TWICE TASKED

Nis­san’s top-spec Navara faces the life­style pick-up truck test AT A GLANCE

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page - IAIN CURRY & JULES LUCHT

In our ute-sat­u­rated mar­ket, Nis­san’s Navara has sold more than 12,000 ex­am­ples so far this year, plac­ing it mid­field be­hind the Toy­ota HiLux, Ford Ranger, Mit­subishi Tri­ton and Holden Colorado. The Navara is the only one with more car-like coil spring rear sus­pen­sion. Those ri­vals have leaf springs.

Does the flag­ship ST-X 4WD dual-cab pass the fam­ily du­ties and life­style pick-up test?

FIRST IM­PRES­SIONS

IAIN: Of all the dou­ble cab utes out there, the Navara’s one of the best look­ing. It blends sharp style with tough­ness well.

JULES: It looks like a proper truck. Lots of chrome so I’m ex­pect­ing it’s ex­pen­sive?

IAIN: This is the range-top­ping dual-cab ST-X auto, at about $60,000 on the road, al­h­tough ABN hold­ers will get a bet­ter deal.

JULES: What does that buy?

IAIN: Out­side are 18-inch al­loys, chrome door han­dles and mir­rors, side steps, pro­tec­tive tub liner, roof rails and al­loy sports bar.

JULES: And this is what peo­ple are buy­ing?

IAIN: Oh yes. Some 90 per cent of Navara sales are dual-cab pick-ups, 80 per cent are 4WDs and two-thirds are the top two grades.

JULES: Life­style over true work utes, then. Aus­tralia’s gone mad for them.

THE LIV­ING SPACE

IAIN: The in­te­rior’s a bit plain. Well laid out but lack­ing real panache for a range-top­per.

JULES: I ex­pected leather seats in the flag­ship.

IAIN: Leather seats are a rea­son­able $1500 op­tion, with power ad­just­ment and heat­ing.

JULES: The cloth seats in ours feel re­ally durable and I reckon they make more sense if tak­ing the Navara camp­ing or off-road­ing.

IAIN: Fair point. In­fo­tain­ment-wise the sev­eninch screen has sat­nav but sadly no Ap­ple CarPlay or An­droid Auto.

JULES: Re­ally frus­trat­ing, as the rest of the cabin has a more SUV than work truck feel: smart key, push-but­ton start, dual-zone cli­mate con­trol and car­pet floor mats.

IAIN: Still lots of old fash­ioned hard plas­tics and quite cheap-feel­ing switches though, along­side classier pi­ano black trim.

JULES: It feels work-ready. Stor­age for phones, drinks and pa­per­work is ex­cel­lent. Its dash-top stor­age tray should be ob­vi­ous for utes but many don’t have them.

THE COMMUTE

IAIN: I tested this “NP300” Navara at launch in 2015. Its steer­ing was vague but its coil-sprung ride was good.

JULES: Why don’t other utes use coil springs?

IAIN: A few rea­sons. As Nis­san found, the more on-road friendly Navara strug­gled with ride qual­ity when it had de­cent load in the tray.

JULES: What have they done about it?

IAIN: Mod­i­fi­ca­tions in 2016, then again early this year to bring a stiffer dual-rate rear spring set-up and more re­spon­sive steer­ing.

JULES: It’s pretty comfy on the high­way but feels bouncy once you hit road im­per­fec­tions.

IAIN: Yep, that’s why I tested it with some book boxes, heavy tool box and garage junk in the tub. It set­tled things a bit but even then it’s no match for a proper SUV or my bench­mark ute, the VW Amarok.

JULES: The en­gine sounds very diesely on start-up but purrs nicely at speed and has de­cent poke.

IAIN: The seven-speed auto helps with the feel­ing of re­fine­ment, too; the en­gine and gear­box com­bi­na­tion is a real strong point.

THE SHOP­PING

JULES: You need a soft or hard cover over the tub to make it prac­ti­cal.

IAIN: True. Gro­ceries need to be in boxes rather than bags to stop fruit and veg­eta­bles pin­balling around in the back.

JULES: Shop­ping bags go in the pas­sen­ger footwells. It’s a lot eas­ier than low­er­ing the heavy tail­gate. And park­ing? Not easy in th­ese big utes but the 360-de­gree cam­era is bril­liant.

SUN­DAY RUN

IAIN: I’ve done some chal­leng­ing off-road­ing in the Navara and it walks over most ter­rain ef­fort­lessly.

JULES: If you’re pay­ing this much you’ll want se­ri­ous ex­plo­ration po­ten­tial.

IAIN: The ST-X has the goods — low-range, elec­tronic rear diff lock and hill de­scent con­trol. It’s armed for steep, loose, boggy or sandy ter­rain.

JULES: Will own­ers use it?

IAIN: Some will and also might ex­ploit the 3500kg tow­ing ca­pac­ity. For the ST-X grade, the pay­load is 931kg, so it’s not a true one-ton­ner. Most peo­ple will pay the ST-X price for the im­age and know­ing what they can po­ten­tially do with it off-road.

THE FAM­ILY

IAIN: The kids loved it ... as they do ev­ery truck.

JULES: I’ve a the­ory. Men aren’t grow­ing up prop­erly any more, so you buy a ute to live out your “I’m a truck driver” fan­tasy from child­hood.

IAIN: Less psy­cho­anal­y­sis, please. Can I get a CB ra­dio and trucker’s hat for Christ­mas?

JULES: Pos­i­tively, it has Isofix mounts for child seats, rear air vents and seven airbags.

IAIN: We re­turned un­der 8L/100km fuel econ­omy, which is im­pres­sive.

JULES: There’s also a rear power-slid­ing win­dow op­er­ated by a dash switch. The kids loved this, plus it helps you reach things in the tub or poke fish­ing rods through.

THE VERDICT

IAIN: The Navara’s a safe ute choice with rea­son­able on-road man­ners and plenty of of­froad abil­ity in the ST-X. Shame many own­ers will never ex­plore this.

JULES: I still can’t abide a 4WD ute as a fam­ily car when an SUV driv­ing all four wheels is com­fier, more prac­ti­cal and of­ten cheaper than th­ese top grades. If it’s used pri­mar­ily as a work truck it makes sense but I’ll take an SUV if it’s the main fam­ily ve­hi­cle.

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