Three cabs on offer in Navara range
The big news in the Australian new car scene in recent years has been the rapid growth of SUV sales which led to them overtaking conventional passenger cars for the first time in 2017.
Only slightly less spectacular has been the jump in sales of pickups/ utilities, with the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger occupying the top two spots in overall vehicle sales last year and certain to do so again this year.
While Nissan Navara sales lag a fair way behind HiLux and Ranger, it still accounts for almost 30 per cent of the company’s total sales and as such is of vital importance.
Sales of the current Navara, which arrived here in 2015, would have been much better but for some issues with its ride and handling caused mainly by the use of car- like rear coil springs rather than the truck- like leaf springs favoured by most brands.
Enter Nissan’s Australian engineering team who came up with a new dual- pitch rear spring system incorporating an integrated lower and higher spring rate. The result is a vehicle with a noticeable improvement in overall driving dynamics — a more comfortable unloaded ride and a more supportive one with a load in the tray.
The Navara comes with three cab options: Single Cab, King Cab ( with two fold- down rear seats) and Dual Cab.
Bodies are cab- chassis and pickup. Two engines are available, both intercooled turbo- diesels with a 2.3- litre capacity. One is a single turbo with max outputs of 120kW and 403Nm, the other a twin- turbo with 140kW and 450Nm.
Peak torque from both engines runs from 1500 to 2500 rpm.
Transmission options are sixspeed manual or seven- speed automatic transmission.
Touchscreens are smaller than is the norm nowadays, 5- inch in the lower spec models and 7- inch in the ST and ST- X to cater for satellite navigation. Having said that, both are easy to navigate and quick to respond. We’ve previously had Bluetooth pairing issues with Nissan and again it took some time to initially connect up but had no subsequent problem. Neither Apple CarPlay nor Android Auto are available.
Standard safety features throughout the Navara range include seven airbags; stability and traction control; ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist; daytime running lights; LED high- mounted stop light; automatic headlights; and rear- seat IsoFix child seat mounting points.
The Navara RX pick- up has a reversing camera displayed in the rear vision mirror which also has an automatic dimming feature. Other variants have the camera display in the infotainment screen.
The top- spec ST- X also gets hill start assist and hill descent control; rear parking sensors; and a 360- degree Around View Monitor. Autonomous Emergency Braking is a notable omission.
Our test vehicle was the rangetopping ST- X automatic and we found a much better balance between laden/ unladen performance. Despite the tauter rear suspension, it still cruises comfortably to the extent that it’s easy to forget that you’re driving a light commercial vehicle rather than an SUV.
There’s little road noise intrusion and the cabin has a refined feel. Overall there’s a more reassuring feel to the Navara’s handling and cornering.
We were able to co- ordinate the timing of our Navara road test with some overdue springtime garden renovations, adding some ballast to the tray as we transported a couple of dozen bags of topsoil and 10m of buffalo turf.
The tray is marginally higher than before, which made loading a tad more difficult.
We didn’t need to use the $ 1000 tow- bar kit fitted to the car which allows for up to 3500kg to be pulled with a braked trailer.
Steering has also been improved and is now faster, heavier and more direct than before. In addition, the steering ratio has been reduced for improved manoeuvrability.
We’ve detailed a number of significant changes to the Navara but one thing that has remained untouched is the twin- turbo engine which is right up with the best in its class. Indeed it was the one chosen by Mercedes- Benz for its recently released X- Class.
Fuel consumption of 6.5 litres per 100km on the combined urban / highway cycle is listed for the Navara ST- X. We averaged 7.7L/ 100km during our week- long test.
Improvements to the Nissan Navara Series 3 have now lifted it to the extent that it can be seen as a genuine competitor against its bigselling rivals. It can easily double as family transporter and weekend workhorse.
As with most pick- ups, the model range is large and diverse so make sure to do some homework and set aside plenty of time when you get to the dealership. Standard warranty remains at three years and 100,000km.
The Nissan Navara offers affordable transport for both family and work.