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Nissan Navara

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Although the Nissan Navara has waned in popularity since the original was launched more than a decade ago, it would be a grave error to judge the wholly revamped Navara by its predecessor’s sales results. 

Once the pioneer in the luxury double cab bakkie segment, the previous incarnation of the Nissan Navara has had an unfortunate (and undeserved) run of bad luck in the sales department in recent years. No less competent, reliable, or sophisticated than any of its main competitors, the Navara just couldn’t muster the kind of numbers generated by Hilux, Ranger, or Isuzu’s ageing D-Max.

Yet, the story doesn’t end there for Navara. On the contrary, what has helped others gain sales momentum has always been the availability of single cab and utility versions, an option unavailable to Navara buyers, who had to settle for the unsafe NP300 if they wanted a workhorse.

NOW BUILT SA TOUGH

As a full import, the previous Navara couldn’t quite compete with its peers in terms of price. Added to that, the soft-riding yet ultimately not heavy-duty-enough rear suspension set-up didn’t muster the kind of enthusiasm required to lead the Navara back to the top of the pile, where I sincerely believe it belongs. Yet, in 2019, Nissan announced that the next Navara would be built at Nissan’s Rosslyn assembly plant, ensuring that, going forward,  the bakkie couldbetter compete with market leaders in terms of price, and be fine-tuned locally for local conditions and tastes. Not insignificantly, the Navara could now also be offered in single cab and workhorse derivatives.

BACK IN THE BLACK

Let’s face facts: a powerful motivator for buyers browsing the bakkie segment nowadays, is how much it will enhance their street cred. South African’s have become accustomed to ever more aggressive-looking pick-ups, and frankly, the Navara never danced to this fickle tune. Yet, in the latest incarnation, the Navara is an absolute beauty, especially at the very top end of the range.

A new, bold chrome grille and bumper design for the PRO-4X grade (dubbed V-Motion), with uber-attractive quad-LED headlights, are an absolute game changer for the Navara in the looks department. The concave bonnet design makes way for a more convex clamshell lid, as new wheel designs and a deepened load box extend the upgrades to the vehicle’s rear.

The design has remained essentially unchanged inside the cabin, although the steering wheel has been restyled and seats have been redesigned for improved comfort. Nissan has paid much attention to sound attenuation, leading to significantly reduced engine and wind noise within the cabin.

Although not available on all models, Navara drivers need never get lost again, courtesy of the new  navigation app, Navi, and up to four USB ports to charge mobile devices. Significantly, two devices can be connected to the infotainment system’s Bluetooth at once.

Climate control with additional rear vents is included for double cab models, while these also boast heated side mirrors and rain sensors.

UNDER THE SKIN

The soft rear suspension from the previous-gen car has been made significantly stiffer for better loadbearing, without losing the compliant ride when the load bay is empty. This feat is achieved by combining rock-hard leaf springs and a solid drive shaft at the rear, with coil springs and a somewhat forgiving multilink system. 

It begs a mention that Nissan has revamped an old favourite engine for use in the new Navara. Although more frugal, the 2.3-litre turbodiesel powerplant previously used in Navara was quite picky about using only super-clean diesel fuel, which is often unavailable in rural South Africa. By switching back to the (now upgraded) 2.5-litre turbodiesel mill used before, the Navara offers 140 kW and 450 Nm of torque. 

The Nissan Navara offers a unique seven-speed automatic and four-wheel drive with differential lock for easy off-road driving. A new low gear ratio improves acceleration response, ease of driving, and ease of starting uphill for manual transmission models. The 6-gear manual transmission offers ergonomic shift operation with smoother and more precise gear selection and comfortable reverse gear engagement. When four-wheel drive mode is engaged, traction is distributed evenly to all four wheels, and tyre slip is avoided in severe conditions.

It is worth mentioning that all but the entry-level petrol model (118 kW and 233 Nm) is now tow-rated to 3.5 tonnes (braked) and 750 kg unbraked.

LAST WORD

If pressed for a one-line summary of the new Navara, I’d say that it has to be experienced for yourself. From the bold new exterior, through to the sound system, it is fantastic. The Navara certainly has both the Hilux and the Ford Ranger in its sights at its new price point.

Report by BERNIE HELLBERG JR | Images © NISSAN SOUTH AFRICA

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