The Nissan Navara dual-cab separates itself from the crowd with coil springs at the rear and with the Series II upgrades, it's supposed to be even better than the first version.
It didn’t take long for Nissan to update the 2017 Nissan Navara ST-X, with the Series II upgrades coming on line not long after the vehicle’s initial launch – just on two years to be exact.
We’ve thought since the outset too, that the Navara is best positioned as the most effective ‘lifestyle dual-cab’ among the current crop of utes. Some are better off-road, some (read, all) are better with a load in the tray, and some are better value, but few make a better all-round proposition as a lifestyle choice.
Let’s face it, at the top of the model range, these dual-cabs are all about lifestyle aren’t they? Take a look at the number of faux-Raptor Ford Rangers on the road, kitted-up with the best the off-road aftermarket can offer – with nary a spec of dirt on them. These dual-cabs are more about the image they project than workhorse or off-road capability.
That aforementioned ‘all-round lifestyle’ statement is due to one crucial Navara underpinning – coil springs at the rear as opposed to the traditional leaf spring arrangement. It means the new Navara has never been at ease with 500kg in the tray, but then how many high-end dual-cabs like the ST-X on test here, get properly loaded up? In our experience, very few.
What the Navara needs to do then, is handle the bump and grind of daily driving – unladen – as well as, if not better than the competition. I switched straight from this ST-X Navara into a Mazda BT-50 XTR and it provided an interesting back-to-back comparison of coils versus leaves. While the coils used here in the Navara are by no means perfect, they are definitely more accomplished than the rest of the segment around town, unladen.
Diving into my notes from a previous life and a now-ancient dual-cab mega test from 2008, it reminds me the Navara was at the time, the most accomplished on-road option in the segment. Better steering, better road holding, less rear-end silliness, and a punchy diesel engine made for excellent on-road behaviour.
A decade is a long time in motoring terms, but it's relevant to note the Navara’s position atop the dual-cab pile at that point. No pressure on this new generation Navara, then.
The ST-X sits at the top of the Navara range, and as such, standard equipment levels are lengthy. Highlights include: heated front seats, rear air vents, leather trim, touchscreen infotainment and satellite navigation. Pricing for the Navara 4WD dual-cab range starts from $39,990 for the RX, while the ST-X tested here starts from $51,990 before on-road costs.
What CarAdvice appreciates most about the Navara is the interior. In short, it delivers an SUV (almost passenger car for that matter) cabin experience, in a dual-cab truck body. Only the Amarok can currently match that interior sense of style and comfort, with all other contenders in the dual-cab segment still feeling very truck-like. Better than they used to be sure, but still not perfect by any means.
For the outlay, you’d think the cabins should be more like the Navara’s then – comfortable, attractive, user-friendly and well executed. These dual-cabs aren’t cheap by any means.
While still missing modern tech like radar cruise control and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, you do get heated front seats, quality leather trim, and a sunroof as standard – swings and roundabouts you might say, then.
The cabin is otherwise excellent, the driving position good with a broad scope of visibility, the leather seats comfortable and the heating function much appreciated during a cold winter. We’d love to see Apple CarPlay/Android Auto standard, but the Bluetooth system works well enough and the infotainment system is otherwise decent.
The rear-view camera is clear too, making reverse parking what is an undoubtedly chunky vehicle, much easier than it otherwise would be.
The Navara’s cabin is nicely insulated too. Road noise is kept to a minimum, diesel chatter and engine noises are also well isolated, and there’s hardly any wind noise entering at 110km/h, either. It’s part of the reason it feels more SUV than commercial and it’s a noteworthy feature for those of you in areas with plenty of coarse chip, or buyers who spend a lot of time on the freeway.
The second row provides enough room for adults, even with six-footers up front; alternatively, you’d fit three teenage children across that second row comfortably. There’s plenty of usable storage throughout the cabin, charging outlets and general convenience like second row air vents.
Nissan’s touchscreen is by no means a modern marvel, and it’s not segment leading either, but it works well enough, especially the satellite navigation, which is clear and accurate.
On paper, the 2.3-litre twin-turbocharged oiler presents as an attractive prospect. With 140kW and 450Nm, the numbers make a solid case for real world punch, and that is very much the reality. Matched to a seven-speed auto, it’s efficient too, returning 10.7L/100km during our week of testing against a, shall we say optimistic, ADR claim of 7.0L/100km. Much of our driving was around town too, which means those of you on the rural fringes should see even more efficient figures.
We love the way the gearbox doesn’t hunt and shift merely for the sake of it, rather it always knows which gear is the right ratio for the given throttle load and road speed, and shifts snappily when asked to under hard acceleration. Any of you who’ve had experience driving these vehicles back in the bad old days, will be blown away by how rapidly you can punt something like the Navara along in 2017.
Our only real issue with the drive experience is the steering, which feels slow and heavy most of the time. It jars with the engine, gearbox and suspension, which encourages you to have a go, even on twisty roads. The steering at low speed is heavy, which can be annoying when you’re parking in tight spaces, and the wide ratio – 3.75 turns lock-to-lock – means you have to row on the wheel a bit. At speed, it’s not as sharp and direct as something like the Amarok, for example.
Around town, on our pockmarked roads, the Navara’s coil springs work well unladen. It soaks up bumps comfortably and without skipping all over the place like some dual-cabs tend to do. It’s a little harder to unsettle, more efficient at power transfer, and reassuring even on damp roads.
Second row passengers backed up our comfort reading from the front seat too, commenting they weren’t being shaken about as you might expect.
Aside from the aforementioned steering, the Navara is excellent around town or out in the country. The engine and gearbox work beautifully together, the brakes take a repeated pounding on fast, downhill, twisty roads, and it handles that kind of drive with more alacrity than you’d ever expect. It’s a dual-cab you’d be more than happy to drive every day, without a doubt.
While we know – and have documented – that the load carrying issues haven’t really been resolved with this mid-life update, the Navara still presents itself as an excellent choice for many buyers, especially at the higher end of the model range.
If we first accept that few buyers ever load their highly-specced, not to mention expensive, dual-cabs up with much more than a gym bag or the kids’ mountain bikes and sports gear, the reality of what the vehicle does with 650kg in the tray isn’t as relevant. It might be down at the bargain end of the model range but not up here in the nosebleed seats.
The Navara is far from the most expensive dual-cab out there, rides better unladen, a
nd delivers a comfortable and SUV-like cabin. If I was buying a dual-cab ute right now (and I don’t carry weight around often), the Nissan Navara is the one I’d choose.
Factor in it’s exceptional diesel engine and automatic gearbox pairing and you’ve got an affordable bargain. Styling is subjective obviously, but I reckon the Navara looks great too. If you need your dual-cab to play more than work, the Navara is a very solid option.
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