NIS­SAN NAVARA

Has F the wait for the new Nis­san Navara been worth­while?

Nam Wheels - - FRONT PAGE -

It's been a long time com­ing be­cause a lot of time was spent en­sur­ing Nis­san's lat­est bakkie can master lo­cal con­di­tions. The com­pany said the same thing at the press launch in Aus­tralia so one won­ders just how dif­fer­ent our con­di­tions might be.

For now, the new Navara is built in Thai­land which is sur­pris­ing but let's rather con­cen­trate on what fresh ideas the new Navara brings to bakkieville.

Reg­u­lar read­ers know that I am not a likely bakkie buyer and have no de­sire to drive off-road. The big­gest load I’ll carry is an overnight bag for a car launch in a neigh­bour­ing land.

The bakkie has weaseled its way into the nation’s psy­che and Nis­san is keen to re­assert it­self in a cat­e­gory it was en­sconced in un­til it al­lowed the likes of Ford to mus­cle in, largely as re­sult of hav­ing mid­dle-aged of­fer­ings.

It has long been my view that Nis­san pro­duces some of the best en­gines in the busi­ness, so it came as no sur­prise to me that the new mo­tor in the Navara is the star of the show.

Un­der the shapely bon­net of the new model sits a 2.3 litre four cylin­der diesel in­vig­o­rated by twin tur­bocharg­ers which help im­mea­sur­ably in pro­duc­ing a set of fig­ures that un­der­line just why this mill works so well, right across the rev range.

Its very com­pet­i­tive 140kw ar­rives at just 3,750rpm while peak torque of 450Nm is there from a dawdling 1,500rpm to 2,500rpm. That means that the engine is al­most al­ways of­fer­ing max­i­mum pull whether in slow con­di­tions or on the open road, where it is pleas­antly muted.

At cold start-up it can be a lit­tle clat­tery but oth­er­wise it goes about its busi­ness with due deco­rum and pro­vides the kind of power to at least match most of the 3.0 litre bri­gade with the ex­cep­tion of the V6 Amarok.

I should dis­close that three 4x4 mod­els made up the range at launch, be­ing the 2.3D SE and LE 6-speed man­ual as well as the 2.3D LE 7-speed auto. That should tell you all are iden­ti­cally pow­ered just as they are all fit­ted with Nis­san's big talk­ing point- the 5- link rear sus­pen­sion with coil springs. If ever there's one as­pect that lets a bakkie down, it's un­laden ride.

Leaf springs and a solid axle, in con­junc­tion with an el­e­vated ride height and lad­der frame chas­sis can’t pro­duce a cushy drive so how does the Navara re­solve this?

On pa­per, it does so by bet­ter lo­ca­tion of what is still a solid rear axle, thanks to the first in class five links. The use of coils for spring­ing in place of nearuni­ver­sal leaf springs was a move in­tended to pro­vide more pro­gres­sive and cush­ioned re­ac­tions to road im­per­fec­tions.

Does it work? I have to be hon­est and say not quite as well as the brand publi­cists might like you to be­lieve, but that doesn't mean the changes haven't wrought some im­prove­ments.

Con­sid­er­ing the un­laden state of both ve­hi­cles we tried, there’s less hop on cor­ru­ga­tions and a more cush­ioned feel to the ride when bumps are en­coun­tered, but that doesn't mean that this bakkie has be­come a limou­sine and load car­rier rolled into one.

On un­du­lat­ing tar roads, the iso­la­tion of the chas­sis from ex­ter­nal dis­tur­bances is bet­ter, as is over­all re­fine­ment. Open road cruis­ing is pleas­ant ex­cept on cor­ru­ga­tions and any pock­marked dirt roads, where the rear end is less as­sured but it's bet­ter than you'll find with the Hilux, Ranger and Isuzu KB.

As for trans­mis­sions, the sev­en­speed auto works re­ally well, chang­ing smoothly and with­out too much slip. It's def­i­nitely the trans­mis­sion of choice for any reg­u­lar off-road­ers as it takes away a lot of work load in try­ing con­di­tions such as en­coun­tered in the dunes we tack­led.

Hav­ing said that, the six-speed man­ual passes muster thanks in part to a light and pro­gres­sive clutch but be aware that the shift action is en­dowed with a longish throw and a rather de­lib­er­ate move­ment across the gate. Nis­san claims best- i n- class drive an­gles, as proved most con­vinc­ingly in the dunes. Bestin-class pay­loads av­er­age out at a tonne, with 3,500kg braked tow­ing ca­pa­bil­ity.

Fur­ther, you'll find all mod­els are of­fered with shift-on-the-fly 4x4 plus low ra­tio trans­mis­sion and an elec­tronic lock­ing rear diff. The two LE mod­els have hill start and de­scent as­sis­tance.

In terms of size, the Navara has re­sisted the growth trend and is there­fore eas­ier to han­dle in ur­ban shop­ping cen­tres while still hav­ing the ca­pac­ity to carry five oc­cu­pants, al­beit those in the back will find themselves sit­ting rather up­right.

Spec­i­fi­ca­tion lev­els de­pend on the cho­sen model but which­ever meets your needs, you'll find a well-trimmed and com­fort­able cabin up-front, al­beit that soft­touch sur­fac­ing is hard to find.

Some of the niceties in­clude a rear air vent, pow­ered slid­ing rear win­dow, sat nav, key­less start, cruise con­trol, Blue­tooth, a host of air bags and more. Let's just say the spec­i­fi­ca­tion lev­els on the new Navara are gen­er­ous.

It's taken Nis­san rather too long to get these new mod­els into the mar­ket which means they may have to claw back lost ground, but the Navara is well-equipped to do just that. It's some­what un­der­stated – a Nis­san trait, maybe – but there's an in­her­ent hon­esty here which means that you won't find acres of chrome adorn­ing the neatly-styled body and you won't need a har­bour master's li­cence to park it.

Any bakkie afi­cian­odos should def­i­nitely give it con­sid­er­a­tion; es­pe­cially be­cause the engine is a strong all-rounder promis­ing good fuel con­sump­tion of about 7.0l/100km (com­bined cy­cle).

The pric­ing for Nis­san’s range of Navara bakkies starts at around N$520,000 and that in­cludes a war­ranty for six years or up to 150,000km as well as a ser­vice plan of three years or 90,000km.

Please con­tact your Namib­ian dealer to con­firm lo­cal pric­ing and spec­i­fi­ca­tions.

“It's taken Nis­san rather too long to get these new mod­els into the mar­ket...”

Text Richard Wi­ley Im­ages Var­i­ous sources

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