The big news in the Australian new car scene in recent years has been the rapid growth of SUV sales which saw them overtake conventional passenger cars for the first time in 2017. Only slightly less spectacular has been the jump in sales of pickups / utilities with Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger occupying the top two spots in overall vehicles 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.
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 120 kW and 403 Nm, the other a twin-turbo with 140 kW and 450 Nm. Peak torque from both engines runs from 1500 to 2500 rpm.
Transmission options are six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic transmission.
Touchscreen 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.
Navara RX Pick Up has a reversing camera displayed in the rear vision mirror which also has and 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 range-topping 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 10 metres 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 towbar kit fitted to the car which allows for up to 3500 kg 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 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 100 kilometres on the combined urban / highway cycle is listed for the Navara ST-X. We averaged 7.7 L/100 km during our week-long test.
Improvements to the Nissan Navara Series 3 have now lifted it to the extent that it can been seen as a genuine competitor against its big-selling rivals. It can easily double as family transport and weekend workhorse.
As with most pickups 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 100,000 kilometres.
AT A GLANCE
DX 4×4 Single Cab cab chassis: $31,990 (manual)
RX 4×2 Single Cab cab chassis: $25,990 (manual)
RX 4×4 Single Cab cab chassis: $32,990 (manual), $35,490 (automatic)
RX 4×2 King Cab cab chassis: $28,490 (manual)
RX 4×4 King Cab cab chassis: $35,490 (manual)
RX 4×4 King Cab utility: $37,290 (manual)
RX 4×2 Dual Cab utility: $33,490 (manual), $35,990 (automatic)
RX 4×4 Dual Cab cab chassis: $38,490 (manual), $40,990 (automatic)
RX 4×4 Dual Cab utility: $42,990 (automatic)
ST 4×2 Dual Cab utility: $40,190 (manual), $42,690 (automatic)
ST 4×4 Dual Cab utility: $47,190 (manual), $49,690 (automatic)
ST 4×4 King Cab utility: $43,990 (manual), $46,490 (automatic)
ST-X 4×4 King Cab utility: $49,990 (manual), $52,490 (automatic)
ST-X 4×2 Dual Cab utility: $44,990 (manual), $47,490 (automatic)
ST-X 4×4 Dual Cab pickup: $51,990 (manual), $54,490 (automatic)
SL 4×4 Dual Cab utility: $43,990 (manual), $46,490 (automatic)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Nissan dealer for drive-away prices.
SPECIFICATIONS (Nissan Navara ST 2.3-litre four-cylinder twin-turbo diesel, 7sp automatic 4×4, Dual Cab Pickup)
Capacity: 2.298 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders in line
Maximum Power: 140 kW @ 3750 rpm
Maximum Torque: 450 Nm @ 1500-2500 rpm
Fuel Type: Diesel
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 7.0 L/100km
CO2 Emissions: 186 g/km
DRIVELINE: Seven-speed automatic, dual range 4×4 with electronic 4WD selection
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 5255 mm
Wheelbase: 3150 mm
Width: 1850 mm
Height: 1825 mm
Turning Circle: 12.4 metres
Kerb Mass: 1942 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 80 litres
Front: Ventilated disc
Three years / 100,000 km