2018 NISSAN NAVARA ST REVIEW

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Two years into its lifecycle, the Nissan Navara has found itself on the right end of a few twerks and tweaks. It is unusual, yes, but also gives a strong indication of how important this ute is to the motoring giant.

Complaints of ride quality have followed the 2016 model and Nissan has worked hard to revise the suspension, made changes to the front and rear shock absorbers and stiffened the rebound dampers.

Nissan has also taken this opportunity to add a further variant to the range, the SL, a new entry-model 4×4 starting from $43, 990.

So has Nissan managed to eliminate the jiggle? We took the ST 4×4 on holiday to Fraser Island to find out.

STYLING
The SUV-like interior comforts of the Navara is one of its strongest selling points, the space and materials a fine blend for those buyers who need a work ute to double as a family hauler.

Curved edges and the use of leather trim and brushed metal highlights are just the start of a story that also includes easy-to-read instrumentation, good placement of button and dials and a steering wheel that feels comfortable in the hand. That the latter is adjustable for height only, not reach, is an inconvenience but not distractingly so.

It is reasonably well-appointed and includes features like auto headlights and wipers, fog lights, reverse camera, sat-nav, side steps and an electrically-powered sliding rear window.

The cloth covered seats in our Navara ST were rather supportive, long enough under the thigh and wide enough across the shoulders to offer real comfort for occupants in the front even on longer trips. Those in the rear pew are not without their joys. Three adults can travel back there if needed and although head and leg room is acceptable, don’t expect to stretch out.

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As in most dual-cabs the back seat can be rather upright which happily is somewhat less so in this Navara. The kids will enjoy the higher vantage point and the access to air but watch the suede-like seat covering if you allow them a road trip snack. There are three top tethers for car seats with IsoFix points still to be fitted.

In-cabin storage options include four cup holders, smallish door bins, room in the centre stack for a phone or wallet and a usable glovebox. Of course, in vehicles of this ilk, the tray is of high importance. The ST featured a chrome sports bar, 12V plug and metal tie-down rings but could have done with a tray liner and cover. It feels and is smaller than that offered by some competitors but is good for 940kg if not towing but much less of course if you are at the maximum 3500kg braked trailer towing capacity.

INFOTAINMENT
The infotainment system in the Navara ST 4×4 is functional and user-friendly but feels like it is already starting to date. The 5.0-inch touchscreen is too small for a ute of this size with graphics that are a tad hazy but is easy to navigate and quick to respond. Bluetooth connectivity and audio streaming works well but you will have to make do without advanced features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
Our ST 4×4 was powered by Nissan’s 2.3-litre twin-turbo diesel engine which offers 140kW and 450Nm. Incidentally, this is the first Japanese diesel dual-cab ute to use two turbochargers, one to boost performance on take-off with the second kicking in when quick acceleration is needed.

There is a 2.3-litre single-turbo diesel engine available in the Navara RX only and a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine in the Navara DX.

For most models in the 4×4 and 4×2 range, you have the choice of either a six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic transmission.

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SAFETY
All Navara dual-cab utes have a five star ANCAP rating thanks mostly to seven airbags including full-length curtain airbags; there’s electronic stability and traction control and ABS brakes with electronic brake force distribution and emergency brake assist.

Navara ST also has reverse camera as standard but you have to spring for the range-topping ST-X for rear parking sensors, hill start assist and hill descent control.

DRIVING
Given that it was Nissan’s intention with this update to modify the suspension so that the rear especially jiggles less perceptibly, it is easy to focus just on that element when behind the wheel.

But the Navara is about more than a wobbly bottom and you will be glad for its composed demeanour, adventurous nature and on and off-road capability.

It is big and tall and heavy – it is a dual-cab ute after all – so think a front-row forward rather than a Russian ballerina. Still, it is most efficient at the job at hand and certainly shows some poise through bumpy corners and needs little urging to get up to speed.

Lower ground clearance than some rivals can limit the breadth of off-road forays but in the main, the Navara is an accomplished performer, helped by its locking rear diff and in the case of the ST the 16-inch wheels. It did well on the soft sands of Fraser, admirably keeping out of trouble in patches that confounded more acclaimed off-roaders.

And as for that jiggle… well, it’s still there but less so. The ride is now a little firmer especially over bumps and it can occasionally wallow a bit, but you can’t have everything I suppose. It is best under mid-sized loads, where it is clear to see the work done to the rear rebound dampers.

We managed close to 800km during our week in the Navara and were impressed by overall fuel use around 7.7L/100km – more than the claimed 7.0L/100km but pretty good nonetheless.

Nissan offers a three year, 100,000km warranty with service intervals at 12 months or 20,000km. Servicing costs should be around $1832 for the first three years.

SUMMING UP
Australia is dual-cab country and the segment is chock full with a range of offerings that run the gamut from must-have to thanks-for-coming. The tweaks Nissan has made to the Navara has certainly helped elevate its appeal. Whether you intend to use your dual-cab for work, play or the school pickup, the Navara is worth a look.

AT A GLANCE

Nissan Navara ST 4×4 pricing and specifications:
Price: from $49,490 (plus on-road costs)
Engine: 2.3-litre four-cylinder twin-turbo diesel
Output: 140kW at 3750rpm and 450Nm at 1500-2500rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed auto, 4×4
Fuel: 7.0L/100km (ADR Combined)
Warranty: Three years 100,000 kilometres
Safety Rating: Five Star ANCAP

What We Liked:
Spacious interior
Lusty diesel engine
Fuel efficiency

What We Didn’t:
Best safety aids only on top model
A bit pricey
No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto

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