The Tata Xenon. The Mahindra Pik-Up. The defunct Great Wall V240. And now this, the 2016 Nissan Navara NP300 DX 4x2.
We’re clearly talking about cheap utes, but the all-new Nissan Navara NP300 entry-level model takes pricing of mainstream brands to an unprecedented low in the cut-price ute market. And it could well spell the end of the minnows in the segment.
How low are we talking? Try $19,490 plus on-road costs for the base model petrol manual DX version tested here (excluding tray). That attractive entry price means the Nissan undercuts all of the mainstream competition, and by some margin.
Its closest big-name rival is the Toyota HiLux Workmate single-cab at $20,990 plus on-road costs, then there’s the Mitsubishi Triton GLX at $21,990 plus costs. Those prices also exclude trays, unless they're offered as driveaway deals, where a tray must be included in the price.
As with those two other base model utes, the Navara DX has a petrol engine rather than the more expensive diesel drivetrain. It’s a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, and it comes exclusively with a six-speed manual gearbox in single-cab spec.
The engine pumps out 122kW of power at 6000rpm and 238Nm of torque at 4000rpm. That torque number is well down on the turbo diesel’s grunt number (400Nm), but a little better than it on power (120kW).
But with the petrol-powered Navara representing a $6500 discount over the diesel, there’s a big question over whether you’ll ever need that extra grunt. The answer will really depend on what you intend to do with the vehicle…
If you’re always lugging a big load and you cover big distance for work, then the diesel will undoubtedly be a better buy, and it will pay for itself over the longer term in terms of fuel use – the diesel uses a claimed 6.4 litres per 100 kilometres, where the petrol gulps 9.9L/100km on average. On test, we saw 11.1L/100km during day-to-day driving.
However, if you don’t plan to tow a heavy trailer all the time (you won’t be able to, as the maximum braked towing capacity is 1588kg) or test out its 1322-kilogram payload, then it could be an absolute bargain buy for your business. Say you work as a landscaper with a couple of mowers and a toolbox or two on the back, or as a painter or plumber with a few hundred kilos of equipment in the tray – the Navara DX will do the job, and easily.
We drove it both with an empty tray and with 750 kilograms in the tray, and it’s fair to say the engine was a bit more responsive without the load, but it certainly didn’t feel too far out of its depth with that much weight on the back.
The petrol engine can be a tad sluggish up steeper hills even when empty – it requires you to row through the gears a little more than you would in a diesel model, but it is quite refined in the way it gathers pace, and on the flat it is surprisingly rapid.
The engine is noisy at start-up, but on the road it is mostly quiet unless you rev to the redline. We found that we had to rev it slightly harder with the weight on board, but the powertrain was surprisingly willing in traffic.
One common complaint we’ve had with all Navara models we’ve driven is the steering. The rack is slow, requiring a lot of turns from lock to lock, and that means it can be frustrating when you’re trying to perform a reverse parallel park, or even just if you’re driving through corners and need to apply extra lock. On-centre at highway speed, though, the steering is better.
The ride compliance was surprisingly good with nothing in the tray – the back-end can jolt over sharp-edged bumps, but over smaller inconsistencies it is decently comfortable.
With more weight on board the ride was still quite good, and downright impressive over speedhumps – both the double-wishbone front suspension and the leaf-spring rear suspension (not coil springs, like in the dual-cab models) – absorbed big bumps commendably, and there was no double-bouncing or wobbling post-hump.
The only other negative thing we noticed was amount of wind noise that rustles around the back of the cabin and the tray (ladder rack). On the topic of the tray, the list price doesn’t include a tray, but if in the future Nissan advertises the ute at a driveaway price (it will, undoubtedly) the tray will be included in that price, whatever it may be.
As for the tray on our ute, it is a heavy duty aluminium unit that measures 2550mm long by 1842mm wide. It is priced at $2432 including fitment, and it weighs 164kg. It features step-up points, tie-down rods along the side of the tray, and a clever inner tie-down rack that runs the length of the tray.
While those budget competitors from India and China may have slightly lower starting prices – and often trays included – they certainly don’t have interior quality anywhere near that of the Navara. You could be fooled for thinking you were in a $40,000 ute, not one that starts at below $20,000, such is the feel and the fit and finish of the cockpit.
There was only one or two wobbly looking plastics (the speaker grilles on the dashboard, sadly in the driver’s line of sight which perhaps exacerbated the issue) but the cabin plastics and other materials feel sturdy and anything but budget.
The dashboard is neatly presented, with a simple media system that offers simple phone pairing, and the storage on offer is exceptional. There are big door pockets, large cup/bottle holders between the seats, a dashtop bin and a pair of storage boxes in front of the gear selector. There's even a decent amount of space behind the seats where the jack is hidden.
The downsides to the cabin are that there is no reach adjustment for steering wheel, which is annoying for taller drivers who need the legroom but would appreciate the tiller being a little closer, and the fact the Navara single-cab only comes with a two-seat layout could be a bit of a downer for certain buyers.
We kept finding ourselves questioning the odd specification of the Navara DX.
You get auto headlights, cruise control and steering wheel-mounted audio controls, Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, a USB input and auxiliary jack, and three 12-volt outlets – but you miss out on remote central-locking, so you’ve got to physically insert the key in the door to let yourself in. Not even Great Wall or Mahindra have that quirk!
And you also miss out on any form of parking assistance: there is no rear-view camera, nor are parking sensors offered. You cannot option those items as dealer-fit bits, either, but the money you're saving on the purchase price means buying an aftermarket unit could be a good option.
In terms of occupant safety, there are seven airbags fitted to all Navara models, including dual-front, front-side, curtain and driver’s knee protection. It has electronic stability control, too, though the traction control is lenient to say the least in wet weather.
Nissan requires maintenance on the petrol version of the Navara twice as often as it does with the diesel, and more often than most petrol vehicles – it must be serviced every 12 months or 10,000km, whichever occurs first. There’s a capped-price service program that spans 12 years or 120,000km. The average fee per visit works out to about $313 for the first five years or 50,000km.
Nissan offers the industry minimum three-year/100,000km warranty, and there’s three years of roadside assistance included in the cost of the vehicle.
On the whole, the 2016 Nissan Navara NP300 DX 2WD is a bargain ute that doesn’t feel cheap. In fact, based on our first impressions of it, the base model Navara could be the best budget ute you can buy – I guess we’ll just have to see about that at a later date...
Click on the Photos tab for more images by Christian Barbeitos.
Thanks to Mark and the team at PowerFreight for helping out on the shoot.