Nissan has given its ‘D23’ Navara ute a number of running updates since launch in mid-2015. The first two introduced feedback-led changes to the rear coil suspension and the steering tune, whereas this new ‘Series 4’ model picks up a new infotainment system.
The 2020 Nissan Navara ST-X variant that we’re looking at here is one of the more popular grades, alongside the cheaper ST. At a list price of $55,250 plus on-road costs, it lines up against the Ford Ranger XLT and Toyota HiLux – otherwise known as the two top-selling vehicles in Australia.
Where the Navara fits in the wider ute market is interesting. It’s pitched (at ST-X level anyhow) as a slightly more refined, upmarket and comfortable offering for ‘weekend warriors’ who use their pick-up to tow the toys and cart around the family.
The new infotainment system features an 8.0-inch centre touchscreen unit running new ‘Alliance-In-Vehicle’ software, can pinch and zoom like a smartphone, and offers new TomTom satellite-navigation, and the always vaunted Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone mirroring.
It offers a better user experience than the predecessor's dated 7.0-inch unit, with good-quality maps, a simple-to-figure home screen assisted by shortcut buttons, and the ability to run Google/Waze maps and more simply operate podcasts and Spotify on the run through those aforementioned phone-mirroring systems.
The interior is pretty good by class standards. It’s all screwed together very solidly, and there are no cheap-and-nasty plastic trims like you get in most pick-ups. The large screen between the instruments includes a digital speedo, plus other in-vehicle data. It could quite easily be the interior of a decent family SUV, which it sort of is when you think on it.
Storage areas include a tray atop the dash with a 12V socket, door bins, cupholders, an overhead sunglasses holder, a smallish centre console, and back seats that can be flipped up from the base and hooked to the headrests, giving you a carpeted and locked area.
The back seats offer less leg room than most other top-sellers, though two 180cm adults are still accommodated. There are also two ISOFIX child-seat anchors and three top-tether points, as well as air vents that aren’t found in many competitors. There are also airbags protecting the side of rear outboard passengers.
There are gripes, though, such as the absence of telescopic (reach) adjustment for the steering wheel, the lack of digital radio, gloss-black plastic fascia trim that’s a magnet for dust, and the strangely designed steering wheel that has a raised centre piece adjoining the rim, which means I continuously (accidentally) honked the horn when turning. Anyone else have that?
The CD player has been axed, too, though will many people care?
Standard equipment is merely okay for the asking price, though once the new-to-market gloss on the Series 4 cools off, you can rightly expect sharpened campaign pricing to fire up.
Beyond that infotainment system already outlined, you get mod-cons including cruise control, a decent six-speaker audio system, Bluetooth, dual-zone climate control, a proximity key fob and starter button, and rear sensors.
There’s also a 360-degree camera view that shows on the screen, blending a view looking behind you and a bird’s-eye one from above. However, we do wish Nissan would spend up on a higher-resolution camera since it’s a little too grainy and lacking in clarity.
We should add here that the Navara comes with a couple of options, including a $1000 sunroof that sets the Nissan apart from competitors. You can also spend $1500 to get leather seats in place of the standard cloth numbers, which was an option fitted to our test vehicle.
The other observation is that Nissan is yet to roll out active safety technologies such as autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure alert, and radar-guided active cruise control. Rivals such as the HiLux, Ranger and Triton offer some or all of these now, which means the Navara is lagging here.
On the outside you get LED headlights and running lights, fog lights (important for regional buyers in particular), side steps, privacy glass, roof rails, mud flaps, chrome mirrors with auto folding and LED indicator lights, a unique electric sliding window section in the rear glass adjoining the tub area, 18-inch alloy wheels, and Toyo tyres.
The tray comes with a sports bar with high-mounted stop light, a protective tub-liner, four tie-down points, a 12V outlet to power your fridge or compressor, and neat rails along the tub walls with adjustable tie-down points that slide along and screw tight. Nissan calls this system ‘Utili-Track’, and it's good if you carry loads of variable dimensions.
Under the bonnet is a familiar engine, a Nissan-Renault 2.3-litre twin-turbo diesel making 140kW of power at 3750rpm and 450Nm of torque between 1500 and 2500rpm, the latter of which matches the HiLux’s 2.8-litre unit and is 50Nm less than the Ford Ranger’s 2.0-litre BiTurbo unit.
It has a typically gruff note at idle (though it’s far less agricultural than the Holden Colorado and Isuzu D-Max’s donks) but pulls well, and its combined-cycle fuel use is a highly efficient 7.0L/100km. The maximum tow rating is the de rigueur 3.5 tonnes, though the GCM means it’d be 3.0 tonnes if it’s also at payload. We towed a circa 2.0-tonne caravan happily enough.
It’s mated to a great seven-speed automatic transmission, and there’s an electronically actuated 4WD system with high- and low-range, the latter of which is assisted by hill-descent control electronics. Nissan cites ground clearance of 228mm, a breakover angle of 24.7 degrees, an approach angle of 33.2 degrees, and a departure angle of 28.2 degrees.
One key selling point for the Navara is its rear suspension that, unlike most competitors that use leaves, instead comprises coils and five linkages designed to maximise road-holding and body control when unladen.
As part of the Series 3 update, Nissan swapped said rear springs for two-stage units that stiffen when laden, and the change was well worth it. The payload is a modest 932kg, though we very happily lugged a more realistic 650kg. The body remained mostly level and the steering well controlled.
Dynamically, the Navara is okay. Nissan lightened the steering up as part of a previous running change, making it far less unwieldy to steer around town than it was at launch. Refinement levels are decent and unladen body control and ride quality good for the class, though it hardly drives any more comfortably than a Ranger or Amarok V6 either.
If I were to sum up the driving experience, it would be to say the Navara Series 3 and 4 are big improvements on the initial D23 model in terms of steering and laden ride, and that it’s refined and comfortable, with a punchy enough engine and good gearbox. But then again, nothing about its driving manners strikes me as class-leading either. It’s just… Solid.
From an ownership perspective, Nissan was one of the final brands to start offering a five-year warranty with no distance limit and a 24/7 roadside-assist policy across the term. Capped-price servicing intervals are a decent 12 months and 20,000km, and the first five visits are presently priced at $526, $563, $727, $585 and $570. That's quite high.
So, why buy a Navara ST-X? Well, at the end of the day it’s quite comfortable and quiet, fuel efficient, more capable at carrying loads than before, has some unique features, and now offers outstanding infotainment technologies.
At the same time, it’s not quite as cushy or high-tech as the top-selling Ranger, as hardcore off-road or settled with a load as the HiLux, or as well-priced and packed with safety tech as the Mitsubishi Triton.
So, it remains an upper-middle proposition as before, albeit one that continues to get better and better.