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Nissan Navara 2020 review: ST off-road test

In a hotly-contested ute market, the Nissan Navara sits comfortably somewhere in the middle of the pack – in terms of many aspects, including pricing, quality and reputation.

Since March this year, Nissan reckons the new Navara line-up has benefitted from improved NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) levels and the ST has scored a styling package option.

But, in such a busy ute market is the Navara actually worth your consideration? We took a mid-spec ST on- and off-road over seven days to see how it would handle life. Read on.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

The ST is the mid-spec D23 Navara and in auto 4x4 guise has a Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $51,250 – that’s a price increase of $1300 over the previous ST version.

Our test vehicle has premium paint (polar white) which adds $650 to the price, so total MSRP for this vehicle is $51,900. For its new Navara ST, Nissan is offering a Black Styling Package, featuring the company’s V-Motion grille in black, black front fog light surrounds, a black alloy sport bar, black mirror caps, and black-on-silver 18-inch alloys. Our test vehicle is obviously not one of those, as it has none of those things and it rides on 16-inch alloys.

The standard ST rides on 16-inch alloy wheels. The standard ST rides on 16-inch alloy wheels.

As standard the ST comes equipped with LED Headlights with daytime running lights, fog lights, an upgraded 8.0-inch colour touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (although I couldn’t get AA working with my smartphone), Bluetooth streaming, audio and cruise controls on the steering wheel, a digital speedo, USB and 12V sockets, reversing camera, cloth seats, side steps and an electronic rear differential lock.

The 8.0-inch colour touchscreen comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The 8.0-inch colour touchscreen comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

The Navara is a good-looking unit – in that unassuming manner of most SUV-ified dual-cab utes nowadays. Nothing to write home about, but nothing to make a vomit-face about either.

The Navara is a good-looking unit. The Navara is a good-looking unit.

As I always tell you, dear readers: be a grown-up and sort out your own opinion, with regards to looks. You like what you like; I like what I like; sometimes we might like the same thing. No doubt, if you’ve got this far into the yarn, you’re not particularly put off by the Navara’s looks anyway.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

The Navara ST has a 2.3-litre intercooled twin-turbo-diesel engine – producing 140kW at 3750rpm and 450Nm at 1500 – 2500rpm. It’s mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode.

The Navara has a selectable part-time 4WD system, with high- and low-range.

The 2.3-litre twin-turbo-diesel engine produces 140kW/450Nm. The 2.3-litre twin-turbo-diesel engine produces 140kW/450Nm.

It’s a refined and responsive combination, mostly on target, and certainly an improvement on Navara pairings of the past.

(Full disclosure: I own a 2008 D22 Navara (an ST-R with 2.5-litre common-rail diesel engine) and the engine in this new Navara is much better than that ol’ wheezy unit … but that’s not really saying much because the gutless engine in my Nav really is on the wrong side of impressive. However, my ute more than does its job – hauling family, mountain-bikes and kayaks – so mind your own business.)

How practical is the space inside?

The interior is nice and well-laid out, if a little on the plain side of things. Build quality is impressive.

The seats are cloth and there is hard plastic everywhere – but that’s all in keeping with its hard-work-and-fun-lifestyle approach.

The second row is a bit squeezy if three adults. The second row is a bit squeezy if three adults.

The seats are comfortable and space is more than adequate, although the second row is a bit squeezy if three adults – or even lanky teens – are located there.

The new 8.0-inch colour touchscreen is easy enough to operate although, as mentioned, I couldn’t get my smartphone paired up to it. 

Storage options include a shallow space (with a 12V socket) on top of the dash, a small console, cupholders (two under-vent locations and between the two front seats), and door pockets.

The seats are comfortable and space is more than adequate. The seats are comfortable and space is more than adequate.

What's it like as a daily driver?

The general impression is in the Navara’s favour: it’s a smooth, refined daily driver.

It’s not an insubstantial ute, measuring 5255mm long (with a 3150mm-long wheelbase), 1850mm wide and 1825mm high but, even with a listed kerb weight of 1942kg, it manages to feel like an easy-enough steerer. Turning circle is listed as 12.4m.

As mentioned, the engine and auto are a responsive and energetic match-up and do well to deliver controlled power and torque when needed.

The Navara’s suspension set-up (coil springs all-round, independent double-wishbones with stabiliser bar at the front, and five-link rear) helps to yield a comfortable, compliant ride and add to its overall controlled handling.

The Navara measures in at 5255mm long, 1850mm wide and 1825mm high. The Navara measures in at 5255mm long, 1850mm wide and 1825mm high.

It’s mostly quiet in the cabin, although noise from that twin-turbo engine starts to intrude when the Navara is pushed hard at lower speeds.

All-round driving characteristics are pretty good but there is, however, a definite sponginess to the brake pedal though, but, having said that, the ute did grind to controlled stops on the two occasions we did “Watch out for that roo!” emergency-braking scenarios. It has disc brakes at the front and drums at the rear.    

There is some body-roll when pitched hard into corners, but otherwise this ladder-frame chassis workhorse drives pretty well in most circumstances.

What's it like for touring?

Pretty solid.

The 4WD system is easy to operate with a simple dial-operated selection of 2H, 4H (high-range 4WD) or 4L (low-range 4WD). The Navara has a rear diff-lock if you need it.

In terms of off-road angles, the Navara ST has approach, ramp break-over and departure angles of 33.1, 24.5 and 28.1 respectively. 

The Navara performed fine off-road, but we did have to drive with care. The Navara performed fine off-road, but we did have to drive with care.

Ground clearance is listed as 226mm and, though wading depth is not officially listed, a guesstimate of about 700mm, going by past variants, should be close to right. 

Those are all meaningless figures though if you don’t know how they apply to the vehicle’s efficacy off-road in the real world so, in a nutshell, let me tell you: the Navara feels low and long and, at times, vulnerable to hitting the ground. Put it this way: it has to be driven with more care and consideration off-road than a lot of other utes.

But the Navara’s turbo-diesel engine is tractable and quickly finds its sweet spot during low-speed, low-range four-wheel driving, offering up actionable torque at the lower end of the rev range, making it easy to maintain controlled momentum at all times.

There’s not a lot of wheel travel on offer though, but when you do get a tyre to the dirt, at least the Toyo A25 Open Country (255/70R16 111H) rubber does a solid job of sorting out the traction action.

The Navara feels low and long and, at times, vulnerable to hitting the ground. The Navara feels low and long and, at times, vulnerable to hitting the ground.

And, despite what Nissan says about its work to improve NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) levels, that twin-turbo four-cylinder engine does become rather raucous at low speeds – and low-range 4WDing is done at low speeds, and with the engine under a fair bit of pressure.

We spent the lion’s share of our 4WDing time on dirt and sand and, with tyre pressures down to 20 psi (pounds per square inch), it performed fine but we did have to drive with care to avoid grounding the undercarriage on the taller sections between deeper wheel tracks.

Anyway, in terms of usability for touring, the tray is 1503mm long (at the floor), 1560mm wide (at the floor), 1130mm wide (between the wheel arches), and 474mm high. The tailgate opening is 1360mm wide.

The tray is 1503mm long, 1560mm wide, 1130mm wide, and 474mm high. The tray is 1503mm long, 1560mm wide, 1130mm wide, and 474mm high.

It has four tie-down points and a 12V socket.

Payload is listed as 968kg, unbraked towing capacity is 750kg, and braked towing capacity is 3500kg. GVM is listed as 2910kg, GCM as 5910kg, 

The Navara has a full-size steel spare wheel, mounted under the tray.

How much fuel does it consume?

Fuel consumption is listed as 7.0L/100km. I recorded a fuel consumption on test of 9.8L/100km, after more than 240km of driving, including high- and low-range four-wheel driving. 

It has an 80-litre fuel tank.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

The Navara has a five-star ANCAP safety rating which dates back to 2015. It has seven airbags (front, side, curtain and a driver’s knee airbag), reversing camera (with directional guidelines), an electronic rear differential lock, three second-row child anchorage points, and two ISOFIX points in the second row, one each on the outer seats.

The ST features a reversing camera with directional guidelines. The ST features a reversing camera with directional guidelines.

It does not have autonomous emergency braking (AEB), lane-departure alert, blind-spot monitoring, or cross-traffic alert.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

The Navara ST is not the best dual-cab around, but it’s certainly the best of the current Navara line-up, although you might want more driver-assist bang for your buck than is on offer in this variant.

However, it is refined and comfortable, and more than able to tackle daily duties and weekend camping trips with restrained, if unspectacular, efficiency.

$47,600

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

3.6/5

Adventure score

3.5/5

adventureguide rank

  • Light

    Dry weather gravel roads and formed trails with no obstacles, very shallow water crossings.

  • Medium

    Hard-packed sand, slight to medium hills with minor obstacles in all weather.

  • Heavy

    Larger obstacles, steeper climbs and deeper water crossings; plus tracks marked as '4WD only'