NISSAN NAVARA - 2018 4X4 UTE MEGATEST


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Nissan’s Navara D23 is less than three years old but has already been updated twice. Is it finally right?

NISSAN NAVARA PRICING*
Nissan Navara SL $43,900
Nissan Navara ST $47,190
Nissan Navara ST-X $51,990

The Navara D23, tagged as the NP300, arrived in mid-2015 and was a significant departure from the outgoing and successful D40, which had been on sale for the better part of the decade. All but one dual-cab D23 featured a coil-sprung live axle at the rear, a feature unique among the mainstream utes in this class.

In what Nissan said was response to "feedback from customers and dealers", changes were announced a little over a year later in October 2016 and implemented for the 2017 model year. This included the dropping of the NP300 tag (replaced by Series II), the introduction of a new work-spec model and, critically, new coil springs at the rear and new dampers front and rear. Then, early this year, the suspension was revised again with new coils and new dampers at the back, a new steering rack ratio and various equipment upgrades.

Nissan -Navara -engine -bay

Powertrain and performance

The Navara’s engine is unique here – well, almost unique, as the same engine is used in the Navara-based Mercedes-Benz X-Class – thanks to having two turbos rather than one.

It’s a Renault-sourced engine with a sophisticated bi-turbo arrangement that employs a smaller, quick-spinning turbo for more immediate response off idle and then a larger turbo, which kicks in to provide the mid-range and top-end punch.

Sequential turbo arrangements like this are commonly used on smaller European diesels (similar to four-cylinder Amarok, for example) and provide flexibility that comes from having both strong low rpm torque and good top-end power.

Thanks to the Navara also being one of the lighter utes here and enjoying the benefit of a seven-speed automatic and relatively short overall gearing (55km/h / 1,000rpm in top), it’s a performance frontrunner here if you ignore the Amarok V6, which is in a league of its own. The Navara’s 2.3 is also effortless in general driving and agreeably smooth and quiet, except when pressed hard, where it does become somewhat noisy. The Navara’s seven-speed automatic offers smooth and slick shifts but the shift protocols in ‘drive’ are very much tuned for economy rather than performance.

Nissan -Navara -wheel

On-road ride and handling

Much of the revision work on the MY17 and then the MY18 has centred on the Navara’s heavy load-carrying and towing performance. It has also addressed the unladen ride and handling and the front-to-rear suspension match, which wasn’t anything special in the original NP300 guise.

In fact, the front-to-rear match was poor (somewhat like the very ordinary D22) and well short of the nicely sorted D40.

Thankfully, the Navara feels much better now suspension-wise and, with the quicker, more responsive steering on the MY18 model, is much more enjoyable to drive – even if the new rear suspension tune means a somewhat harsh unladen ride.

Load carrying

In its original iteration, the Navara fared very poorly chassis-wise when either towing at 3,500kg, or maximum payload.

In our 2016 Max Load and Tow test, it finished at the tail of the field, even if the powertrain coped well enough at the tow and payload limits.

The Series II version did better carrying a maximum payload, with much improved lateral stability but still has very much a nose-up, bum-down attitude on the road. In fact, in this regard, it was no better than before.

With our all-up 900kg payload on board, the MY18 Navara performed better again with acceptable handling and chassis stability. It certainly didn’t drop as much as before at the back, although the Navara is still short of the best overall in terms of the way the chassis carries a heavy load. More pleasing is the engine performance with a heavy load on board.
You can still feel the engine working a bit harder, and it’s noisy as a result, but the good low-rpm torque and short gearing means it’s not too fussed.

Cargo tie-downs that can be repositioned fore and aft in the rear tub are a handy fitment with the ST-X but would be better mounted on the tub floor rather than high on the tub sides.

Nissan -Navara -off -road -in -water

Off road

The Navara has never been particularly capable off road as it’s not endowed with much suspension travel (despite the coils at the rear) and is relatively low slung.

ST and ST-X models do have a rear locker, however, and the good news is that, when the locker is engaged, the electronic traction control remains active on the front axle.

The Navara wouldn’t make it up our set-piece hill climb without the rear locker but did so with the rear locker engaged. That puts it in front of the Triton and D-Max, even if it did have to work very hard to make the climb.

The Navara is also one of four utes here that doesn’t draw its engine intake air from the inner guard, and claims the lowest wading depth – just 450mm. Its raised bonnet edges also restrict vision off road.

Nissan -Navara -interior

Cabin and safety

The Navara has one of the smaller cabins here so isn’t the best, especially in terms of rear-seat space for three adults. It is nicely finished, however, and has tilt-and-reach steering wheel adjustment. The Navara has seven airbags, which helps contribute to the five-star ANCAP safety rating.

It has plenty of kit at a reasonable price too, with the ST-X including the option of a sunroof – something unique in this class. A sliding section in the centre of the rear window is also another feature unique to the Navara.

Practicalities

The Navara offers notably long 12-month/ 20,000km service intervals and set-price servicing. There’s also a limited range of factory accessories that include a steel and aluminium-alloy bullbars, although the major aftermarket companies provide a greater range of options.

This top-spec Navara rides on 18-inch wheels but 17s or 16s from lower spec models can be fitted to open up the choice of replacement tyres.

What you get

All Navara dual-cab 4x4s have seven airbags, tilt-and-reach steering wheel adjustment, a rear-view camera and a 12-volt outlet in the rear tub. The SL then adds LED headlights with daytime running lights while the ST gains 16-inch alloys, seven-inch touchscreen, sat-nav, fogs, side steps, a chrome sports bar and a rear locker. The top-spec ST-X model then gains leather seats (heated up front), electric adjustment for driver’s seat and adjustable tie-downs.

PROS

  • A good enough vehicle if not up against the rest of the pack
  • Impresses with spritely performance and equipment for the money
  • Chassis is now much better sorted for general driving

CONS

  • Constant revisions to this model don’t inspire confidence
  • Heavy-duty load and tow still isn’t its forte
  • Not a choice for more serious off-road driving
2018 mega ute shootout results
2018 mega ute shootout results
2018 mega ute shootout home

NISSAN NAVARA PRICE & SPECIFICATIONS

Nissan Navara
Nissan Navara 4x4 dual-cab ST-X

PRICING*

Nissan Navara SL 43900
Nissan Navara ST 47190
Nissan Navara ST-X 51990

SPECIFICATIONS

Engine 2.3-litre 4-cylinder bi-turbo diesel
Max power 140kW (188hp) @ 3,750rpm
Max torque 450Nm @ 1,500-2,500rpm
Gearbox Seven-speed automatic
4X4 System Dual-range part-time
Crawl ratio 44.6:1
Construction Separate-chassis
Front suspension Independent/coil springs
Rear suspension Live axle/coil springs
Kerb weight 1,980kg
GVM 2,910kg
Payload 930kg
Towing capacity 3,500kg
Towball download (max) 300kg
GCM 5,910kg
Overall length 5,255mm
Width 1,850mm
Height 1,840mm
Wheelbase 3,150mm
Turning circle 12.4m
Fuel tank capacity 80 litres
ADR fuel claim 7.0 litres/100km
Test fuel use 11.0 litres/100km
Touring range 677km**

ACCELERATION & BRAKING

0 – 100km/h 9.7s
80 – 120km/h 7.0s
100km/h – 0km/h 48.7m

*Based on test fuel use, claimed fuel capacity and a 50km ‘safety’ margin.
**Prices do not include on-road costs. Bi-turbo engine manual transmission dual-cab 4x4s only.

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