2015 Nissan Navara Ute Review

The new Nissan Navara will go on sale at the end of May 2015. If you’re in the market for a ute, here’s what you need to know

This is a preliminary review of the new NP300 2015 Nissan Navara. (FYI: the NP stands for ‘Nissan Pickup’ - how creative.) The NP300 Nissan Navara replaces the ageing four-star safety-rated D40 Navara and also the antiquated three-star death-trap we call the D22 Navara.

This NP300 Navara is the first new Nissan Navara in a decade, and it’s about time. It's a great vehicle overall, too, but there are a few speed humps for the new Nissan to climb over.

Challenge #1 - The Recent Past

The biggest challenge for the new Navara is overcoming the stigma left in the wake of the D22 and D40. They were renowned for falling apart around you as you drove. Keno Kato - yes, that’s a real name - is Nissan’s product planning boss. He recently took the unprecedented, but carefully timed, step of admitting the D40 Navara was a bit of a quality shitbox, although not in precisely those words.

"Yes, we are aware of the quality issues of the previous model ... there were many minor quality issues which annoyed customers; that's true" - Keno Kato, Nissan head of product planning globally

Mr Kato basically said, in an official announcement: we’re not going to let that happen again. Also not in precisely those words. He actually said: “Reliability and quality for the pick-up truck; that’s essential. Quality is key. To make perfect quality, we changed the development.”

Above: D40 Navara before the warranty expires (left) and after (right)

Have you ever noticed how the only time car companies actually admit the predecessor was a dog is during the launch of a replacement model? Like clockwork.

Challenge #2 - Sales

Second big challenge: Sales. AC/DC sung about this, famously, but Navara is walking the walk. It’s a long way to the top if you want to sell Navara: Navara is way down at seventh in 4x2 sales, behind every ute that matters, and it’s fifth in 4x4, selling only about one-third of what Hilux sells and half what Ranger manages. This is just what happens when the use-by date expires, years ago. If you just sit around and mope about the GFC.

4x2 Ute Sales 2014

4x4 Ute Sales 2014


Challenge #3 - from 550Nm to 450Nm (apparently a big step back)

The bragging rights have suddenly evaporated. The old D40 Navara, safety and quality shitbox though it was, could always say, to all detractors: Yeah, well … I’ll see those criticisms, and I’ll raise you the Navara ST-X 550 - grunty-est ute on the market. 550Nm - take that. Shut up. Case closed.

Not any more.

New Navara manages 450 Newton-metres maximum. That’s from a twin-turbo 2.3. It’s not class-leading, but it is an impressive engine. Peak torque kicks in from just 1500 revs and keeps churning away until 2500 - and there’s a seven-speed auto, so you’re pretty much going to be operating in the 450 Newton-metre rev zone in all conceivable driving conditions. In the real world new Navara will probably kick the previous ST-X 550’s 170kW arse, albeit without presenting the marketing department with the same advertising opportunity.

Above: The problematic and recently superseded 550Nm ST-X 550 D40 Navara led the market on engine output (left) and the replacement twin turbo ST-L NP300 Navara, which boasts 450Nm peak torque (right)

In terms of specific power output, which is what you get when you divide the peak power by the cubic capacity, the twin-turbo 2.3 is right up there with other hi-tech diesels like Mazda’s 2.2, Hyundai-Kia’s 2.2 and the new twin-turbo 1.6 in the Renault Trafic. It’s an impressive piece of contemporary engineering.

How Navara Became the New Benz

Here’s an interesting Navara factoid: Mercedes-Benz is going to sell a ute, and launch it in 2018. And, rather than do any actual, time-consuming, expensive, fundamental research, design or engineering in-house, well … let’s let big, bad Benz talk it up the story. [Ahem…]

“The Mercedes-Benz pickup will share some of the architecture of the all-new Nissan NP300 … but it will be engineered to meet the specific needs of its customers. The vehicle will have all of Mercedes-Benz’s distinctive characteristics and features.”
- official Mercedes-Benz re-badging apology

Features like the exhorbitant price, and the badge, I’m tipping. Clearly this is an example of prime-quality, carefully selected, European designed, gift wrapped, and hand delivered bullshit. The Benz pickup is going to be a hastily re-badged Nissan Navara with different hair and makeup. Navara is hi-viz vest, knee pads and work boots. Benz pickup is G-string, stockings and Jimmy Choos. I’m likin’ it already.

Above: The new NP300 Nissan Navara (left) and the distinctively characteristic and customer need-satisfying 2018 Mercedes-Benz pickup, right... probably

You know, the principle benefit of this cross-brand grille and badge changeover project will be Benz’s NVH and refinement targets, which will be intrinsic to the platform’s engineering. So you’ll get Mercedes-Benz refinement levels in a Nissan Navara, without the unjustifiable price. And you’ll get a bit of a giggle when a Benz pickup drives past. With some wanker at the helm.

What the Nissan boss said about architecture sharing...

Richard Emery, who heads up Nissan Australia - and who, in my honest opinion, also needs to think much harder about what he says publicly - said, of the Mercedes-Benz (Navara) global pickup cross-pollination project:

“We’re flattered that they’d like to copy our car”
- Richard Emery, Nissan Australia CEO 

There’s the ‘C’ word. Right there: Copy. It's a bit different to sharing a little architecture, huh?

In breaking news: There’s some new insight into the exact amount of architecture that will in fact be shared. Ladies and gentlemen: The new Mercedes-Benz pickup. Engineered like no other car. Except of course its identical twin, the Nissan Navara.

Model Range

Ultimately there are going to be 27 different flavours of Navara on sale here in Australia - single cabs, dual cabs and king cabs, with three different engines and two transmissions, plus ute and tray-back variants. (Obviously, not all permutations of the above are possible, otherwise there would be 227 variants...)

There’s a Nissan info-graphic on this (right). It’s un-crackable, like the Rosetta Stone. Maybe Stephen Hawking could get it. (And maybe not.)

If I’m reading it right there’s 11 4x2 model variants and 16 different kinds of 4x4 Navaras.

Dual cabs are coming into the country first, with pricing from mid-$26k to mid-$54k. Single-cab and king-cab versions are going to take another few months to get here. (They must be going the long way, and there’s a stop-over with shopping in Dubai.)

Pricing on the notionally lesser cabs is not yet known, but will be announced closer to launch.

There are four specification grades: DX, RX, ST and ST-X. There’s an entry-level poverty-pack petrol as a price leader. You really don’t want that, unless it’s a gift for someone you hate. Next is a single turbo 2.3 diesel for the RX, and the engine you want (the twin-turbo 2.3 diesel) in ST and ST-X. Standard transmission is a six-speed manual, and upping the ante to the seven-speed auto will knock you back $2500. Teleporting from 4x2 to the 4x4 dimension will cost you $7000, model-for-model.

Safety Rating

Unconfirmed as yet by actual testing, but Nissan is quietly confident Navara achieve a five-star safety rating, and it’ll be nice to get that monkey off its back, finally. A five-star safety-rated Navara will be a long overdue first.

Towing & Suspension

There’s also an impressive 3500kg maximum tow capacity that puts Navara right up there with the best utes on towing. And a multi-link rear suspension setup promises Mercedes-Benz-like demeanour unladen, which will be especially important to those suits in utes driving to work every day in the city, with a leather man-bag and a laptop strapped down securely in the tray...

Of course, if you are a suit looking for a ute, you can probably buy a new Navara GST-free, and pay for it using your pre-tax salary. Read how in my guide to novated leasing >>. And if you're a tradie, a chattel mortgage >> will probably be the best be for you.

There’s no question - the new NP300 Navara is a worthy contender against the Colorado, BT-50, Ranger and new Triton. It’s already better than the Hilux in every tangible respect that matters. (But a new Hilux is on the way.)

Emerging Criticisms

There are a few glaring issues: Overseas reports suggest the NP300 steers like the QE2. 3.75 turns, lock to lock. What were they thinking? There’s this new thing - it’s called ‘power steering’. It's impossible to understand the rationale that made 3.75 seem like a good number, when 2.5 would have turned that particular frown upside-down...

There are some very nice inclusions - like climate control air conditioning with vents into the rear seating row in dual-cabs. However, it’s a bit squeezy back there, apparently. At least, I guess, you’ll be chilled out while you’ve got your knees in your eyes and your nose in the hi-viz armpit of the chap you’re sitting next to. Just like commuting to work, in hell. (And if you're the one buying the ute, it's unlikely you'll be the one riding in the back ... but if it's family transport we're talking, your big, strapping teenaged kids might just stage a mutiny.)


It just got a lot harder to pick the right ute. There’s five key contenders now: this one, plus the Colorado, Ranger, BT-50 and new Triton. And it’s a buyer’s market - so go nuts negotiating, and don’t be afraid to drop one brand and go with another. Because they’re all very close. They’re even all built in Thailand - none of these notionally Japanese utes have ever authentically seen the sun rise in the land of the rising sun.

I've covered off the other three in the current top 5 in this report on the ute market >> (prior to the launch of the new Nissan Navara and Mitsubishi Triton). And you can start reading about the impressive new Mitsubishi Triton >> and see how the new Mitsubishi Triton Exceed stacks up against the Toyota Hilux SR5 >> 

More information on the ute market in general >> and you can also read why I really don't rate the Isuzu D-MAX over the Holden Colorado - the Isuzu is seriously out-gunned in the power delivery department. More on that in this report on Colorado -Vs- Isuzu powertrains >>

There will of course be latent demand in the market for the new Navara initially, and that will reduce or eliminate discounting for the first few weeks to months. After that, dealers will start caving in on price - because those sales quotas are unforgiving and absolutely relentless.

You can contact me by clicking the link below, and I will personally help you save thousands buying the right ute (or any other vehicle) at the right price.