There are worthwhile changes to the the Nissan Navara, from smarter dashboard details to the addition of electronic traction and stability control plus engine tweaks for the 2.5 litre diesel.
MAYBE fashionistas have always been right about black being slimming.
Because the Altitude Blue Navara out front looks that bit bigger and bolder than the black dual cab D40 that lives around here. Sure, this upgraded version is a little longer in the nose with revised grille and front bumper adding 80mm to the length.
Sure, these ST-X versions now sit on 17-inch wheels and theres more power and torque from the diesel but these things do not increase bulk that much. Maybe its just because this ones clean, unscratched and in this handsome blue alongside the older truck.
Anyway, there havent been wholesale changes here with the top-of-the-tree Navara D40. But there are worthwhile changes, from smarter dashboard details to the addition of electronic traction and stability control plus engine tweaks for the 2.5 litre diesel.
The Nissan Navara is a popular dual-purpose machine; the one at home used for tours as far out back as Urandangi, a bit of farm and four-wheel drive work. That black ute, now with 65,000km up, has run without complaint or incident and an ARB lift.
But what does the discerning dog think about this bright blue updated machine? Is the five-speed automatic here a better option than the familys six-speed manual? Are the changes worth ringing the bank and trading the black one.
At a recommended retail of $53,240 for the auto the Navara sits between two similar-dressed dual cabs - Mitsubishis cheaper Triton and the dearer Toyota HiLux. All three have their virtues and values; all three offer a swag of comfort, convenience and workhorse features.
The Navara offers the better on-road ride and handling plus a larger and well-sorted cabin (highlighted by the fold-up rear seats). It also offers more engine power and torque than rivals. But the Triton is some $2000 cheaper and some may rate the HiLux a better deal for daily belting through rough conditions.
Nissans added electronic stability control, handy for steadying a sliding rear, and lifted engine performance with a retune, new cylinder head and new injection system. Power and torque are up 11 per cent with claimed fuel consumption and emissions down. Inside theres now dual zone air conditioning, Bluetooth connections and a trip computer.
The rest of the package is much as before with a centre console switch for moving from two wheel drive to four-high and four-low, coil springs up front and leaf springs out back. New is a dashboard 4WD warning light if the Nissans system malfunctions or if left in four-high or four-low when on hard surfaces.
The Navara ST-X is a good-looking truck given a sensible tidy up here. It doesnt make or break the ute but a little highlight here are chrome-ringed instruments; a touch of some class that highlights how Nissan got most things right first time around with these D40s, now its a matter of detail work.
For the cabin and the tray are a good size, theres the fold-up rear seats and Nissans clever Utili-track load system. It is a combination of these design details that add to the Navaras appeal. And the new sheet metal up front, plus those 17-inch wheels, gives the ute even more road presence.
It will be intriguing to see what the next generation of dual cab utes - all-new Mazda BT50, Ford Ranger and VW Amarok in 2011 - bring to the field.
With Nissans Electronic Stability Program now fitted to the ST-X, plus ABS, plus driver and front passenger, side and curtain airbags there is a fair safety package here. The D40s inherent handling attributes (for a decent-sized ute) and a comfortable cabin with good visibility are also safety factors here.
The Navara ST-X, as with its rivals, drives best with a load (even a full fuel tank helps settle the load-carrying rear end). It is also the best of the bunch when running unladen, a little more comfortable and composed when hustled along; the rubber here is more suited to the tar and that helps at road speeds.
Now the stability control (switchable) adds another dimension, limiting the hop and slide when the rear wheels step out on rough corners or on a loose dirt road. It is, as with most modern systems, quite polite about bringing the ute back to the straight ahead.
With the test truck running a five-speed auto, the turbo diesels extra power and torque was a little harder to quantify because the ute at homes a six-speed manual. What is noticeable is a smarter step off the line; for the rest of it this is one smooth powerplant/transmission combination, able to be pushed along at a decent rate and very good at overtaking speeds (though here it can be best to drop back to fourth through the manual mode on the auto).
Off the road, transmission locked into low-four, the auto can be slowed to a decent crawl when locked into first for progress over rock and such. Or let run free for attacking mud or sand, this is where an auto and turbo diesel are very handy.
And the worst of the weeks fuel consumption was 10.1 litres per 100km after some paddock crawling and a fast run up the mountains (all with a light load). Around the town and down the highway this dropped to around 9.1l/100km.
Right now the Nissan Navara is one of the three best dual cabs doing the rounds. Whether it is better - or better value - than the other two could be long debated; each has virtues and downsides.
It is certainly a handsome machine. It is quick and comfortable, well-appointed and a versatile ute for all manner of jobs. (And the dog loved it because it got him places where he could roll in cow pats all day.)
NISSAN NAVARA ST-X
Body: Four-door ute
Engine: 2.5 litre turbo diesel
Power: 140kW @ 4000rpm
Torque:450Nm @ 2000rpm
Transmission: Five-speed automatic
Length/width/height: 5296mm/1848mm/1795mm Ground clearance: 228mm