2020 Nissan Navara review

The most striking feature of the Nissan Navara is how well it combines high power with low fuel use. The Navara also offers a very comfortable cabin, and dual-range 4WD.

Nissan Navara N-TREK
Score breakdown
Safety, value and features
Comfort and space
Engine and gearbox
Ride and handling
Things we like
  •   Smaller and handier than similar utes
  •   Brisk performance
Not so much
  •   Cabin less roomy than some alternatives

What stands out?

The most striking feature of the Navara ute from Nissan is how well the better-equipped versions combine high power with low fuel use. The Navara also offers a very comfortable cabin and is smaller, and easier to park, than most utes. The Navara now rides and handles much better than its immediate predecessors, including the NP300. There are rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive versions.

What might bug me?

That friends with other dual-cab 4WD utes can go further off road. In very rough going, the Navara is a bit short on clearance.

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?

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. 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?

An audio with 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.

Tinted side windows.

A security alarm and remote locking via a keyfob.

12-volt outlet in the rear tub

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 five years with no limit on kilometres driven.

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

The most powerful engine in a Navara, a 2.3-litre 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 for fuel use 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. (The more work-oriented Single and King cabs do not offer the automatic option.)

What key features do I get if I spend more?

The DX cab-chassis comes the less powerful of the two diesel engines and is the most spartan version of the Navara, coming with 15-inch steel wheels, vinyl floor covering, and less fancy door and exterior trims.

Go for the Navara RX and you get 16-inch steel wheels. You also get tinted rear and side windows, CD-player, a rear-window demister, fancier external mirrors and door handles, and an interior fuel-flap release. The RX is available with two-wheel-drive which makes its starting price cheaper than the two-wheel-drive-only DX.

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 an 8.0-inch multi-function screen on the dashboard, with Android Auto/Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, and a reversing camera, but you lose the CD player.

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 (King Cab) made from an aluminium alloy, carpets on the floor, and 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).

The ST Dual Cab gains tougher ‘Black styling’ as featured with the Navara N-TREK and bigger 18-inch wheels that increase ground clearance for better off-road capability.

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

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. There are also four cameras to create a virtual overhead view. The sporty-looking 18-inch alloy wheels are accompanied by an alloy spare. (Other models have steel spare wheels.)

The ST-X also has 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 or full leather seats are extra-cost options.

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.

The Navara N-TREK is based on ST-X Dual Cab and gains a host of exterior enhancements a black alloy sports bar, partial leather-accented seat trim with orange fabric seat inserts and orange accent stitch, N-TREK decals, and black and orange accents.

The most expensive Navara, the N-TREK Warrior is the most rugged Navara model yet and has been modified here in Australia. It gains chunky 32.2-inch all-terrain tyres on 17-inch rims and locally tuned suspension, distinctive body-coloured steel bullbar, with integrated LED light bar, unique N-TREK Warrior exterior styling and stainless-steel front underbody protection plate.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

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

The lower-profile tyres that come with the 18-inch wheels on the Navara ST Dual Cab, ST-X and N-TREK 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?

The cabin of the Navara looks and feels more like a passenger car cabin than a commercial vehicle cabin. That is more so in the Navara ST and N-TREK 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 car parks and the like.

Revisions to the steering for this latest update make it much easier to manoeuvre around town, requiring less effort.

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

Nissan improved NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) in dual-cab versions for the 2020 model year that included adding a new acoustic windscreen that reduces wind and road noise entering the cabin, while new sound-absorbing material was added to the centre console, firewall, bonnet and transmission tunnel further reduces noise.

Both diesel engines provide good response and effortless driving characteristics, especially 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 gear changes.

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?

Every Navara has stability control and seven airbags – even the Single Cabs. That adds up to very good safety basics for a ute.

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 ST-X adds to that rear camera with three additional cameras to provide full vision around the car, including a virtual overhead 360-degree view.

Navaras sold from March, 2018 include two Isofix child seat mounting points in the rear; they allow the fitment of Isofix seats, which are claimed to be easier to clip in to the metal brackets.

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. That rating carries over to newer models. It applies to Dual Cab, King Cab, and Single Cab body styles.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

Like all utes, the Navara 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, and have suspension that is tuned for comfort rather than for supporting heavy loads.

The Navara feels as enjoyable to steer as any ute but the exceptional Volkswagen Amarok.

Nissan reduced the steering ratio with this updated version, so you need to make fewer turns to achieve the same result.

Combined with retuning of the power steering it makes for more relaxed driving, both around town and on the open road.

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.

With the latest Navara update (from March 2018) the rear springs have a dual pitch. That means the lower half of the spring has twists that are closer together than the upper part of the spring.

Those dual-pitch springs are designed to give the best of both worlds – comfortable riding when there is no weight in the tray but good resistance to heavy loads.

Unladen, the new suspension isn’t wildly different to the Series 2 Navara that was sold from early 2017.

However, there is now a better balance between the front and rear suspension, so the car reacts to bumps more uniformly for a more 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 and N-TREK 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 current model.)

The N-TREK Warrior is a different beast to the rest of the range, with Aussie vehicle engineering firm Premcar adding suspension dampers and softer springs that have further improved the Navara’s on-road nature.

It feels more stable at speed, turns in with more obedience and the tail is now not jarringly stiff. The 32-inch Cooper Discoverer all-terrain tyres are surprisingly quiet and smooth on-road.

The deft suspension tuning continues to deliver off road too. Despite the smaller 17-inch rims, the chunky all-terrain tyres contribute to an extra 40mm ride height that significantly improves approach and departure angles. The overall sense of off-road control and capability is notable and brings a renewed sense of confidence to push harder and go further.

How is life in the rear seats?

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, and for towing?

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 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 can legally carry more.

The aforementioned dual-pitch springs fitted to the rear of this latest Navara update are all about better preparing the car for a load in its tray.

We tested it with 750kg in the tray back-to-back with the outgoing Series 2 model and there was a marked difference.

Before you take off there is a lot less sag in the rear suspension of the latest car; it sits flatter and is less stressed by the load on board.

The level of control is also significantly improved once under way. Revised shock absorbers and less bouncing the rear means the tail is better controlled.

The flatter stance also teams with the revised steering to deliver better feel through the wheel to the driver. Overall there is more confidence to the way the car reacts to bumps and corners.

When towing, too, the Navara is much improved, as we discovered when towing the maximum 3500kg load.

The additional control in the rear suspension means movements are better controlled, the car settling quicker after large bumps, something particularly noticeable if those bumps are in the middle of a corner.

One Dual-cab Navara, the RX cab-chassis 4WD, has leaf springs at the rear, which have not been changed for this update. It is also adept at carrying heavy loads. But this is the farm ute of the range and comes with the less powerful diesel engine.

All of the Single Cab and King Cab Navaras have leaf springs at the rear.

Where does Nissan make the Navara?

The Navara is made in Thailand.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

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.

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.

Autonomous emergency braking as available in the Ford Ranger, Amarok, Hilux and Mitsubishi Triton.

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?

The Navara ST 4x4 Dual Cab 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 some cool exterior trim features.

Are there plans to update the Navara soon?

The Navara D23 NP300 was a new-generation ute as of mid-2015, replacing the Navara D40. About November 2016 Nissan announced a revised D23 that it called the Series 2, with vehicles arriving about March 2017. The Series 2 introduced the SL variant, extended satellite navigation to the ST, and deleted the standard sunroof from the ST-X, making it optional. Coil-sprung Series 2 Dual Cabs received suspension changes that improved the ride and handling over the NP300.

In February 2018 Nissan again revised the Navara, dropping the Series 2 tag to simply refer to it as Navara. The update focused on suspension upgrades and steering revisions for the dual-cab off-road versions, each of which made it a much nicer vehicle to drive.

Nissan added the N-TREK and N-TREK Warrior versions in 2019 and updated the infotainment system all but the RX to include an 8.0-inch screen and Android Auto/Apple CarPlay.

In March 2020 Nissan gave the ST Dual Cab a series of exterior enhancements and improved NVH levels across the range.

If previous lifecycles are anything to go by, the D23 Navara will be around until about 2025. Expect at least one minor styling upgrade – accompanied by additional equipment and other tweaks – around 2021.
Score breakdown
Safety, value and features
Comfort and space
Engine and gearbox
Ride and handling
Things we like
  •   Smaller and handier than similar utes
  •   Brisk performance
Not so much
  •   Cabin less roomy than some alternatives


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