Nissan Navara pick-up review
The Nissan Navara is a well equipped one-tonne pick-up that’s more refined to drive than most
The Nissan Navara is one of the leading lights for sale in the one-tonne pick-up truck class. These models used to be for work only, but the Navara demonstrates that a pickup can be easily adapted for family life. Tax rates for these models mean they will be appealing to business users who need a work vehicle that can double as a family wagon at other times.
Nissan offers King Cab and Double Cab variants of the Navara (as well as a bare Chassis Cab variant), with the former being better suited to a work life, helped no end by a variety of accessories available from Nissan. Trims range from the basic Visia to the plush Tekna, while special edition models are regularly released that offer more kit and better value for buyers taking the plunge.
Every Navara in the range is powered by a 2.3 dCi diesel engine, and they come with either 161bhp in single turbo guise, or 187bhp for the twin-turbo version. The lower powered engine is the only one offered in Chassis and King Cab body styles, while the Double Cab gets both engines. In addition, the 161bhp diesel is only offered in the basic Visia and Acenta trims. Nissan offers a 2WD King Cab, but the rest of the range gets part-time 4WD that is selectable via a dial on the dashboard.
The other big difference between the two body styles is that the King Cab features traditional leaf springs at the back, while the Double Cab gets a 5-link suspension system with coil springs. This delivers a more comfortable ride, but reduces payload capacity, although it's probably worth the sacrifice for the far more refined drive the Double Cab delivers.
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Rivals for the Navara are plentiful, especially as there's such a broad variety of Navara models offered. Our class favourite is the Mitsubishi L200, plus there's the Fiat Fullback (which is essentially the L200 with Fiat Professional badges), Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger. Then there's the Isuzu D-Max and SsangYong Musso at the commercial end of the spectrum, and plush SUV-like models such as the VW Amarok and Mercedes X-Class. The latter shares running gear with the Navara, but it has a significant price premium over the Nissan, as well as a more upmarket interior and an even more comfortable ride.
The model range comprises Visia, Acenta, Acenta+, N-Connecta and Tekna trims, while special edition models are occasionally launched by Nissan, too. On top of this, Nissan also offers the AT32, a special conversion by Arctic Trucks that adds extra body cladding, an optional snorkel and 32-inch off-road tyres (hence the name). It's not quite as extreme looking as Arctic Trucks' other conversions, but gives the Navara some added off-road ability.
Prices for the Navara start from £20,500 ex-VAT for the 2WD King Cab, while the Double Cab ranges from around £22,200 to £35,750 for the most expensive AT32.
MPG, CO2 and Running Costs
The best Navara for fuel economy is the 2WD King Cab, which manages 46.3mpg combined, but you could throw a blanket over the whole range as even the 4x4 Double Cab with the dCi 190 (187bhp) engine manages 44.8mpg and 167g/km of CO2. The 7-speed auto does blunt economy, although 40.9mpg and 183g/km with this gearbox fitted is hardly a disaster for a two-tonne pick-up truck.
Elsewhere, Nissan has paid particular attention to keeping costs low. All Navara models get the excellent 5-year/100,000-mile warranty that applies right across the brand's commercial vehicle range and is fully transferable to the next owner. There’s also a generous level of safety kit, including Nissan’s autonomous emergency braking technology that helps lower insurance premiums.
An attractive feature of the Navara is the optional hard-top for the pick-up bed. You may think it's designed with form ahead of function - it has a pretty low roofline for starters - but it's great from a security point of view with remote locking that's hooked up to the central locking system. The only downside is that the dark tinted windows combine with the tinted glass on higher spec models to make the view out the back restricted - especially as there's no wash/wipe on the rear screen. You can also secure the load bay with a (pricey) aluminium tonneau cover, and there's a lockable plastic toolbox option, too.
Trim levels from Acenta up feature Nissan's Intelligent Key system, while all models feature a Nissan approved alarm, anti-theft immobiliser, central locking, locking wheel nuts and a spare wheel lock.
Load Space and Practicality
The choice between the Double Cab and King Cab models comes down to the kind of usage buyers have in store for their Navara. The King Cab is purely a working vehicle with its less sophisticated suspension and lower specifications, but it’s £1,000 cheaper and making do with 2WD knocks another £1,000 off the asking price.
By choosing the King Cab you gain a little bit of load length with 1,750mm on offer compared to 1,537mm in the Double Cab, but you lose the ability to take adult-sized rear-seat passengers in anything approaching comfort. The neat half-size rear suicide doors on the King Cab open to reveal two cinema-style folding seats that you can just about squeeze an adult into. It’s more likely that the space will be used as a secure area to carry tools or other items, with the seats kept for emergencies.
That brings us to the Double Cab that 95 per cent of UK buyers choose. Rear seat accommodation is surprisingly good for a pick-up with enough space for a six-foot adult to sit behind a six-foot driver in some comfort. The rear bench could take a third passenger in the middle, but shoulder space will be tight.
The payload penalty for choosing the Navara Double Cab is non-existent, with the 4x4 model rated at up to 1,059kg and the King Cab able to carry only slightly more, at 1,074kg. The best load-carrying Navara, however, is the 2WD King Cab model: this can cope with 1,156kg.
The load bay itself is lined with tough plastic and the tailgate feels nice and solid. The space is 67mm longer than the previous-generation Navara's, and Nissan offers a wide range of options for buyers to tailor it to their own requirements. The C-Channel load securing system is included on higher-spec versions and brings movable tie-down points to help secure loads in the back.
Whatever can’t be accommodated in the rear of the Navara can go on a trailer, and the 3,500kg towing capacity is as good as you’ll find in the pick-up segment. This is available on all new Navara variations apart from the 158bhp two-wheel drive King Cab, which can only manage to tow 3,035kg.
Reliability and Safety
The tough box frame chassis and 4x4 system used on the Navara are carried over from the previous-generation model. Now, some of these older models suffered from chassis breakages due to rust, which resulted in the pick-up bed separating from the rails. But Nissan has isolated the models that suffered from this, and it's not something that has been reported ti have happened with the current Navara. Under the bonnet, the Navara's 2.3-litre diesel has been fitted to over 300,000 Renault and Nissan vans, so should stand up to hard use.
On the safety front, even base Visia models get 7 airbags, stability control and Nissan’s FEB Forward Emergency Braking tech. This system detects impending collisions and puts the brakes on to lessen the impact or prevent one happening altogether. There are also ISOFIX child seat mounting points in the rear and LED daytime running lights as standard.
The selectable all-wheel-drive system with low-range mode and electronic limited-slip differential should give the Navara more than enough off-road ability for most. As we’ve said, it’s the same set-up carried over from the old Navara, but the electronic diff, Hill descent Control and Hill Start Assist have been added to beef up its capabilities.
Rear parking sensors are fitted as standard to help avoid parking knocks, while Acenta+ variants and above get a parking camera. Where it’s fitted, the image from this is displayed on the dashboard’s 7-inch screen, but other versions have a small screen built into the rear view mirror. Top-spec Tekna models get the Around View Monitor system – a series of cameras that give a clear view all round the car. It’s particularly useful for off-roading, allowing you to check your proximity to obstacles without leaving the vehicle, but it should make the Navara almost impossible to scrape in the supermarket car park.
Driving and Performance
The way you spec your Nissan Navara has a huge impact on how it drives. The King Cab models use old-fashioned leaf springs at the rear, and the result is an unsettled ride when it's unladen, while the steering is vague and the body pitches and rolls into corners. The Navara King Cab is still among the better-handling trucks we’ve tested, particularly as none of the vehicles we tried had weight in the rear to settle the ride, but the introduction of the 5-link independent suspension on the Double Cab is transformative.
Get in the Nissan Navara Double Cab and you can’t fail to notice the difference. Small bumps are ironed out far more effectively and the floating feeling over sudden undulations is much better suppressed. Better still, the steering is more responsive, making the truck easier to control at speed and cornering is much more composed. We need to insert a caveat here, because although the Nissan Navara rides and handles very well for a pick-up truck, those used to large passenger SUVs will still notice the occasional shudder from the suspension and the weighty feel of the truck on the road. It’s no car, but if being car-like was the aim, Nissan has done a fine job. The suspension oddly works better at higher speeds, so rutted country roads tend to be dealt with fairly well at national speed limits.
If you really want a pickup that is car-like to drive, then the Mercedes X-Class has further developed the Navara's suspension to do the job even better.
The other area to give careful consideration to when specifying your Nissan Navara is the gearbox. The 6-speed manual is a bit of a letdown given the on-road polish displayed by the rest of the package. It’s notchy and has a long throw, and isn't as nice to use as the shifter in the Mitsubishi L200, for example. On the other hand, the 7-speed automatic seems a very nice fit in the Navara. It isn’t the most responsive of autos, taking a while to drop a gear when you put your foot down, but it’s extremely smooth and suits the plush feel of the high-end Navara models. Buyers just need to ask themselves whether this justifies the price and fuel economy penalty of choosing the auto.
The engine itself is smooth and refined. On a steady motorway cruise, wind around the big door mirrors is the prominent noise as the engine only kicks out a low, background thrum. The downside is that even the twin-turbo 187bhp unit can’t fire the weighty Navara up the road with any real vigour. Flexibility is fine, with 450Nm of torque on offer in the range-topping unit and 403Nm in the 158bhp base model, but at the top end both seem a little lacking.
Cab and Interior
The somewhat agricultural feel many pick-up trucks have on the road is often replicated in the cabin, but Nissan has gone to great lengths to make the Navara feel like a passenger car inside.
To a great extent, the interior fixtures and fittings from the X-Trail SUV seem to have been dropped into the Navara’s interior. Build quality is strong as you’d need it to be in a working vehicle, but the higher-spec models get some shiny trim finishes that do much to raise the tone. Some will feel there’s an over-reliance on piano black trim on the Tekna models, but Nissan has generally done a very good job. But again, all things are relative, and the Mercedes X-Class essentially strips out the Navara's cabin and puts a premium car interior in its place. In many ways the difference between the two is similar to the difference you get between an X-Trail and a Mercedes GLC, for example.
Highlights of the Navara's cabin include the clear information display at the centre of the instrument cluster and the NissanConnect touchscreen navigation system, which is well integrated and easy to use, although the graphics aren't the crispest around.
The cabin isn’t over endowed with storage space, but that’s often the way with pick-ups. You get a deep bin between the seats, a couple of cup holders, a very small glovebox and decent-sized door pockets, but larger items will inevitably end up slung on the Double-Cab’s rear seats.
The driving position is reasonably comfortable, although some people might find a lack of elbow room next to the door when compared with some rivals. Special praise should go to the front seats, though, which Nissan says were designed with the aid of research from NASA. The bulges at either side of the bonnet are a styling device that the company claims also provide reference points, making the truck easier to place on the road. On our test drive, however, they seemed more of a hindrance than a help, blocking your view of the Navara’s extremities.
Load area dimensions
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