BUYERS GUIDE - UTES & CAB CHASSIS MEDIUM
The NP300 Navara was released in June 2015, with much needed improvements in power and torque. The Series 2 models were announced in November 2016 and upgraded again in March 2017. Upgraded rear springs and dampers were released in early 2019, the warranty was increased in March 2019 and an N-TREK version was released in August 2019.
The 12th-generation Navara was released in Thailand in June 2014 and in Australia in May 2015. The NP300 Nissan Navara range included Short, King and Double Cab models.
The Navara retained Nissan’s signature grille and headlight shape in a styling effort that incorporated a high beltline and blacked B-pillar. Daytime LED running lights were standard equipment.
The new chassis retained coil-front suspension, with leaf rear springs on load-priority models and coil rear springs on higher-spec’ dual-cab models.
VDC (Vehicle Dynamic Control) helped improve 4WD driving performance and safety, along with ABLS (Active Brake Limited Slip), HSA (Hill Start Assist) and HDC (Hill Descent Control).
The Australian-market NP300 Navara 4WD was offered at launch in three grades; RX, ST and ST-X, with single-turbo and twin-turbo diesel engines, and six-speed manual and seven-speed automatic transmissions.
Key features included: twin-turbo diesel YS23DDTT engine with 140kW and 450Nm, in ST and ST-X levels; single-turbo 120kW and 403Nm version in RX; five-link coil-spring rear suspension in dual cab pick-up variants; seven airbags including driver knee airbag; rear power sliding window in RX, ST and ST-X king-cab and dual-cab models; LED headlamps in ST and ST-X models; Nissan Intelligent Key with remote keyless entry and push button engine start in ST-X; and NissanConnect in ST and ST-X levels.
Maximum braked towing capacity was 3500 kilograms on all diesel variants. Maximum payload ranged between 880kg and 1112kg, depending on the variant specification.
Dual cab pick-up models went on sale in early June 2015, with prices ranging from $39,990 to $58,873.
Single cab (cab chassis), king cab (pick-up utility and cab chassis) and dual cab (cab chassis) grades were on-sale from the third quarter of 2015 calendar year.
The NP300 Navara reportedly endured more than 40,000 quality tests and 1,000,000 kilometres driven in real-world conditions, including in rural and metropolitan Australia.
The NP300 Navara had a fully boxed ladder frame with high-tensile strength steel in strategic areas.
Active Brake Limited Slip (ABLS) optimised the driving force of each wheel in slippery conditions.
Hill Start Assist in Navara ST-X 4×4 models prevented the Navara from rolling backwards for a period of two seconds, after the brake was released when on a slope greater than 10 degrees. This allowed for a smooth change from brake pedal to accelerator pedal.
Hill Descent Control was also fitted to Navara ST-X 4×4 models.
The minimum turning circle (kerb to kerb) of the NP300 Navara was improved in comparison to its predecessor: 11.8 metres for DX and RX and 12.4 metres for ST and ST-X (previously 12.5 – 13.4 metres on D40).
All dual cab pickup grades featured ventilated disc front brakes and rear drum brakes.
Wheels were 18-inch aluminium on ST-X grades, 16-inch aluminium on ST and 16-inch steel on RX.
The Utili-Track system was fitted to ST-X grade, allowing for load securing options. This innovative cargo restraint system included two channels and four heavy-duty forged aluminium cleats that locked anywhere along each channel.
The ST-X also had a protective tub liner, alloy sports bar, roof rails and heated door mirrors with power adjustment and folding, and integrated LED indicator lights.
In the range-topping ST-X grade, the centrepiece of the cabin was a seven-inch integrated colour display with touch screen, including Satellite Navigation with 3D mapping. The ST grade featured a five-inch colour display. and a four-inch screen was fitted to RX grades.
Heated, leather-trimmeded seats were included in the NP300 Navara ST-X grade and the driver’s seat was eight-way power adjustable.
Dual zone climate control and a sunroof with electric one-touch power tilt and slide were standard on the ST-X grade, along with Intelligent Key with remote keyless entry, illuminated push button engine start and rear interior lights.
A rear power-sliding glass window operated by a switch on the dashboard featured on RX, ST and ST-X grades, allowing for easy access into the tub and increased ventilation.
The centre console offered concealed storage and also housed rear air vents for second row passengers. Large storage pockets were located in the driver and passenger doors. Other storage spaces included the glove box, overhead sunglasses holder and flip up rear seats with storage area concealed underneath.
There were four front-row and two rear-row cup holders, and two bottle holders for both front and rear rows. Storage trays were positioned on top of the dashboard and in the centre console.
All dual-cab models had three interior 12-volt power sockets and a fourth, weatherproof 12-volt power socket was in the rear tub on RX, ST and ST-X pickups.
All dual-cabs had a USB and auxiliary port in the centre console.
Automatic on/off headlights with twilight detection were standard on dual cab pickups.
New generation Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) with Brake Limited Slip Differential (BLSD) improves dynamic performance and safety. Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brakeforce Control (EBD), Traction Control System and Brake Assist (BA) also appeared on all dual-cabs.
In ST and ST-X grades, Advanced Drive Assist Display (ADAD) provided multiple screen options in the centre of the dashboard, between the tachometer and speedometer dials. ADAD display options included fuel economy, distance to empty, audio information and navigation directions.
Bluetooth Phone and Audio Streaming were included on all grades.
All five seats had three-point Emergency Locking Retractor seatbelts, while front seatbelts also included load limiters and pre-tensioners, height adjustment and audible warnings (second row had seatbelt alerts).
Rear View Camera was standard on ST and ST-X grades, with reversing sensors also included on ST-X.
Series 2 Navara
Announced in November 2016, but not available until 2017, the Navara Series 2 range included the addition of a new ‘SL’ grade, with coil-spring rear suspension, aimed
at tradesmen and fleet customers.
Available with the twin-turbo engine and a choice of six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic transmission, the Navara SL rode on 16 x 7 inch steel wheels and 255/70R16 tyres and featured a durable vinyl floor interior.
The SL also came with a rear-view camera and LED headlamps and daytime running lights.
All coil-rear-spring Series 2 Navaras received suspension tuning, with revised front and rear shock absorber valving, for improved ride and handling, and
lateral stability, especially when carrying a load or towing.
Other specification changes for the Navara Series 2 range included deletion of the rear fold-out cup holders in dual-cab model variants; Dual Cab RX Cab Chassis available with automatic or manual transmission and vinyl flooring replaced carpet; ST-X sunroof optional, not standard equipment and satellite navigation standard equipment on Dual Cab ST models.
The Navara comes with a myNissan Service Certainty schedule, three year/100,000 kilometre warranty (extended warranty optional) and three-year roadside assist program.
In February 2018 suspension updates for Australian conditions by Nissan Pickup engineers were incorporated in Dual Cab SL, ST and ST-X variants. This was Nissan’s third attempt since 2015 to get the rear coils working properly.
This dual-rate rear spring system employs variable-rate rear coils, aimed at providing a comfortable ride in unladen and light payload conditions, with higher payload capacity.
Since we couldn’t get hold of a 2018 Navara to test we crawled under a 2017 and a 2018 model at a dealership to check out the differences. The 2017 coils were variable rate, with tighter windings at the top of the spring (left) and the 2018 coils had even more windings and additional shrouding, to reduce noise when the coils compressed onto each other (right).
There was also some form of dynamic dampening, but whoever wrote the press release material didn’t have a clue how it works, so we’re none the wiser.
Also, the steering ratio was reduced and the number of turns of the steering wheel from lock to lock reduced from 4.1 to 3.4.
In further changes, the 2018 Nissan Navara also featured a 360-degree Around View® Monitor on ST-X grades), second row ISOFix child seat mounting points
on all Dual Cabs and the expanded availability of Rear View Cameras on all Pickup variants and satellite navigation added to King Cab ST.
From June 2018 production, RX, SL and ST Pickup grades scored lower tie down hook positions and ST-X grade with Utili-track got four additional tie down hooks located lower within the tub.
The warranty was extended to five years in March 2019.
The Navara N-TREK special edition
model was released in August 2019 and was based on the Dual Cab 4X4 ST-X.
Available with manual or automatic transmission, it sported the following black-finish exterior features: 18-inch aluminium wheels; fender flares; sportsbar; lower body side decals; LED headlamp bezel; side steps with orange accent line; lower front fascia with orange accent line; rear vision mirror caps with orange accent line; rear bumper; grille; front fog lamp surround; roof rails; door handles and N-TREK tailgate badge.
The interior featured: leather faced seats, with orange fabric seat inserts; orange accent stitching on seats, centre console, front door armrests and
steering wheel; power adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar adjustment and heated front seats.
The N-TREK also scored the Alliance In-Vehicle Infotainment (AIVI) system featuring the larger 200mm colour touchscreen with a redesigned user interface and menu, and included Apple CarPlay and Android Auto device mirroring via USB cable.
Priced from $56,450 (MSRP) for the six-speed manual and $58,950 (MSRP) for the auto alternative, Nissan Navara N-TREK came in black, grey and white paint.
A suspension-optimised Warrior version of the N-TREK was launched in late-2019, with Monroe/Rancho shock absorbers and matching springs.
On and off road
Nissan put on a release drive event
for the 2017 coil-rear-spring models, with a selection of empty, part-loaded and towing vehicles, hauling T Van camper trailers.
We’d love to tell you how the 2018 suspension changes worked, but Nissan didn’t invite us to the launch and we were put on hold for road test vehicle.
(However, we did manage to drive the N-TREK in late 2019 and found that suspension damping was still very much wanting. The Warrior model should definitely improve on that.)
The 2017 drive involved freeway, secondary roads, hilly back roads and some off-road tracks.
Our main interest was in the revised suspension, because the remainder of the 2017 specification was largely unchanged from the vehicle we tested in 2015.
We’re pleased to report that the revised damper settings have firmed up the ride, but we still reckon buyers who intend to tow trailers with heavy ball weights invest in after-market rear springs and dampers, or settle on an RX Navara, with leaf rear springs.
Towing economy was pleasing, averaging 12.4L/100km in the auto transmission Navara, with a 1.2-tonne camper bobbing along behind.
On and off road in the 2015 model
Our test vehicle was a 2015 top-shelf ST-X model that wouldn’t leave much change out of 60 grand. On the plus side of the price equation was a spec’ level that many wagons can’t match, as well as coil-rear-spring ride quality.
We’d heard some early reports that the coil rear end didn’t like a load, but we filled the tub with wet garden mulch, to the tune of 350kg, by which time the surplus load was falling over the sides.
The rear bodywork dropped, but no more than similarly loaded leaf-sprung utes have done. The vehicle didn’t appear strained and handling was acceptable.
However, when we added our boat trailer, with a ball weight of 180kg, it sent the rear springs into serious compression, so we didn’t pursue a tow test. We wouldn’t recommend the coil-rear-spring Navara models for heavy towing work. Choose leaf springs instead.
The ST-X seemed to sit on softer dampers than the base model and even without a load it could be bottomed easily. Putting more than half a tonne in the tub softened the ride, but didn’t increase the tendency to bottom out on sharp bumps.
Owners who want to fit a canopy with a roof tent and heavy camping kit in the tray might want stiffer rear springs as well as better dampers, but for occasional loading the standard rear coils should be OK.
Brake pedal pressure for the disc-drum setup needed to be noticeably higher when we loaded up the vehicle.
Performance from the twin-turbo diesel four wasn’t an issue and the six-speed auto shifted flawlessly. We ran the test vehicle for 2000+km, on and off road and averaged 8.7l/100km.
Ground clearance on Navaras has always been compromised by the desire to reduce centre of gravity height, for improved on-road handling and the ST-X could have done with 50mm more air under its belly.
Minor ground scraping apart, the Navara proved to be very capable on our rocky test track, climbing with very little wheelspin, thanks to traction control and a rear diff lock.
Opting for the 16-inch wheel package from the ST and fitting taller-profile LT tyres would help increase ground clearance.
Those who take the ST-X off-road regularly will leave the unnecessary plastic side steps in the garage.
Off road gearing was deep enough to let the engine idle its way over most obstacles and hill descent control kept downhill speed to walking pace.
A combination of high body waistline and upwardly swept front mudguards meant that the vast bonnet intruded on forward vision when the vehicle was climbing steep grades, leaving the driver ‘flying blind’ at the top.
It’s a shame that vehicle stylists don’t drive off road.
Ergonomics in the ST-X were very good and the seats had better seat-back support than the non-powered items in the ST we tried briefly. We had an issue with the headrests being too close to the back of our heads in the ST, but the differently-padded ST-X seats worked fine.
Noise levels inside the cabin were car-like and the sound system was high quality.
Ventilation was a tad quirky, with what felt like a fuel-economy-parameter intruding on aircon efficiency at times. On two occasions we drove through misty gullies and had the screen and side windows suddenly fog up. The cure was a stab at the defrost button, to increase the amount of air drying.
When it came to ‘fruit’ the Navara ST-X had a tilting sunroof and a navigation system that had good bush mapping, plus a map-zoom feature with simple dial control that we haven’t found in any other 4WD.
All NP300 crew cabs have a powered sliding ‘port’ in the back window. In Thailand that’s how you communicate with family members sitting in the tub, but for this market it could be useful for ventilating the cargo area when there’s a canopy in place.
Introducing a coil-rear-sprung ute is a bold move by Nissan, but it just might work. Most crew-cab buyers don’t need more than around 250kg load capacity in the cargo area and there’s no doubt about the improved ride quality of a coil rear over leaves.
Renault, Nissan’s owner, developed a thinly disguised Navara ute and Mercedes-Benz has introduced a Navara-based ute: the ‘Benz X-Class.
For 2012 Nissan revised the Navara model range, with equipment upgrades and increased value for money.
New to the range was the ST-X Dual Cab with 3.0-litre V6 550Nm/170kW turbo-diesel and seven-speed automatic transmission, priced from $56,990 RRP.
The 2012 Navara ST-X 550 was equipped with leather trim, satellite-navigation, Bose audio and reversing camera. RRP was cut $2000 to $62,990.
The Navara D40 ST Dual Cab was upgraded with 17-inch aluminium wheels, five-channel Utili Track load restraint system and six airbags.
V6-engined models and the D40 ST Dual Cab had a tow rating of 3000kg. All 2012 D40 four and six cylinder diesel Navara models are equipped with Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) and three-point seat belts for all passengers.
The D40 Dual Cab 4X4 Navara received an ANCAP four-star rating.
Nissan designed the Navara with a great deal of commonality with the Pathfinder wagon and some models had some Pathie features, including traction control and stability control.
The Navara retained a 2.5-litre diesel four, but had more power and torque, lower emissions and improved fuel economy. Producing 140kW of power (up from 126kW) and 450Nm of torque (up from 403Nm), the improved engine had a new direct injection system, which operated at 2000 bar, up from 1800 bar. This increase in pressure meant the fuel spray was finer, resulting in more efficient combustion, according to Nissan.
A new cylinder head with parallel ports smoothed the intake and exhaust flow, fed by a new variable nozzle turbo (VNT) with electric control replacing the previous hydraulic system.
Emissions were claimed to be reduced by the fitment of a bypass valve in the exhaust gas recycling cooling system allowing the EGR system to warm up more quickly from a cold start. CO2 emissions were cut substantially by 40g/km to 224g/km.
Nissan claimed the six-speed manual version used just 8.5-litres of diesel per 100km, over the combined fuel cycle test; 13 percent less than before.
The five-speed automatic ST-X Dual Cab used 9.0 L100km, compared with the previous 10.5L/100km.
The 198kW V6 4.0-litre petrol engine currently offered in the ST-X continued unchanged.
Active safety was improved greatly by the addition of Nissan’s Electronic Stability Program as standard on ST-X diesel models.
The ST-X Dual Cab had slightly reprofiled front end styling that extended overall length by 80mm and new six-spoke 17-inch aluminium wheels were fitted.
Inside the cabin of the Series 4 Navara ST-X were new switchgear, revised door trims, new seat fabric and the addition of chrome highlights and revised dials. Switchgear changes included a new, easier to use, all-wheel drive command control switch while the steering wheel controls for the phone and audio were illuminated.
On and Off Road
The 2012 Navara positive features included a useful tray size, three-tonnes towing capacity, great forward and rearward visibility, a slick six-speed manual transmission, a dial-up 4WD mode selector, the lowest overall low-range gearing in the medium-ute market, a split-fold rear seat with three lap/sash belts, wide-opening doors for easy access, power everything, cruise control and an inbuilt tie-down system.
On road it had excellent balance, sparkling performance and stable ABS braking.
However, there was a black-smoke-exhaust issue with Navaras and Pathfinders that has landed many owners in court. Nissan stubbornly denied there was an issue, but we had complaints from owners to the contrary.
Off road the standard Navara was best restricted to locations that didn’t demand maximum ground clearance – like most new ute releases.
Ute makers seem to be trading ground clearance for on-road stability and in this pursuit ground clearance is the loser. For example, the latest HiLuxes and Navaras scrape their underpinnings in places where their predecessors ventured unscathed.
Nissan Navara ST-X 550
If you had a spare 61 grand you could have joined the queue for a Navara ST-X 550. This top-shelf ute was powered by a Renault V9X, single turbo, three-litre that produced a class-leading 170kW power at 3750rpm, with a claimed 550 Nm torque from a low 1750 rpm. Peak torque was available all the way to 2500rpm and 500Nm was said to be available from 1500 rpm.
In addition to this impressive engine the ST-X 550 scored a seven-speed automatic transmission, along with ABS/EBD disc/drum electronic stability control and braking, and an active limited-slip rear differential.
Standard equipment included Nissan’s Utili-Track load securing system, a tub liner, satin black sports bar with LED brake light, a hard tonneau cover linked to the remote central locking system, bonnet protector, front fog lights, headlamp washers, privacy glass, roof rails and V6 badging.
The badging was the only giveaway to the range-topping Navara’s under-bonnet secret, until you stomped on the loud pedal, when hell broke loose. Handling was typical Navara – among the best in the ute market – but with that much grunt on tap it was easy to get out of shape.
On loose and slippery surfaces youl needed some judicious use of the 4WD selection dial, but it was a part-time 4WD system, so couldn’t be used on high-friction surfaces.
The Navara ST-X 550 could tow three tonnes and when we checked it with only 1500kg behind we didn’t know the trailer was there.
Off road the low-speed torque meant most obstacles could be conquered at idle revs and sand driving was a blast. The only downside of the engine was an irritating ’lag’ between accelerator movement and engine response. The use of a big, single turbo involves compromise, we know, but we didn’t expect such an old-fashioned response time from a brand new engine design.
Navaras have part-time 4WD drivelines, with limited-slip rear differentials and only late models have stability and traction control. The traction aid problem can be fixed with a set of locking diffs – ideally front and rear, but at least in the rear axle. The alternative is a self-locker in the back end.
Ground clearance is another issue so an after-market suspension with a lift of around 50mm is called for.
Another glaring problem is touring range from the standard fuel tank, but after-market replacements are available up to around 150 litres.
The Navara needs additional rock protection underneath, in the form of steel or aluminium bash plates, but remember that the engine sump and the transmissions need cooling air flow, so use punched plates or mesh panels.
A snorkel is a must have. The Navara needs rear recovery points added and the easiest way to do that is by fitting a towbar.