New Nissan NP300 Navara plays dirty
2015 Nissan NP300 Navara Road Test
THE Australian utility market battleground just keeps getting tastier.
Hot on the heels of the new Mitsubishi Triton's launch and Toyota's reveal of its new HiLux (arriving in October), Nissan has come to the party with its all-new NP300 Navara.
It's been a long time coming. The workhorse D22 Series has been with us since 1997, while the familiar D40 Series arrived in 2005, and despite its continued popularity, the demand for ever more car-like abilities and features means the new Navara is a timely arrival to keep up with competition.
With Navara accounting for 30% of all Australian Nissan sales, the pressure is on to keep customers away from Triton and HiLux, the goal-kicking Ford Ranger, relative new boy VW Amarok, Mazda BT-50 and a host of others.
Matching class-leading towing capacity at 3500kg and with class-leading diesel fuel economy, the new Navara makes a good start on paper.
For 2015, there will be 27 different variants (16 four-wheel drive and 11 two-wheel drive) with the dual cabs available now, and the dual cab chassis, single cab and king cab variants touching down in September.
We tested the 4x4 Dual Cab RX, ST and ST-X variants on rural tarmac roads around Adelaide and over dirt tracks in the Gawler Ranges; asking the new Navara to show off the work and play talents the modern market demands.
Nissan is aiming for a car-like inside and, as you'd expect, the more dollars you drop the more cosseting and feature-packed the cabins become.
At $51,990 ($54,490 with auto) the range-topping ST-X is the choice for true versatility and comfort for work and weekend use, if budgets allow.
Its heated and leather-accented seats are power adjustable eight ways, while adjustments to the cloth seats in other grades all need to be done manually.
All the dual cabs feature what Nissan calls Spinal Support Front Seats to help promote a neutral posture and reduce fatigue - key in this segment where long hours behind the wheel are a regular occurrence.
Dash design and layout is impressively car-like but there are still the commercial-esque harder plastics to be found and the steering wheel doesn't adjust telescopically. It is, however, a decent step up from the outgoing Navara.
Road noise in the cabin from road or diesel motor was pleasingly rare, and many hours of off-road driving left this driver feeling none the worse for wear.
On the road
The Navara's old gutsy 170kW and 550Nm 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel has been dropped for emissions reasons, but the 2.3-litre four-cylinders we sampled are more relevant to today's market and never felt wanting for power or twist.
The RX's single-turbo variant brings 120kW and 403Nm, while the more-efficient twin-turbo system strapped to the same unit has 140kW and 450Nm for ST and ST-X.
Both are fine choices - the twin-turbo obviously giving you that bit more shove - but each spools up quickly, bring oodles of pulling power and we scored not much higher than the class-leading economy figures quoted during our test.
Nissan said the manual option is its volume seller in Navara and, despite the gear shifter's long throw, it is effortless to operate. The $2500 extra for a seven-speed auto will prove popular, and its extra cogs over the outgoing Navara's auto 'box do boost its car-like stakes.
Not so the steering. On the bitumen the Navara with its five-link coil sprung rear suspension equals great ride comfort and decent balance, but the woolly steering means precise turn-in is nigh-on impossible, and rather lets down what is otherwise a beautiful on-road experience.
Off-road the Navara truly shines. The driver can shift between 2WD and 4WD modes on the fly at up to 100kmh (except if you're after low range of course), while wading depth is now 450mm and lateral tilt is 50 degrees. Our undulating, loose-surface route over the Gawler Ranges threw more obstacles than most work sites could, yet Nissan's ute never faltered.
What do you get?
A towing capacity of 3500kg and seven cabin airbags across the range. The RX 4x4 scores hill start assist, 4-inch screen, USB and auxiliary port, Bluetooth, four 12v power sockets and a rear power-sliding glass window.
ST adds 16-inch alloys rather than steelies, LED headlights, alloy sport bar, 5-inch colour display, rear view camera, NissanConnect smartphone integration to use apps and a multi-screen option for the dashboard.
ST-X really gets the toys. It also receives an excellent two-channel Utili-Track system for tethering in the tray, 18-inch alloys, protective tub liner, roof rails, heated door mirrors, 7-inch colour touchscreen, navigation, reversing sensors, dual zone climate, electric sunroof, intelligent key and push button start.
You can fit three adults across the back seats in decent comfort - although, as with most utes, the rear floor is higher than in passenger vehicles. But positively, rear air vents share the love in the heating or cooling stakes.
Stopping this ute being truly family car-like is no ISOFIX and a fiddly tether system for child seats that won't be ideal for families with younger kids.
Storage compartments are many with a few smart concealed areas for valuables, and while there's an abundance of space for cups and bottles, a few more tradie-specific pockets (for papers, clipboards, books, tools, etc.) would be welcome.
A nice touch is a lip on top of the tray's fold-down door, ideal for resting drinks and the like upon.
Nissan knows the Navara needs to look good to compete, not least with pretty-boy VW Amarok and appealingly truck-esque Ford Ranger about. At its best in ST-X guise and with those 18-inch wheels, it is a good-looking if not groundbreaking design.
It still looks quintessentially Navara which is no bad thing, and is a sharpened up progression on the design of the old that proved so popular on the Aussie market.
A well-timed all-new Navara considering the strength of the upgraded competition, the much-loved Nissan ute is a worthy player.
Engines, ride and off-road ability are all stand-outs, while cabin comfort and spec is edging closer to being truly car like.
On-road steering is too vague to make it a true work site and bitumen hero, but rugged abilities and that 3500kg towing capacity means the Navara hasn't forgotten its true raison d'etre.
What matters most
What we liked: New styling appeal, 3500kg towing capacity, on-road and off-road comfort, fuel economy.
What we'd like to see: Improved steering to truly make it more car like, steering wheel telescopic adjust, a bit more tradie-specific storage in the cabin.
Warranty and servicing: Three-year/100,000km warranty and three-year roadside assist. Servicing is every 20,000km in diesel models, with an average price over six services of $608 for the manual version.
Model: Nissan NP300 Navara Dual Cab 4x4.
Details: Dual Cab four-wheel drive utility in RX, ST and ST-X grades.
Engines: 2.3-litre four-cylinder single turbo-diesel with 120kW @ 3750rpm and 403Nm @ 1500rpm (RX); 2.3-litre four-cylinder twin turbo-diesel with 140kW @ 3750rpm and 450Nm @ 1500rpm (ST and ST-X).
Transmission: Six-speed manual or optional seven-speed automatic with manual mode.
Consumption: 6.6 litres/100km manual and 7.1 litres/100km auto (RX); 6.5 litres/100km manual and 7.0 litres/100km auto (ST and ST-X)
CO2: 174g/km (RX); 172g/km (ST and ST-X).
Towing capacity: 3500kg (trailer with brakes).
Payload: 1034kg manual and 1028kg auto (RX); 989kg manual and 986kg auto (ST); 933kg manual and 930kg auto (ST-X).
Bottom line (before on-roads): $39,990 (RX); $45,990 (ST); $51,990 (ST-X) - add $2500 for optional auto.