ONCE the province of tradies and council inspectors, one tonne dual cab utes, like the tricked up 2020 Nissan Navara N-TREK Warrior, are morphing to fill multiple niches, be it as a family vehicle or alternative sports car, towing caravans or heading off road.
Based on the workhorse Navara, Nissan teamed up with local vehicle modification partner Premcar to come up with the sportier, more rugged offering, which includes a local suspension package, under body protection and a new integrated sports alloy bull bar.
There is also a Hella-sourced LED light bar, black sports bar behind the cabin, side steps, roof rails and a tub-liner to protect the tray. Along with that, there is an external visual package and interior styling that proclaim it as the N-TREK Warrior.
Apart from the suspension mods, under the bonnet the Warrior’s drive line remains pretty standard, with Nissan’s trusty and proven, 2.3-litre twin-turbo four-cylinder diesel, with either a six-speed manual or seven-speed auto bolted to the back of it
There is also a standard selectable 4×4 system with high and low-range, as well as an electronic locking rear diff.
Interior wise the N-TREK gets leather trim, heated front seats, with the driver’s seat featuring eight-way power adjustment, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, satellite navigation, cruise control and dual-zone climate control air con.
Climb behind the wheel and the Warrior delivers good and bad in almost equal measures. The diesel engine is not the worst in class, but is far from the best either. It’s just a bit rattly and agricultural by comparison to the better utes on the market.
Despite whacking out 140kW of power and 450Nm of torque, it lacks oomph from take-off, in our opinion. The numbers are on part with Toyota’s fairly ordinary 2.8-lite HiLux, and not far off the output of Ford’s new twin turbo two-litre Ranger power plant.
The Amarok’s four-cylinder blows them out of the water. In essence, for all the dress up and add-ons the Warrior has, the engine and drive line are a disappointment. As we say, it’s not bad, but it does nothing to enthuse the driver.
The 7-speed auto does not produce the sharp and almost imperceptible shifts of many latest gen transmissions either, which only adds up to a perception that the overall performance is a bit plodding.
That said, the suspension upgrades and overall handing package are quite good, with Premcar fitting larger diameter Monroe shocks, with re-tuned valving, new dual-rate springs, and front jounce bumpers.
New 275/70 Cooper AT3 all-terrain tyres on 17-inch Rosta alloy wheels have also been added. The combination ensures the N-TREK ute rides higher, with an added 40mm ground clearance, and a 30mm wider track.
A 300km round trip up into the forests of Oberon gave the Warrior’s upgraded suspension plenty of opportunity to shine and that is exactly what it did. Like the Ford Ranger Raptor, the suspension improvements have made a world of difference.
It didn’t matter if it was on smooth motorways, two lane country roads, ordinary country bitumen or gravel roads and forest tracks, the Warrior took things in its stride and coped very well, in fact much better than the standard Navara.
The big Cooper tyres, although very aggressive, were not overly noisy at cruise speed on tarmac either, while providing excellent grip on sealed roads and the gravel.
The longer-travel suspension ambled over the rough stuff, handling corrugations and bumps without judder or float, with the five-link coil rear-end putting power to the ground without drama.
Even unladen, the ride and handling worked well, which is not always the case with utes designed to cart loads.
Inside the Warrior, there are some limitations that show up with the Navara design, including the very flat and bench like front seats that feel like you are sitting on them not in them. They also lack height adjustment.
Combined with limited steering wheel reach, it makes it hard to get a really ideal driving position for all drivers. On a positive note, the Navara boasts excellent rear seat room and passengers also benefit from their own air con vents in the back.
The Navara’s normal 3500kg braked towing capacity remains unchanged too, but because the Warrior’s extra equipment has inflated the tare weight, the payload has dropped almost 200kg, down 724kg, which is a fair whack when all is said and done.
Across a wide range of operating conditions, we recorded an average fuel consumption of 9.3-litres/100km, and given we didn’t spare the Nissan we were pretty pleased with that result. Nissan claims 7.0-litres/100km average for the Warrior.
Some have derided the lack of new age safety tech in the Navara, such as autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise and blind-spot warning, all of which are available on the Toyota HiLux, Ford Ranger and Mitsubishi Triton.
We reckon that trend represents a dumbing down for drivers though, and is the signal to pay less attention, and have less focus on the driving task. In its favour, the 2020 Nissan Navara N-TREK Warrior does have a 360-degree camera.
It also has a 5-star ANCAP safety rating, seven airbags, hill descent control, hill start assist and stability/traction control. It’s well priced too, at $63,490 drive away for the manual and $65,990 for the auto.
Nissan’s 5-year unlimited kilometre factory warranty, along with a capped-price 12-month/20,000km servicing plan for the first six years of ownership, makes having your very own Warrior a pretty economical equation.
There is quite a bit to like about the 2020 Nissan Navara N-TREK Warrior, despite the pedestrian power train and some other small drawbacks.
For a tricked up ‘sports ute’ with a very good suspension package and strong visual highlights, that is priced competitively and has a strong warranty, fixed price servicing and equipment list, the Warrior will win fans.
Our test vehicle was supplied by Nissan Australia. To find out more about the 2020 Nissan Navara N-TREK Warrior, contact your local Nissan dealer.