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Sometimes, figures speak for themselves and in the case of the Nissan Navara, it's the second best selling vehicle in the highly-competitive 4x4 Ute segment.
More importantly, unlike Toyota Australia, which can arguably be accused of being complacent, Nissan is determined to become Australia's largest importer of vehicles of the not-too-distant future. A difficult task, but one that is made easier by having a Navara ST-X Dual Cab on your model range.
Last year saw Nissan update the Navara range with the introduction of the Series 4. This meant more power, more torque as well as a whole range of new equipment and safety features.
There are two powerplants available for those considering a Nissan Navara ST-X Dual Cab. A 4.0-litre V6 petrol engine or a 2.5-litre turbodiesel. Frankly, it's hard to make a strong case for the petrol model. Sure it has more power (198kW compared to 140kW for the diesel) but it has less torque (385Nm at 4000rpm compared to 450Nm at 2000rpm) and uses a truckload more fuel (13.6L/100km compared to 8.5L/100km). It also happens to miss out on vehicle dynamic control (VDC) and an active-brake limited-slip differential (ABLS) - features available on the diesel model. 90 percent of all Navara sales are diesel, so we decided to test the diesel variant instead.
Despite the obvious advantages in buying a diesel, Nissan also happened to upgrade the diesel engine last year with the introduction of a variable nozzle turbo (VNT) with electric control instead of the original hydraulic system. In essence, it now offers 14kW more power and 47Nm more torque whilst reducing fuel economy by 13/14 percent (manual/auto).
From the outside, the new Nissan Navara ST-X has had a minor facelift, growing by 80mm in overall length. Nissan fans will instantly recognise the new bonnet, updated grille and perhaps eventually the harder-to-spot new bumper assembly.
But it's not just a nip-tuck for a prettier face (if you want to call it that), the changes have also had a minor affect on reducing coefficient of drag (Cd) down by 0.1 to 0.37. This results in less wind noise and also better fuel economy.
Our test vehicle came in Electric Blue, one of the two new colours available to order (the other being Flame Red) and was equipped with a five-speed automatic gearbox. With a price of $53,240* an Electric Blue Navara certainly turns a lot of heads wherever it goes.
It's good to see Nissan offering some more vibrant colours on its Navara range as God knows we are all sick of white, grey or black coloured utes.
From the outside, first impressions would fool the eye into thinking the Navara is noticeably bigger than the Hilux, but in fact it measures just 41mm longer (5296mm in length compared to 5255mm for the HiLux). Perhaps it's due to the Navara's tough exterior appearance highlighted by its chrome grille. Either way, it certainly looks tougher than, say, an SR5 Hilux.
It can also tow more, with towing capacity of 3000kg (compared to 2250kg for the HiLux). In fact, I could probably find a large list of reasons why I'd personally buy this over the Hilux equivalent (did I mention it's cheaper, more fuel efficient and has 14kW more power and 107Nm more torque?). Alas, this is not meant as a comparison to the Hilux but merely to put the Navara ST-X into perspective against its direct rival.
Like all serious contenders in this segment, the Navara offers genuine 4x4 off-roading ability with the selection for 2WD (rear) for around the city and suburbs, and 4WD High for basic dirt or wet roads and 4WD Low for when it's time to get serious.
Having previously tested the Navara's off-roading ability around Mount Cotton's 4WD course here in Brisbane, I was impressed with the ease by which it could overcome serious obstacles. The problem with comparing off-road ability for a vehicle in this segment is that they all manage most everyday situations quite well.
Sure, the 4WD experts will attempt to climb ridiculous obstacles and find specific things to rate one better than the other but the fact is, the majority of buyers will never do the sorts of things that will differentiate a HiLux from a Navara from a Mitsubishi Triton. They are all great off-road when it comes to everyday use. The main points to look for is the ground clearance (228mm), approach and departure angle (30 and 24 degrees).
On-road ride and handling however, is certainly worth testing as that's where these vehicles will spend most of their time. The Navara makes use of independent, double wishbone suspension for the front and rigid axle with leaf springs for the rear. As a result, the Navara ST-X can feel a little light on the road (when unladen) but despite that, it offers one of the best on-road handling dynamics in its class (noticeably beaten by the recently released Volkswagen Amarok).
Cornering is simple and any manly passengers will have to try really hard to find a reason to strangle the “holy-sh#t-bars” when the going gets a little rough. The diesel ST-X comes with VDC which helps keep the near two-tonne beast going in the direction you've pointed it to.
With a turning circle of 13.3M (HiLux – 12.4m) the Navara is a little more difficult to turn around than it really needs to be but you'll get used to it eventually.
Maneuvering around town and parking in tiny spaces will quickly make you realise that the Navara can certainly do with parking sensors as rear-visibility isn't exactly its strongest point. In fact, I found it near impossible to tell exactly how much room was left when doing a parallel park. Unfortunately, parking sensors are not available as standard but can be fitted as an accessory (as with any car).
The 2.5-litre diesel engine is a good little thing. It delivers power and torque when needed and does so without too many complaints. It's probably a little noisier than one would hope but if that doesn't bother you, it's hard to fault. The five-speed automatic is well suited and changes gears seamlessly.
If you're used to utes that feel like they're made out of cheap Chinese toys, the Navara ST-X's interior will be a pleasantly surprising experience. Nissan has changed the switchgear, door trim and enhanced the Navara with new tougher seat fabric. You can also fit a proper 1L drink bottle in the door pockets.
There is also Bluetooth phone connectivity which I managed to setup with my iPhone in less than 30 seconds. Unfortunately it doesn't support audio streaming but the six-speaker stereo does allow for auxiliary input (so you can still connect your iPod to it) and it plays MP3 CDs.
The addition of dual-zone climate control is welcomed, but one would have to wonder how often two genuine tradies would argue over if it's too cold or too hot inside the cabin. If that does actually happen in reality, I'll eat my hat (please let me know in the comments).
The seats are comfortable and hold you in around corners. They also do a lot to minimise the affects of bumps both on and off-road. Overall the cabin is a nice place to be but it's certainly no Amarok. Although, it does offer things which its new European rival doesn't, such as steering wheel controls for audio and cruise control.
Back when it was tested by ANCAP, the Navara received a three-star safety rating. Nonetheless, the ST-X has been upgraded to come standard with driver and front passenger airbags, side airbags and curtain airbags.
Overall, the Nissan Navara ST-X is a package that is hard to beat. It undercuts its equivalent Toyota Hilux on price, safety (ESP, Brake Assist), features (better stereo, 17-inch alloy wheels vs 15, dual zone air-con), and in this reviewers humble opinion, looks, drivability and sheer cool-factor.
If you're looking at buying a 4x4 ute, test drive this against the Amarok (more expensive), Triton GLX-R and Hilux SR5.
Full specification of Navara range including tray size and all facts and figures see: Nissan Navara Specification.