Nissan Navara VS Toyota HiLux
- Brutish looks
- Improved load-lugging in the dual-cab
- Faster and more accurate steering
- Cheaper cars feel more work than play
- No Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- Rugged appeal
- Improved safety
- A spec for everyone
- Yesteryear’s multimedia
- Not the best on-road ride
- Annoying six-month service interval
I don’t need to tell you this, I’m sure, but Australia knows a thing or two about utes. They’re our best-selling vehicles for a reason, and there’s is really nowhere else on the planet where load-luggers are as revered as they are Down Under.
Well, except perhaps America. But that's a weird and largely deep-fried land dripping with Trumps, semi-automatic weapons and aluminium foil hats, so let's ignore them for the moment.
And so, when the Nissan Navara dual-cab came under fire for underwhelming coil spring rear suspension and steering slower than a forming stalactite, Nissan knew it had to do something. And when the updated 'Series II' car, which arrived in March last year, failed to completely fix the issue, it knew it had to something else entirely.
Consider this, then, Nissan's big and brutish Goldilocks - the one they hope is finally just right.
|Engine Type||2.3L turbo|
When Toyota launched its HiLux ute in the late ‘60s, there’s no way the brand could have predicted predicted using it to own the Australian sales charts month after month in 2019.
Then again, I suppose a few years ago it would have been a laughable idea that dual-cabs rather than SUVs would have been snapping up the leagues of driveway spots once occupied by Falcons and Commodores.
The ute segment is one of the most hotly contested in Australia, though, so was the HiLux’s most recent rolling update and expanded range enough to keep it front of mind for Australia’s buyers? We took the popular SR5 4x4 spec for a weekly test and ran our eye over the rest of the range to find out.
Kudos to Nissan for listening to its customers, and even more kudos for actually acting their complaints. The changes to the ride and handling (and the tweaking of the technology offering) have made the dual-cab Navara a much better vehicle to put to work.
Is the Navara on your work, play, or family ute shopping list? Tell us why or why not in the comments below.
Not as car-like as the Ranger, but not as industrial as the D-Max, the HiLux provides a middle ground that will be ideal for a great many buyers looking for a truly capable dual-purpose ute.
There are some compromises in its expansive range, not least of which is its multimedia offering, but with an updated warranty and safety package the HiLux rightfully remains a formidable force in Australia’s dual-cab market.
Ah, do you like the look of the current Navara? Then we’ve got good news for you; nothing has changed this time around.
The exterior design still looks tough and muscular, and is probably at its best (which is also probably why it’s the most popular version) in dual-cab ST-X guise, what with its silver roof rails and side steps (the latter of which form a kind of 3D body kit). A chrome rear step bumper is standard across the dual-cab range, too.
Inside, it’s probably not the most modern-feeling interior, but the dimensions are good and it’s clean and functional, and the ambience is raised considerably with the optional leather seats. The cheaper models clearly focus on function over form, but the more expensive models - with their clear and easy-to-use touchscreen (5.0 or 7.0-inch size) in the centre of the dash - are a better bet if you don’t plan on visiting too many worksites.
There’s a a huge number of soft and hardtop tray covers in the options list, but no extra underbody protection listed.
The HiLux isn’t pretty. It’s tough, almost industrial looking.
The 2020 model year brought with it a mild aesthetic nip and tuck for the exterior that included a new grille full of black gloss plastics.
I don’t like it. It looks all clunky now, I found the previous truck with its thin chrome grille was a little more resolved. My opinion aside, the HiLux looks undeniably ready for action, with its raised bumpers putting its approach and departure credentials on full show.
The extra chrome on the SR5 in its grille, door handles, bumpers, flashy 18-inch alloys, and sports bar really lift it above the rest of the HiLux range to give it that ‘top-spec’ look from a distance.
As mild as those tweaks seem, it’s part of what’s drawing customers to such highly-specified trucks.
The HiLux forgoes the American-truck look being popularized by its main rival, the Ranger, instead leaning into its cropped dimensions that have helped it lead the segment for so long in Australia.
The inside is unchanged from the pre-MY20 model, with a great many hard plastic surfaces and a little design going into the swept dashboard.
Unlike the Amarok or Ranger Wildtrak, though, the SR5 isn’t so plush you’d feel bad sullying it with work equipment.
The wheel feels great under hand, and the dash has a traditional layout that will please most, but there are a few annoyances here.
The system itself is clunky, with old, difficult-to-navigate menus and a lack of the latest phone connectivity tech. Don’t expect that to change any time soon, either. The HiLux’s media suite is too outdated to receive the connectivity updates on the way for much of Toyota’s refreshed passenger car range.
Aside from some poorly placed hard plastics and the jiggly suspension explored elsewhere in this review, the leather seats and padded trim for the driver on the doorcards make the cabin a decent place to be for long journeys.
The single- and king-cab Navara’s dimensions both stretch 5120mm, while the dual-cab version betters that slightly at 5255mm, which means 'boot size', or load lugging ability, varies slightly, too.
Obviously the cab chassis version with its steel tray prioritises heavy lifting, and your payload is a listed 1356kg in 2WD versions, and 1193kg in 4WD versions in single-cab guise. In the king-cab, those numbers fall slightly to 1256kg and 1178kg in 4WD versions. In the dual-cab cars, expect 1144kg (manual) or 1127kg (automatic). Buyers can opt for a soft or hard tonneau cover or a ute canopy, too.
The roof rails (standard from the dual-cab ST-X) unlock a world of roof rack options for extra storage space, too. But possibly the biggest practicality perk is the addition of two ISOFIX attachment points (one in each window seat in the second row) to the dual-cab versions of the Navara, finally meaning it can be used as a genuine family vehicle with proper child restraints.
All but the entry-level RX single-cab nab three power sources (the dual-cab pick-ups get a fourth in the tray), and dual-cabs also make use of four cupholders and bottle storage in the doors.
Toyota knows its target audience for the HiLux and has provided them with massive cupholders all around the front seats for gigantic bottles, meat pies and sausage rolls (and wallets, and phones…).
There are a few extra spaces around, a small trench under the air-conditioning controls, a double glove box set-up on the passenger’s side and a deep centre console box for everything else.
The back seat is decent on space, but not stellar. My 182cm frame can fit behind my own driving position with only a little airspace for my knees. A very welcome addition for the Australian summer at the SR5 grade is the presence of air vents on the back of the centre console stack.
The rear seat bases are on a 60/40 split and can be swung up to turn the rear portion of the cab into a more practical storage area.
The SR5’s tray won’t fit a standard Australian pallet, although few utes do. The dimensions come in at 1550mm long, and 1520mm wide (although this crops down to 1110mm between the wheel arches).
Toyota notes that the steel sports bar is not to be used for securing loads, leaving that task to four tie-down points around the edges of the tub. Those wanting to use the tray for more than recreational purposes will probably be saying goodbye to the sports bar before long.
In high-riding 4x4 trim, the HiLux has a payload of 955kg and a towing capacity of 750kg unbraked and 3200kg braked.
Those are just the figures stated by Toyota on paper, for a more in-depth look at the HiLux’s capacities, check out Mark Oastler’s TradieGuide review.
Price and features
It’s the usual complicated range for this updated Navara, which can be had in a staggering 26 different flavours across a full McDonald’s menu of models, be it single-cab, king-cab or dual-cab, and in a pick-up or cab chassis body style.
The cheapest option is the 4x2 RX single-cab, which starts at $25,990, vs the most expensive model, the ST-X Dual-Cab four wheel drive with its list price of $54,490. And there’s a Navara to fill every possible gap in between, with a price guide that’s just slightly longer than <i> The Lord of The Rings. We won’t publish every cost here (and that’s just the RRP, let alone the drive-away price…). Suffice it to say, how much you pay is up to you - it all depends on where in the model comparison you land.
The easiest way to break down this review is to sort them by trim levels, so hold onto your hats as we dive straight in.
The Navara single-cab chassis with four-wheel drive is the only configuration in which you’ll find a DX, and it features 15-inch steel wheels, cloth seats, auto headlights, manual air conditioning and cruise control.
Expect a simple stereo set-up with a single CD player (not a CD changer) and Bluetooth audio streaming, but no DVD player, DAB radio or a fancy sound system with all that subwoofer business.
The RX (which you can have in single-, king- or dual-cab) gives you 16-inch steel wheels, chrome around the front grille, door handles or mirrors, keyless entry and central locking, powered windows and a reversing camera that beams its image onto the rearview mirror as there’s no multimedia screen at this level. The dual-cab RX also gets updated suspension (which we’ll come back to), six speakers and two new ISOFIX attachment points.
A dual-cab-only SL model then splits the range, adding a LED headlights with daytime running lights/driving lights (but not HID, xenon or projector), improved tech with a five-inch infotainment screen, sidesteps and an electronic locking rear differential/diff lock on 4WD-equipped cars.
Next, the ST (available in king- or dual-cab) adds plenty of niceties like 16-inch alloy rims, leather-wrapped steering wheel and handbrake and an upgraded multimedia set-up courtesy of a bigger 7.0-inch touchscreen. The ST-X (available in king- or dual-cab) adds push-button start, dual-zone climate control, 18-inch alloys (yep, we’ve skipped 17 inch alloy wheels) and rear parking sensors. With no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, you won’t be able rely on your iPhone’s GPS as a navigation system, but worry not - sat nav is standard from the ST on up.
Also new is a digital speedo that will be standard on all SL, ST and ST-X grades from June. No word yet on a N-Sport sports edition, but watch this space.
Now, if you thought the model list was an epic, just wait until you get a hold of the accessories list. Every conceivable bull bar, snorkel, ladder rack, sports/nudge bar and floor mats are on offer here, along with too many clever ways to carry your tool kit.
A dual battery system, though, will be an aftermarket job, as will specialist all terrain tyres or off-road tyres and flares or wheelarch extensions. Speaking of options, leather seats only arrive as part of a leather option pack, along with a sunroof in the sunroof option pack.
So, colours; 'Cosmic Black', 'Burning Red', 'Brilliant Silver', 'Deep Sapphire' (or blue, to us common folk), 'Hornet Gold' (the closest you’ll come to orange), 'Slate Grey', 'White Diamond' and 'Polar White' are on offer across most of the range, with premium paint an extra $550.
To say the HiLux range is “expansive” is an understatement of epic proportions. There is a HiLux to suit almost any ute buyer – whether it’s for a fleet of stripped-down workhorses or a pre-packaged bells-and-whistles recreational off-roader.
This is a cornerstone of the truck’s success, for sure, but results in a range of 36 HiLux variations which can be overwhelming for consumers.
To break it down, there are now six HiLux trim levels consisting of (in price-ascending order): Workmate, SR, SR5, Rogue, Rugged, and Rugged X.
The entry-level Workmate has the most complicated range, as it is the only HiLux still available with either a 2.7-litre petrol or 2.8-litre diesel. It can also be had with either a six-speed manual or six-speed auto with the option of 4x4.
To complicate things further, it can be ordered with a body-matching tray, or as a cab-chassis.
The Workmate range alone stretches from $21,865 through to $46,865. It manages to undercut primary entry-level rival versions of the Mitsubishi Triton, Ford Ranger and Isuzu D-Max, although the latter two come with diesel powertrains as standard.
Those looking for further bargains will have to venture into the relatively murky waters of Chinese alternatives.
Stepping up to the SR ($40,285 - $50,740) offers the choice of extra- or dual-cab bodystyles in 2.8-litre diesel automatic high-rider only and adds an improved list of equipment.
To save you from reading a short essay, we won’t outline the spec of every HiLux grade in this review, but our test car is the most popular SR5 variant, which is available only as a 4x4 hi-riding automatic in dual-cab form.
Standard equipment on this truck is a 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with built-in nav (but not with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto yet… ), 18-inch alloy wheels, a colour display screen in the dash, body matching bumpers, a rear chrome step bumper, LED auto-leveling headlights, LED DRLs, privacy glass, side-steps, steel sports bar, cloth seat trim, carpeted floors (as opposed to vinyl), an air-conditioned console box, 220-volt accessory socket, single-zone climate control with rear air vents, and all-weather floor mats.
Our SR5 was fitted with the 'Premium Interior Package' which adds hardy leather interior trim with heated front seats and a power-adjustable driver’s seat ($2000), and the fetching 'Olympia Red' colour ($600).
On the technical front, the SR5 has disc brakes at the front, drum brakes at the rear, “heavy duty” suspension consisting of double wishbones at the front and leaf springs at the back, as well as a tow pack and rear locking differential as standard.
It has a low-range transfer case, downhill accelerator control, hill start assist, and underbody protection to round out its off-roading gear. We’ll look at capacities and dimensions later in this review.
The total cost (MSRP) of our truck came to $59,840 with the options fitted. A cool sixty thousand is significantly more expensive than the similarly-equipped Mitsubishi Triton GLX Plus ($43,490), or Nissan Navara ST-X ($55,250), and for the same money you can have the marginally better equipped Ford Ranger Wildtrak ($56,340) with the older 3.2-litre five-cylinder engine.
It’s a nice bit of kit, sure, plus you’re buying into the HiLux badge and the “rugged” reputation that goes with it, but it’s worth at least cross-shopping its rivals in such a competitive market.
Keep in mind that you’ll need to fork out extra for a tub-liner, as the SR5 doesn’t come with one.
Engine & trans
There are two diesel engines on offer here; a twin-turbocharged diesel good for 140kW at 3750rpm and 450Nm at 1500pm, and a 2.3-litre diesel engine equipped with a single turbocharger that will generate 120kW at 3750rpm and 403Nm of torque at 1500rpm. Those engine specs don't seem that dissimilar, sure (and yes, the engine size is identical), but the extra horsepower makes a difference on the road.
Both can be paired with a six-speed manual transmission or seven-speed automatic transmission, feeding power to two or all four wheels, depending on whether you opt for a 4x2 or 4x4 model. There is no petrol on offer, and you can forget hybrid or LPG.
A diesel particulate filter (DPF) is fitted, of course, and should you see the warning light pop on, a cruise at more than 80km/h will be required to burn off the nasties.
The biggest news here is the overhaul of the rear suspension in most of the dual-cab cars (a significant cause of complaint in the outgoing model). New and stiffer dual-rate springs on SL, ST and ST-X dual-cab cars have massively improved this Navara’s driveability when carrying a load, and the steering has been made significantly faster, too.
Expect a towing capacity of 750kg (unbraked) and 3500kg (braked) across the Navara range - which are good pulling statistics - and a towbar pack will set you back around $1000. The gross vehicle weight is 2910kg across the range.
Nissan doesn’t quote performance figures (like 0-100 acceleration or top speed), but then, this isn’t a car you’ll be lapping Mount Panorama in. So instead, let's focus on ground clearance (max 230mm) and turning circle (11.8m).
In the question of timing belt or chain, the Navara uses a chain, but for other ownership issues, like engine issues (say you’re blowing black smoke), automatic gearbox problems, clutch, injector or gearbox issues or for oil type or capacity, keep an eye on out Navara owners page.
The HiLux continues with its well-regarded 2.8-litre turbo-diesel engine in the SR5. Outputs are nominal for the segment, at 130kW/450Nm.
There’s nothing flashy about it. Not like the Ranger’s engines (which will get you more power from either an extra cylinder, or an extra turbo), or the Navara (extra turbo), or the D-Max (it’s literally a truck engine).
But the HiLux’s engine seems to pull it along at a fair pace for recreational duties. In terms of towing, a recent tow comparison had the HiLux falling behind the Ranger in terms of available torque, although ahead of the Mercedes-Benz X-Class which shares its powertrain with the Nissan Navara.
The six-speed auto was super compliant on my freeway and unsealed road tests and has performed the same way on previous comparison tests. The SR5 has a low-range transfer case with a rear differential lock as part of its drivetrain arsenal.
This truck’s ‘unbreakable’ visage was shaken lately with recent diesel particulate filter (DPF) issues, however Toyota claims those days are behind it with the introduction of a manual burn-off switch.
The claimed fuel consumption (diesel) for the single turbo engine is between 6.4L/100km and 7.1L/100km, depending on which model you plonk it in, while the claimed fuel economy (diesel) for the twin-turbo option is between 6.5L to 7.0L/100km on the combined cycle.
The Navara’s 80-litre fuel tank capacity promises a long range no matter the engine, with the mileage near enough identical.
My freeway/unsealed/daily grind test week produced a fuel consumption figure of 10.1L/100km. That’s 1.6L/100km more than its official claimed/combined figure of 8.5L/100km.
Given the amount of freeway driving on our test, we think you’d be hard pressed to get below 9.0L/100km on any given day.
4x4 HiLuxes are diesel only and have an 80-litre tank.
This big news here is what’s happening under the skin. Nissan is being refreshingly upfront about the owner complaints surrounding the old car. Namely soft suspension that just couldn’t handle a heavy load, and steering that felt slow and cumbersome.
And so that’s exactly where they focussed their attention this time around. For one, the rear suspension has been completely re-worked, with stiffer dual-rate springs at the back, which made light work of the 650 kilograms we towed at launch - and that’s honestly not something you could say about the out-going car, in which a heavy load would make the Navara feel overly bouncy, and not exactly confidence-inspiring.
And the steering is now significantly faster, too, which makes you feel far more connected with the front tyres, removing the vagueness the old car served up.
They’re the big changes, and they’ve genuinely changed the character of the dual cab cars for the better. We’ve now towed more than a tonne, attacked some twisty stuff without a load on-board and we’re now carrying some weight in the back, and it’s really handled everything with ease.
The only real downside is that for every action there’s an equal and opposite opposite reaction, and so it will come as no surprise that stiffening the suspension has made the Navara feel a little harder without a load on board, and it can feel like it’s skipping over bumps in the road, which you can feel lightly tugging on the steering wheel. But across the board, the changes have been a real bonus for anyone who is going to be putting their Navara to work.
Our time behind the wheel was largely road (and some pretty straightforward gravel), so we’ll leave the off-road ability review to our own Marcus 'Crafty' Craft a little later. Hell, even Melbourne’s perennially dodgy weather held up, so we couldn’t even challenge the wading depth.
On the road, the HiLux backs its tough look with a tough feel. Visibility is great from the driver’s seat, and with the range of adjustability in the seat and wheel its fairly easy to find a driving position suited to most.
The ride is stiff to a fault on the road when unladen though, and after being on the road for three or so hours you’ll be well and truly sick of its ladder-chassis jiggle. It’s particularly bad around the rear where those leaf springs will transmit bumps and jolts to the passengers with impunity.
The HiLux has firm but not unduly stiff steering. There’s plenty of feedback from the front wheels, so it’s easy to feel out where they are in lower-speed off-road environments, too.
Lighter, more car-like steering can be had in the Ranger or Amarok, which benefit in the ease of maneuvering tight city environments, although the compromise is less feedback.
At least the HiLux’s steering isn’t as heavy as the Triton which can, at times, be genuinely unpleasant.
The 2.8-litre turbo-diesel chugs along about mid-way through the segment in terms of outputs and it feels it behind the wheel. Refinement is about what you’d expect. Not as quiet as the Amarok or Ranger, but also not as industrial as the D-Max.
The SR5 feels at home the moment you take it off the tarmac and onto an unsealed surface. The suspension feels much better here, chugging over bumps, rocks and clambering over obstacles with relative ease.
At higher speeds, those stiff rear springs can have the rear fishtailing around over corrugated surfaces, although this can be reined in a little by driving in 4H.
While my test was limited to a few unsealed trails in regional NSW, the more hardcore off-road test segment in our six-ute comparison test (which featured this exact truck) had the SR5 come first place over its direct rivals.
Make sure to read it for more on the HiLux’s off-road performance.
As it is, the SR5 is a capable dual-purpose truck on and off the road, although unlike some rivals it prioritises ability over day-to-day comfort.
New stuff? Well, there’s the new ISOFIX attachment points in the back of the dual-cab cars, adding two legitimate child seat anchor points that can transform the Navara into a family car. The backseat is more than big enough to fit two baby car seats, too, but I wouldn't want to be squeezed between them.
There’s a new reversing camera, too, which features on everything from the Navara king-cab RX model and up. Beyond that, expect an airbag count of seven (two front, two front-side seat, two side-curtain and driver’s knee) as well as the usual suite of traction and braking aids including, ESP, ABS, and EBD.
Only the Dual-Cab ST-X get rear parking sensors, along with hill descent control and hill start assist in four-wheel drive cars.
The Nissan Navara (single-cab) was awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating when assessed in 2015.
So, where is the Nissan Navara built? Ours arrive from Thailand.
The 2020 HiLux updates brought with them a significant increase in standard safety gear.
Active items that make up Toyota’s 'Safety Sense' suite include auto emergency braking (AEB – with pedestrian and cyclist detection), lane departure warning (LDW), road sign assist (lets you know what the speed limit is), and active cruise control. That last one is more than welcome for long freeway trips.
Notably absent are blind spot monitoring (BSM), rear cross traffic alert (RCTA), and driver attention alert (DAA).
On the side of expected safety refinements, the HiLux has seven airbags, stability, brake and traction controls, a reversing camera and hill start assist.
There are two ISOFIX child-seat mounting points on the outer two rear seats and three top-tether points.
This HiLux (from July 2019 onwards) has a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating.
There are many utes on the market that still do not have the level of safety refinement now offered by the HiLux and this resonates down through its range.
The Navara range is covered by a three-year/100,000km manufacturer warranty (though there are dealership extended warranty programs available), and will require a trip to the service centre every 12 months or 20,000km.
The 'myNIssan Service Certainty' capped price servicing Navara program limits the service costs for the first six services to between $547 and $744 per dealership visit.
There's a full-size spare tyre, too. Handy when you get a flat. And the owner's manual is filled with handy hints.
For all problems, including reliability ratings, common faults, issues, complained and defects, keep an eye on our Navara owner’s page.
On the face of it, the HiLux looks promising. Strong dealer network, capped price servicing, and at long last a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty was introduced by the brand early in 2019.
Delving into the details a little proves the HiLux to be a bit frustrating, however. Although services are capped at an incredibly cheap-sounding $240, you’ll have to visit twice (maybe even three times) a year with intervals set at six months/10,000km.
Affordable, sure. Annoyingly frequent nonetheless.