navara - Nissan Navara ST X 06 - Nissan Navara: high praise for a ute

What is it?

I WAS mightily impressed with Nissan’s Navara when it was launched in Thailand some five years ago, especially since

it could be had with a coil-spring rear end — something radical in utedom at the time.

I’d always wondered why nearly all utes had leaf springs, basic suspension that dated back to the 14th century.

There’s only so much refinement you can build into such an antiquated system, yet the utes persisted with them. Most still do.

Coils generally have longer travel give more car-like comfort and stability, but the first Nissan utes with them apparently didn’t like carrying heavy loads and suffered from bump-through when a tonne or more was chucked in the back.

The latest one, the Series 3, has addressed that.

The five-link system now features dual-rate coils on three models: dual-cab SL, ST and ST-X, and all complaints from the flat-earth believers have been quashed.

They’re pretty smart springs, with a soft initial stroke for ride comfort — most folk use these vehicles for day to day or family weekend fun — and the second stage goes into action when a tradie uses it for serious work.

It then firms up to handle the mass in the tray.

There’s also a a dynamic rebound damper, which minimises lateral body movement when the tray is filled with really weighty stuff.

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What’s it cost?

On test was the top of the pops Nissan Navara Dual Cab ST-X 4×4, priced at $55,250.

However, there’s a choice of  three cabin variants in the range: Single Cab, King Cab and popular Dual Cab, plus you have 27 Pickup and eight Cab Chassis options and 10 4X2 and 25 4X4 variants — so you can take weeks to figure which one best suits your needs.

Prices start from $29,990. 

The top-spec ST-X is physically pretty attractive and its price makes it even more so. It’s somewhat less than the best from most rival brands, and it has a solid reputation as a ute of reliability and competence. 

Also, its foresight in its rear suspension department made it a decided go-to for Mercedes when the three-pointed star outfit decided to enter the market with its X-Class.

Yep, folks, there’s a lot of Navara in that smart Teutonute.

Standard fare includes a reversing camera plus a 360-degree crow’s-view feature, rear parking sensors, auto-on wipers and LED headlights, 18-inch wheels with a full-size spare, a six-speaker premium audio system, a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming plus USB connectivity – and yes, it now caters for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

It also gets roof rails and side steps, the latter handy for getting into the tallish vehicle.  But while there are handles so the passenger can hoist him or herself in, the driver has to hang on to the steering wheel for easy ingress. 

Then there’s the luxury of  dual-zone climate control, auto-dimming rearview mirror, good, clear instrumentation with digital speedo, carpet mats and a rio of 12-volt outlets.

As usual, there’s a rotary knob to select low ratios and 4WD. I think Nissan was among the first to switch to that electronic system, which put paid to yesteryear’s  manual yanking of a couple of levers and locking of hubs.

The really spacious back seats have their own air vents and people who find turning the ignition key too strenuous, will be elated to discover they need only to touch an illuminated push-button to set the 2.3-litre twin-turbo diesel in motion.

Also standard on this model is the nifty Utili-Track adjustable tie-down system in the load tub, as well as four more hooks.

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What’s it go like?

The 140kW/450Nm diesel engine is mated to a 7-speed automatic and it’s a perky combination with lots of get-up and go, running bare, or with a load.

We dropped 500kg of cargo in the tray and had no drama with the handling or with the extra mass. It fair hurtled past lesser traffic on the long and notorious steep uphill in our part of the woods and it was quite the sprinter in traffic light grands prix.

True Love really enjoyed it. She of the tall, slinky Joanna Lumley-like chassis said it gave her more leg and headroom than expected and the comfort and visibility were ‘absolutely fabulous.’

So too, was the fuel economy.

Official average is 7.0L/100km, but we got down to as low as 6.3 unloaded, and still travelling (in 2WD) at the legal limit. 

It has an 80-litre tank, so, depending on conditions and load or empty,  you can potentially go close to eternity.

 Workhorse-wise, payload is 930kg and towing capacity is 750kg for an unbraked trailer, or up to 3500kg braked. Pretty impressive.

What else? Decent steering and brakes, nice paint, five-star safety rating and just a three-year warranty, though that comes with three years of road assistance.

navara - Nissan Navara ST X 08 - Nissan Navara: high praise for a ute

What we like?

  • The looks
  • Coil-sprung tail (yay)
  • Extensive standard equipment
  • Performance
  • Economy
  • Comfort

navara - Nissan Navara ST X 04 - Nissan Navara: high praise for a ute

What we don’t like?

  • No helping handles on driver’s side
  • Basic warranty

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The bottom line?

A thoroughly civilised ute.

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Nissan Navara Dual Cab ST-X 4x4, priced from $55,250
  • 8/10
    Looks - 8/10
  • 8/10
    Performance - 8/10
  • 8/10
    Safety - 8/10
  • 8.5/10
    Thirst - 8.5/10
  • 8.5/10
    Practicality - 8.5/10
  • 8.5/10
    Comfort - 8.5/10
  • 8.5/10
    Tech - 8.5/10
  • 8.5/10
    Value - 8.5/10
8.3/10

Buys

Bill Buys, probably Australia’s longest-serving motoring writer, has been at his craft for more than five decades. Athough motoring has always been in his DNA, he was also night crime reporter, foreign page editor and later chief reporter of the famed Rand Daily Mail. He’s twice been shot at, attacked by a rhinoceros and had several chilling experiences in aircraft. His experience includes stints in traffic law enforcement, motor racing and rallying and writing for a variety of local and international publications. He has covered countless events, ranging from world motor shows and Formula 1 Grands Prix to Targa tarmac and round-the-houses meetings. A motoring tragic, he has owned more than 90 cars. Somewhat of a nostalgic, he has a special interest in classic cars. He is the father of Targa star Robert Buys, who often adds his expertise to Bill’s reviews.