Mid model cy­cle up­grades are all the rage with ute mak­ers these days. Nis­san’s NP300 Navara is the lat­est DC TD (double cab turbo diesel) to ben­e­fit from a freshen up.

NZ4WD - - CONTENTS - Story and pho­tos by Damien O’Car­roll

With the launch of the new-gen­er­a­tion Navara NP300 back in 2014, Nis­san was the first man­u­fac­turer to of­fer a coil spring rear sus­pen­sion set up in a ute, some­thing that it was un­der­stand­ably proud of.

Af­ter all, the coil spring set up could carry and tow as much as a tra­di­tional leaf spring one, yet would also of­fer su­pe­rior ride and han­dling. Or so the the­ory went.

As it turned out, how­ever, things didn’t quite add up to that the­o­ret­i­cal out­come and the Navara was found want­ing when it had a load in the tray or was tow­ing. Which is some­thing utes are ex­pected to do on a reg­u­lar ba­sis, re­ally.

Even the un­laden ride qual­ity was well be­hind the leaf-sprung com­pe­ti­tion, so some­thing needed to be done.

Un­for­tu­nately chang­ing things like a sus­pen­sion set up isn’t ex­actly the work of a mo­ment, but now Nis­san have re­leased a re­vised ver­sion of the Navara that it is con­fi­dent has re­solved the is­sues that were hold­ing it back.

What Aussie wants…

Because, in this part of the world, we tend to use our utes to carry and tow far more than a lot of other mar­kets it should come as no real sur­prise that the sus­pen­sion re­vi­sion was un­der­taken at the in­sis­tence of Nis­san Aus­tralia, which saw much test­ing done in cen­tral Vic­to­ria, mean­ing that the roads are ac­tu­ally rather sim­i­lar to our own here in New Zealand.

The new sus­pen­sion set up has been de­vel­oped specif­i­cally for the double cab SL, ST and ST-X mod­els and fea­tures a new dual spring rate sys­tem, the first stage of which has a lower spring rate that al­lows for a more com­fort­able ride ei­ther un­laden or with a light load, while the sec­ond stage has a higher spring rate that al­lows for heav­ier loads with­out com­pro­mis­ing ride or han­dling.

Nis­san has also in­cor­po­rated a dy­namic re­bound damper. When fully loaded the damper is de­signed to con­tact the chas­sis rail which causes the damper to com­press and the re­sis­tance to in­crease – re­duc­ing lat­eral body move­ment and, ac­cord­ing to Nis­san, im­prov­ing the Navara’s han­dling and sta­bil­ity.

De­mon tweaks

The Navara has also come in for a few tweaks to its steer­ing, in­clud­ing a lower

ra­tio (19.0:1, down from 21.5:1).

One of the side ef­fects of the new sus­pen­sion set up is the fact that the rear of the Navara now sits 25mm higher than the pre­vi­ous ver­sion when un­laden, while not drop­ping any­where near as much as the old truck when car­ry­ing a full load, now sit­ting a re­mark­able 40mm higher at its low­est point.

How­ever, this has no real ef­fect on the Navara’s off road abil­ity, and it is still one of the lower-rid­ing utes in the seg­ment, with the least in the way of wad­ing depths – only 450mm com­pared to the likes of the Ford Ranger’s ( ad­mit­tedly rather im­pres­sive) 800mm.

The new sus­pen­sion does im­prove the Navara’s off road ride, par­tic­u­larly on rut­ted gravel tracks and even more so with a load in the tray or tow­ing, which is where it im­presses the most.

Nis­san had pro­vided a number of un­laden Navaras at the launch event, along with some car­ry­ing 650kg in the tray and more still tow­ing be­tween 1,000 and 1,600kg on trail­ers. With 650kg on the back the Navara was even more com­posed and com­fort­able, par­tic­u­larly on some of the rough gravel sec­tions of the drive route.


And it was on those gravel sec­tions that it shone par­tic­u­larly bright with a hefty trailer on the back as well. Here it re­mained nicely com­posed and com­fort­able, un­fazed by the loose sur­face and roughly 1,200kgs we had out the back.

Over­all, the changes have mas­sively im­proved the Navara’s abil­ity to haul a load with­out com­pro­mis­ing its han­dling in any way, and even man­ag­ing to im­prove its ride qual­ity, both laden and un­laden, which is par­tic­u­larly im­pres­sive.

Along with the me­chan­i­cal tweaks, the Navara also gets a load of new safety and driver as­sist sys­tems for 2018, in­clud­ing a 360 de­gree “Around View” mon­i­tor ( stan­dard on the ST-X), sec­ond row ISOFix child seat mount­ing points ( on all Dual Cab ver­sions) and ex­panded avail­abil­ity of rear view cam­eras ( now stan­dard on all pickup vari­ants) and satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion ( added to King Cab ST).

From June 2018 all SL, ST and ST-X mod­els will also fea­ture a new dig­i­tal speedome­ter and ex­tra ( or repo­si­tioned, de­pend­ing on the model) tie-down points to help bet­ter se­cure a load.

En­gines and trans­mis­sions re­main the un­changed across the range, with the RX re­tain­ing the 120kW/ 403Nm sin­gle turbo ver­sion of the 2.3-litre diesel en­gine, while ev­ery­thing else keeps the 140kW/ 450Nm twin-turbo ver­sion, with a choice of ei­ther a six-speed man­ual or a seven-speed au­to­matic.

While it looks the same as be­fore, the 2018 Navara is a far bet­ter ve­hi­cle than it was and is now a con­vinc­ing com­peti­tor in the ute seg­ment.

The 2018 Navara range starts at $ 37,990 for the 2WD RX sin­gle cab chas­sis man­ual and tops out with the 4WD ST-X double cab well side at $ 64,490.

On-road ride is bet­ter whether laden or un­laden.

Sleek leather in­te­rior of range-top­ping ST-X model.

Up­graded Navara sits higher than out­go­ing NP300 model.

Close-up shots shows where most of the changes have been made.

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