The Nissan Navara has never garnered the same fanatical support as its rival the Toyota HiLux continues to attract but, nevertheless, it has quietly built a solid reputation and fanbase among ute lovers throughout the country.
In recent years, Nissan’s cycle of tweaks and updates to its D23 series Navara, launched back in 2015, have kept the ute relevant and improved its overall claim as a family-friendly lifestyle vehicle.
I tested this ST soon after I’d tested the ST-X so my impressions of that higher-spec variant were fresh in my mind. So, how did this mid-spec Navara go? Read on.
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?
The ST is only available as a dual-cab ute, but you do get the option of a 4X2 automatic, a 4X4manual or a 4X4 automatic transmission, which our test vehicle was.
A 2021 Navara ST 4X4 dual-cab (with auto) has a manufacturer suggested retail price (MSRP) of $54,780 (excludes on-road costs).
Standard ST features include an 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen (with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto).
However, our test vehicle’s price blows out to $66,353.14 (plus ORCs) because it was equipped with $11,573.14 worth of accessories including bonnet protector (smoked), bullbar (off-road, hoopless), winch, winch mount kit, snorkel, fender flares (full set), headlamp protectors (LED h/lamps), LED light bar pencil 470mm (halogen headlights), tonneau soft cover, tubliner (tiedowns), weathershields (slimline, set of 4), all-weather floor mats (front and rear), and a towbar.
All premium paint – including solid white, burning red, brilliant silver, twilight grey, and forged copper – costs $650. The white pearl (aka white diamond) on our test vehicle, and black star are no extra cost.
Is there anything interesting about its design?
The new Navara manages to modernise and hone the family- and lifestyle-friendly look it’s carried in the past.
The new Navara certainly makes a bit of statement.
With a bulky US-style grille, more pronounced bumper and bonnet, as well as quad LED headlights – all working as part of quite an aggressive-looking front-end – the new Navara certainly makes a bit of statement.
Nice touches, such as Navara branding on the front bash-plate and tailgate, add to its appearance.
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?
The Navara has a part-time 4WD system, a dual-range transfer case, with 2WD (two-wheel drive), 4H (4WD high-range) and 4Lo (4WD low-range) options selectable via a dial in front of the auto shifter, as well as button-activated rear diff lock and hill descent control.
Our test vehicle has the 2.3-litre four-cylinder twin-turbo diesel engine.
The Navara’s cabin has a nice familiarity to it, and it’s well laid-out and functional. It does feel a tad old though.
Build quality is good, and a mix of hard plastic surfaces, some soft-touch spots here and there, as well as carpet floors, and all-weather floor mats (options), make the ST’s interior a nice balance between work-readiness and life-comfortable.
The Navara’s cabin has a nice familiarity to it.
The line-up’s steering wheel, now streamlined compared to previous iterations, fits nicely in the hands.
The 7.0-inch digital driver’s display is a really handy upgrade.
The 8.0-inch colour multimedia touchscreen is easy to operate and if I had no issues pairing my smartphone (Android Auto OS) to the ute, then the system’s ease-of-use and efficacy is on the right side of good.
In terms of charging, there’s a USB-A port in the console tray, two in the centre console (USB-A and USB-C), and a 12V outlet in the console tray and centre console.
Storage spaces include a space in front of the auto shifter for your wallet and house keys etc, a centre console, cupholders between the driver and front passenger seats (the outboard below-vent pop-out cupholders have gone), and the usual hard-plastic door pockets.
The ST’s cloth seats are comfortable and supportive enough without ever feeling luxurious. That’s fine with me.
The driver’s seat is six-way manually adjustable; the front passenger’s seat is four-way manually adjustable.
The second row seating is good in terms of room and comfort although, as in most utes, space is limited if there is anything other than three kids, or only two adults on outboard seats, in the rear.
For back-seat passengers there is a USB charging port, directional air vents, and a shallow storage space all on the back of the centre console, as well as seat-back map pockets, moulded door pockets, and a fold-down centre armrest with cupholders.
For back-seat passengers there is a USB charging port, directional air vents.
The rear seat has an ISOFIX point on each outboard seat and a top-tether child-seat anchor point.
The ST has a power sliding rear window, which rear-seat kids love, and it’s operated by the driver via a button, below and to the right of the steering wheel.
What's it like as a daily driver?
(Full disclosure: I own a 2009 Navara (D22 series), a dual-cab 4x4 in ST-R trim, with the wheezy 2.5-litre common-rail diesel engine.)
This new ST measures a listed 5260mm long (with a 3150 mm wheelbase), and is 1825mm high and 1850mm wide. Kerb weight is 2062kg.
Steering has a nice well-weighted precision to it and, with a claimed turning circle of 12.5m, this ute always feels easy enough to steer through packed suburban streets and shopping centre carparks.
Steering has a nice well-weighted precision to it.
The 140kW/450Nm engine works nicely with the seven-speed auto, and helps to deliver a quietly controlled driving experience, rather than a heart-pounding one – which is spot-on for a ute, in my books.
As always, the engine can become noisy with heavy execution of the right boot, but generally noise, vibration and harshness level in the cabin are well subdued.
Drive modes – normal, tow, off-road, or sport – tweak transmission shifts, among other factors, to suit the driving conditions.
The Navara’s suspension set-up – coil springs all-round, double-wishbones with stabiliser bar at the front, and five-link rear – produces a comfortable and compliant ride and adds to an overall sensation of controlled handling, even when the ute is unladen.
On this test, we never approached the ST’s listed payload capacity of 1088kg – in fact the most we ever had in it was the driver (me), some camera gear, vehicle-recovery gear (including four Maxtrax) and one of my dogs – but it’s easy enough to tell if a vehicle settles well under load.
The ST’s brakes (discs at the front and 25mm-bigger drums at the rear) combined to safely stop the Navara when we did an emergency-braking test on the blacktop and on a gravel track.
What's it like for touring?
The Navara does pretty well off-road, without ever being exceptional. But the few things that hamper it – including its road tyres and ground clearance – can be easily addressed by way of Australia’s great aftermarket community.
It has a part-time 4WD system (with selection of 2WD, 4H (high-range 4WD) or 4Lo (low-range 4WD) made via a dial), and button-activated rear diff-lock and hill descent control.
The Navara does pretty well off-road, without ever being exceptional.
The 2.3-litre four-cylinder engine has enough in the gutsy department to truck the Navara through less-than-ideal terrain, including soft coastal sand, and there’s plenty of low-end torque so it can manage slow, controlled climbs up steep, slippery rock-and-gravel hills.
On the way down those same steep hills, engine braking is good and hill descent control can be relied on to keep the Navara to a steady, low speed of 2-3km/h.
Ground clearance is listed as 220mm and the Navara feels low. Never mind, because driving with even greater care – through deep ruts, over sharply-angled hill crests and traversing steep entry and exit points to creek crossings – to avoid grating the earth with your undercarriage, is not a bad thing.
Off-road-relevant angles of approach, ramp break-over and departure are 32, 26, and 22.9 respectively. Note: a bullbar and/or towbar will affect a vehicle’s approach and departure angles.
Wading depth is listed as 600mm but, as I’ve mentioned in previous new Navara yarns, the air intake is near the top right-hand edge of the radiator and so is vulnerable to water ingress if you’re driving through creek crossings. If you’re planning any off-grid touring, get an aftermarket snorkel if your Navara doesn’t already have a factory-fitted one, as our test vehicle does.
The ST’s road-suited Bridgestone Dueler H/T 684II (255/65R17) all-season tyres do a reasonable job off-road, but, as always, drop your tyres pressures according to the terrain and conditions. Aggressive all-terrain tyres would be a great asset here.
The tray is 1509mm long (at floor level), 1560mm wide (at the floor), 1134mm wide (between the wheel arches) and it is 519mm deep.
The around-view camera/off-road monitor is a nifty addition but the screen-view is a bit murky looking, so don’t rely on it: stick your head out of the window for a better view and, if possible, use a spotter who will, ideally, be standing outside the vehicle and have a clear view of the track in your direction of travel.
The tray is 1509mm long (at floor level), 1560mm wide (at the floor), 1134mm wide (between the wheel arches) and it is 519mm deep. The tailgate’s opening width is 1360mm wide.
The ST has a soft fold-away tonneau cover, a durable tub-liner and four tie-down points. The tub also has nice touches, such as the metal ‘Navara’ name-plates attached to the tub-liner near the tailgate.
Payload is 1088kg, unbraked towing capacity is 750kg, and braked towing capacity is 3500kg, while Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) is listed as 3150kg and Gross Combined Mass (GCM) as 5910kg.
The around-view camera/off-road monitor is a nifty addition but the screen-view is a bit murky looking.
In terms of touring suitability, a big plus for Navara fans is that there is a stack of accessories – including the hoop-less bullbar, LED light bar, synthetic-rope winch (with a 4536kg rated line-pull), and ‘Navara’-branded bash-plates that this ST has – that makes this ute look even more of an adventure-ready tourer than it does in standard form.
Remember: Australia has the best aftermarket business community in the world so, as the owner of an off-roader, you should take full advantage of that.
The Nissan Navara in ST spec is a rather comfortable daily driver, well suited to family duties, and a capable off-roader. It’s not plush by anyone’s measure, but it’s not trying to be and it’s right for real life and all of the dirt and mess that entails.
The Navara continues to improve and this generation has drawn closer to its rivals than ever before.
Suited and booted with accessories, the Navara certainly looks the part of an adventure-ready tourer.
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