WHAT IS IT?
An elaborately titled ‘Series 2’ makeover, altering about as much as a model-year update. Dual-cab Navaras with the five-link coil-sprung rear (a class exclusive) get retuned dampers while a rugged new SL model grade (sitting below ST) combines a hose-out interior and 16-inch steelies with the full-fat twin-turbo-diesel engine and coil-sprung suspension.
WHY WE'RE TESTING IT
To see whether tweaking the suspension has been able to achieve some much-needed finesse in Nissan’s dual-cab, dual-purpose load lugger, without compromising its ability to haul.
Toyota Hilux, Ford Ranger, Holden Colorado, Mitsubishi Triton, Mazda BT-50, Volkswagen Amarok and, within the next couple of years, the Renault Alaskan and Mercedes-Benz X-Class, each sharing the Navara’s core body structure and underpinnings.
THE WHEELS VERDICT
PLUS: Frugal, sophisticated diesel engine with plenty of grunt in either single- or twin-turbo guises; class-leading interior layout with plenty of kit in ST and ST-X models
MINUS: Limited forward visibility a victim of the ‘V-Motion’ styling and low seating position; ride quality is much improved but still not a match for key competitors
The 2017 Nissan Navara might look the same as before, but suspension revisions have made a big difference to coil-sprung versions of this popular ute. Despite minimal changes elsewhere, improvement in this area is worthy of a ‘Series 2’ moniker. While the 2017 Navara is not perfect, it’s a hell of a lot better.
There was a lot riding on the 2015 Nissan Navara NP300. A well-loved nameplate in 4x4 circles, as well as the commercial back blocks, many were expecting much of this new Navara iteration.
In a year that saw many of the major players launch new dual-cab workhorses, Nissan’s blue-collar mainstay made a splash with its good looks and very un-commercial interior, along with a much-touted coil-sprung rear end.
Unfortunately, the new-gen Navara’s more modern rear suspension never quite achieved what its on-paper sophistication promised. The rise of the ‘Bloke’s SUV’ over the last few years has seen increasing demand for these dual-cab utes to be civilised enough to achieve second-car status with families, yet the NP300 Navara was neither car-like enough on-road when empty, or particularly good when carrying a load. Chocked full, the outgoing Navara’s tray had a tendency to plummet to the pavement.
This ‘Series 2’ version of the Navara (which drops the NP300 badge – ‘NP’ standing for Nissan Pick-Up) aims to address all those dynamic shortcomings with a tighter undercarriage. Front and rear dampers are now firmer, and, importantly, the rear rebound dampers have been revised. The result is much tighter suspension control. Unladen, the Navara has lost much of its blacktop booty-wiggle, as well as its tendency to buck from both ends, and it actually steers better too.
But there’s a price to pay for this stiffer suspension tune and that’s a pretty harsh ride on rough back roads and dirt.
Besides a tweaked chassis, the other main change to Navara Series 2 is a new dual-cab SL variant, slotting in below the ST grade and combining a dirt-friendly workplace with the top-spec 140kW/450Nm twin-turbo-diesel engine. It gets a ‘hose-out’ vinyl floor and 16-inch steel wheels, but also LED running lights and the coil-sprung rear end. Lower spec, leaf-sprung Navaras carry over their suspension tune and use a single-turbo 120kW/403Nm version of the Renault-sourced 2.3-litre diesel four.
The twin-turbo powerplant remains a perky performer, while the seven-speed auto ’box (a six-speed manual is also available) is intuitive under load and delivers slick shifts. This is a pretty sophisticated drivetrain for a light commercial vehicle.
Inside, Series 2 Navara still offers a layout that would be equally at home in a family wagon or SUV, especially the top-shelf ST-X with its leather appointments. The sunroof that was previously standard equipment on the ST-X is now an option, while the ST gains standard sat-nav.
This running-change update may not wow the boys on the worksite with its styling changes, but the Series 2 Nissan Navara has newfound appeal as both a school-run warrior and boat-ramp hero.
Model Nissan Navara ST-X 4x4
Engine 2298cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, TTD
Max power 140kW @ 3750rpm
Max torque 450Nm @ 1500-2500rpm
Transmission 7-speed automatic
0-100km/h 10.5sec (estimated)
On sale Now