NISSAN NAVARA 4X2
Of city streets and (light) gravel roads
With many of us having grown up with bakkies that regularly formed part of our everyday lives, the affection that South Africans have for them is not misplaced. These workhorses are not only trusted all-rounders, but they also serve an important purpose in the agricultural industry and manufacturing sector. And when the dust settles at the end of a long day, they return home to be the trusty family vehicle for many, or even a performance machine for some (see the ROUSH Ranger on page 48 of this magazine). After years of silence on the bakkie-front, Nissan finally launched its Navara on local soil in 2017, and now, a little over a year later, Nissan South Africa has introduced its 4x2 model to supplement its growing model portfolio.
Why the 4x2? Well, for starters, not everyone might have an inclination for bundu-bashing, and even with two driven wheels, it can still tow a caravan with relative ease and swallow a load of business tools or kids’ sporting goods.
I had the opportunity to drive the Navara 4x2 double cab over a respectable distance to the Welgevonden Game Reserve in the Waterberg region of Limpopo. Having experienced the 4x4 model in the past, and understanding its strengths and shortcomings; I knew the 4x2 would likely not be too different at its core.
While it might be a fantastically good vehicle on some fronts, while lacking talents in others, I had to sit up and take notice, and possibly even erase any pre-conceived ideas I might have had.
The near 250-kilometre drive took us on some highways, bumpy B-roads and even sections of gravel, and in my opinion, the Navara 4x2 achieves what it set out to be. It feels entirely at home on the tarmac, and while you’d be correct in thinking it lacks some stability over gravel sections, it did not feel all that out of place. On the blacktop, the two-wheel-drive Navara feels light and nimble, almost car-like with none of the
typical heavy-handed handling associated with some off-road vehicles.
Over the duration of the route, I drove both the six-speed manual and the sevenspeed automatic derivative, and while both gearboxes do what they are supposed to, it is the manual that outshines the auto on the performance front. Gearshifts in the manual are smooth, light and precise, although, given my personal preference, I’d ultimately pick the auto. The gearbox is mated to a 2.3-litre turbodiesel powerplant that produces 140 kW and 450 Nm.
In a segment that is getting tougher and more competitive by the day, the Navara brings an arsenal of modern features. Stepping inside, you are greeted by a relatively modern infotainment screen that features all the entertainment bells and whistles you could need. Navigation, USB connectivity and Bluetooth functionality come standard across the range.
Since this is such a competitive segment in the South African market, manufacturers have doubled down on their efforts to get an ever-demanding customer base into their vehicles by offering excellent value for money. As such, the Nissan Navara is facing extremely stiff competition in the form of the Toyota Hilux, Ford Ranger, Isuzu KB and Mitsubishi Triton that continues to present customers not only with variety, but also increasingly good value.
While Nissan’s 80 years of car-building experience shines through in the Navara, the moniker might have simmered a bit in-between generations, resulting in many buyers opting for one of the competing
bakkies. So, would I personally buy the new 4x2 Navara? In a heartbeat, primarily thanks to the long list of lifestyle benefits, and overall good value it offers.