Price and specifications
Engine: 2.3-litre twin turbo four-cylinder diesel, 140kW at 3750rpm, 450Nm at 1500-2500rpm
Transmission and 4WD system: Dual-range part-time 4WD
Braked tow capacity: 3500kg
Spare tyre: Full-sized
Fuel tank: 80 litres
Fuel use (claimed): 7.0L/100km
Fuel use on test: 10.3L/100km
Approach/departure angles: 32.4 degrees/26.7 degrees
Ground clearance: 228mm
WHAT’S THE DEAL?
It’s an all-new Navara with a new body and new diesel engine. Until later in 2015 the new Navara – called the NP300, which replaces the old D22 and chunkier D40 - is only available as the dual-cab offering tested here, but there is a single cab and King Cab (extended cab) on the way.
Four-wheel drive models aren’t super cheap, with the RX kicking off at $39,990, plus on-road and dealer costs. For that it’s a fairly basic level of kit, with cruise control, power windows and 16-inch steel wheels. There are auto headlights, though. There’s also stability control and seven airbags (dual front, front-side, side curtain and a driver’s knee airbag) on the safety front.
It’s not till the ST-X that you get a reversing camera, teamed to a 7.0-inch colour touchscreen with sat-nav. There’s also dual-zone air-conditioning, heated front seats, electric driver’s seat, a sunroof and partial leather seats, and 18-inch alloys. Plus smart key entry that means you can leave the key in your pocket or bag to open the door and start the car.
Snazzy LED daytime running lights and the glossy sport bar that adds some styling pizazz.
The Navara also gets the electrically-operated sliding rear window; great for making dogs feel more included in the whole travel experience.
It’s clear passengers were a priority with the Navara. It’s the only one in its class to get air vents in the rear, helping with circulation of cooled or warmed air. Those back seats have decent leg and head room, too.
Up front there’s good space and thoughtful storage areas. A large open binnacle atop the dash is good for maps and other odds and ends, while there are various hidey holes in between the two seats.
A theme throughout is the proliferation of cupholders; as well as those in the doors there are more in the centre console and in the centre of the rear floor.
There are three power outlets in the cabin, including one on top of the dash that’s handy for accessories you want to leave in the storage binnacle. There’s also a fourth power outlet in the tray, which is handy for camp lights or fridges.
As with many rivals, there’s no reach adjustment to steering, and the wheel does feel a tad close to the instruments.
One notable (but small) omission is an exterior temperature readout, so you’ll have to wind down the window to check the chill. A digital speedo is also missing.
Yet there are two compasses; one as part of the trip computer in the instrument cluster and another in the rear vision mirror.
The tray is deep and broad enough, although the RX misses out on the rugged tray liner and adjustable tie-down points of the ST-X.
There’s no standard tonneau cover (on any Navara), with a soft one adding $645 to the deal.
ON THE ROAD
The big change for the Navara – and its big differentiator against rivals – is a coil spring rear-end. It’s still a live axle but gets the more supple coils aimed at improving its on-road behaviour.
It works reasonably well when unladen; there’s still some of the rear-end bouncing typical of workhorse utes, but it’s generally well settled and compliant.
Less impressive is the poise when there’s a decent load in the back. We had about half a tonne out there and it was very light in the nose and a lot less secure in the rear. Even small steering inputs had the tail wagging, sometimes disconcertingly.
Despite the shift to what’s generally considered an inferior setup for carrying big loads, the Navara’s load capacity has increased; for the ST-X tested here it’s claimed at being able to carry up to 930kg.
Tow capacity, too, matches class leaders at 3500kg. However, towing close to its capacity (with a towball download of 300kg) it reduces the gross vehicle mass by 410kg. That means the ST-X here is limited to 579kg of people, luggage and gear in the back when towing that much.
The new 2.3-litre twin turbo four-cylinder diesel isn’t the quietest thing going, with some fan noise and associated diesel roar. But it makes up for it with a stout 450Nm available at just 1500rpm. While it’s no rocket off the line, that torque helps it with hill climbing and makes light work of heavy loads. It also works nicely with the seven-speed auto, which is intuitive in its gear selection.
Claimed fuel use of 7.0 litres per 100km is good, creating a theoretical range of more than 1000km from the 80-litre tank. As always, that figure is largely unachievable; we used 10.3L/100km in a mix of suburban, highway and off-road driving.
The Navara’s part time dual-range four-wheel drive system includes a locking centre diff that engages when you select 4H, so it rules out using it with all four wheels engaged on-road.
But you can shift on the fly to 4H for added surety on slippery surfaces such as gravel, sand or mud.
A rear diff lock only operates once low range is selected, limiting its usefulness in sand and on challenging trails where high range may otherwise be fine.
The approach angle of 32.4 degrees ensures it can tackle steep steps and hills. As with many dual-cabs the 26.7 degree departure angle is less impressive and can scrape the tow bar if you’re not prudent (or limited) with placement.
The wading depth of 450mm is shallow, too, and almost half that of the rival Ford Ranger and Mazda BT-50. No doubt the aftermarket will cater for that deficiency with all manner of snorkels before long.
Those coil springs provide decent articulation at the rear, ensuring a better chance of having all four wheels in contact with the ground.
As well as traction control there’s downhill assist control to regulate speeds down steep slopes.
There’s little doubt the Navara has stepped up and is now a more useful truck. Its coil spring rear suspension will be the subject of many campfire discussions (arguments even). It works well on-road and brings some benefits off-road, but it’s less convincing when you come to testing the payload.
Thankfully the grunty diesel engine suits the nature of the vehicle, while the well thought-out interior makes for a decent long distance companion.
Click here to read the full range review of the Nissan Navara