2018 Nissan Navara
The new Nissan Navara more than lives up to its reputation as one of the best utes on the road reports Michael Westlake, in this new review for Bartons
SOMEONE wise once said that you only get one chance to make a good first impression.
Like a lot of things about the new Navara ute, Nissan got things right the first time.
The Navara seems to have been around forever, and has undergone quite a few overhauls and facelifts over the past two decades.
The one thing that has not changed is the Navara’s reputation.
Go around any building site anywhere in the country, and you will find Navaras running in packs.
The way I see it, this is the ute-buying equivalent of a packed restaurant.
If you’re out on the town and have the choice of two places to eat, are you more likely to go with the place that is deserted, or the one that is chock-ablock with happy customers?
Of course you go with the place that is busy. If they have that many customers, they must be doing something right to keep them coming back.
A reputation for quality is what helps restaurants keep their customers. It is the same with utes, and there are no better connoisseurs of dual-cab delights than the workers that use them every day.
And at every building and work site across the country, you will find the Navara in plague proportions. The thing is, the modern tradie has a smorgasboard of options to choose from when picking a ute.
There are the usual suspects like Holden, Ford, Mitsubishi and Toyota, but also a raft of newcomers from as far afield as China and India looking to cash-in on Australia’s obsession with the ute.
Even Mercedes-Benz set aside their heritage of luxury sports cars to jump into Australia’s ute market.
Despite the depth and diversity of the competition, the Navara remains as popular as ever.
It did not take me long to work out why it has such appeal.
It is a genuine workhorse.
Jumping into the driver’s seat of a Navara ST in “Brilliant Silver” and turning the key, the first thing that caught my eye was a digital compass discretely embedded in the rear-vision mirror.
I sat there for a few seconds to look at it.
You want to talk about first impressions? Here is what popped into my mind at the sight of a digital “W” in the mirror telling me I was facing west: This ute is not one of those “all show and no go” utes. This one means business.
It was a small, but well thought out detail that reinforced that Nissan knows its stuff when it comes to the ute market.
Are you likely to need an inbuilt compass in the shopping centre carpark, or for the after-school run? No. But if your weekends include more adventure like a bit of bushbashing or a beach run, you at least know the Navara is ready when you are.
The next thing that grabbed my attention was the engine, which was purring along cheerfully in front of me.
Normally, saying you have one of the smallest engines in the class is not a good selling point when marketing a ute.
But there are two very good reasons why the Navara is different – and they are both turbo chargers.
The Navara’s SL, St and St-X variants all come with a twin-turbo diesel engine, which will give you 140 kW of power and 450 Nm of torque – delivering all the grunt you need and a sizeable 3.5 tonne braked towing capacity.
It is a genuine workhorse. Nissan has reworked the rear suspension completely, meaning all the variants will now haul more than a tonne in the tray as well with vastly improved driveability.
Smaller displacement and two turbos also means better fuel economy, and less dollars being thrown away at the It is a genuine workhorse.
bowser because the power is there on tap when you need it, and not being wasted when you don’t.
As an aside, it was actually the fuel light coming on that reminded me of how the Navara is a “serious” ute.
The fuel warning light came on for me with the trip computer telling me I still had 150km until the tank was empty.
This reinforced two things to me: Firstly, 150km is a terrifically long way to go on the last portion of a tank.
Secondly, if you were taking the Navara through the outback and possibly hours away from the nearest petrol pump, getting a reminder that you’re running low on juice 150km before you reach vapours would be very valuable indeed.
So we have firmly established the Navara’s credentials as a working ute and a weekend bush-basher.
It brings great fuel economy, ample power and torque, the ability to shift heavy loads like a four-wheeled Clydesdale, and Nissan’s long-held reputation for delivering quality utes.
But the flipside of ute ownership is how it performs as a family-friendly city car. While being able to haul half a tonne of cement bags in the back is important, the Navara’s ability to carry a family of four humans in modern comfort is probably even more crucial.
The good news is, the Navara continues to deliver in this area as well.
Despite its brute strength and power as a workday workhorse, the Navara is equally capable of playing the civilised daily driver as well.
The cabin is well appointed, with a host of technology to make the drive as smooth as can be.
The excellent Advanced Driver Assist Display in the middle of the instrument cluster makes keeping track of all of your important information – like fuel economy, sat nav directions and which song is playing – just a quick glance away.
Steering wheel-mounted audio, cruise control and telephone controls put the necessities within easy reach, with a crisp and clear 7-inch touchscreen acting as your information hub. The touchscreen is the home base for your satellite navigation and the reversing camera. Upgrade to the ST-X variant, and you get the Around View Monitor, which gives you a 360-degree “aerial view” of the car – which is simply brilliant for parking and navigating obstacle-laden paths.
Speaking of those rocky roads, switching to 4WD mode is literally as simple as flicking a switch.
Inexperienced off-roaders will have no fear learning how to foray off the beaten track, with Nissan’s electronically-controlled 4WD system able to engage all four shoes with just the turn of a switch.
The switch from two-wheel-drive to 4WD high range can even be done at speeds up to 100km/h, which means you don’t have to stop the adventure to unpack a bit more grip.
The Active Brake Limited Slip system, which controls each wheel individually to maximize grip, and an electronic locking rear differential to deliver equal power to each of the four wheels for more traction, will have you mastering the lumps and bumps off road in no time.
But even back on the bitumen, the Navara excels, with a comfortable and practical interior making every trip a comfortable one.
USB ports for charging devices and streaming your music, Bluetooth connectivity for hands-free communication and ample storage – including a welcome hidey-hole for your phone in front of the centre console – make the Navara a very easy car to live with.
Despite its rugged looks and dimensions, the Navara really is easy to drive. The steering is light and direct, the visibility is good, and you don’t need a pair of tugboats to turn it.
The best wrap you can give to the Navara is that it lives up to the reputation of the name. In every aspect, the Navara delivers on the quality that you expect.
Like I said earlier, if you are in the market for a dual-cab ute, then you are not short on available options.
But it might be worth remembering that when it came time for Mercedes-Benz to find a vehicle to act as a platform for their first ute, they turned to the Navara as well.
They wanted to get it right, so Mercedes based their version on the model that has been getting it right for 20 years.
The good news is, you can get the quality of the Navara without having to pay an extra $30,000 for a pointy badge.
Sorry tradies, but it seems your secret is out.