Nissan has launched the remaining 13 variants of its Navara NP300 range; nine of which are four-wheel drive; all of which have rear leaf-spring suspension. The new variants include single cab, king cab and dual cab-chassis models and add to the 14 dual cab variants that went on sale in June this year, bringing the total variants on offer to 27. Of these 27 variants, 16 in total are 4x4, three are single cabs, six are king cabs, seven are dual cabs, ten have manual transmissions, and six have automatics. If you include transmission options, the list of new versions goes up to 20.
What all this means is the Navara now has more variations than ever before and, significantly, the 13 new workhorses that complete the range have returned to a classic leaf-spring suspension set-up at the rear – Nissan’s first run of dual cab Navaras bucked the norm in June when they launched with multi-link coil springs instead of leaf-springs at the rear. Also significant, however, is the addition of another engine option for the single cab, dual cab and king cab 4x4 models: they are now available with a single turbo-diesel engine. Previously, the NP300 had come with an intercooled 2.3-litre bi-turbo-diesel, producing 140kW and 450Nm. The new intercooled 2.3-litre single turbo-diesel produces 120kW at 3750rpm, and 403Nm.
As part of the change, the Navara single cab 4x4s, which all have cab chassis bodies, come only with the single turbos; the RX-spec king cab, available with a pick-up or cab chassis body, also comes with the single turbo; while the higher ST- or ST-X-spec king cab 4x4s each have the bi-turbo.
Even dual cab 4x4 buyers can opt for a single turbo-diesel, with an RX-spec pick-up or cab chassis variant. The RX dual cab-chassis variant is also the only dual cab offered with leaf rear springs.
Across the 4x4 range, the single turbos are only available with a six-speed manual transmission, except in the dual cab RX pick-up and the single cab RX cab chassis, which each offer the seven-speed automatic as an option. The ADR fuel economy for the single turbo with an automatic is 7.1L/100km, or 6.6L/100km with the manual.
At the new workhorse range’s national launch in Albury, Victoria, 4X4 Australia tested the performance of an ST-spec king cab Nissan Navara. The king cab we drove was a bi-turbo variant, with an automatic transmission and a pick-up body; we didn’t get to test the single turbo.
But engine options aside, there was still an obvious difference between the new workhorses and the dual cab variants launched earlier this year, and that related to how they handle on- and off-road. Nissan’s bold decision to release the first run of NP300s with multi-link coils was thought to indicate market demand for more car-like handling. And as can be expected, the ride in the NP300’s leaf-spring variants is not as refined, especially when the ute is unladen.
On bitumen, the ride is firm and at times erratic over inconsistencies, with vibration through the steering wheel and cabin. The firmer ride is a trade-off of having suspension designed to better carry a load (leafs can be more rigid but spread the load widely over the vehicle’s chassis, whereas coil springs transfer it to a single point). On dirt, the rear end floats a bit over corrugations, but so will the rear of almost any unladen ute. The ride quality would no doubt improve with more weight in the back.
For more serious off-roading, we took the king cab to a small 4x4 course with moguls, logs, water, sand and steep rises and descents. Unladen, it handled everything with ease. However, when it came to the logs, the suspension bottomed out if you weren’t careful – the leaf springs offer less wheel travel than the coils. For fans of the old D40 leaf springs, the leaf springs on the new NP300 are six kilograms lighter, 24mm shorter and offer better clearance.
Nevertheless, on the surface the new NP300 variants are much the same as the variants released earlier this year. The new appeal of the NP300 range is in the detailed options available to commercial and fleet buyers.
The Navara is already Nissan’s best-selling model in Australia, comprising anywhere between 25 and 30 per cent of its annual sales. Nissan hopes this success will continue and the new leaf-sprung model will pick up where the popular Navara D40 and D22 left off.
Firmer suspension means the Nissan Navara NP300 drives more like a farm ute.
With the recent launch of the new Toyota Hilux, and the upgrade of the Ford Ranger and Mazda BT-50 – all of which have leaf-sprung rears – Nissan’s leaf-spring and single-turbo options should help the company retain its share of the commercial ute market, which demands simplicity, durability and practicality over refinement.
Individual needs will determine whether buyers opt for a manual, an automatic, a single turbo, a bi-turbo, a petrol engine, a diesel engine, a single cab, a dual cab, leaf springs or coil springs.
Nissan has done its best to make sure there is something for everyone.
This article was originally published in 4x4 Australia February 2016.
Click here to read the full range review on the Nissan Navara.