Volkswagen Amarok vs Nissan Navara

4 July 2011

Volkswagen Amarok vs Nissan Navara

Volkswagen Amarok and Nissan Navara go head-to-head in this comparative review.

Value

Volkswagen Amarok

from $58,490

As the name suggest, the Ultimate has all the extra fruit and is the most expensive Amarok. Good though it is, the cheaper Trendline ($47,990) with part-time 4WD and low-range gearing is better for off-roader buyers. Ultimate has a permanent 4WD system without low-range but gets leather, CD player, comfort suspension, dual-zone climate airconditioning, side steps and a sports bar.

Nissan Navara

from $60,990

You can't pay more for a Navara than this. But you get the best. The 550 flicks the 2.5-litre turbo-diesel four in favour of Renault's 3-litre V6 diesel with 170kW/550Nm. It mates this to a seven-speed sequential auto and electric part-time 4WD system with low range. Features are comprehensive, including a six-speaker, six-CD audio with Bluetooth, dual-zone airconditioning, steering wheel controls and a hard tonneau cover over a ray with brilliant Utili-Trak rails.

Design

Volkswagen Amarok

This is arguably the prettiest and purposeful 4WD dual-cab on the market. Everyone who saw this just wanted one. It is efficient too, being the only on in its class to fit Euro or Aussie pallets sideways in the back. The cabin is typical Volkswagen - neat and clean but a bit plain. Argentine build quality is very good. The 19-inch wheels look good but give poor after-market tyre options, especially if you want to go off the bitumen.

Nissan Navara

Unlike the Amarok, the Spanish-made Navara doesn't win many hearts. It looks old fashioned because it is old. But the dashboard is easier to use than the VW and the steering wheel controls are excellent. Seating is reasonable at the front and the cramped, knees-up position in the back is poor. VW fares a lot better here. The locakable ute lid is a great idea. Nissan has put a lot more gear into this than its rival.

Technology

Volkswagen Amarok

Australia gets only the 2-litre bi-turbo diesel engine across the Amarok range. Don't complain - it may be the smallest 4WD ute engine but with 400Nm from 1500rpm, it's probably the best. A permanent all-wheel drive system runs through a Torsen centre diff and there's a switchable electric diff lock at the back. The rest is all conventional dual-cab ute muscle.

Nissan Navara

This is the first showing of the V6 in a 4WD, but maybe not the last as it's probably going into the Patrol. That, and the seven-speed auto, are the techno highlights. The rest is, like the VW, purposefully conventional to remain rugged, durable and together over the rough stuff. This and the Amarok have near-identical suspension - coil-overs with wishbones at the front and leafs at the back.

Safety

Volkswagen Amarok

The five-star crash rating is good news for tradies, off-roaders and families. It complements the usual comprehensive safety gear - ESC, ABS and so on - but adds a secondary mode that compensates for off bitumen roads. There's seating for five and five lap-sash seatbelts.

Nissan Navara

This gets only three stars despite having two more airbags than the Amarok. So, you see, it's not just about counting airbags. It adds stability control and ABS with an off-road mode. Like the VW, it has rear drum brakes. Braking performance is still great but in today's market these brakes are a tad quaint. Navara also has five lap-sash seatbelts.

Driving

Volkswagen Amarok

The Amarok range comes only with a six-speed manual gearbox. Until the auto arrives - early next year - it will dull some interest. The shift quality is firm, even stubborn, and not as good as VW's front-drive models. But the engine never stops giving. It's a bit noisy but is economical (7.9L/100km) and has 400Nm of torque from 1500rpm that means it can be easily putted around at low speeds. Despite the small engine, the gear ratios are perfect. It easily won my sand dune climb test against the Navara. On the road it's also surprisingly comfortable.

Nissan Navara

This can out-accelerate most cars on the market. It's not only unexpectedly rapid off the mark - thanks to that 550Nm of torque from a low 1750rpm - but it's smooth and very quiet. The seven cogs in the box suit the engine and the fact it's an auto makes it fine for the family. It's also comfortable. What lets it down just a bit is the uncommunicative steering that reduces precision while cornering. The driving position is good though the seats need more support.

Verdict

Volkswagen Amarok

19/25

Better luck
next time :(

Nissan Navara

17.5/25

Winner winner
chicken dinner!

Contemporary Argentine meets traditional Spain. My heart says Amarok but the Navara - automatic, higher 3000kg tow rating, more features and so on - is a more versatile machine. It could be a tow car for grey nomads or a competent off-road machine for a youth or a family car or a tradie's weekday worker. But Amarok is a near perfect execution, notably the engine-gearbox relationship. If it had an auto it would be untouchable.

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Written by

Neil Dowling

Published 4 July 2011

Published In

Head to Head

We compare, head to head, two similar models of competing manufacturer cars. Which do we prefer? Why? Find out in CarsGuide's Head To Head showdowns.