Engine / Transmission: 2.3 twin turbo diesel – 7 speed automatic transmission
Manufacturer Claimed Fuel Economy: 8.1L/100km combined for the automatic transmission
Price: From $60,630 drive away
In a nutshell:
This thing might see me say goodbye to my beloved Amarok. As a daily driver and in use as a family car, it’s better than the Ford Ranger, Toyota Hilux and Volkswagen Amarok. What Nissan have done, mainly thanks to its coil spring rear suspension (unique in this segment), is make the higher spec Navaras a compelling choice for family transport…as long as you really need a ute.
Every dual cab we get through the EFTM Garage gets compared to my old Amarok – not to see if the test truck is better than the trusty Veedub, because they nearly always are, but to see if the improvements are worth the effort and expense to trade in the old girl. I feel that dual cab utes are finally at the point where they have moved on from the initial design that so many people, me included, found just so damn handy: reasonable safety, reasonable comfort, reasonable value and loads of practicality.
The problem has been that since that initial wave of Amaroks, Oz designed Rangers, and the first of the coil spring rear end Navaras there has been very little to entice buyers back through the dealership’s door. Sure, there have been the odd bauble here and there, a sprinkling of glitter at times, but no real wholesale changes to the design brief (so long as you don’t count the uber expensive Raptor or now no longer available Mercedes Benz X Class). Don’t get me wrong, compared to a really competent sedan or wagon, dual cab utes are rough riding, poor handling, noisy and thirsty. Despite all of this, the Navara is a beauty.
Enter the latest ‘Series 4’ update to Nissan’s Navara. What we have here isn’t so much a wholesale change but rather the culmination of lots of little updates that, together, finally make me want to chop in Amarok.
One of my biggest concerns with buying the Amarok in the first place was the lack of curtain airbags for the rear passengers. I consoled myself with the better handling of the ‘Rock over its contemporaries and, as I bought it second hand, it’s value compared to, say, a Hilux.
I’m pleased to say that the Navara sports impressive active and passive safety credentials, including (on ST spec and above, anyway) a subtle and effective lane keep assist, lane departure warning, blind spot warning and assist, rear cross traffic assist, high beam assist, rain sensing wipers, 360 degree camera and sensational LED headlights. ST-X spec adds tyre pressure monitoring, while all dual cab Navaras are fitted with a five link, coil sprung rear end, autonomous braking, CarPlay and seven airbags. Off road, the 360 degree camera can be used for obstacle avoidance while hill descent control and an electronically controlled locking differential take care of the steep stuff.
The last generation Navara was good, but its ride and bump control was scarcely any better than my ‘gone to the moon and back’ Amarok. With this latest Navara, Nissan seems to have finally found the perfect balance between load lugging (I mean, it’s a ute afterall), road holding and comfort. Some reports have claimed that Mercedes Benz has helped in this regard – the Mercedes X Class was a collaboration with Nissan – but I haven’t seen anything concrete in this regard. Regardless, it works bloody well. The Navara is smooth and comfy and can take a full tonne in the tray.
Not So Impressive:
The least impressive thing about the Navara Pro4X is that I don’t think it is the sweet spot in the range. The entry level spec Navaras really need to be reserved for fleet work, but the middle range is where the real value is to be found. For example, the Pro4X asks a $4k premium over the Navara ST-X yet fails to include the heated seats and sunroof that are available, as extra cost options, on the ST-X, although you get leather trim on the flat and not especially comfy seats. Further still, the ST spec includes all of the advanced safety kit at an even bigger saving (although, you’ll want the tub liner and tow bar that come standard on the ST-X). What the Pro4X does add though is tough looking flared guards, oversized tyres and black sports bar. Speaking of value, the Pro4X ain’t cheap, but if you’re the sort of person that changes cars every few years I think you will be rewarded with excellent retained value, possibly making the extra spend a clever move.
WHEN ON A TEST DRIVE:
At the end of the day, only you can decide which dual cab ute to jump for: the often clunky Hilux (and it’s out-of-this-world retained value), the cheap as chips (and feels every inch of its cost cutting) Triton, the competent Ranger (but everyone will think you’re about to declare bankruptcy if you don’t go for the $80k Raptor), the steady as she goes Amarok (so long as you don’t value the lives of your back seat passengers) or this new Navara. This latest Navara doesn’t have to ride in anyone’s shadow and is my pick of the bunch. Well done Nissan; I knew you’d get there!