2017 Nissan Navara Review

2017 Nissan Navara Review

Overall Rating

0

3.5 out of 5 stars

Rating breakdown
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Safety, value & features

4 out of 5 stars

Comfort & space

3 out of 5 stars

Engine & gearbox

4 out of 5 stars

Ride & handling

3 out of 5 stars

Technology

4 out of 5 stars

Pros & Cons

  1. ProEfficient and powerful engines; clever automatic gearbox.

  2. ConCabin less roomy than some alternatives.

  3. The Pick: 2017 Nissan Navara ST (4x4) King Cab Utility

What stands out?

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The most striking feature of the Navara NP300 from Nissan – the first all-new Navara in 10 years – is how well the better equipped versions combine high power with low fuel use. The Navara also offers a very comfortable cabin. There are rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive versions.

What might bug me?

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That friends with other dual-cab utes can carry and tow big loads more comfortably. The Navara ST and ST-X Dual Cabs sag more on their coil rear springs when heavily loaded than most leaf-sprung alternatives do, and feel less stable than others to drive when near maximum payload or towing capacity. Nissan says new rear springs and dampers introduced with a Series II upgrade of November 2016 have enhanced the laden handling of its coil-sprung Dual Cabs, however.

The more powerful of the two diesel engines is noisy when worked hard.

What body styles are there?

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Dual Cab, King Cab and Single Cab. Dual Cab Navaras have four doors and seat five, and in pick-up form ride on coil springs at the rear. King Cab Navaras have two small seats behind the front seats, where you can carry luggage, animals, or (for short trips) human passengers. Single Cab Navaras are available in cab-chassis form only – you specify your own tray. All King Cabs and Single Cabs use leaf springs at the rear.

The less expensive model at each equipment level comes with rear-wheel drive only. The more expensive version has dual-range four-wheel drive. (These drive only the rear wheels on normal roads, but you can select 4WD, or low-range 4WD, when driving off-road.)

The Navara NP300 is classified as a light commercial pick-up.

What features do all Navaras have?

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A single CD audio system that has at least four speakers (six in dual-cabs), and auxiliary, USB and iPod inputs. It can be controlled from the steering wheel.

Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming.

Cruise control, operated from buttons on the steering wheel.

Daytime running lamps, which make the car more visible on overcast days.

Headlamps that switch on automatically when it gets dark.

Seven airbags: two directly in front of the driver and front passenger; one alongside each front occupant to protect the upper body; a curtain airbag along each side to protect the heads of front and rear outside occupants; and an airbag in front of the driver’s knee to help prevent leg injuries.

Electronic Stability control, which can help the driver to control a skidding car. This is mandatory on new passenger cars but not on light commercial vehicles like the Navara.

Electronic Traction Control, which helps the car maintain drive on slippery surfaces. This is especially helpful with the four-wheel drive models in difficult going.

The warranty is three years/100,000km with 24-hour roadside assist.

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

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The most powerful engine in the range, a 2.3-litre twin-turbo diesel, uses the least fuel, consuming no more than 7.0 litres/100km in automatic form on the official test (city and country combined). There is little difference between two-wheel drive and 4WD versions. Manual gearbox models use half a litre less.

In real world driving, the consumption is about 11 litres/100km with the automatic gearbox, and 10.5 with the manual – still good figures for this sort of vehicle, and especially for one with such lively performance.

This diesel is the first in a Japanese dual-cab ute to use two turbochargers – one to enhance accelerator response at low speeds, and the other to maximise power when you hold your foot down. A similar layout is used on most Volkswagen Amaroks.

The only good reason not to choose this engine is its price: it comes only in the more expensive Navaras - the SL, ST and ST-X variants.

However, while the diesel supplied with the less costly Navara RX is less powerful, it uses marginally more fuel. (This too is a 2.3 litre engine, but it has only a single turbo.)

The third engine available is a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol that comes only with the Navara DX, the basic work model. It offers less power than either diesel in most driving conditions, and it uses the most fuel.

All engines come with a six-speed manual gearbox or an optional seven-speed automatic. (However, several of the more work-oriented vehicles do not offer the automatic option.)

What key features do I get if I spend more?

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The DX work ute is the only Navara NP300 with a petrol engine, and it comes with 15-inch steel wheels and vinyl-covered floors.

Spend more for a Navara RX and you get 16-inch steel wheels and the less powerful of the two diesel engines. You also get a security alarm, tinted rear and side windows, a rear-window demister, fancier external mirrors and door handles, an interior fuel-flap release, and remote door unlocking via the key fob.

The RX also has a 12-volt outlet in its rear tub, which is handy for powering portable fridges, among other things.

Spending more for a Navara SL 4WD Dual Cab gets you the more powerful, twin-turbo, diesel engine in a package that retains rugged steel wheels and a work-friendly vinyl floor. The SL also has a 5-inch multi-function screen on the dashboard, with smartphone integration via Nissan Connect, and a reversing camera.

For more comfort and style in a Navara, you can opt for the more expensive Navara ST. That brings you fancier-looking 16-inch wheels made from an aluminium alloy, carpets on the floor, and satellite navigation (while retaining the more powerful diesel). The steering wheel, gear change lever and handbrake lever are trimmed in leather, and there is a trip computer. Headlamps are a more effective, projector, design. Signature running lights give the car a more distinctive look. And the ST has foglights, side steps (which help you get in and out of the cabin), and a chrome sports bar for the tub (which can be handy for carrying long items).

Navara STs with four-wheel drive gain a locking rear differential, which gives you better drive in slippery or very rough conditions off road.

Pay more again for a Navara ST-X and you gain partial-leather seats, heating for the front seats, and power adjustment for the driver’s seat. Power-folding door mirrors are heated, for demisting in wet and cold weather. Sporty-looking 18-inch alloy wheels are accompanied by an alloy spare. (Other models have steel spare wheels.)

The ST-X also has a 7-inch touchscreen, and rear parking sensors (which tell you how close you are to obstacles immediately behind). An intelligent key allows you to unlock the car simply by touching a front door handle, provided the key is nearby (say, in a pocket or bag). There are moveable tie-down points in the rear tub and a heavy-duty plastic liner, and also roof rails, which make it easier to mount luggage systems.

On ST-X Dual Cabs, a power-operated sunroof is an extra-cost option.

Four-wheel drive versions of the ST-X have Hill Start Control, which prevents them from rolling backwards on steep hills, and Hill Descent Control, which prevents the vehicle from running away on steep off-road descents.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

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Models with more features and equipment are heavier, which reduces significantly the load they can carry.

The lower-profile tyres that come with the 18-inch wheels on the Navara ST-X are less suitable for off road use than the tyres on other models.

White, red and black are all standard colours. Other paint colours come at extra cost.

How comfortable is the Navara?

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The cabin of the Navara NP300 looks and feels more like a passenger car cabin than a commercial vehicle cabin. That is more so in the ST and the very luxurious dual-cab ST-X with its optional sunroof.

Front seats are car-like and comfortable but the steering wheel adjusts only for height and not for reach.

The Navara is also very car-like to drive and is not as big as some utes, which is handy in carparks and the like.

On the road it’s generally comfortable, although the rear suspension jolts you over bumps when there isn’t a load in the tub – a usual ute shortcoming.

Both diesel engines provide good response and work particularly well with the seven-speed auto gearbox.

What about safety in a Nissan Navara?

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With an extensive list of safety features right from the base-model up, all NP300s rate at least Very Good for safety. The standard reversing camera on SL, ST and ST-X models lifts them higher into the Excellent range.

The absence of a headrest for the rear-seat centre passenger is a safety negative.

(To see a list of the safety features on any model, open the model from the Cars Covered By This Review dropdown near the top of this page, and look under the features tab. Safety-related features are listed in red.)

The NP300 has been awarded the maximum five-star rating by the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP), in dual-cab, king cab and single cab body styles.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

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Like all utes, the Navara NP300 is a relatively big, tall and heavy vehicle. So it won’t feel as nimble as most passenger cars, which are smaller, lower and lighter.

The Navara’s steering is less communicative than that of some alternatives: steering on test cars has felt relatively heavy but also slow, falling short of the high standard set by the outgoing model, the Navara D40. That makes the Navara less enjoyable to drive than, for example, the Volkswagen Amarok and Ford Ranger.

Dual-cab versions of the Navara NP300 are unusual among utes in riding on coil springs rather than leaf springs at the rear. (The one exception is the basic RX Cab-Chassis, which like all King Cab and Single Cab models has leaves.) The coils don’t ride any less harshly than the leaf springs on other utes, but the revised suspension design that comes with them does afford better stability when accelerating through bumpy corners.

The more powerful of the two diesel engines, helped by the fact that the NP300 is lighter than its immediate rivals, gives the Navara performance that matches any dual-cab ute and outdoes most of them.

Off road, the Navara’s relatively low weight and small size help, as does the addition of a locking rear differential – which is standard on ST and ST-X versions.

However the NP300, like its predecessor the D40, does not have as much ground clearance as most other 4WD utes. It also has its engine air intake located in a more vulnerable position than it was on the D40 (and most alternatives), and therefore is not as suitable for deep water crossings.

How is life in the rear seats?

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The rear seat in Navara Dual Cabs is not as roomy or as comfortable for three adults as that in the Amarok, Ranger or BT-50, but it is fine for two adults and a smaller child in the middle. There is no headrest for the middle passenger.

How is it for carrying stuff?

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It’s good, of course – it’s a ute. And the Navara can also be used for towing.

How much you can carry depends on which Navara you get. Fewer seats in the cab means more length in the tray and more weight you can put in the tray (because there’s less weight in the cab).

Legally, a Navara carries less than most other utes. Even so, the best-equipped and heaviest Navara – the ST-X Dual-cab four-wheel drive – can legally carry 740kg in the tray (37 bags of cement) and a driver and passenger. All other variants bar the petrol dual-cab can legally carry more.

In practice, putting that much weight in the tray of a Navara doesn’t work too well, at least for the coil-sprung Dual-cab models – which is nearly all of the Dual-cabs. Load a Navara ST-X or the best-selling ST to its legal maximum and the rear of the vehicle drops noticeably. On the road with that much in the back the ute drives nose-up, feeling light in the steering and not as stable as similar utes carrying that weight. In contrast, the powerful diesel engine driving these Navaras has no trouble handling a big load.

One Dual-cab Navara, the RX cab-chassis 4WD, has leaf springs at the rear, which are more suited to load carrying. But this is the farm ute of the range and comes with the less powerful diesel engine, so it’s a win and a loss.

All of the Single-cab and King-cab Navaras also get leaf springs at the rear.

Most Navaras are legally rated to tow 3500kg, which is as much as any similar vehicle. That’s a robust 20-foot tandem-axle off-road caravan, or a triple-float with three horses on board.

In practice, coil-sprung Navara Dual-cabs struggle when towing this much. The powerful diesel engine does it easily enough, but the chassis squats too much at the rear and doesn’t feel stable or reassuring.

The comments above apply directly to coil-sprung Navaras on sale prior to November 2016. Nissan says it has fitted Series II Dual Cab Navaras introduced at that time with different springs and dampers, and claims to have improved the Navara’s stability when laden – a claim that WhichCar reviewers have not yet put to the test.

Navaras with petrol engines are rated to tow only 1588kg.

In any ute, extreme care should be taken when carrying or towing big loads.

Where does Nissan make the Navara?

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The Navara NP300 is made in Thailand.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

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A four-wheel drive system that works on normal roads and not just off-road. More expensive versions of the Mitsubishi Triton and all automatic Volkswagen Amaroks with 4WD have this feature. It makes them safer and more convenient in marginal driving conditions than the Navara.

Both the Amarok and the Triton also have tilt and reach steering-wheel adjustment, which makes it easier to get comfortable.

Perhaps Active cruise control – which slows you automatically to the speed of a car in front – and forward collision warning. These are optional on Ford Ranger XLT and Wildtrak models, for example. Or lane-departure warning – this is standard on the most expensive Holden Colorados.

Other cars you might look at include the Toyota HiLux, Isuzu D-Max, and Mazda BT-50.

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

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The Navara ST 4x4 is the pick of the range for a family car. It has the more powerful and efficient twin-turbo diesel engine, and important equipment upgrades such as the reversing camera, rear differential lock and better headlamps. It also has more practical wheels and tyres than the more expensive ST-X.

Are there plans to update the Navara soon?

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The NP300 was a new-generation ute as of mid-2015, replacing the Navara D40. In November 2016 a Series II upgrade introduced the SL variant, extended satellite navigation to the ST and deleted the standard sunroof from the ST-X, making it optional. Coil-sprung Dual Cabs received suspension changes that were aimed at improving the Navara’s ride and load-carrying.

If previous lifecycles are anything to go by, the Navara will be around, albeit with upgrades, for the next 10 years.