THE ute market, and in particular the 4×4 dual cab part of it, sells up a storm in Australia, and that demand means every mainstream car manufacturer wants in on the potential for lucrative profits. So is the series three Navara going to cut the mustard?
You might be wondering why we’re running a 2018 Nissan Navara ST-X review in 2019 as well. Okay, maybe you weren’t but here’s why. The 2018 Navara ST-X is the 2019 Navara ST-X; there’s been no update, and the model will carry over into 2019.
You won’t spot the changes to the 2018 Nissan Navara, which was launched back in February last year, immediately either. Externally, the updated version is barely different to the version that came before it, except for a slightly higher rear ride height.
As one of the only utes to adopt a five-link coil sprung setup in the back the Navara has, in previous variants, been good at driving like a car but drooped to a poor ride with a decent load.
New dual rate springs have helped fix that and what Nissan calls dynamic rebound dampers have minimised movement as the Navara’s 932kg payload capacity is reached. There are further tweaks under the skin too, including steering fixes, while the overall towing capacity remains unchanged at 3,500kg.
The ST-X we’re testing comes with a rear tray lip spoiler, leather interior and side steps to add further pizzazz to a long list of standard inclusions, like 18-inch alloys, automatic LED headlights, key-less entry and push button start.
There’s also a 7-inch infotainment system, reversing and 360 degree camera view, dual zone climate control, electric sliding rear window and three 12 volt outlets in the cabin.
Hopping into the Navara is easy too thanks to grab handles and a wide side step that doesn’t turn slippery with a bit of rain on it. Inside, the driver’s seat is high but has a reasonable range of adjustment and is surrounded by a good view with plenty of glass.
There’s no reach adjustment on the steering wheel though, only tilt, which means plenty of sliding the seat backwards to find the best spot, and good grip. The overall design isn’t leading edge either, but it’s lost a fair bit of the usual tradie spec feel of older generations.
The infotainment system could well be its biggest drawback as well, as it feels really dated and lacks the crisp resolution of new systems. It also lacks Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and decent mapping seems to be missing too.
It gets worse though, as the Bluetooth and USB connection on a mobile won’t work simultaneously. It means that while you can stream music over Bluetooth, you’ll need to charge via a 12-volt plug adapter rather than the USB port.
Access to the 4×4 modes is via dial and there’s plenty of easy to use buttons for things like dual zone climate control to complete the dash and console experience. There’s plenty of room throughout the cabin too, in fact, it’s pretty impressive.
There’s storage opportunities all over the place too, including storage on top of the dash, in the centre console and a deep glove box. Each door pocket will also swallow a decent water bottle with ease, and there are slide out cup holders for driver and passenger.
The rear seat offers a good amount of space too, so knee room is better than most, and head space is good enough for a couple of six foot tall basketball players. For fledgling families the rear seat is also ISOFIX compatible.
Under the hood, Nissan has put one of the smallest engines in the commercial ute class, a 2.3-litre, but thanks to twin turbos it churns out a competitive 140kW and 450Nm. The numbers don’t actually stack up too badly.
For example, the Holden Colorado and Toyota Hilux both run 2.8-litre power plants, with the former punching out 147kW/500Nm while the latter offers 130kW/450Nm. The 3.2-litre Ford Ranger and Mazda BT-50 both offer 147kW/470Nm.
The Nissan Navara ST-X claims a slim 7.0-litres/100km in fuel consumption, but the best we could land was a 9.8-litres/100km. Our driving cycle was a mix of off road testing and a bit of peak hour traffic, but made up mostly of highway and rural running.
The twin turbo engine manages to feel linear and quite rev happy (for a diesel) in day to day punting, but Nissan is a little off the pace when it comes to noise and vibration isolation.
There’s plenty of rattle at idle and a stack of vibration. It’s a little reminder that the ST-X is still a commercial vehicle. Take it off road though and the Navara offers some positives, depending on surfaces.
With highly competitive approach, departure and ramp over angles, the Navara performed effortlessly over our heavily rutted test course, but corrugations were not the Nissan ute’s best friend.
At anything loosely called speed, and particularly when unladen, it turned jittery. It felt a fraction too firm on the road at times, and on the rough stuff, that same feeling returned to influence our driving experience.
The new suspension package is a vast improvement over what came before it though, and while there also isn’t quite the rebound compliance to take large dips and humps at much beyond walking pace, it scrambled over anything without fuss and never bottomed out.
The simple four wheel drive hardware includes 2H, 4H and 4L, the middle of which isn’t recommended to be used at anything over 100km/h (dirt-road cruising, for example), but it can be flicked from two to four wheel drive on the fly at up to that speed.
With seven gears, we didn’t find 4L overly necessary despite the odd sharp climb, though it was enough to cause one rear wheel to be fully compressed and the other high in the sky, so the rear diff lock button definitely proved its use.
Overall though, the Navara still hasn’t distanced itself too far from its crossover work-and-play position. It’s still suitable for those without a need for a rough-and-tumble workhorse, while extending its appeal to buyers in the light-to-mid duty market.
The 2018 Nissan Navara ST-X is priced from $54,490 plus on-roads, and is available in Cosmic Black, Hornet Gold, Brilliant Silver, Burning Red, Deep Sapphire, Slate Grey and White Diamond (as tested).
Our test vehicle was supplied by Nissan Australia. To find out more about the 2018 Nissan Navara ST-X, contact your local Nissan dealer.