We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. The Australian ute buyer is unquestionably spoilt for choice. Without even looking at the manufacturers, there are body styles, drive lines, engine and transmission choices for you to make
To answer the variety of questions posed by the market, Nissan offers a whopping 27-variants of the Navara pickup. This 2016 Nissan Navara RX King-Cab cab-chassis 2WD diesel manual then, has a bit of something for everyone.
The four-seat King-Cab body joined the Navara lineup in November 2015, and is becoming an increasingly popular choice for its blend of space both in the cabin and from the tray out back.
With more ‘seaty’ seats than many space-cab options, the Navara has enough room in the rear to fit adults for short trips, as well as offering the flexibility to carry more gear securely.
There are no hidden storage cubbies beneath the seat bases, but when folded down they are quite comfortable and even include adjustable head rests and air vents. Folding them away simply provides a decent amount of storage room in the lockable cab.
Opening the rear doors can be a bit cumbersome though, with the handles well inboard of the door edge. Small thing sure, but try doing this with arms full of ‘stuff’ and the blind hunt for a handle gets very old, very quickly.
In this configuration, the $28,490 Navara (before options and on-road costs) is the cheapest space-cab chassis on the market, with competition from both the Ford Ranger (from $35,590) and Mazda BT50 (from $32,745) costing at least $4000 more.
It’s no stripper either, the RX trim sitting above the basic DX, and offering such niceties as cruise control, power windows (including the ‘third’ sliding portal between the cab and tray), carpeted flooring and comfortable cloth seats. The seat trim extends to the top of the central storage cubby too, which makes the interior feel a bit more 'cushy' than normal.
Air conditioning is standard and easy to use. The cooler and heater worked well when we had the car, and we even liked the defrost feature on the rear-cab window, a feature not present on all utes.
The radio is basic but features Bluetooth phone and audio streaming (with controls for audio and cruise on the steering wheel), a line-in jack plus a USB and 12-volt socket. There is another 12-volt on top of the dash which is really handy if you are running a third-party GPS, logistics manager or even a mobile phone bracket.
There’s plenty of storage too, from door pockets that can easily fit a water bottle in both the front and rear, cup holders in the central console as well as in front of the vents on the dash, overhead sunglasses holder, a tray on top of the dash as well as under the centre stack, the middle cubby and even a mobile phone storage holder for the front passenger.
Lots of the switchgear is common to other Nissan vehicles outside of the working range too. Some of the plastics are hard and a bit scratchy, but it is a working vehicle and as a package feels solid and well put together.
On the outside, you get a flashy chrome grille and mirror caps, fog-lamps, and a choice of five colours (ours looks sharp in ‘Burning Red)’ but the wheels are still a very working-class steel rim and there is no reverse camera.
Driving the Navara is a breeze. Visibility from the not-quite-a-4x4 ride height is great and the six-speed transmission is light and very easy to drive in traffic.
We did struggle a couple of times with tight three-point turns though. The Navara needs a lot of steering lock wound on and despite having a reasonably good turning circle (11.8 meters compared to almost 13 meters on the previous generation Navara), it didn’t quite feel like a London cab.
This was potentially exacerbated by the reverse-gear selection being a little stiff to engage and the complete lack of visibility of the rear extremities of the car. The tray overhangs the center of the back wheels (the turning pivot point) by over a metre and made for an accidental ‘caressing’ of the neighbour’s bins when shuffling the cars in the CarAdvice garage.
The 120kW/403Nm 2.3-litre diesel pulls well and offers the full range of torque between 1500 and 2500 rpm. Getting off the line is easy and you find you quickly zip through the gears up to your cruising speed where the Navara settles well.
Nissan claims a 6.4L/100km combined fuel consumption cycle and we saw a respectable 7.4L/100km for a predominantly urban test drive. However this was with a (mostly) empty tray so expect that to climb when hauling stuff or towing.
In this trim, the Navara has a 1261kg payload (which includes driver and passengers) and even with a modest 250kg of bluestone tiles in the back, the Nissan didn’t seem fazed at all. There’s a 3500kg tow rating as well, plus the drop-side tray was very easy to use and handy to boot.
It’s a really pleasant combination, the manual-diesel, and even though the Navara is offered with more a powerful twin-turbo diesel or more affordable petrol – the 2.3-diesel is a great all-round motor that should suit the majority of uses.
The ride too is largely good in urban areas, even with an empty tray. Many utes will skip and jump over cobbles or other rough surfaces, but the Navara dealt with these with ease and, as with other pick-ups, settles to be even more manageable with a load in the back.
One thing though, and this is tin-foil hat territory, we experienced a very strange cabin pressure sensation when driving over rough surfaces.
When all windows were closed and the car had a few bumps under the tyres, the air pressure in the cab would change, not unlike when an aircraft cabin beings the pre-flight pressurisation procedure.
Popping your eardrums would offer a temporary fix, but the cabin would only equalise again when you cracked a window. It’s similar to the way you need to open a second window to reduce the effect of wind buffeting at speed – all a bit sciency and certainly not something that should affect your purchasing decision, but it was there and so we should tell you.
Every last detail and all that.
While the 2016 Nissan Navara range has a few shortcomings at the top of the price spectrum, the well-equipped working models like the RX 2WD Cab-Chassis offer a solid amount of bang for your buck as well as a reputable buying proposition.
The RX is good where it needs to be and isn’t largely compromised in any area. For those looking for a practical and capable ute that has value and flexibility on its side, the 2016 Nissan Navara is well worth a closer look.
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