Another day, another special edition ute – this time it’s the 2017 Nissan Navara N-Sport Black Edition, a limited-run model with extra kit that definitely looks the ‘wannabe rugged man’ part.
Just 500 examples of this high-spec dual-cab model will be sold in Australia, and it’s based on the flagship Navara ST-X 4x4 variant. Over that version, however, the Black Edition brings a range of styling and equipment tweaks.
The Nissan Genuine Accessories bin has been raided, with a new black sports bar and black nudge bar, an LED light bar and black wheel-arch flares shelled around 18-inch black alloy wheels.
There are more dark design features, with a black gloss honeycomb grille, smoked chrome fog lamp finishers, a soft tonneau cover, N-Sport badging and Black Edition decals.
Of course, you can get it painted in its namesake colour, with the choice of four hues available – Cosmic Black, Brilliant Silver, Diamond White and the Slate Grey finish you see here.
Our test vehicle is the seven-speed automatic version, which costs $56,990 plus on-road costs – which is $2500 more than the regular ST-X model. There’s a six-speed manual version if you’d prefer, which is $54,490 plus on-roads. And if you like the idea of a slightly spunkier dual-cab but can’t stretch quite that far, there is a more affordable Navara N-Sport model, based on the ST variant (starting at $47,990).
But the model we’ve got is the high-end version, with plenty of goodies for the money. Things like satellite navigation, a rear-view camera, rear parking sensors, leather seat trim and a leather-lined steering wheel and gear selector all combine to make this ute feel like a pricey offering on the inside.
The Navara is good for the class in terms of space and practicality in the cabin, with decent storage options available in the doors and between the heated front seats. There are no cupholders in the rear seat, and no centre armrest either, but there are air vents, good grab handles and twin map pockets.
The back seat lacks ISOFIX child seat anchor points, and the seat backrest is fixed in place – but there are three loop-style attachment points at the top of the seat to fit a child seat. It comes with seven airbags (dual front, front side, full-length curtain and driver’s knee).
The steering wheel has an annoying design fault: the horn button spans to the bottom of the tiller, meaning you’ll invariably beep when you’re parking – especially if you’re reversing with a trailer on. There’s no digital speedometer, despite the colourful display between the dials.
The button placement on the steering wheel isn’t as good as it could be, either, with main toggles that should be the volume control instead changing tracks when you’re listening to a streaming audio device.
The Navara has the requisite Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and it has USB and auxiliary jacks, too, while the navigation is simple enough to come to grips with. It all works relatively well, if not with the classiest presentation in the segment.
Under the bonnet is the Renault-Nissan Alliance-sourced 2.3-litre twin-turbo four-cylinder diesel engine with 140kW of power (at 3750rpm) and 450Nm of torque (from 1500-2500rpm).
The twin-turbo drivetrain offers strong response and decent urgency when you jump on the throttle. There is some low-rev lag, but not to an annoying degree, and the engine replies thoughtfully when asked to build pace in roll-on response.
The seven-speed auto is clever, maintaining pace at speed up steep hills by dropping back a gear or two. At city speeds it is smooth and smart, too.
Fuel use is claimed at 7.0 litres per 100 kilometres for the dual-cab auto Navara 4x4, but we saw a little higher than that, at 8.4L/100km across a mix of different driving situations including solo commuting, urban running, highway driving and five-up dirt road driving.
The Navara’s switch on the fly 4WD system makes it easy to jump between 2WD and high-range 4WD (4H), and of course it has the option of low range for when things get particularly muddy or sandy.
We sampled the Navara on sand and gravel during our time with it, and while it rode comfortably on rutted road surfaces, hard edges at lower speeds saw it bounce somewhat. In deep sand, as we tried to power up a dune, the Navara stalled once momentum ceased – odd, for an automatic.
And while some testers and punters may think that paddle-shifters are a lost cause – particularly on a ute – having paddles would have been handy when climbing those steep dunes: keeping both hands on the wheel is important to maintain control, and a cleverly timed upshift would have been easier if it had a shifter closer at hand.
We also did a little bit of rock crawling – nothing too serious, just a quick ramp-up to get an idea of the Navara’s coil-sprung rear-end’s articulation, and it managed to cock a leg nicely.
The ST-X's 228mm of ground clearance came in handy, and so did the 32.4-degree approach angle over some of the steeper edges we encountered. The Navara's departure angle of 26.7deg (without a towbar fitted) is good, and the break-over angle of 23.8deg indicates suitable articulation, just like we found.
On sealed surfaces the Navara remains one of the better utes in the class for ride comfort when unladen, coasting over bumps without too much body shudder – though you can feel you’re riding on 18-inch wheels when you strike a pothole or sharp edge at speed.
Our biggest bugbear remains the steering of the Navara, which is extremely slow – about four turns, lock-to-lock, meaning low speed parking moves can be painful, and so can roundabouts, as there’s a lot of arm twirling to be done. At higher speeds the steering is sure enough, and the Navara is easy to keep in line.
We didn’t tow during our time with the Navara, but the fact it boasts the class-standard 3.5-tonne braked towing capacity (750kg un-braked) should put a lot of potential buyers’ minds at ease. And given the fact this is more focused at lifestyle buyers, we didn't test out the Navara ST-X's 941-kilogram payload capacity, but we can report that the tonneau cover left a little to be desired in terms of air-tightness. Still, the lined tub, with its excellent tie-down rails, will be ideal for those who plan to actually use this ute like a ute.
We've done that in the past, loading up 750kg in the back, and we'd thoroughly recommend shopping around for a more work-ready vehicle if you're thinking of a Navara dual-cab as a potential new tradie truck.
Servicing for the Navara diesel is due every 12 months or 20,000km, whichever occurs first. The Japanese brand offers six years/120,000km of capped-price cover, with an average price of $614 per service (excluding consumables such as brake fluid at $32, every 40,000km). The brand covers its cars with a three-year/100,000km warranty, and the same cover for roadside assistance.
The 2017 Nissan Navara N-Sport Black Edition is a well specified and stylish ute, one that will probably appeal to those who want a lifestyle oriented dual-cab rather than a work truck – a common finding we’ve had when it comes to the Navara range, which does tend to fall short of expectations if you want the full one-tonne tough truck experience.
But one thing’s for sure: it looks tough, and that could be enough for a lot of dual-cab ute buyers out there.
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