Nissan Navara first drive and tow review

You'd be a happy little Vegemite if you bought a new Nissan Navara ute seven years ago — because it is still pretty much the current model.

And better still, there's another two or three years in the old dog yet. Mind you, Nissan has tweaked Navara considerably since it was launched last decade and it scrubs up pretty well.

However, there are dark clouds on the horizon with four red-hot competitors fresh on the market or coming this year. They are the new Mazda BT50 and twin-under-the-skin Ford Ranger, new Holden Colorado and the new Isuzu D-Max.

Toyota performed major surgery to the look and price of Hilux in the middle of last year. But the rock-solid Navara should have it covered especially given the latest 4x4 dual cab refresh.

WHAT'S THE DIFF'?

The price of the top-of-the-range ST-X 550 4x4, V6, turbodiesel with standard seven-speed auto drops a few thousand bucks to $62,990 and there's an additional, similar V6 ST-X at $56,990. But the 550 gets leather, Bose audio, satnav, a hard drive and a reversing camera.

The four cylinder ST models (from $46,800) gain a more powerful turbodiesel and vehicle dynamic control is standard across the range along with three point seat belts for all passengers.

Navara ST also gains 17-inch alloys, a five channel Utili-Track load system, dual zone climate control, optional five-speed auto and six air bags. Base RX Navara retains the older powertrains but gets additional safety kit.

UNDER THE BONNET.

That  sweet V6 turbodiesel in ST-X is a 3.0-litre unit with 170kW/550Nm while the four pot in ST is a 2.5-litre with 140kW/450Nm.

The V6 is only available with a seven-speed auto transmission offering "manual'' sequential change mode. The four is available with a six-speed manual or a five-speed auto again with sequential manual change mode.

SAFETY

Doesn't get the coveted five star crash rating — it's a four star vehicle. Won't get five until the next generation with a totally new superstructure. However, Nissan has put in more air bags, three point belts and stability control to elevate Navara's rating to the highest it can achieve. A reverse camera is only on the top of the range model — should be on all of them.

IN THE CAB

Despite its age, Navara scrubs up pretty well with a neat dash design and easy to use controls although it's all hard, dark grey plastic. The seats lack lumbar support and even the 550 only has electric seat adjust on the driver's side.

There's plenty of room for five inside and access to the rear seats is fairly easy through decent size rear doors. The high end models additional kit is impressive especially the Bose audio and satnav. But the leather is superfluous. Plenty of storage options and no issues for larger occupants.

ON THE OUTSIDE

We couldn't pick the difference but there is a new face, new bonnet, new bumper, repeater lights in the exterior mirrors on some models, sundry lights and new colours.

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ON THE ROAD

We got to tow 2.0-tonnes behind the ST-X 550 and barely noticed. Maximum towing capacity is a whopping 3000kg. The 3.0-litre turbodiesel engine is a gem — smooth and nearly silent with excellent performance spoiled by the poor throttle action which gives it a dead feeling in the mid-range.

The seven-speed auto is imperceptible when changing cogs. But for the money and for general application, the 2.5 four is pick of the bunch offering plenty of performance, strong throttle response and fuel economy of 8.5-litres/100km. 

Mention must be made of Navara's ride quality which is arguably the best in the class offering a supple ride but retaining the ability to cope with heavy loads. The dual cabs have a large tray and the square-set styling pays dividends of a practical nature.

VERDICT

The Navara 550 was overpriced at launch 18 months ago and nobody wanted to know. Extremely favourable exchange rates will have helped Nissan with sharper pricing that may give the higher end Navara's a leg up for 2012 but we reckon the ST four pot is the one — it ticks most of the boxes and costs a lot less.

NISSAN NAVARA

Price: from $50,990
Warranty: 3-years/100,000km
Safety: 4 star crash rating
Engine: 3.0-litre turbo diesel, 170kW/550Nm
Weight: 1796-2860kg
Transmission: 7-speed auto, four-wheel drive
Thirst: 8.5-litres/100km, CO2 235-256g/km
Towing capacity: 3000kg

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