The new Nissan Navara is upon us, and Damien O-Carroll has a pre-launch look at it.
The Nissan Navara has long been a mainstay of the ute segment here in New Zealand, with the last model in particular proving itself to be a strong seller and solid performer, even as it aged, particularly when compared to its younger competitors.
But now a new model is about to go on sale in New Zealand and is set to take the fight right back up to the likes of the Ford Ranger, the recently released Mitsubishi Triton, and the soon-to-be-released all-new Toyota Hilux.
The new Navara now joins the majority of other utes on sale in New Zealand by being built in Thailand, where the previous vehicle was built in Spain.
Going against the arena in the ute segment (and, indeed, the entire car industry) the new NP300 Navara hasn’t actually grown very much over the last model, even shrinking a bit in one area; engineers reduced the wheelbase slightly (by 50mm) to improve the handling and turning circle.
Despite this wheelbase reduction, overall length is up by 30mm (for the double cab), while width is the same and the height actually drops by 10mm or raises by 5mm depending on the model. Overall this makes the new Navara only slightly smaller than a Ford Ranger, meaning it is still a large vehicle.
The new Navara will be offered in New Zealand across four grades – DX, RX, ST and ST-X – with a total of 14 different models available. The model range comes from a combination of drivetrains (4WD or RWD), tray options (wellside or cab/chassis), cab options (single cab, king cab and double cab), transmissions (six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic) and engines (two diesel options and one petrol).
Under its newly-sculpted bonnet, the Navara packs an all-new Renault-developed 2.3-litre inline four-cylinder diesel engine that produces 140kW of power and 450Nm of torque in top-spec twin-turbo guise.
The 2.3 does duty across the entire Navara range, with two power outputs available – the previously mentioned 140kW/450Nm version and a lower-powered 118kW/403Nm version. Also available will be a 122kW/238Nm 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine.
All three engines will be available with a choice of a six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic transmission.
Underneath the Navara’s sleek new body sits a heavily revised version of the previous utes chassis (with the aforementioned 50mm taken out of its length), but whereas previously the Navara sat on an expected-for-the-segment leaf spring suspension setup at the rear, the new model introduces five-link coil-spring suspension to the rear.
While the traditional leaf spring set up will still be available on cab/chassis models, all dual cab wellside models will come with the multi-link set up, with Nissan claiming the same axle articulation and load-bearing capacity for both suspension styles.
On the road these big changes have led to a ute that is relaxed and remarkably comfortable. The new suspension gives the Navara a far more confident feel to its handling, especially without a load in the tray, while the ride is impressive.
Off-road the Navara is equally impressive, with the new suspension again proving to be a massive advantage in off-road comfort. Nissan claims approach and departure angles of 31 and 25.6 degrees respectively for the Navara, and the torquey engine and seven-speed auto coped particularly well in off road situations.
Back on the road the engine and auto transmission work equally well together, while the six-speed manual we drove later was a simply massive improvement over the current manual, which always felt like you were stirring a bucket of sand with a pool noodle.
Inside, the new Navara boasts a new interior, with far higher quality materials than previous models. The top-spec ST-X gains remote keyless entry and push button start, while the ST-X and mid-grade ST model also get the NissanConnect infotainment system. The RX, ST and ST-X king and double cab models also gain a rear power sliding window.
Double cab wellside models of the new Navara are on sale now, while the king and single cab models go on sale in the third quarter of this year.