What stands out?

The strong performance of the V6 turbo-diesel engine in more expensive models sets the Navara D40 apart, and that is enhanced by an excellent, seven-speed automatic gearbox. You can get a D40 Nissan Navara in a wide variety of forms, from basic tradie or farm truck to well-equipped, work and play family transport.

What might bug me?

Limitations when you’re driving off-road – several other four-wheel drive utes have more ground clearance and a lockable rear differential. However, the Navara performs well in less extreme off-road use.

What body styles are there?

Two-door Single Cab and King Cab, and four-door Dual Cab.

Single-Cabs seat two people, while King Cabs have folding seats behind the front seats in an extended cabin. Dual Cabs seat five.

Only King and Dual cabs can be had as pick-ups, with a factory tub at the rear. All body styles come in cab-chassis form.

The Navara comes in rear-wheel drive or dual-range four-wheel drive. It is classified as a light commercial pick-up.

(Alongside this D40 model Navara, which arrived in 2006, Nissan has sold the previous-generation D22 Navara as a low-priced alternative. The D22 Navara is not reviewed here.)

What features do all D40 Navaras have?

Cruise control, audio and phone controls on the steering wheel, and Bluetooth phone connectivity.

Airbags in front of the driver and front-seat passenger, and ABS brakes, both baseline safety features.

Every Navara but one has electronic stability control, a very useful feature that helps prevent and control skids. The exception is the D40 ST 4x2 Dual Cab, which unlike most Navaras is built in Spain.

All Navaras come with Nissan’s three-year/100,000km warranty.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

All D40 Navaras are turbo-diesel powered, using a range of 2.5-litre four-cylinder engines and a 3.0-litre V6.

In real-world use, any of the 2.5-litre fours will use significantly less fuel than the V6.

Among the 2.5-litre fours, the most fuel efficient is the 120kW version fitted only to the 2WD ST Dual Cab. However, this is the only D40 Navara that does not have electronic stability control.

The 4WD ST Dual Cab gets a more powerful, 140kW version of that engine which uses only marginally more fuel, consuming 8.5 litres/100km in in official tests with a manual gearbox and 9.0 litres/100km as an auto (city and country combined). This is the most fuel-efficient of the better equipped 4WD dual-cab Navaras. In the real world you can expect 10 to 11 litres/100km.

The 3.0 litre V6 in Navara ST-X and ST-X 550 dual-cabs is the performance leader, with 170kW. In the official test it is not much more thirsty than the fours, but in the real world it is a different story: you can expect 12.5 to 13.5 litres/100km.

The four-cylinder diesels come with either a six-speed manual gearbox or a five-speed automatic. The V6 comes only with a seven-speed automatic.

What key features do I get if I spend more?

Spend more money and you can seat more people (up from 2 to 5), enjoy the practicality and fun of four-wheel drive, and gain more safety, convenience and luxury.

ST-X King Cabs get 16-inch polished aluminium-alloy wheels, which look nicer than the steel wheels fitted lower down the range.

ST and ST-X Dual Cabs have 17-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning that maintains a set temperature, an audio system with more speakers (6 or 7, up from 4), and iPod connectivity.

ST and ST-X Dual Cabs also get four more airbags: side airbags, to protect the bodies of the driver and front-seat passenger from side impacts; and full-length side-curtain airbags, to protect the heads of front and rear-seat passengers from side impacts. And they have a ‘Sports Bar’ behind the cabin and a handy adjustable cargo tie-down system for the rear tub.

The key difference between the ST and ST-X Dual Cabs is in the engine: STs have a version of the 2.5-litre four-cylinder, while the ST-X has the V6. However, the STs also have satellite navigation and a reversing camera, where the ST-X does not.

The Navara ST-X 550 has the V6, satellite navigation and a reversing camera. It also has leather seats, with the front seats power-adjustable, and side steps.

Both V6 models also have Electronic Traction Control, which helps in difficult off-road conditions.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

As with any ute like this, going to a bigger cabin means a shorter tub or tray and a reduced payload.

White, red, blue and black are all standard colours at no additional cost.

How comfortable is the Navara?

The Navara has a comfortable cabin that set new standards in 2006 when the D40 range was released. The ST and ST-X Dual Cab interiors have been updated from time to time, preserving a contemporary feel.

The Navara rides as utes generally do. With only passengers on board, the ride can be uncomfortable. Very smooth roads are fine but everywhere else you know you are in a ute. Weight in the tub or on the tray helps settle the ride.

Nevertheless newer utes such as the Ford Ranger and Mazda BT-50, and particularly the Volkswagen Amarok, ride and handle better than the Navara.

The V6 in the ST-X and ST-X 500 Dual Cabs is notably smoother and quieter than any of the four-cylinder engines and is keener to rev, being originally designed for passenger car use. The four-cylinder engines have more of a working character to them and are happier at low and middle engine speeds.

The seven-speed auto mated to the V6 also brings smoother and faster gear changes than five-speed auto used with the four-cylinder engines.

What about safety in a D40 Navara?

Stability control on all but one model helps D40 Navaras rate at least a Good for safety, while the addition of side and side-curtain airbags lifts some ST and ST-X Dual Cabs into the Very Good range.

The model that does not have stability control is the D40 Dual Cab ST 4x2. This feature is compulsory on passenger cars but not on commercial vehicles such as the Navara. Its absence on this variant means you are on your own when controlling skids or slides – you don’t get help from a computer, which on other Navaras adjusts power and braking for you.

(To see a full list of the safety features on any model, select the car and look under the features tab. Safety-related features are listed in red.)

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) has rated only the Dual-Cab 4x4s from this D40 series, which were awarded four stars.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

The V6 turbo diesel in the ST-X and ST-X 550 offers strong performance that is enhanced by the sophisticated seven-speed automatic gearbox. There is nothing quite like this engine in any other ute, and these cars are fun to drive by ute standards.

The only glitch here is that the seven-speed automatic is not well calibrated for off-road driving and will often change gears at exactly the wrong time.

Of the various four-cylinder engines, the 140kW version in the ST Dual Cab 4WD is the best and it works well with both the automatic and the manual gearboxes.

The other engines are draught horses, and best with a manual gearbox.

How is life in the rear seats?

Before bigger utes such as the Ford Ranger, Mazda BT-50 and Volkswagen Amarok arrived, the D40 Navara was the standard-setter for rear-seat space and comfort. Now it’s a mid-fielder. ST and ST-X Dual-Cabs get three child restraint anchor points, but RX Dual-Cabs have none.

The two folding seats in King-Cab models are suitable only for children and smaller adults, and over shorter distances.

How is it for carrying stuff?

Like all utes, the Navara is built to carry stuff. The Single-Cabs are the best at this as they have the longest trays. Dual-Cabs have the smallest trays or tubs.

Payload ratings are class competitive but not up with the class leaders. They range from 1223kg (including the tray) for the RX Single-Cab cab-chassis 4x4 to 828kg for the ST Dual-Cab Pick Up 4x4.

All 4x2s have 2000kg tow ratings, while 4x4s have a 3000kg tow rating. Again this is competitive but not up with the best in the class.

Where is the Navara D40 made?

Both V6-powered Navaras and the ST Dual-Cab 4x2 are built in Spain. All other Australian-delivered D40 Navaras are built in Thailand.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

Quite a few things, starting with leading-edge safety, more cabin space and greater towing capacity.

If you wish to take your D40 Navara 4x4 off road, you might also miss the extra ground clearance that other 4WD utes offer, and a rear differential lock (available on the Ford Ranger, Mazda BT-50 and Volkswagen Amarok, for example). A rear differential lock helps you go further in difficult off-road conditions.

Other utes you might consider include the Toyota Hilux, Mitsubishi Triton, Holden Colorado and Isuzu D-Max.

I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?

The ST-X and ST-X 550 Dual-Cabs offer superior performance and a better driving experience. However, like all utes there is a big model range to suit a wide range of uses, so no one model will suit all potential buyers.

Are there plans to update the Navara D40 soon?

A new-generation NP300 dual-cab Navara has been on sale since mid-2015. The rest of the NP300 Navara range is expected by late 2015.