2017 Nissan Navara Review
By Fraser Stronach, with WhichCar staff
Priced From $25,990Information
What stands out?Expand Section
What might bug me?Expand Section
You may also get complaints if you try to fit three adults across the rear seat of a Navara Dual Cab.
Noise from the more powerful of the two diesel engines, when you’re working it hard.
What body styles are there?Expand Section
King Cab Navaras have two small seats behind the front seats, where you can carry luggage, animals, or (for short trips) human passengers. Access is via two small rear-hinged doors, which can be opened only if the corresponding front door is open. 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 Navara at each equipment level comes with rear-wheel drive only. The more expensive version has part-time, 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 is classified as a light commercial pick-up.
What features do all Navaras have?Expand Section
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.
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.
Seven airbags. Electronic stability control, which can help control a skid or a slide. (For the placement of airbags, and more on Navara safety systems, please open the Safety section below.)
The warranty is three years/100,000km with 24-hour roadside assist.
Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?Expand Section
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. (The more work-oriented Single and King cabs do not offer the automatic option.)
What key features do I get if I spend more?Expand Section
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 in the Dual Cab satellite navigation. 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?Expand Section
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?Expand Section
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.
Steering effort in a Navara Series 2 is lower than in the original new-generation Navara NP300, which the Series 2 replaced about March 2017 in a surprisingly early revision.
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.
The manual gearbox and the clutch that comes with it are both light and easy to use however, a positive given that driving in traffic requires plenty of gearchanges.
Out on the highway, very little gear-changing is required. The Navara has enough power to hold the higher gears even on hills.
What about safety in a Nissan Navara?Expand Section
There are two airbags directly in front of the driver and front passenger; one alongside each front occupant to protect the upper body from side impacts; a curtain airbag along each side to protect the heads of front and (where applicable) rear outside occupants; and an airbag in front of the driver’s knee to help prevent leg injuries.
Not all utes offer comprehensive airbag coverage in the smaller cabs, and some – notably the Volkswagen Amarok – don’t protect rear passengers with airbags even in dual-cabs.
Electronic Stability control, which can help you control a skidding vehicle, is mandatory on new passenger cars.
Navara SL, ST and ST-X variants come with a rear-view camera, improving safety for others when you are reversing the vehicle.
The absence of a headrest for the rear-seat centre passenger in Dual Cabs is a safety negative.
The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded the Navara NP300 five stars for safety, its maximum, in July 2015, and the mildly revised Series 2 carries over that rating. It applies to Dual Cab, King Cab, and Single Cab body styles.
I like driving - will I enjoy this car?Expand Section
The Navara feels as enjoyable to steer as any ute but the exceptional Volkswagen Amarok. The Navara Series 2 steers much better than the short-lived NP300 it replaced.
Dual-cab versions of the Navara 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.) They don’t ride any less harshly than other utes, but they do feel more stable than most when you’re accelerating through bumpy corners.
Suspension changes for the Series 2 have improved front-to-rear balance over the NP300, eliminating the latter’s susceptibility to pitching back and forth and producing a poised, stable ride.
The more powerful of the two diesels allows the relatively light Navara to match or exceed the performance of most other utes (the Volkswagen Amarok V6 being the notable exception).
Off road, the Navara’s small size helps too, as does the locking rear differential that is standard on ST and ST-X versions.
However the Navara does not have as much ground clearance as most other 4WD utes, and it also comes up short for grip on very rough tracks (because its shorter-travel suspension is less effective at keeping its tyres on the ground).
The Navara also is less suited to deep water crossings than most alternatives, as its engine air intake is located more vulnerably – unless you fit an accessory air snorkel. (The previous generation Navara, the D40, was better in this respect than the Series 2 and NP300.)
How is life in the rear seats?Expand Section
How is it for carrying stuff, and for towing?Expand Section
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 Navara – the ST-X Dual Cab four-wheel drive – can legally carry 770kg in the tray (38 bags of cement) and a driver and passenger. All other variants bar the petrol Dual Cab can legally carry more.
In distinguishing the Navara Series 2 from its predecessor, the NP300, Nissan placed most emphasis on suspension revisions for the coil-sprung Navara Dual Cabs, claiming the Series 2 was more stable when laden or towing, among other handing improvements. Nissan cited revised shock absorbers front and rear but has not been forthcoming with details.
Subsequent load-testing of a Series 2 Dual Cab suggests strongly that the revisions did not extend to significantly stiffer rear springs. Under an 800kg load, a Series 2 Navara Dual Cab sagged at the rear just as much as its predecessor had sagged, once again driving nose-up and feeling light in the steering.
The load-test result for the Navara Series 2 was therefore much as the same as reported for the NP300, in a comparison undertaken for the November 2016 issue of 4x4 Australia magazine. The Navara NP300 was the least stable of seven dual-cab utes tested when loaded to its legal limit. Its powerful diesel – unchanged for the Series 2 – was not challenged, however.
It was a similar story with towing, the NP300 pulling strongly but squatting too much at the rear when asked to haul a trailer matching its 3500kg legal braked towing limit. Reviewers have not repeated the tow test on a Series 2, but see no reason to predict a different result.
Be aware that 800kg is a lot to carry, just as 3500kg is a lot to tow – it represents a robust 20-foot tandem-axle off-road caravan, or a triple-float with three horses on board. You could expect any Navara to do much better with a more likely 400kg in the tray, or when towing 2500kg – which would still account for a very sizable caravan or laden two-horse float.
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 have leaf springs at the rear.
Note that 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?Expand Section
What might I miss that similar cars have?Expand Section
Reach adjustment for the steering wheel (the Navara wheel adjusts only for height), which could bring some drivers more comfort. The Triton, Amarok and Toyota HiLux offer this, for example.
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 Isuzu D-Max, and Mazda BT-50.
I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?Expand Section
Are there plans to update the Navara soon?Expand Section
If previous lifecycles are anything to go by, the D23 Navara will be around until 2025. Expect minor upgrades from time to time before then.
Dual-cab ute load and tow comparison test
We lock and load the popular utes to see which is the haul king
4x4 Load and Tow test comparison: 2016 Nissan Navara review
All Navara NP300 dual-cab 4x4s have coil rather than leaf springs at the rear, making it unique among utes.
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