Nissan is adamant it has something for every kind of buyer across the 2015 Nissan Navara range. Now, with cab-chassis and 'King Cab' (extra-cab) variants joining the already available dual cab models there’s no less than 27 variants to choose from across that range. Pretty hard to argue with their rather lofty claim on numbers alone, it would seem.
Nissan even offers a petrol model with manual transmission for less than 20 grand despite only a puny five per cent of all Navara sales going the way of the petrol engine. ‘We want a vehicle for that five per cent’, was the answer when I asked why Nissan Australia would bother with a petrol Navara at all.
It’s fair to assume then that this model exists to get the Navara range starting price under that magical $20,000 mark. After a solid 130km drive with some enthusiastic punting, the twin-turbo diesel engine was showing 8.5L/100km average consumption, which backs up the reasoning of most buyers for heading down the diesel path.
Switching to this workhorse end of the Navara NP300 range, there is an important shift in engineering too. All models we tested at launch run the conventional (for trucks that is) leaf spring, live axle suspension arrangement at the rear. That’s in contrast to the dual cab Navara which now runs a coil spring, multi link rear end. In theory, the on-road ride should be a little sharper in these variants, but load carrying ability should be more comprehensive.
We get to test a variety of different models laden and unladen, on- and off-road at launch, which provides a broad cross section of the kind of work these trucks get tasked with. You can read our pricing and specification guide here, but there is still one issue that needs to be tackled in regard to specification.
A reverse-view camera is only standard on the top two variants - ST and ST-X - and in fact, isn’t even available as a retrofit dealer option on any other variants. While it’s fair to argue that the top two models might be the ones to double as pseudo family trucksters, there’s still an argument to be mounted for the assistance of a reverse camera on the work site - one that Toyota and Mitsubishi have clearly heard, because the HiLux and Triton have broader camera coverage on their respective ranges.
All Navaras do get a five-star ANCAP rating, though, courtesy of a full range of safety inclusions such as seven airbags (dual front, front side, driver's knee and curtains even on the single-cab).
One factor that immediately jumps out at you when you get into the cabin of the base model is how un-truck like it is. It’s more SUV-like than ever before, and even the plastic trim and finishes feel a lot less harsh than work trucks used to feel. The cabin is a comfortable and insulated place to be across the Navara range, which will make a big difference to tradies and workers who spend a lot of time behind the wheel. Gone are the days of sticky vinyl seats, rubber floor coverings and no creature comforts. Well, at Nissan, at least...
The cheaper variants don’t get the expansive screen and inclusions that the higher models do, but they never feel cheap either. It’s not the most important factor in the world for a vehicle that might get bashed beyond recognition over its lifetime, but its a factor that deserves mention. The steering wheel-mounted controls are well placed, the Bluetooth phone connection works well and the seats are both comfortable and nicely trimmed. If you’re a worker on a budget, you’ll feel like your dollar has gone a long way in the Navara.
All the single-cab models have two seats only, but if you need a couple more - but don't want a dual-cab - the King Cab model could be for you. We liked the look of the exterior styling of the King Cab model the most (even over the dual-cab) and the added practicality that comes with the ‘suicide’ doors.
Access the handle from inside the cab once you’ve opened the front door, and you find occasional bench seating for two adults. It won’t win any awards for long haul comfort, but the seat bases fold flat up against the backs to liberate plenty of floor space for gym bags, smaller toolboxes or valuable cordless tools that you don’t want to leave exposed in the tray. The short doors that almost open square mean accessing the space is easy. The other obvious benefit that comes with the King Cab model is the longer tray compared to a dual-cab, which gives owners more useful carrying space. If you lug trail bikes around regularly, you’ll appreciate this.
On road, the Navara’s two diesel engines are impressive regardless of what you’re doing. The 50Nm torque advantage of the twin-turbo oiler doesn’t sound like much when you look at the numbers on paper, but it pulls like a train all the way to redline. Manual or automatic transmissions don’t dent the performance advantage, but there’s not much wrong with the single turbo diesel either.
Both diesel engines deliver torque in such a linear fashion across such a broad rev range that you can lug them along in higher gears with the manual, making for easy cruising at any speed. You won’t be rowing through the ratios unless you’re a glutton for punishment, even around town. We didn’t tow at launch, but the 3500-kilogram tow rating doesn’t shape up as being too much hard work for the diesel engines given the strength of their power delivery.
The petrol engine is another story though. At low speeds it is fine, so it makes sense for courier drivers who might spend the bulk of their time below 60km/h around the CBD.
Ask the petrol mill to work, though, and you’re left wishing you were back behind the wheel of a diesel Navara. The engine roars up to redline, feels like it has hardly any torque, and generally sounds like it’s working way too hard for the given task. We found ourselves constantly working the six-speed manual gearbox to try to keep the engine where it needed to be and it wasn’t ever especially pleasant. Hit a generous incline at 100km/h and you’ll be working down the gears quickly to maintain road speed. We’re spoiled for choice with modern diesel engines, and the gap to petrol performance has never been greater.
With 325kg in the tray, the Navara’s ride settles into a comfortable lope. It soaks up rural, coarse chip roads comfortably and is never sharp or too bouncy. That’s not so much the case with an empty tray, but the 4WD models seemed to be a little more comfortable unladen than the 2WD models. That said, we’d like to run a King Cab with leaf springs back-to-back with a dual-cab with coil springs, because we don’t think the comfort gap will be as big as it should be - at least in theory.
As for ownership, the Navara diesel requires servicing every 12 months or 20,000km, while the petrol needs maintenance every 12 months or 10,000km. Coverage is for six years or 120,000km for the diesel, or up to 12 years/120,000km for the petrol. Nissan also offers a three-year/100,000km warranty, and three years of roadside assistance.
So the Navara range is complete, and the company’s claim that it has something for everybody is probably true. The Navara is a stylish pick-up in all body forms and offers plenty of versatility across a broad model range. We’ve said it before, but pick-up buyers have never had it so good.