
MENU

Make / Model Search

Future models - Nissan - Navara - AT32

First drive: Nissan Australia aims for Navara AT32

Off-road-focused Navara AT32 by Arctic Trucks now on Nissan Australia’s radar

Nissan logo20 Nov 2018

By JUSTIN HILLIARD in MOROCCO

NISSAN Australia says it is building a business case to import the off-road-focused Navara AT32 dual-cab pick-up, which has sold out in Europe ahead of a wider rollout via the Japanese brand’s partnership with Icelandic four-wheel-drive specialist Arctic Trucks.
 
Shaping up as a rival to Toyota’s HiLux Rugged X, the AT32 – or a similar variant – could enter the higher end of the ute segment with a pricetag well above $60,000 in the next 12 months. The Navara’s current flagship, the ST-X, starts from $51,990 before on-road costs.
 
“We are actively working on securing the AT32 for Australia; we believe it would be a popular addition to the Navara line-up for Australian customers,” Nissan Australia said in a statement.
 
Speaking to Australian journalists at an international light-commercial vehicle drive event in Morocco, Nissan Motor Company frame-based SUVs and pick-ups chief product specialist Pedro de Anda said the AT32 was one of several upcoming enhanced Navaras, but this particular variant could soon extend its reach Down Under if key hurdles are overcome.
 
“We do want to enhance the toughness of Navara and the overall capability,” he said. “(The AT32) is proof of our intention to offer more capable grades.
 
“Now it’s in Europe, we also have the intention to expand this to other markets … (but) there’s one main restriction, which is Arctic Trucks only has operations in Europe. There’s no sales, technical support, anything outside of Europe.”
 
Originally limited to 400 examples when launched two months ago across several countries in Western Europe, the AT32 quickly sold out and had its production run extended.
 
When asked if Arctic Trucks’ exclusively European operations mean that Australia would not be one of these new markets to offer the AT32, Mr de Anda said various solutions exist for this issue.
 
“There are many possibilities,” he said. “Navara for Australia is coming from Thailand, so you could have Arctic Trucks setting up operations and supporting from Thailand, or doing the conversion in Australia, or in Europe and shipping to Australia.”
 
Mr de Anda added that the initial arrangement with Arctic Trucks deliberately allows it to complete the AT32’s upgrades, as opposed to Nissan doing it on the Navara production line.
 
“They are the experts in this conversion,” he said. “As experts, we believe it was better for them to do the conversion.
 
“In Europe, the Arctic Trucks name is quite strong, so it’s a win-win to have the name on the truck. It’s good for them to have trucks with their name and grow, and it also gives confidence to the customers about the capability.”
 
When asked if there is potential for another third party to offer an off-road-focused Navara in collaboration with Nissan, Mr de Anda left the door ajar but warned that its expectations were high.
 
“It’s not exclusive with Arctic Trucks … but the standards need to be met,” he said. “Whoever does the conversion, there are very strict standards that need to be met, and quality cannot be compromised.
 
“If there is someone who has the same, or maybe even better, quality and performance than Arctic Trucks, then it could be a potential partner.”
 
If the AT32 is not made available to Australia, a local four-wheel-drive specialist could deliver a similar factory-backed product, according to Mr de Anda.
 
“There’s pros and cons,” he said. “If it’s a local partner, they might know a little bit more about that market specifically, because usage might not be the same … but then you start having a little more complexity.”
 
The AT32 is based on the recently revealed N-Guard grade of the Spanish-built European-market Series II Navara, with specifically prepared examples transported from the Barcelona plant to Arctic Trucks’ conversion facility to be upgraded before being sent back to Nissan for sale.
 
As reported by GoAuto, Nissan Australia also has its hand up for the N-Guard, which offers a sportier look. The AT32 then adds increased off-road capability.
 
Specifically, the N-Guard features black finishes for its front grille, headlights, roof rails, doorhandles and alloy wheels, plus a decal pack and black leather/cloth upholstery with yellow stitching.
 
The AT32 then ups the ante with its raised suspension, full underbody protection, 32-inch tyres and wheelarch extensions, all while maintaining Nissan’s factory warranty. A snorkel and a front differential lock are optional.
 
The N-Guard and AT32 could give the Navara a much-needed boost in sales, with its volume down 1.9 per cent, to 13,435 units, in the year to date. As a result, it is currently sixth in the ute segment, trailing the HiLux (43,163) and Ranger (35,310), among others.
 
Having now sampled the AT32 in some of the world’s harshest terrains, we can safely say it will be a competitive offering if Nissan Australia has its way.
 
Morocco served up tarmac, sand, gravel, rocks, mud and water during our extensive test program, with the AT32 proving that no terrain was too challenging.
 
Even though the AT32 uses the Navara’s multi-link, coil-sprung live rear axle, it misses out on the Series III model’s Australian-developed dual-rate springs that are slowly being introduced overseas.
 
As such, it was hard to assess the AT32’s ride comfort over these terrains, as any new Navara variant sold Down Under will feature the Series III setup that addresses customer and media feedback regarding unladen performance.
 
Ignoring this, it is clear that the AT32 builds upon the Navara’s strong off-road foundations by increasing its ride height 40mm and, in turn, further honing its approach, departure and ramp-over angles.
 
These improvements were particularly handy when navigating massive sand dunes in the Sahara Desert and being confronted with near-vertical descents. Similarly, the AT32’s higher-profile rubber provided extra confidence when making contact with stones.
 
As mentioned, the AT32’s other upgrades are cosmetic but make the Navara look that little bit tougher. In particular, the wheelarch extensions are an obvious highlight, accentuating its width.
 
Other than that, this is the same Navara we have come to know and love, providing similar on-road manners and 2.3-litre twin-turbo diesel performance, albeit it with a much more competitive edge off the beaten track.
 
While it’s not quite the Nismo performance flagship we hoped for, the 140kW/450Nm AT32 is definitely a step in the right direction and will be a strong alternative to the Rugged X … if it heads Down Under in this form. Fingers crossed.

Read more

All future models

Navara pricing

Motor industry news

GoAutoNews is Australia’s number one automotive industry journal covering the latest news, future and new model releases, market trends, industry personnel movements, and international events.

Click to share

Click below to follow us on
Facebook  Twitter  Instagram

Nissan models

All future models

Navara pricing

Motor industry news

GoAutoNews is Australia’s number one automotive industry journal covering the latest news, future and new model releases, market trends, industry personnel movements, and international events.

Catch up on all of the latest industry news with this week's edition of GoAutoNews
Click here