By T. Nikolic
- The coil spring rear-end provides better ride when scarcely loaded;
- The engine and gearbox are a powerful and efficient pair; and
- The cabin is more liveable (more like a car than a truck).
- Not the best with heavy loads;
- Steering a little slow and dull at low speeds in urban areas; and
- Infotainment not as advanced as segment leaders.
It didn’t take long for Nissan to update the 2017 Nissan Navara ST-X, with the Series II upgrades coming not long after the vehicle’s initial launch – just two years down the line to be exact.
The Nissan Navara double-cabin separates itself from the crowd with coil springs at the rear and with the Series II upgrades. It’s supposed to be even better than the first version.
I’ve given this some thought from the offset, that the Navara is best positioned as the most effective ‘lifestyle double-cabin’ among the current crop of double cabin pick-ups. Some are better off-road, some are better with a load in the tray, and some are better value, but few make a better all-round proposition as a lifestyle choice.
Let’s face it; at the top of the model range, these double-cabins are all about lifestyle aren’t they? Take a look at the number of Wildtrak Ford Rangers on the road, kitted-out with the best off-road specifications – but rarely with a spec of dirt on them. These double-cabins are more about the image they project than the workhorse they are or their off-roading capability.
That aforementioned ‘all-round lifestyle’ statement is due to one crucial Navara underpinning – coil springs at the rear as opposed to the traditional leaf spring arrangement. It means the new Navara has never been at ease with 500kg in the tray, but then how many high-end double-cabins like the ST-X seen here, get properly loaded up? In our experience, very few or none at all…
What the Navara needs to do then, is handle the bump and grind of daily driving as well as, if not better than the competition. I switched straight from this ST-X Navara into a Mazda BT-50 XTR and it provided an interesting back-to-back comparison of coils versus leaves. While the coils used here in the Navara are by no means perfect, they are definitely more accomplished than the rest of the segment around town (without a load in the tray).
Back in 2008, the Navara was at the time, the most accomplished on-road option in the double-cabin pick-up segment. Better steering, better road holding, less rear-end sway, and a powerful-enough diesel engine made for excellent on-road behaviour.
A decade is a long time in motoring terms, but it’s relevant to note that the Navara’s position atop the double-cabin pile at that point. No pressure on this new generation though…
The ST-X sits at the top of the Navara range, and as such, standard equipment levels are lengthy. Highlights include: heated front seats, rear air vents, leather trim, touchscreen infotainment and satellite navigation. Pricing for the Navara 4WD double-cabin range starts from US $28,000 before on-road costs for the RX, while the ST-X tested here starts from US $36,500 before on-road costs.
What CarAdvice appreciates most about the Navara is the interior. In short, it delivers a passenger SUV cabin experience, in a double-cabin pick-up body. Only the Amarok from VW and the incoming X-Class from Mercedes Benz can currently match that interior sense of style and comfort, with all other contenders in the double-cabin segment still feeling very truck-like. Better than they used to be sure, but still not perfect by any means.
For the outlay, you’d think the cabins should be more like the Navara’s then – comfortable, attractive, user-friendly and well executed – considering that these double-cabins aren’t cheap by any means.
While still missing modern tech like radar cruise control and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, you do get heated front seats, quality leather trim, and a sunroof as standard.
The cabin is otherwise excellent, the driving position good with a broad scope of visibility, the leather seats comfortable and the heating function much appreciated during a cold winter. We’d love to see Apple CarPlay/Android Auto standard, but the Bluetooth system works well enough and the infotainment system is otherwise decent.
The rear-view camera is clear too, making reverse parking what is an undoubtedly chunky vehicle, much easier than it otherwise would be.
The Navara’s cabin is nicely insulated too. Road noise is kept to a minimum, diesel chatter and engine noises are also well isolated, and there’s hardly any wind noise entering at 110km/h, either. It’s part of the reason it feels more SUV than commercial and it’s a noteworthy feature for those of you in areas with plenty of coarse chip, or buyers who spend a lot of time on the freeway.
The second row provides enough room for adults, even with six-footers up front; alternatively, you’d fit three teenage children across that second row comfortably. There’s plenty of usable storage throughout the cabin, charging outlets and general convenience like second row air vents.
Nissan’s touchscreen is by no means a modern marvel, and it’s not segment leading either, but it works well enough, especially the satellite navigation, which is clear and accurate.
On paper, the 2.3-litre twin-turbocharged engine presents an attractive prospect. With 140kW of power and 450Nm of torque, the numbers make a solid case for real world thrust, and that is very much the reality. Matched to a seven-speed automatic transmission, it’s efficient too, returning 10.7L/100km against a, shall we say optimistic, ADR claim of 7.0L/100km. Much of our driving was around town, which means those of you on the rural or up-country fringes should see even more efficient figures.
We love the way the gearbox doesn’t hunt and shift merely for the sake of it, rather it always knows which gear is the right ratio for the given throttle load and road speed, and shifts snappily when asked to under hard acceleration. Any of you who’ve had experience driving these vehicles back in the bad old days, will be blown away by how rapidly you can push something like the Navara along in 2017.
Our only real issue with the driving experience is the steering-wheel, which feels slow and heavy most of the time. It jars with the engine, gearbox and suspension, which encourages you to have a go, even on twisty roads. The steering at low speed is heavy, which can be annoying when you’re parking in tight spaces, and the wide ratio – 3.75 turns lock-to-lock – means you have to row on the wheel a bit. At speed, it’s not as sharp and direct as something like the Amarok, for example. Haven’t tested the X-Class yet, so I can’t comment on its prowess, but I’m sure Mercedes have done a decent job on their first foray into the double-cabin pick-up segment.
Around town, on our pothole-laden roads, the Navara’s coil springs work well without heavy loads in the back. It soaks up bumps comfortably and without skipping all over the place like some dual-cabs tend to do. It’s a little harder to unsettle, more efficient at power transfer, and reassuring even on damp roads.
Second row passengers backed up our comfort reading from the front seat too, commenting they weren’t being shaken about as you might expect.
Aside from the aforementioned steering, the Navara is excellent around town or out in the country. The engine and gearbox work beautifully together; the brakes take a repeated pounding on fast, downhill, twisty roads, and it handles that kind of drive with more eagerness than you’d ever expect. It’s a double-cabin you’d be more than happy to drive every day, without a doubt.
While we know – and have documented – that the load carrying issues haven’t really been resolved with this mid-life update, the Navara still presents itself as an excellent choice for many buyers, especially at the higher end of the model range.
If we first accept that few buyers ever load their highly-specced, not to mention expensive, double-cabins up with much more than a gym bag or the kids’ mountain bikes and sports gear, the reality of what the vehicle does with 650kg in the tray isn’t as relevant.
The Navara is far from the most expensive double-cabin out there, rides better without heavy loads, and delivers a comfortable and SUV-like cabin. If I was buying a double-cabin pick-up right now (and I don’t haul a lot of heavy stuff around), the Nissan Navara wouldn’t be such a bad choice.
If you factor in its’ exceptional diesel engine and automatic gearbox pairing, you get yourself an affordable bargain. Styling is subjective obviously, but I reckon the Navara looks great (probably only the Ford Ranger Wildtrak and the Mercedes Benz X-Class that look better). If you need your double-cabin to play more than work, the Navara is a very solid option.
OUR RATINGS BREAKDOWN
- Performance & Economy – 8.5
- Cabin Space & Comfort – 8
- Technology & Connectivity – 6.5
- Price & Features – 7.5
- Ride & Handling – 8.5
- Nissan Kenya is the official and sole distributor of all new and approved Nissan vehicles in Kenya. They are located at the roundabout between Bunyala Road and Uhuru Highway, adjacent to Highway Mall and Nakumatt Mega.
- The company offers after sales service as well as comprehensive warranties for all their vehicles. Check out their official website or visit their showroom for more information.