Spend any amount of time with the current Nissan Navara – especially in N-Trek Warrior guise – and it’s fair to say that Nissan’s dual-cab doesn’t get the respect it deserves. While there’s been plenty of positive response to the Warrior treatment, much of the fanfare still surrounds the Ranger, HiLux and now new to the segment D-Max and BT-50.
In the case of the new twins, the white noise is certainly deserved, but the Ranger and HiLux are a little harder to work out. The HiLux has only recently received a much-needed refresh, and Ranger fans seemed to go very quiet after a period of hassling Nissan fans (and others, mind you) about engine capacity and cylinders.
Ford’s move to a 2.0-litre, bi-turbo four-cylinder put a dent in the heckling, you see. That’s not to take away from what Ford has done with the Ranger over nearly a decade to keep it as competitive as it is, either.
Regardless, the Nissan Navara doesn’t quite get the attention it deserves. We’ve seen in testing that the coil-spring rear end, which doesn’t love max payload, rides nicely around town, the cabin is more car-like than truck-like, and the engine is efficient and more than powerful enough to get the job done.
While there remain critics of the coil-spring rear end – strange that you’d prefer to live in the 1950s – the reality, especially at the top end of the market, is that these dual-cabs rarely, if ever, carry anywhere near their theoretical maximum payload. For that reason alone, the Navara puts a solid case forward for urban buyers.
|2020 Nissan Navara N-Trek Warrior|
|Engine||2.3-litre twin-turbo diesel four-cylinder|
|Power and torque||140kW at 3750rpm, 450Nm at 1500–2500rpm|
|Drive type||Part-time four-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||7.0L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||9.0–11.0L/100km|
|Boot volume (rear seats up/down)||N/A|
|ANCAP safety rating (year tested)||Five stars (2015)|
|Warranty||5 years/unlimited km|
|Main competitors||Isuzu D-Max, Toyota HiLux, Ford Ranger|
|Price as tested (ex on-road costs)||$63,790 (plus ORC)|
In N-Trek Warrior clothing, it’s pretty capable off-road, too, as we’ve discovered. It’s fair to say that anyone in the CarAdvice office who spent any time in the N-Trek Warrior, came away impressed with its ability and user-friendliness around town.
As we progress further into this decade, the dual-cab segment shows no signs of slowing down. And as these dual-cabs grow – invariably every segment seems to bulk up and out – and we jack them up with higher suspension and taller tyres, we edge closer to making them less useful in built-up urban areas, too.
It’s a reality that may have to be more closely considered in the next few years. They aren’t quite there yet, of course, but some of the arguments directed at US pick-ups might need to be shifted in the direction of the ‘regular’ dual-cab brigade if they keep growing.
For the moment, though, the N-Trek Warrior is as useful around town as it is on a rocky climb off-road. As we’ve seen with Ford’s Ranger Raptor, the improvements and gains to its off-road ability have delivered an unexpected side effect of making the dual-cab better to drive on-road, too. Nice bonus that one.
The Warrior additions have also toughened up the Navara’s appearance, made it look more purpose-built, and separated it from the rest of the dual-cab pack in a styling sense.
With a starting price of $63,790 before on-road costs, it’s at the upper end of the dual-cab market, but if you factor in the cost of bar work, lights, wheels, tyres and suspension, you’d need to fork out a fair wedge to get a standard Navara to this point. And, you wouldn’t get a full factory warranty with it either.
So, in a straight-out money sense, the Warrior makes sense to dual-cab buyers, especially those wanting to retain the security of a factory warranty. If the styling appeals to you, and you like the packaging of the Navara, you’ll end up with a dual-cab that will do exactly what you need and expect it to do.
To be honest, gripes are minor and will likely be addressed when the facelifted Navara arrives in 2021. Further, the negatives we’ve pointed out over the past few months are certainly not deal-breakers either.
Off-road, or even in more remote country areas, the LED light bar could do with replacing. It’s decent, but it could do with more grunt to really cut through the darkness. Serious off-roaders will lament the fact that the front bar isn’t winch-compatible. The infotainment system, as we’ve noted a few times over the last couple of months, works, but doesn’t have the up-to-date graphics or systems of the segment leaders (though Nissan has addressed this with the Series 4 Narava update).
And, of course, being an older platform in newer company, the Navara doesn’t have some of the active safety tech that features in the best-in-segment models. There are no front parking sensors either, and Sam Purcell noted that the top tether points didn't work too well for all designs of baby seats.
On the flip side, the cabin is comfortable, hard-wearing, functional and offers enough space for family buyers. The suspension changes make it even more competent on rubbish surfaces around town, and the combination of engine and gearbox is smooth and efficient in the real world. Both the Warrior and Ranger Raptor illustrate, in quite decisive ways, that dual-cabs don’t need to ride like old carts unladen.
The 2.3-litre, twin-turbo four-cylinder diesel engine is neatly matched to the seven-speed automatic, and it’s smooth in traffic. On the highway, it’s as effortless as you’d expect it to be, but around town it’s not hunting through the ratios and constantly working to find the right one. The package is snappy enough to get the Warrior up to speed in city traffic with ease, too. As we've seen over the testing period, the combination works well off-road and towing as well. Plus, it makes sense as a longer-haul touring 4WD.
After our time with the Warrior, a few things became clear. If you’re a devoted, experienced and enthusiastic off-roader, you’ll always concoct a better way to reinvent the wheel. Nothing wrong with that either, but in that case you’re better off buying a stock dual-cab and then heading down the modification path yourself. You’ll know exactly what you want and how you want it, and with that in mind, you’ll want to approach the aftermarket in your own way.
However, the popularity of the Ranger Raptor and Warrior has proven that plenty of people don’t need or want to take that road. The attraction of a factory warranty, combined with robust off-road styling and real-world practicality, makes sense to buyers who spend more time rolling round in urban areas than bombing through sand and mud off-road.
Whichever avenue suits you best, I reckon it’s a good thing that dual-cabs like the N-Trek Warrior exist. Nissan has seen a gap in the market and filled it. Aussies are working away to improve an already solid proposition and doing a good job of it. That’s a win-win the way I see it.