Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - DRIVEWAY - Bill Buys

YOU can make a ute as smart and comfy as you like, but there will al­ways be a call for a ba­sic one.

Nis­san’s Navara NP300 launched a while ago with some of the hand­some mod­els fea­tur­ing coil-sprung rear sus­pen­sion. A big step for­ward in ute-world, we reck­oned.

But quite re­cently it boosted its con­sid­er­able Navara range to 27, with the new­est ones in sin­gle-cab, king-cab and dual-cab; all with leaf springs.

Most are also avail­able in sev­eral lev­els of spec and then there’s the choice of petrol or diesel power, the lat­ter with sin­gle or dual turbo.

And two or 4WD, man­ual or au­to­matic.

It’s a be­wil­der­ing line-up, but some­where among the 27 is a model for ev­ery taste and ap­pli­ca­tion, from tradie to de­liv­ery­man to week­end ad­ven­turer and fam­ily con­veyance.

Prices start from $19,500 to $55,000.

We had a sin­gle-turbo diesel (120kW/403Nm) king cab RX with 4WD, six-speed man­ual and an alu­minium tray and a price tag of $35,500.

What’s a ‘king cab’? One with the usual two front seats, with a pair of jump seats be­hind. The lat­ter are OK for adults for a short dis­tance, but bet­ter suited to kids, pets or for ex­tra cargo.

To get into the back seats, a hid­den lever inside opens the back doors. It leaves some peo­ple stunned, be­cause vis­ually the smart cab ap­pears to be solely a two-door.

Stan­dard equip­ment in­cludes seven airbags, six-way ad­justable driver’s seat, sin­gle CD player with four-speaker AM/FM ra­dio, AUX and USB/iPod con­nec­tiv­ity, Blue­tooth hands-free phone with steer­ing wheel con­trols, au­dio stream­ing and some power sock­ets.

It runs on 16-inch steel wheels and has a full-sized spare wheel.

The dash is pretty straight­for­ward with clear di­als and vis­i­bil­ity is tops in all di­rec­tions.

The seats are quite im­pres­sive, com­fort­ably firm, but the big sur­prise was how well the leaf-sprung beastie han­dled bumps and pot­holes.

Most with that kind of sus­pen­sion give a jar­ring ride, but the Navara, pos­si­bly helped by its 3150mm wheel­base, was a model of com­fort.

In fact, it was prob­a­bly the most car-like ute we’d had in a long while.

Per­for­mance was strong, the diesel emit­ting a pleas­ant thrum at cruising speeds, and fuel econ­omy was good too at an av­er­age 7.0litres/100km.

Airbags apart, the Navaras come with sta­bil­ity con­trol and sev­eral more elec­tronic driver aids and score a five-star safety rat­ing.

Ver­dict: Well-built (in Thai­land), well-equipped, stylish and com­pe­tent.

The hand­some Navara King Cab. The one on test had a tradie tray. And yes, the panel be­hind the driver’s

door re­ally is an­other door.

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