This Navara platform has been around for seven years now, receiving various updates along the way. Suspension was one area that required a few goes to get right, however I can say the wait seems to be worth it.
We now have a dual-cab 4x4 from Nissan that rides well on- and off-road, has a solid traction control system and a more modern appearance. But is that enough? Well, we took off for the week, living and camping out of this new Navara, to see if it was up to task.
Though it’s a familiar package, with the same seven-speed automatic gearbox and 2.3L twin-turbo motor, exterior and interior revisions have certainly done favours to the vehicle overall. There’s nothing much to gripe about that couldn’t be fixed with a visit to your local 4x4 shop. There are also some really handy additions, such as a sharp looking steering wheel that means you now don’t accidentally press the horn when turning like the previous version. That was always an unwelcome surprise.
There’s also an increase in payload carrying ability, thanks to a massively stout new rear axle housing. This thing is huge but thanks to the flat (or shaved if you’re in the biz) lower differential housing, we didn’t have any issues getting hung up on rocks. This is a nod to the heritage of Nissan building bulletproof 4x4 drivetrains in the GQ and GU Patrol; it’s nice to see a beefed-up Navara.
What you would have noticed is the off-road friendly accessories fitted to this Navara. It’s not a specific model of Navara on test, like their off-road-oriented N-Trek Warrior. This is a vehicle Nissan has built to showcase the range of accessories available straight from the dealer. What we have here includes a loopless steel bumper with Warn winch and a neatly recessed LED light bar. There’s a raised air intake, smoked weather shields, aggressive flares and practical additions such as a tonneau cover and tray liner. Underbody bash plates get the nod too, as does a towbar rated to 3500kg.
These accessories do come at a premium, adding more than $10,000 to the final purchase price, but it must be said it’s not hard to spend $10,000 at a 4x4 accessory shop either. These factory Nissan accessories are of high quality also, something I must commend them for.
POWERTRAIN & PERFORMANCE
With 450Nm of torque available from the 2.3L twin-turbo motor, the Navara feels somewhat lacking in the grunt department these days. I’d love to see a new motor, or tweak to the factory tune for more grunt. When on boost and moving, there are no issues at all. It just feels laboured taking off the line with a load on board. There is a refreshing turbo whistle from that factory raised air intake though, which the boy racer in me loved.
Gearbox performance is stellar, with the seven-speed automatic doing everything right. Rumour has it, this auto shares the same part number as the gearbox used in the Y62 Patrol. So, if it can handle that V8 grunt, it’s more than adequate for this four-cylinder engine.
Fuel economy was tested to be a total of 9.9L/100km, the onboard trip computer accurately matching what showed at the bowser when refilling. We certainly weren’t aiming for economy, with a combined cycle of urban, highway and off-road driving.
ON-ROAD RIDE AND HANDLING
I’ve said this before and sadly I have to say it again. The steering feel in this Navara is heavy and somewhat doughy in my opinion. I jumped straight out of an Isuzu D-Max into the Navara, and immediately noticed this. Again, it is something you will get used to, so is certainly not a dealbreaker but worth mentioning.
That’s pretty much where the negative points end and I’m happy to report the Navara is a solid performer on-road. Ride quality is compliant, without being too soft. I didn’t experience any nasty bodyroll on fast country roads, nor was there an intrusive amount of cabin noise at highway speeds.
They have really got the package right and while not an exciting vehicle to pilot, I can’t name any regular dual-cab that is (Raptor and Gladiator excluded). The Navara is best described as a jack of all trades and when it comes to the versatility of a ute being its strongest selling point, in no way is that a bad thing.
Ride quality on rough terrain is never going to be a dual-cab ute’s strong point. Well, I can disagree now, as the Navara rides great off-road thanks to its redesigned coil-sprung suspension on all four corners. It’s supple and flexible, however, I still feel the HiLux has more wheel travel overall. This should be an easy fix though, as there are plenty of high-end suspension kits and upgrades available for the Navara to get them flexing. Longer shocks, extended sway bar links, things like that.
The Navara is fitted with a factory rear differential lock, and it’s a good one too as it doesn’t disengage traction control on the front axle when selected. This really assists the Navara off-road, making it a very capable 4x4 out of the box as it’s able to get as much traction as possible down to the ground.
Low-range gearing is nothing short of sensational. The seven-speed automatic gearbox crawled at a snail’s pace down steep descents when locked in low range, and allowed for gentle progress on challenging obstacles. I don’t see many people having a need to use the hill-descent control feature in the Navara. It is also a win for those wanting to fit larger tyres as there will still be enough reduction available in low range to move said rubber without running away.
The only issue I had off-road was that the low-hanging heavy-duty front bash plate (another optional accessory) made contact in steep ruts, though that’s why it’s there. Some bigger tyres and a bit of lift, this isn’t an issue anymore.
Overall, the Navara is a very capable off-road performer that rides well over rough ground and can more than keep up with others in this segment thanks to the rear locker and traction control system.
CABIN AND ACCOMMODATION
Let’s get this out of the way, yes the Navara has a sliding rear window and it’s brilliant. If you have a dog, they’ll love it. If you like eating kebabs on the road, your passengers will love it. Our photographer loved it too, being able to sit on the back seat and shoot out of the small window. Why don’t all dual-cabs have this feature?
As mentioned, the new steering wheel fitted to the Navara is a wonderful addition. Stylish, and with all the controls you’d need at your fingertips. Adjustment is only via tilt, with no reach adjustment available.
Seating is a very subjective topic; however, I personally was a big fan of the cloth seats found inside this ST Navara. Supportive, comfortable and well-suited to my lanky frame. As a side note, my wife jumped in and immediately said how comfortable the seats are. As she has as little interest in 4x4s as I do in skincare products, I listen to these rare pearls of wisdom.
The dash layout is a bit of a weird one as there is a mass of wasted space on the passenger side. There’s not much storage available either, so it would have been good to see an additional glovebox. There’s also limited real estate when it comes to blank switches, so wiring in an array of aftermarket goodies will take some additional consideration. All in all, this ST Navara is a comfortable ute I’d be happy to daily drive or do a lap of the country in.
First observation of the new Navara is how nicely weighted the tailgate is now thanks to a torsion-bar arrangement. While not as forgiving as a hydraulic strut, it’s certainly not difficult to raise or lower this tailgate. Once inside the tray, however, it’s a very simple affair.
There were no adjustable tie-down points fitted to this test vehicle, just four very basic tie-down hooks located at each corner of the tray. It will do the job but if you can spring for the adjustable points, I’d recommend it.
As mentioned, the Navara has received an increase to its payload capacity thanks to a redesigned rear axle housing. It can now legally carry 1088kg of load, which is a handy and very usable figure.
It is nice to see a tray liner fitted, which we put to the test loading up with firewood and camping gear. However, something of an annoyance was the tonneau cover that is really tight and hard to put back on. Considering you need to unclip the back of the cover to open the tailgate, this wasn’t ideal. We tried this in warm weather to see if it helped, and it did marginally. This is a factory optional accessory, so check this with the dealer before driving off to make sure yours isn’t the same.
It’s strange this platform has been around for a fairly long time in automotive standards, yet it finally feels like it’s just come alive. I dare say, if we received this Navara when it was first released, it would be a much more popular vehicle sales-wise. It rides well, is capable off-road and there is so much potential when it comes to further modifications. The factory-fitted accessories found on this particular Navara are all of high quality and work well too.
Considering how hard it is to find parts and workshop space in this current climate, having the dealership fit everything makes plenty of sense. All covered by a factory warranty, all on one finance plan.
This new Navara is a good thing if you want a capable and comfortable dual-cab ute, with the option of throwing factory-fitted accessories at it. Add some bigger tyres and a suspension lift and it would go anywhere I’d want to take it. And look good while doing it.
DEPARTURE ANGLE: 26⁰
RAMP OVER ANGLE: 22.9⁰
APPROACH ANGLE: 32⁰
WADING DEPTH: 600mm
GROUND CLEARANCE: 220mm
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