New models - Nissan - Navara
Driven: Nissan works on Navara dynamics – again
Second mechanical update for Navara since 2015 launch as Nissan targets podium
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28 Feb 2018
By TERRY MARTIN
NISSAN Australia is aiming to return its all-important Navara to about 20,000 annual sales and a top-three position in the segment with another round of mechanical and specification improvements to the one-tonne utility – its second since the D23/NP300 generation was released in June 2015 – as the updated range enters showrooms across the nation.
Launching the Series III Navara in Victoria last week after earlier this month releasing initial details on specification improvements for the updated range, Nissan’s new senior management team is working overtime to lift sales of its Thai-built ute that over the past five years have fallen 36 per cent – from a peak of 26,045 units in 2012 to 16,532 last year.
This placed it well behind the market-leading Toyota HiLux (47,093) and Ford Ranger (42,728), and other rivals such as the Mitsubishi Triton (23,605), Holden Colorado (21,579) and Isuzu Ute D-Max (17,717).
Nissan Australia is now aiming for 1500-1600 sales a month – or up to 19,200 sales this year – and recently appointed managing director Stephen Lester last week made the same assertion as his predecessor, Richard Emery, when he said the goal was to return Navara to a top-three position.
“Absolutely,” he told GoAuto when asked if the target was top three, while adding that he did not expect to match the sales volume of HiLux or Ranger in the short term.
“We’ve got to walk before we run. We’ve got a very good product, fit for purpose in the market, we need to set ambitious goals and we need to work very hard to help ourselves get to those levels.
“And I think we’ve got a product that doesn’t need to have any excuses made for it. Now it’s about delivering.”
Mr Lester would not specify further changes he could make with the Navara range to boost volume – a sub-$25,000 entry variant or the return of a petrol engine, for example – but said removing specification “is really not where the focus is expressly”.
“We see a lot of growth opportunity for us. There’s no reason to be sixth or seventh in the segment our January performance was third in the segment,” he said.
“Whilst the competitors do make very good cars, we need to modify and improve our performance we need to use these opportunities to help look at what other models, products, derivations, special editions etc could be in the market to help us grow that business.
“Nothing is off the table. We’ve got to look at the best-case scenario from a business plan to make sure that we grow the business profitability for us, for our dealers, that we’re able to take care of the customers and manage that customer experience in an effective way.”
The latest changes follow suspension modifications introduced a year ago with the Series II update, which addressed criticism of the vehicle’s ride comfort and dynamic performance – specifically, double-cab models with the five-link coil-spring rear suspension – that was levelled at the new-generation Navara launched in 2015.
Following Australian-specific testing, Series II brought new front and rear shock absorbers, and revised rear springs and rebound dampers to achieve “more refined ride and handling with improved lateral stability, especially when carrying a load in the cargo area or towing”.
More local testing has led to a new round of modifications to dual-cab SL, ST and ST-X grades with the multi-link rear suspension aimed at further improving ride and handling characteristics, including adoption of a dual-rate rear spring system – with a lower spring rate when unladen or with a light payload, and a second stage with higher rate for heavier loads – and a higher-riding rear ‘posture’ assisting with laden conditions.
The spring rate has gone from 42Nm per millimetre fixed to 37-75Nm/mm with the dual rate, while the rear end sits 25mm higher when the vehicle is unladen and 40mm higher when laden.
Nissan says more localised suspension tuning has been carried out, and a faster steering gear ratio applied for “easier handling”. The ratio is now 14 per cent lower at 19.0:1, while turns of the steering wheel from lock-to-lock reduce from 4.1 to 3.4.
The overall intention with the latest changes is, according to Nissan, “to offer a more refined and confident driving experience”.
As GoAuto has reported, the technology and safety improvements announced earlier this month include the fitment of an around-view monitor on flagship ST-X dual-cab and king-cab grades, and the broader availability of a rearview camera across the 35-variant Navara range.
Some 27 variants are now fitted standard with a rearview camera, which is integrated into the infotainment screen on SL, ST and ST-X pick-ups, and within the rearview mirror on RX pick-up variants. Cab-chassis variants are now the only Navaras to miss out on a reversing camera.
A digital speedo comes on stream for all SL, ST and ST-X models from June production, satellite navigation is now standard on ST king cab (bringing it into line with the twin cab), and two Isofix child seat mounting points are positioned on the outboard rear seats of all dual cabs.
A $1500 leather seat option is also available on all ST-X dual-cab and king-cab (with auto) variants, which includes leather-accented seats and door trim, eight-way power driver’s seat (including lumbar adjustment) and heating for both front pews.
In the tub, lower-positioned tie-down hooks are provided on RX, SL and ST pick-up lines while four-additional lashing points are provided on ST-X variants with the Utili-track system.
Navara remains available across single, king and dual-cab body styles, with 27 pick-up and eight cab-chassis options, 10 with a 4x2 driveline and 25 with 4x4.
There are no major changes to the powertrain line-up, which continues with a 2.3-litre four-cylinder diesel engine in single and twin-turbo guise – the single offering 120kW/403Nm and the bi-turbo churning out 140kW/450Nm.
Both combine with a six-speed manual as standard or a seven-speed automatic as an option.
Last year’s Series II overhaul saw the 122kW/238Nm 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine quietly dropped and left Nissan without a sub-$20,000 starting point.
The company said at the time that the decision was based on the level of investment required for a further upgrade necessary to meet ever-tightening emissions regulations.
The current entry level is RX 4x2 single-cab-chassis priced from $25,990 plus on-road costs. The pared-back DX grade, which previously took Navara below $20K, is only available as a 4x4 single-cab-chassis pitched at farmers and others who require a no-frills ute with four-wheel drive.
Nissan says the extra equipment with the latest update has pushed prices up between $200 and $500 on eight variants (RX 4x4 king-cab manual pick-up and seven dual cabs across RX and ST grades), with the others remaining unchanged.
The range tops out at $54,490 (plus on-roads) for the ST-X 4x4 dual-cab twin-turbo diesel pick-up.
A sunroof adds a further $1000 and metallic paint $550.
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