Despite a myriad technical updates over the past five years, Nissan's newest ute has never quite caught the attention of a booming dual-cab ute market.
To this day, the current Nissan Navara remains overshadowed by rivals like the Ford Ranger, Toyota Hilux, Mitsubishi Triton and Volkswagen Amarok.
So Nissan has now unveiled its most comprehensive D23 third-generation revamp yet, changing up the styling, beefing up some of the mechanicals and gifting it a range of new, important safety kit.
But is it going to be enough to trouble a front-runner in the national sales race like the Ford Ranger?
Ahead of its launch date, let’s see how the 2021 Nissan Navara stacks up against its equivalent 2020 Ford Ranger rival.
It looks vastly different on the outside, but there’s little change for the drivetrain in the new 2021 Nissan Navara.
That will mean a carry-over for the 140kW/450Nm twin-turbo four-cylinder diesel engine in the higher-spec variants like the new Pro-4X, and the single-turbo 2.3-litre engine in the lower-spec utes.
Of the twin-turbo engine, Nissan is one of the few dual-cab manufacturers to use two turbochargers. The first is to enhance accelerator response at low speeds, while the other to maximise power when you hold your foot down.
Fuel consumption for dual-turbo engine is rated by Nissan at 8.1L/100km for the seven-speed automatic and 7.5L/100km for the six-speed manual.
Both gearboxes carry over unchanged.
The Ford Ranger offers a similar deal to its Ranger customers; a 157kW/500Nm 2.0-litre bi-turbo four-cylinder diesel for higher-spec variants, a 147kW/470Nm 3.2-litre single-turbo five-cylinder diesel engine option and a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel for entry-level models.
The most expensive 2.0-litre bi-turbo is only available as a cost-option on XLT, Wildtrak and Raptor variants, comes complete with a 10-speed automatic transmission, and sips 7.4L/100km of diesel fuel.
The 3.2-litre alternative uses a six-speed manual or automatic and drinks marginally more than the 2.0-litre, with Ford claiming 8.7L/100km.
Like the powertrain, the chassis/suspension of the 2021 Navara remains primarily unchanged compared to its predecessor.
A five-link coil spring rear suspension or traditional leaf springs choice is carried over (depending on the chosen variant), and some parts have been toughened-up.
The rear axle is now stronger to better cater to heavier loads on 4x4 models, and a new steering rack has been added to improve feel.
It's not the first change for the Navara, which favours coil springs at the rear for ride comfort over ultimate payload capacity.
However, early versions felt very soft and unwieldy, forcing Nissan to revise its set-up on two occasions prior to this.
Other items include a step-ladder for easier access into the pick-up tray and an increased number of tie-down points for securing loads.
Conversely, the Ford Ranger uses a more-conventional leaf-spring rear suspension set up that, in our experience, works well off the beaten track as well as being one of the nicer on-road systems too.
Its steering is notoriously light and easier to use around town, too.
Thanks to some key mid-life updates, the Ford Ranger’s T6 platform has been in use for nearly a decade.
Both Ranger and Navara 4x4 variants come with a locking rear differential.
That heavier-rated rear axle has been fitted to the new Navara with a direct intention to improve the payload, which Nissan reckons can provide up to 1200kg loads on all models.
However, actual figures are yet to be finalised before the official specifications are released.
As a comparison, the dual-cab Ford Ranger has a payload of up to 1003kg, depending on variant and engine.
Most Rangers can tow up to 3500kg (braked) like the Navara, with the notable exception of the coil-sprung Ranger Raptor which can only tow up to 2500kg.
The design of the 2021 Nissan Navara is arguably where the new model has seen the most change, sporting a new face borrowed from the US market Nissan Titan pick-up.
The look features a new, larger grille, a taller bonnet, C-shaped LED headlights and a restyled front bar.
There’s a new font for the ‘Navara’ script which features on the front and back of the ute, while a pair of new LED taillights feature at the rear.
Ford’s Ranger design is clean, neat and has won over a lot of fans, and as such it hasn’t changed a whole lot in the past few years.
High-spec versions get bi-LED headlights and daytime running lights, 18-inch alloys and chromed trim - though there is a vast selection of standard and limited-edition models to choose from should you desire a different look.
Ford has progressively transformed the Ranger to more closely resemble its US pick-up style offerings, and we expect the next generation to fully adopt an American-faced demeanour.
For such an overhauled exterior design, the interior of the Navara hasn’t received a restyle to the same extent.
That said, a common frustration for current Navara owners – the old steering wheel – has been replaced with a new multifunction unit.
The smartphone mirroring-enabled 8.0-inch infotainment unit pairs with a 7.0-inch display within the instrument cluster, and Nissan says the addition of extra sound deadening should keep the cabin quieter than before.
Second-row passengers get a comfier seat, there are two new cupholders in the fold-down centre armrest and a USB access port in between the front seats.
Additional safety tech is also added to the 2021 Navara to meet the specs of other fresh utes on the market, equipping items like automatic emergency braking, active cruise control, trailer sway control, rear cross-traffic alert, 360-degree camera, lane departure warning, lane intervention, and blind-spot warning.
The Ford Ranger’s interior is highly functional, featuring an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring, two multifunction displays within the instrument cluster, a thick-rimmed multifunction steering wheel and a number of storage cubbies at the driver’s disposal.
Depending on how much you spend, the Ranger can equip items like a remote-controlled tonneau cover, extra USB ports and styling enhancements – especially on various special editions (which Ford isn’t shy of churning out).
The Ford Ranger has a suite of active and passive safety systems standard across the range, including automatic emergency braking, speed sign recognition and lane-keeping aid.
While we await further information about the rest of the new Nissan Navara range, and detail on pricing, this substantial mid-life refresh to the Navara range should go a long way to clawing back customers from rival brands.
Whether Nissan has done enough to improve driveability will be a key interest when we put the new Navara up against its competition for real when it arrives in 2021.
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