Nissan’s answer to rugged SUVs such as the Ford Everest and Mitsubishi Pajero Sport is edging closer to production, as these new spy images of a development car show.
The incoming Nissan Navara wagon spin-off, which will also tackle the Toyota Fortuner, Isuzu MU-X and Holden/Chevrolet Trailblazer, is expected to be available with both five-seat and seven-seat configurations and to premiere in 2017.
What it will be called is less clear, given Nissan’s last Navara-based SUV was the previous Pathfinder — a badge now bestowed on the car-like softer crossover reviewed here.
What you see here is an advancement on the development mules we've seen, given it appears to sport the final production body. The rounded lines on this future, hardcore ladder-frame wagon have become a brand signature via other Nissan SUVs such as the X-Trail.
Expect the Navara SUV spin-off to sport a version of the ute’s five-link rear suspension with coils, 140kW/450Nm 2.3-litre twin-turbo diesel engine, six-speed manual and seven-speed auto transmission options and dual-range 4x4 system.
What is less clear is the Navara SUV’s Australian future, even though the market for rugged ute-based SUVs is growing, and in spite of the fact that all of Nissan’s main rivals mentioned in the first two paragraphs offer their products here.
“Having access to a product like a Navara-based SUV would be nice, but it’s purely a concept discussion now, with no immediate opportunity,” Nissan Australia managing director and CEO Richard Emery told us recently.
“There is definitely a segment there to be tapped into, and there is some volume opportunity.
“[But] can you spread yourself that thinly by having cars available in every segment? What is the added benefit overall?”
Pictured: Nissan Navara ute cabin, for reference.
“Ultimately there would be cars you’d love to have that might not make sense from the business case. So if this vehicle was available, it wouldn’t be automatic that we’d take it either. The case needs to add up.”
This builds on our chat with Emery a few months ago, when he hinted that the [likely Thai-made] future Navara SUV may not be engineered with mature markets front-of-mind.
On the face of it, this new rugged, diesel-fired ‘Navara Sport’ would seem an obvious void-filler for Nissan Australia. The new Pathfinder is no longer a separate chassis offering, the Y61 Patrol is about to be axed, and the Y62 Patrol is a luxury truck with a petrol V8 only.
Rugged 4×4 sub-segment sales in Australia last month: Mitsubishi Pajero Sport (669), Isuzu MU-X (539), Holden Colorado 7 (378), Toyota Fortuner (307), Ford Everest (285).
MORE: Navara SUV spied testing