2015 NISSAN NAVARA REVIEW BY STUART MARTIN
Fuel Economy claimed: manual 6.5, auto 7 l/100km
Construction: body on ladder frame chassis
Suspension: front – independent double-wishbone with front stabiliser bar; rear – multi-link with coil springs and shock absorber.
Payload: manual 933kg, auto 930kg
Towing: 750kg unbraked / 3500kg braked
Smooth, torquey and frugal drivetrain, refined and quiet cabin, head and leg room for four adults, driver’s view through windscreen and mirrors, price, styling.
Rear drum brakes, child seat tether points, nav only on flagship, narrow gearshift gate, restricted rear view, tilt-only steering.
While it might not be looking to usurp Hilux’s throne in outright sales terms, the new Navara is certainly looking for a spot on the dual-cab ute podium.
Navara’s return to the shopping list is due in part to sharp pricing, but for the outlay you’re looking at a handsome, muscular well-equipped ute that isn’t going to shake your innards in the rough stuff.
Sliding into the market ahead of the new Hilux, the Navara ST-X flagship has undercut the segment leader, Ford’s Ranger, by a worthwhile amount, yet matches it for much of the features list.
Power is supplied by a 2.3-litre twin-turbo four-cylinder, producing 140kW and 450Nm – the same outputs as the outgoing D40 but with a reduced thirst, down a couple of litres per 100km to high 6s or low 7s depending on the gearbox.
Your options are a six-speed manual or a seven-speed auto – both were sampled and while the manual is a nice shift and it claims 6.5 litres per 100km, it does have a narrow gate.
The seven-speed auto is a better bet for an extra $2500 and half a litre per 100km, particularly if you’re commuting, towing or spending a lot of time on dunes or beaches.
The clever shift programming and lock-up torque converter make good use of the torque spread on offer from 1500 to 2500rpm – there are no paddleshifters or a Sport mode, but neither is missed.
The trip computer showed high single digits at the end of our time in the dual-cab ST-X, which was more open road work than commuting, as well as a healthy dose of dirt, sand and mud.
The ST-X also demonstrated the drivetrain flexibility on a long, steep sealed-surface climb in (manually selected) 7th gear and with cruise control to the open road speed limit – it ascended without complaint.
Off-road work also showed the powerplant’s flexible torque delivery, ploughing through sand in a gear deliberately higher than ideal without falling short of momentum.
Unsealed surfaces – including solid corrugations – were well-insulated by the suspension, although some more damping control would be welcome.
While the rear end still jumps with the typical judder when the tray is empty, the ride quality is good, as is the cabin noise and refinement.
But it’s the load bearing side of the multi-link rear end that will get it some attention.
The coil sprung rear is key to the decent ride, but still claims a 900-odd kg payload but employs a Dynamic Rebound Damper (that looks suspiciously like a phallic bump stop) to supplement the suspension – waiting for the leaf-spring range is likely the better option for serious load-luggers.
The new Navara is also claiming a Ranger-equalling 3500kg braked towing capacity.
Manoeuvring is a busy business for the driver, with 3.75 turns lock to lock accessing a tighter turning circle (its 50mm shorter in wheelbase) but tight, twisting tracks can be negotiated without brushing through too much of the scenery.
Wading depth is well below par at less than half a metre – some of its immediate opposition is almost double that – but at least the dial-controlled shift on the fly 4WD engagement up to 100km/h is not below the segment average.
Ground clearance is unchanged at 228mm but off-road angles have improved – the approach angle has risen from 30 to 32.4 degrees and the departure angle has improved from 24 to 26.7 degrees.
The addition of a rear diff lock and an active brake-derived limited slip diff system will help keep it moving when the going gets tough.
Tray size is slightly smaller in length and width, as well as now having a 62mm narrower tailgate opening, but it scores for having the adjustable cargo restraint system.
Safety is a key target for the new vehicle, which needs (and will probably get) a five-star ANCAP.
Among its safety features list is stability and traction control (which can be backed off significantly, leaving the driver to keep things pointed in the right direction), seven airbags (the usual six plus a driver’s knee airbag) and anti-lock brakes (albeit using rear drums) all standard.
A trip computer, daytime running lights, USB input, rear vents and cupholders (floor mounted and perhaps an endangered species) point to popularity as a family car, but the child seat anchor system does not.
The rear seat backrest is fixed and the tethers are to be threaded through a strap to a central strap for anchoring, which would become messy if all three were required and complicated to use sporadically.
The rear window includes a horizontally-sliding mini rear window and there’s a 12-volt outlet in the rear plastic-tub-lined tray, with another three in the cabin – one of which is in the dash-top storage tray and well positioned for use with aftermarket electronic equipment.
The Navara has tilt-only steering adjustment for its leather-wrapped steering wheel, something that some (not VW’s Amarok or Mitsubishi with its new Triton) in the segment seem to be resisting.
The $51,990 ST-X has touchscreen satnav (which really should be standard lower down the range), USB input, an informative centre control screen between the dials, 18-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, a sunroof, powered seat adjustment, heated front seats and leather trim.
Also on the features list are an auto-dimming centre mirror, folding and heated exterior mirrors, a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, dusk-sensing LED headlights, hill start and descent control but no rain-sensing wipers.
The Nissan has a three-year 100,000km warranty with roadside assistance – which is a little short of the industry leaders – but has capped price servicing for the first six scheduled services.
The intervals are 12-month or 20,000km up to 120,000km or six year, with prices ranging from $525 to $739 for the diesel model.
It’s been a long time coming and the new Navara has caught up to the segment leaders, but how long it stays a top-tier contender depends on the next step for the Amarok and an ETA on the new Hilux and Ranger.