As we explained last month, we wanted to take a closer look at the 2020 Nissan Navara N-Trek Warrior for a couple of reasons. First, it’s impressive that an Australian company is deeply involved in the engineering enhancement. Second, you get a proper factory warranty for a modified dual-cab. And third, they are basically selling out before dealers can get their hands on them. So, Nissan has definitely done something right.
We’ll cover off-road and towing in upcoming updates, but this month we’re going to investigate what the Warrior is like around town. We speak about this a lot at CarAdvice, but the reality is that despite how capable these dual-cabs are, and despite how off-road-focused they might be, the majority of them are rolling round town to building sites, sporting grounds, and suburban driveways.
Good, bad or otherwise, and whether you agree or not, that is the reality for the dual-cab in 2020, such is the fate of the daily driver.
As we’ve found recently, off-road-focused modifications have in some instances made 4WDs significantly better on-road and around town into the bargain – an unexpected bonus if you will. Two examples spring to mind – Jeep Wrangler Rubicon and Ford Ranger Raptor. Both are the most competent and off-road-equipped of their breed, but also vastly better around town as well.
We’ve been keen to find out whether the Warrior can deliver the same improvements.
A quick recap in case you haven’t read our other Warrior reviews – there’s a 2.3-litre, twin-turbo diesel four-cylinder mated to a seven-speed automatic, and the oiler generates 140kW and 450Nm. The ADR fuel claim is 7.0L/100km on the combined cycle, and in heavy traffic around town our average has settled in at 8.8L/100km, which is genuinely impressive for a capable off-road work vehicle.
Ford fans used to guffaw at smaller engines in dual-cabs when they were going into battle with a 3.2-litre five-cylinder. Until Ford released a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder in the Raptor, of course… Now, the 2.3-litre under the Warrior’s bonnet isn’t such a bone of contention.
First up, then, the cabin. When you’re running round town, visibility is key, but so too is the ease with which you can jump in and out of a vehicle if you need to do it repeatedly. A stepladder is fine when you only do it twice a day. The Warrior’s side steps are useful enough to be practical, and they aren’t too slippery either.
The heated front leather-highlighted seats are comfortable and they look durable, too. It’s always hard to predict how hard-wearing a cabin might be, but the Warrior’s looks tough enough. Eight-way power adjustment for the driver means you can get into the right position easily, and visibility given the taller ride height is excellent as well. No reach adjustment for the steering wheel is a gripe, though.
The infotainment system isn’t mind-blowing by any means, but it works reliably. Apple CarPlay performed nicely for us on test and didn’t drop out or do anything strange. It's worth nothing, though, that we've tested plenty of cars now that have sensitivity to cables. Some cables will not work. Switch over and you're good to go. The better the cable, the less likely we've seen issues arise. Black magic.
You also get proprietary satellite navigation, which we like using sometimes instead of the smartphone systems, so it’s reassuring to know that it works well. Audio streaming and phone call clarity were solid at all times.
There’s enough room in the second row for road trips, too. Although, really tall adults won’t want to be back there for hours on end. Default family vehicle for the family, though? The Warrior will tackle that job nicely. Passengers back there even get air vents.
The Warrior's engine is punchy enough, especially around town, that it certainly doesn’t seem slow or slovenly. Obviously, more power would always be a good thing – Nissan’s 550 Navara springs to mind, for example – but for daily driving duties, the Warrior certainly isn’t left wanting.
The gearbox is smooth, too, working nicely with the four-cylinder to make the most of the torque on offer and ensuring the engine never feels like it’s working too hard. It doesn’t always seem to be slicing through the ratios needlessly, either, which can be a bugbear with many gearboxes offering more than six ratios.
The steering is meaty and errs on the side of what we’d describe as heavy, but we’re willing to live with that around town knowing it works nicely in the tough stuff off-road. With the Ranger leading the way in terms of steering balance at low speed, and the new D-Max just behind, the Warrior is heavy in comparison. A 12.7m turning circle means you’ll need to avoid rapid-fire, three-point turns in narrow city streets as well.
With the Premcar engineering team largely focused on suspension modifications, you’d expect the Warrior to be better than a standard Navara – and it is. First up, and most obviously to casual observers, it’s rolling on 275/70R17 Cooper AT3 all-terrain tyres. We like the wheel design also, but the tyres specifically work well on-road and aren’t too skatey in the wet either. They are less grippy than a specific road-focused tyre, but not diabolical. It’s one reason an all-terrain is usually a smarter choice than a mud-terrain – unless you’re driving in, you know, mud.
There are also larger-volume Monroe dampers with custom-tuned valving, dual-rate springs, among other modifications under the skin. The revisions lift the Warrior up an extra 40mm to 1895mm, so keep that in mind around town. Shopping centre carparks generally offer 2000mm clearance, though, so you’ll mostly be okay – just.
What’s most interesting to me is the criticism levelled at the coil-spring Navara (from day one basically) because of its inability to carry a million kilos of payload. Given most owners barely put anything into the tray of an expensive, high-spec dual-cab, I’d be more concerned with the unladen ride. Something that seems to have escaped the engineers of many dual-cabs in the past.
So, unladen, the five-link Navara is anything but poor, and yet the longer-travel Warrior is even better again. First up, the Coopers aren’t too noisy on the road, even on coarse chip at highway speed. It’s the quality of the ride, though, that impresses. The way in which the suspension deals with typical urban fare, though, is effortless.
Where the Ranger Raptor remains the standard-setter, the Warrior isn’t far behind in terms of bump absorption and ability to quickly settle after taking a hit. There’s no jiggling and bouncing, skipping over pockmarked surfaces, and that pogo effect before it all settles back down again. Rather, the Warrior simply irons out poor surfaces without disturbing the sense of peace and quiet in the cabin.
While the Warrior isn’t perfect, it’s definitely a dual-cab that makes as much sense around town as it does off-road – certainly for the type of buyer profile it targets. It makes you wonder why every other manufacturer isn’t toughening up their dual-cab, which in turn makes it better on-road. Ford and Nissan have shown the way.