There’s never been a better time to review the dual-cab 4x4 class of 2016 than right now. Wheels pitches eight of the biggest sellers in the segment for the title of King of the Heap. Here's number five, the Nissan Navara.
First published in the May 2016 issue of Wheels magazine, Australia's best car mag since 1953.
NISSAN’S NP300 Navara, which arrived in 2015, has the makings of a segment-shaker. Just look at its rugged good looks and newly car-like cabin, then glance at the specs and witness a potent and efficient 2.3-litre Renault-Nissan diesel with twin turbos (in the upper and mid-spec versions), a stout 3500kg towing capacity and five-link rear suspension with coil springs (in all dual-cab versions) when all its rivals still use rear leaf springs.
The appeal continues in the cabin. From comfortable front seats trimmed in a suede-like soft trim, front occupants are presented with a neat dash headlined by a 5.0-inch audio unit with Bluetooth connectivity for phone and music, smartphone intergration and a reversing camera. However, like many utes, the steering column lacks reach adjustment.
Standard features include seven airbags and auto headlights, and the ST adds self-levelling LED headlights, LED running lights and front fog lights, side-steps, a rear diff lock and 16-inch alloys.
The rear compartment holds similar sway, offering plenty of leg, head and foot room despite the fact this Navara is slightly smaller than the model it replaces, as well as many of its rivals. Back-benchers are also treated to air-conditioning vents and a powered sliding rear window within the rear screen.
A compass in the rear-view mirror reminds you of Navara’s taste for bush-bashing, and it certainly feels at home in the rough. The standard electronic rear diff lock assisted for the most challenging climbs. With help from the responsive twin-turbo engine’s torque, Navara powered to the top without raising a sweat, though it did kick up impressive rooster tails. It lacks the clearance of some rivals, and traversed rocky and rutted sections with the odd scrape but no real issues.
The five-link rear suspension promises plenty, though it’s difficult to juggle unladen ride comfort with a heavy-duty cargo/towing capacity. The required stiff coil springs mean the road ride is jittery, despite more sophisticated suspension design, though the damping is relatively soft, tending to float rather than jar, which leaves ride quality as merely ‘good’.
The 2.3-litre diesel makes use of its twin sequential turbos to torque convincingly from low revs – peak twist of 450Nm is delivered from 1500-2500rpm – while also providing a thrusty mid-range that runs to the 140kW peak at 3750rpm. The Navara is a hard-charger that’s a fraction quicker than both the Ford Ranger and Colorado where it counts, doing 80-120km/h in 7.5sec, and it’s in the race from 0-100km/h too, which it hits in 10.5sec – a match for the Ford while trailing the Holden Colorado by just 0.3sec. Efficient at 7.0L/100km and impressively refined when cruising, the donk betrays its commercial origins by getting noisy when it’s worked hard, which is a shame.
Poise and balance are relative terms when talking about utes, but it’s here the Navara shows off its flash rear suspension. The big dynamic let-down is the heavy and vague steering, which is again disappointing because in so many other areas, Nissan’s latest ute is a winner.
Flaws and all – and there are commendably few of them – the likeable Navara finishes just below our not-so-surprising Top Four.
Navara rides lower than some rivals – its ground clearance is less than Ranger’s, for example, but greater than Triton’s – which puts it at an initial disadvantage off-road. However, the torquey, responsive engine (which draws air from near the radiator top tank – not so good) and smart seven-speed auto (first gear is a great low-crawl ratio) ensure it has the brute force.
A rear diff lock is standard in this spec, and engaging it doesn’t deactivate the traction-control system across the front axle. Despite the system’s less-than-slick calibration, that locker and the potent drivetrain mean Navara makes light work of hairy climbs.
Now read about the testing process for our dual-cab 4x4 ute mega test.
Model: Nissan Navara ST Dual Cab
Price as tested: $48,490
Engine: 2298cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, TTD
Power: 140kW @ 3750rpm
Torque: 450Nm @ 1500-2500rpm
Transmission: 7-speed automatic
Dimensions (L/W/H/W-B): 5255/1850/1840/3150mm
Tray capacity: 986kg
Braked towing capacity: 3500kg
Unbraked towing capacity: 750kg
Ground clearance: 226mm
Tyres: Toyo A25 Open Country 255/70R16
ADR81 fuel consumption: 7.0L/100km
0-400m: 17.7sec @ 131.2km/h
3yr resale: 60%
Plus: Potent, efficient engine; off-road nous; coil-sprung rear brings good on-road handling
Minus: Vague and heavy steering