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Nissan Navara 2019 review: RX 4x4 dual cab chassis

The Nissan Navara RX dual cab chassis model is a budget work ute. We put it to task at the tip.

Daily driver score

3/5

Tradies score

4/5

The ute market is tough. Not just the vehicles that compete in the segment, but the competition. It’s fierce.

Case in point - vehicles like the Nissan Navara are struggling for sales. Sales of the venerable ute are down by a fifth in the hard-fought 4x4 segment so far this year, as it struggles to maintain a grip on the top five in the four-wheel drive ute market.

In higher-grade versions, there is good reason for that. The Navara has been criticised for its wobbly coil spring suspension, even after two revisions to its chassis setup.

But in the lower grade versions, customers can have a ute with traditional tough-nut leaf springs. And that’s what we’ve got here, in the form of the RX cab chassis.

So, how does it stack up as a work ute? I did a good old fashioned tip run to find out.

Design - Is there anything interesting about its design?

You might notice that the Navara RX looks a little bit, well, weird. That’s because it doesn’t have the pumped out guards of the ST and ST-X models that sit above it. It also rocks tradie-spec 16-inch steel wheels clad with Bridgestone Dueler H/T rubber.

  • The RX doesn’t have the pumped out guards of the ST and ST-X models. The RX doesn’t have the pumped out guards of the ST and ST-X models.
  • The tray fitted to our tester was a standard issue aluminium drop-side setup. The tray fitted to our tester was a standard issue aluminium drop-side setup.
  • It rocks tradie-spec 16-inch steel wheels clad with Bridgestone Dueler H/T rubber. It rocks tradie-spec 16-inch steel wheels clad with Bridgestone Dueler H/T rubber.

The general form of the Navara dual cab models has aged quite nicely over the few years it has been on sale, though this RX model does want for a bit more width - it’s a full 60mm narrower, at 1790mm wide across the body (and 20mm narrower in terms of its track), but the length 5120mm (depending on tray) with a 3150mm wheelbase and a height of 1800mm lend it decent proportions.

The tray fitted to our tester was a standard issue aluminium drop-side setup, but as with many small businesses or tradies, the owner may want to specify something more suited to their very needs.

Practicality - How practical is the space inside?

The Navara sets no standards in the ute class when it comes to cabin presentation or comfort, but nor does it offend with its design and usability.

  • The seats are comfortable enough, though the adjustability could be better. The seats are comfortable enough, though the adjustability could be better.
  • It’s not superb in terms of kneeroom. It’s not superb in terms of kneeroom.

Sure, in this spec there’s a plastic steering wheel and more than a few hard materials, but it’s built for work and is fit for purpose.

The seats are comfortable enough, though the adjustability could be better - as a six-foot (182cm) tall adult, I struggle to get the right spot when it comes to the seat and steering wheel, because the wheel doesn’t offer reach adjustment, only tilt/rake. 

Behind my own driving position there’s enough space for someone my size, though it’s not superb in terms of kneeroom. There are rear vents, though, which is terrific for back seaters, and unmatched by plenty of other utes out there.

I didn’t fit a child seat but I know from previous tests that the straps at the top can be annoying, though now there are ISOFIX child seat anchor points in the outboard seats, too. If you don’t have rear occupants, you can fold the seat base up for extra secure dry storage.

When it comes to other storage, there are bottle holders in all four doors, but the rear doesn't have any cup holders or map pockets. The front cabin has a pair of cup holders between the seats and a pair on the outer edges of the dashboard.

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

The Navara RX dual cab auto, as we had, has a list price of $41,350 plus on-road costs. There are other RX versions, including a single cab chassis and a ‘king cab’ (extra cab / space cab) chassis model, and you can get a manual version of the double cab for $2500 less ($38,850). 

That price puts it up against some formidable crew cab competitors - a Mitsubishi Triton GLX+ comes very well kitted for close to this cash, as does a Holden Colorado LS and Isuzu D-Max SX. And then there’s the likes of the LDV T60, SsangYong Musso and the budget-minded Great Wall Steed.

You get a stereo system with CD and AM/FM radio. You get a stereo system with CD and AM/FM radio.

Standard for the Navara RX double cab is a list of equipment that includes air conditioning, electric windows - including the rear window - cruise control, cloth trim, vinyl floors, auto headlights and fog-lights. You even get tinted rear windows.

You get a stereo system with CD and AM/FM radio, plus Bluetooth phone and audio streaming and USB / auxiliary inputs. There is no touch screen, so you can forget about sat nav or GPS. But unlike some other affordable dual cabs, you get a six-speaker stereo system… not that the sound is great.

Read the safety section below to see what it has - or perhaps more importantly in today’s terms, what it’s missing out on - because there are some shortcomings here.

Engine and transmission - What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

The Nissan Navara range has two engines available - both of them are 2.3-litre four-cylinder diesels, but this one is the lower-output version, a single-turbo motor with 120kW of power (at 3750rpm) and 403Nm of torque (at 1500-2500rpm).

The Nissan Navara range has two engines available - both of them are 2.3-litre four-cylinder diesels. The Nissan Navara range has two engines available - both of them are 2.3-litre four-cylinder diesels.

The upper grade versions get a twin-turbo engine, with 140kW/450Nm. It’s a good engine, for sure - but the ‘lesser’ Navara powertrain isn’t too bad at all.

There’s the choice of a six-speed manual if you prefer, but ours was the seven-speed automatic. And being a 4WD, there is a 4x4 shift on the fly system with 2H, 4H and 4L (low range transfer case). 

Towing capacity is rated at 750kg for un-braked trailers and 3500kg for braked trailers. That’s as good as you’ll get in the segment.

Fuel consumption - How much fuel does it consume?

The official combined cycle fuel consumption claim for the RX dual-cab-chassis auto ute is just 7.1 litres per 100 kilometres, which pegs it as one of the best in the segment.

During our 370km of testing - which consisted of about half of that with more than 500kg in the tray and four adults on board - the dashboard readout was displaying 8.9L/100km. Our at the pump measurement was 9.4L/100km. That’s pretty good, in my book.

Fuel tank capacity is 80 litres.

What's it like as a daily driver?

I liked it more with a load in the tub, that’s for sure. And so did my rear-seat occupants. I’ll get to that in the next section.

Up front, if you’re on your own, the daily driver experience is decent. Up front, if you’re on your own, the daily driver experience is decent.

Without weight in the tray the Navara RX is bit twitchy, as the rear suspension is designed to deal with weight over the back axle. It isn’t fierce like an unladen HiLux, but it won’t win any comfort contests, either, especially for those in the back.

Up front, if you’re on your own (or simply don’t really care about your passengers that much), the daily driver experience is decent. The engine feels punchy enough in all situations, albeit noisy at start-up and when cold, and the transmission is smooth shifting and quick thinking for the most part.

Without weight in the tray the Navara RX is bit twitchy. Without weight in the tray the Navara RX is bit twitchy.

My biggest annoyance - loaded or not - was when it came to parking. The steering is very slow and can be heavy at times, making simple moves a little more difficult than it would have been in a different ute. And the fact this grade has no parking sensors and no reversing camera could be a concern not only to the car or wall behind you, but possibly to pedestrians or children in driveways.

What’s it like for tradie use?

I’m no tradie, but I had a good test to see how the Navara RX coped with some weight in the tray.

The seven-speed automatic was hard to fault on test, with or without weight. The seven-speed automatic was hard to fault on test, with or without weight.

I loaded the tray up with more than 500 kilograms of backyard refuse - bamboo shoots and roots, plus some soil and rocks - and took the lot with me for a big old drive up the Blue Mountains, for the sake of science. 

I did the initial part of the trip with just myself and my partner, but on our return (and while up in the hills) I had an additional two passengers and luggage with me. All told, I was close to the payload maximum of this spec of Navara, which is 1127kg. At the tip weigh in, the gross mass was measured at 2780kg, just 130kg short of the maximum permissible GVM.

With that amount of weight on board, the Navara coped very well with the demands of a highway drive. The way it handled itself over bumps and smaller road lumps was quite impressive, and while it doesn’t have excessive torque, it coped fine with ascents and overtaking moves.

The seven-speed automatic was hard to fault on test, with or without weight.

On this trip there was no need to engage 4WD. On this trip there was no need to engage 4WD.

While the mud at the garbage dump was thick and, well, gross, there was no need to engage 4WD - so therefore, this won’t include an off road review. But for those who are interested, here are its off road specs: ground clearance mm - 219; approach angle degrees - 32.5; departure angle degrees - 26.3; ramp-over/break-over angle degrees - 22.8.

Safety - What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

This section is where the Navara RX falls a long way short of its contemporaries. Admittedly it has a five-star ANCAP crash test rating from 2015, but that is essentially out of date by today’s standards, and certainly wouldn’t apply to this grade of Navara under today’s strict criteria.

There’s no auto emergency braking (AEB) or forward collision warning, and nor is there lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert or even a reversing camera or parking sensors. It’s so far short of the class leaders, it’s disappointing. For instance, you can get a SsangYong Musso with ALL of that gear for very similar money.

It does have seven airbags (dual front, front side, full-length curtain and driver’s knee), which is better than some in the class. Plus the stability control (ESC/VDC) system is well calibrated, though you can’t get hill descent control or hill start assist unless you opt for the flagship ST-X. 

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

The Navara range has five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty for all private owners, while commercial operators will only be eligible for five years/200,000km. There’s roadside assist for the duration, which is a nice touch.

Service intervals are every 12 months/20,000km - generous compared to the likes of the HiLux, which persists with six-month/10,000km service gaps. But the service costs are very high for the segment, with an average annual cost of $629. Ouch.

The Nissan Navara RX cab chassis 4x4 is a good work ute, and certainly more work-ready than the softer-set versions higher up the range. 

But as the competition continues to heat up in the dual cab segment, and as safety levels continually rise among the more affordable models in the mix, we would hope the company will seek to improve the safety and tech levels in its entry-grade models in order to keep up.

Do you think the Navara stacks up as a work ute? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

$40,990

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

3/5

Tradies score

4/5
Price Guide

$40,990

Based on new car retail price