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Does 2021 Nissan Navara do enough against new Isuzu D-Max and Mazda BT-50, updated Toyota HiLux and coming Ford Ranger and Volkswagen Amarok?

It's all change for the MY21 Navara up front, with a new grille, bonnet, headlights, bumper and guards giving it a tougher look.

Nissan has rejected the notion that the Navara facelift has not gone far enough against all-new rivals like the Isuzu D-Max and Mazda BT-50 as well as the facelifted Toyota HiLux and coming redesigned Ford Ranger and Volkswagen Amarok.

Speaking to the Australian media at the MY21 Navara unveiling in Melbourne last week, Nissan Australia managing director Stephen Lester was adamant that the visual, refinement and safety changes made to the D23 series – as well as a fresh focus on accessories – will be enough to see the mid-size pick-up truck through to the all-new next-generation version that is slated for around 2024.

“I think it’s a fantastic package from a design standpoint,” Mr Lester said.

“You’re talking the whole front end, rear end, bed height, all the safety features and interior design. It’s a massive movement for a mid-cycle change.

“We’re still sitting roughly fourth in sales volume, and when you look at these new products, yes, some of them have been dramatic improvements for them, but now I think in a lot of ways, our Navara is stepping now again back ahead of those.”

While final pricing and specification have yet to be divulged, Mr Lester believes that the 2021 Navara will reset the bar as far in terms of standard equipment for the money.

“Being standard throughout our grades means that (the high level of safety) you’re not only going to have to step up to our top grades to gain those features… like the round-view monitor for off-roading, which is a unique feature in the market.

“It comes back to drive. Navara has always been one of, if not the best, driving utes on the market. You look at its gain in improvements in NVH, you look at its class-leading payload, its 3500kg towing capacity… all of those things will continue to, I think, keep Navara at the top of consumers’ lists.”

The Nissan boss is hopeful the PRO-4X will also reignite interest in the Navara from buyers who may have previously dismissed it, even though there are no changes in store in terms of power or performance from the 2.3-litre four-cylinder diesel engine, which is said to remain the same whether in single-turbo or twin-turbo guises.

“As N-Trek did, it is going to play an important role for us, and once we have a Warrior program in place, it actually heightens the performance in that segment.

“The ST-X will continue to be our best-looking car and probably our main stronghold of share overall – and that isn’t really surprising in the context as you go up anyway, you start to diminish the volume of consumers that are there and that’s how halo vehicles work – so I think it gives us a really strong representation of what a Navara should look like on the road.”

As previously mentioned, other changes to the facelift include revisions to the steering tune, a stronger rear axle for increased payload and the inclusion of more anti-noise/vibration/harshness measures to make the Navara quieter and more refined.

A broadening of accessories for the MY21 Navara is also likely to boost its appeal.

“We’ve also spent a lot of time over the last two years getting the accessories right, and admittedly going back to the previous generation, we weren’t as strong there. Now, having a snorkel, a winch-compatible bullbar, underbody protection and all these other things getting worked on in the background really helps support the lifestyle consumer and not just the tradie work ute." 

Mr Lester is confident that the effects that a raft of updates and improvements that the outgoing Navara received for 2020, first at the end of last year and then again in March, are still being felt, and will also help keep the series resonating with buyers into the MY21 facelift.

“With Navara not having had things like Apple CarPlay and some of those technologies that have now been put into that vehicle (in late 2019), those things will help support that and help improve that vehicle,” he said.

The release of the current Warrior, too, put the Navara back on the radar of buyers who were at the higher-end of the ute segment looking at models like the Ford Ranger Wildtrak and Toyota HiLux Rogue.

“Up until 2019, you saw the market grow, but where I think we lost plenty of share was that we didn’t (have a flagship ute like the Warrior),” he said. “Up until the time we launched Warrior (we struggled) in those (upper) segments, and at the top is where sales are really growing.”

That said, Mr Lester conceded that the Navara has also found the going tough in the 4x2 end of the segment dominated by the HiLux and the Triton, as well as cheaper imports from China.

“In the lower end portion of the market it is extraordinarily competitive,” he said. “I would say there’s been a tightening market there as well, so that’s been quite difficult.”