New Nissan Navara brings SUV class to double cab segment
It’s taken 12 years, but the eagerly anticipated, second-generation Nissan Navara has finally made its South African debut. The newcomer becomes the latest contender in a hotly contested segment, facing up against a daunting line-up of established double cabs.
While the likes of the Ford Ranger, Toyota’s Hilux and the Volkswagen Amarok already have established customer bases, the Navara’s late arrival means it will need a compelling package to renew old loyalties while attracting new supporters.
And yes, there are some intriguing elements to the Navara offering, including a segment-first multilink rear suspension, and an interior that’s more SUV than bakkie. A series of weight-saving measures have also allowed Nissan to cut the kerb mass by some 170 kg.
The interior is smart and car-like, with decent ergonomics and an attractive mix of materials and finishes. Space has improved front and rear, despite the Navara’s slightly shorter length. Specification and safety levels are comprehensive, while the front seats, in particular, are extremely comfortable, even over extended distances.
While the Navara is a completely new design, the styling remains familiar and unmistakably Nissan. The front end design is uses a variation of the inverter grille design already familiar from Nissan’s SUV range, with plenty of chrome adding some bling appeal – for those who like that kind of thing.
Of particular note are the headlights, which are full LEDs for superior lighting performance. Boomerang-shaped daytime running lights are also included.
The profile view is pretty much standard double cab fare, although the new Navara’s roofline is lower and sleeker in the interests of more efficient aerodynamics. There’s even a unique integrated spoiler at the top edge of the tailgate – another double cab first.
The tailgate has a central latch and offers convenient access to load box that’s grown in capacity compared to the previous model. Longer and deeper, it now has a 1 100-litre capacity, and will carry a payload just 33 kg short of a full ton.
The beefy Navara gets a new, smaller capacity but more powerful 2,3-litre twin-turbodiesel engine rated at 140 kW and 450 Nm, while shedding 173 kilograms, ensuring an impressive power to weight ratio of 75 kW/ton.
Buyers get to choose between a six-speed manual gearbox or a new seven-speed automatic transmission. For now, part-time selectable four-wheel drive is standard across the range, with a low-range transfer case ensuring pukka 4×4 capability. A rear diff lock is standard.
That the Navara promises true go-anywhere capability is also expressed by impressive approach and departure angles of 3,0 and 27,9 deg respectively, together with a ramp-over angle of 25,2 deg. Ground clearance is 229 mm.
But perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the new Navara is the segment-first multilink rear suspension, promising SUV-like ride and handling. It’s still combined with a solid rear axle, and employs a five-link layout with a Panhard rod and coil springs to offer greater compliance and superior damping.
The result is much improved ride quality and handling, with no apparent handicap as far as off-road capability is concerned. An extended test drive saw the Navara offer a refined, composed ride on tar, including some pretty bumpy, undulating sections, while handling in a testing, twisty mountain pass was tidier than you’d expect from a big double cab.
A section of heavily corrugated gravel really tested the Nissan’s composure, but it coped a lot better than an leaf-sprung double cab would, especially without any significant load over the rear axle.
Not surprisingly, the soft sand, slippery slopes and step descents at The Dunes, near Lambert’s Bay never presented any real challenge, with that twin-turbodiesel four offering ample low-down urge and almost no lag. Just how the Navara copes with a full load, or with towing, remains to be seen.
For now, the range consists of three models, all using the same engine and four-wheel drive. The mid-spec SE model is only offered with the six-speed manual gearbox, while the high-spec LE gains the option of the seven-speed auto.
According to Nissan, 4×2 versions of the Navara will be added to the range later this year, perhaps to coincide with local production at the Nissan South Africa plant in Rosslyn. The current vehicles are imported from Thailand.
Pricing is as follows:
Navara 2.3DDTT 4×4 SE Double Cab Manual R514 900
Navara 2.3DDTT 4×4 LE Double Cab Manual R565 900
Navara 2.3DDTT 4×4 LE Double Cab Auto R597 900