One look at the monthly sales numbers is enough to tell you that dual-cab utes like the Nissan Navara D40 are enjoying unprecedented popularity with Australian car buyers.
They've become the great all-rounder, the vehicle that can stand up on the job site, tow a caravan or boat on weekends, and take the family along for the ride. Once they were simply work vehicles that were only seen fit for use on the job site, but in recent times they've been tamed as they've been adapted to home duties. They're now far more refined than the workhorses of the past, and they're fast becoming as comfortable and as safe as passenger cars.
When launched the D40 dual-cab Navara was sold alongside the older D22 model, a raw-boned basic ute by comparison to the newcomer. The Europe-built D40 was a close cousin of the Pathfinder wagon and brought much of the Pathfinder's refinement and comfort to the ute market. As a result it looked much more comfortable in a town setting, with a rugged, yet stylish look that didn't scream job site.
Underneath, it had a rugged ladder frame chassis like the Pathfinder, and similarly used coil spring independent front suspension for ride comfort. At the business end it had a solid axle slung on leaf springs to achieve a useful payload of up to 965 kg.
It also boasted a towing capacity of three tonnes, making it attractive for anyone wanting to tow a large caravan, boat, horse float, or a decent sized work trailer.
Under the bonnet there was a choice of petrol or diesel engines. The petrol choice was a 4.0-litre double overhead camshaft V6 developing a whopping 198 kW at 5600 revs and 385 Nm at 4000 revs. It was the most powerful engine available in a dual-cab ute at the time and that was reflected in the D40's spirited performance.
The other option, a better choice for fuel economy, was a 2.5-litre double overhead camshaft intercooled turbo diesel that produced 128 kW at 4000 revs and 385 Nm at 2000 revs. All came standard with a six-speed manual gearbox, but there was also the choice of a five-speed auto.
While most of the models in the D40 range were four-wheel drive, Nissan offered one with two-wheel drive. The four-wheel drive system was part-time and selectable using a switch on the dash. Once four-wheel drive was selected drive was split 50/50 between the front and rear. A low ratio transfer case and limited-slip diff gave the Navara decent offroad performance, which was enhanced by its short front and rear overhangs and ample approach and departure angles.
Steering was power rack and pinion, and brakes were a combination of front discs and rear drums, with ABS braking featuring Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and Brake Assist standard on ST-X models and optional on the lower spec RX.
Inside, the D40 was considerably larger than the older D22, boasting substantially more head, shoulder and legroom for the comfort of both front and rear passengers. The interior was also well featured with lots of useful storage options, coin and cardholders, drink holders, a place to stow sunglasses, and an overhead console.
ON THE LOT
Pay $18,000-$26,000 for a 4x2 ST-X dual-cab with the petrol V6. For an RX V6 4x4 pay $18,000-$28,000, an ST-X V6 4x4 pay $20,000- $30,000, and add $4000-$5000 for a diesel engine.
IN THE SHOP
The D40 Navara is generally robust and reliable, but reports from carsGuide readers suggest the clutch is an issue. Some owners are reporting they are replacing clutches at odometers as low as 25,000km, and some have had to replace two or more clutches inside 100,000km. It's something owners planning to take advantage of the D40's supposed three-tonne towing capacity and tow a caravan around the country on that long dreamt about holiday should be aware of.
Other than the clutch issue there's really nothing else to be concerned about. But it's worth looking for evidence of use offroad in the form of dinged or scratched panels, a bashed and beaten underbody, and torn or split seals and boots.
Occasional offroad use by competent drivers is of little concern, and many Navaras are rarely taken beyond a gravel road, but any vehicle that appears to have had a hard life off the beaten track that should sound alarm bells. Like any used car it's important to check for a service record. Regular oil changes are a key factor in keeping engines alive in the long term.
IN A CRASH
Driver and passenger airbags, along with ABS, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and Brake Assist were all standard on the ST-X, making it the best choice for safety. The RX missed out on those important safety features, they were options, so it's best to give this model a miss unless they do have the safety options. ANCAP rated the Navara at three stars in its crash testing.
AT THE PUMP
Nissan claimed the V6 petrol Navara would average 12.5-13.5 L/100km in manual guise, a little more as an auto, while the diesel would do 9.0-9.5 L/100km. Owners vary in their results, but most report they get 11-13 L/100km around town, and 11 L/100km on a trip.
Dennis Weeks says his D40 diesel is a great all round vehicle. He regularly uses it to tow a 22-foot caravan and says it does it with ease, but he also chose it because he could load the rear with everything needed to go off road camping without the caravan. He says it is a delight to drive, quiet and comfortable, and to date has been trouble free. In normal use it gets around 10 L/100km; when towing the caravan the economy blows out to 16 L/100km.
Grant Connelly's D40 has done 40,000 trouble free kilometres to date and hasn't missed a beat. He says it's great to drive and gets around 11 L/100km on a trip.
Matt has owned a D40 STX diesel for two years and his only complaint is the cost of the regular 10,000km services, but he is also disappointed with the fuel economy. It gets 12-13 L/100km around town and around 11 L/100km on the highway sitting on 100km/h. It's done 62,000 kilometres, It is still on the original tyres, and there have been no problems to report. He says it's more than capable off road with plenty of grunt to pull you up and over any obstacles.
Marc and Jennifer Smith say they had to replace the clutch in their Navara after 37,000km. Nissan refused to cover any of the cost, telling them that the clutch isn't covered by the warranty, that it's a wear and tear item.
Doug Putney bought his D40 Nissan Navara for its supposed three-tonne towing capacity. It is now two and a half years old and has only done 45,130km, much of it towing his 2.7-tonne caravan, but already it has had three clutches. The first was replaced at 15,532km, the second at 29,399km, and the third at 42,964km.
- Rugged good looks
- Roomy interior for five
- Three-tonne towing capacity
- Questionable clutch capacity
- Economical diesel engine
- Thirsty V6 petrol engine
- Solid build quality.
ALSO TRY THESE
- TOYOTA HILUX (2005-2008) The long-standing benchmark for Japanese one-tonne utes is the market leader. It's well built, robust and reliable, if rather bland. Popularity and reputation mean resale is strong. Pay $9800-$44,000.
- MITSUBISHI TRITON (2006-2008) The swoopy ute with its wild curves is a good driver with plenty of refinement that makes a good worker for those on the job or a fun get- away ute for the weekend. Good all-rounder that gets the job done. Pay $14,000-$41,000.
- MAZDA BT-50 (2006-2008) Mazda brought its B Series up to date with a comprehensive makeover in 2006 with new looks, new engines and more refinement, but with only minor changes to the chassis. Performs well, is comfortable, quiet and economical, but it's a bit squeezy inside the cab. Pay $17,000-$38,000.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Well-built and refined all-rounder that can double as a work ute and family car.