Nissan Navara Ute Review (2017 Update)
This report was last updated on
31 October 2016
What's in a name? Well, the NP stands for ‘Nissan Pickup’ - how creative. This is the vehicle that, in mid-2015, replaced the ageing four-star safety-rated D40 Navara and also the antiquated three-star death-trap which was also still onsale alongside it, called the D22.
The NP300 Navara was the first new Nissan Navara in a decade, and it was well overdue. It's a great vehicle overall, too, but there were a few speed humps for the latest Nissan ute to climb over.
Previous Navara: poor reliability legacy
"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
Perhaps the biggest challenge for the new Navara was 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 is a real name - is Nissan’s product planning boss. When the NP300 was launched he 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 (right).
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.”
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?
Sales: did they blip?
Second big challenge: Sales. AC/DC sung about this, famously, but Navara is walking this particular walk. It’s a long way to the top if you want to sell a ute: Navara is way down at sixth spot overall among utes. This is just what happens when the use-by date expires, years ago ... and you just mope about the GFC. (Which is exactly what Nissan has done for the past eight years - together with Honda systematically losing it mojo >>.)
Ute Sales in Australia, 2015
One of the most interesting things has been the comparatively small impact on sales caused by such a monumental - and overwhelmingly positive - upgrade to the Navara. In the latest figures available (for 2016 to September) Nissan managed to sell a total of 12,733 NP300 Navaras. For the same period in 2014, when the previous models were on sale, the total was 12,692. And if you flash back to the same period in 2013, Navara sales were running at a massive 18,726.
Injecting multi-millions into R&D only to see sales slump by roughly 30 per cent over three years, in a key ute market like Australia, is hardly the kicking of a massive corporate goal. Whichever way you carve this up, it's hard to see the NP300 Navara as a runaway commercial success (which is kinda bad for Nissan but good for you, if you're a buyer).
Lower engine output: from 550Nm to 450Nm
One of the big hurdles with the advent of NP300 was: The bragging rights 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 (if that's a word) ute on the market. V6 turbodiesel with 550Nm - take that. Shut up, detractors. Case closed.
Not now. And unfortunately there's a class of ute purchaser for whom only the grunty-est ute will do. That person is today buying a Holden Colorado.
Higher end grades of NP300 Navara manage 450 Newton-metres maximum. That’s from a twin-turbo 2.3. It’s not class-leading, but it is a pretty impressive engine. (There is also a lesser single-turbo 2.3 diesel and a 2.5i petrol - these are discussed below >>)
The biturbo design in the 450Nm 2.3 diesel allows a small turbo to spool up quickly at low revs, which delivers inspiring low-rpm performance. At higher revs boost is increased by a bigger turbo, with more rotational inertia, which takes longer to spool up. Each turbo compensates for the shortcomings in the other (the small turbo masks the bigger one's inability to come on song fast, and the big one masks the smaller one's inability to deliver copious boost volumes at higher revs) and this is the basic methodology of improving overall performance and milking the smaller displacement for all it's worth.
Peak torque kicks in from just 1500rpm and keeps churning away until 2500rpm - 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.
And, let's face it, in the real world there are not many jobs a healthy 450Nm will not accomplish with distinction. NP300 Navara will in many respects kick the previous D40 ST-X 550’s 170kW arse, albeit without presenting the marketing department with the same advertising opportunity. It's worth noting, however, that the V6 diesel was a lot smoother than the current four.
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 leading, 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.
What's really interesting here is the significant number of e-mails I get from prospective buyers of utes and also ute-based wagons (Pajero Sport, et. al.) who are disinclined to purchase the current generation of smaller-displacement diesels. (Such as the 2.3 in the case of Navara and the 2.4 in the case of Triton and Pajero Sport.) These people often adopt this position because they believe the smaller engine is more highly stressed. (And intrinsically these smaller engines are doing a bigger job, per litre.)
Many such people use this reservation as a justification to purchase - in particular - a 3.2-litre five-cylinder Ranger or BT-50 instead. However, I really don't think there's any evidence that the smaller displacement - per se - is a reliability or longevity liability. That's all down to the engineering development work going on in the background.
An interesting twist here: this small displacement-driven reservation seems reserved for the hardcore four-wheel driver - focussed upon serious off-roading and heavy towing. I've never had the same reservations expressed by prospective purchasers of diesel Santa Fe, Sorento, Tucson, Sportage, CX-5 or Outlander.
My take on this: If a smaller engine can be made to do a bigger job reliably, you should embrace the advantages, such as lighter weight, faster throttle response, greater thermal efficiency - all of which are real, tangible advantages not to be sneezed at. At best these 'small capacity' consumer reservations are expressed in the complete absence of evidence and are purely speculative.
NP300 is quite safe. Independent safety rating authority ANCAP awarded all variants of the NP300 Navara five stars on safety in July 2015. King cab and dual cab variants scored 35.01 out of 37 possible points, while single cab variants scored 34.01.
(The loss of the extra point in single cab is a consequence of those variants having only two seatbelt reminders, while the king and dual cabs have three. They all crash exactly the same according to the technical reports, which appear to indicate the one vehicle was crashed, and engineering analysis determined the structural performance results were applicable to all variants.)
Review the ANCAP technical reports in detail:
How Nissan Navara Became a New Mercedes-Benz
Here’s an interesting Navara factoid: Mercedes-Benz is going to sell a ute, the GLT, and launch it in 2018 or 2019. And, rather than do any actual, time-consuming, expensive, fundamental research, design or engineering in-house … let’s let big, bad Benz talk it up the story:
“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 Nissan 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. A minimum-required makeover, complemented by an all-out assault on the truth by the Benz marketing department. And I suspect it will be very successful. Especially here in ute-obsessed Australia.
You know, the principle benefit of this cross-brand grille and badge changeover project will be Navara being forced to meet 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 extortionate price. And you’ll get a bit of a giggle when a Benz pickup drives past, with some rich wanker at the helm.
Obviously this badge-sharing arrangement was a done deal when the NP300 was just a bunch of ones and zeroes in a super-secret Nissan R&D centre. But in order to get this deal across the line, you can bet Nissan had to agree to meet many Benz-specified benchmarks - such as the advanced rear suspension for the dual-cab, the hi-tech biturbo engine, NVH targets, etc. Only with these fundamentals agreed upon would Benz sign such a contract and fork over the big bucks in lieu of doing its own R&D.
The Benz refinement is thus intrinsic to Navara - you can't engineer it out, because it was engineered-in at the development outset.
What the Nissan boss said about cross-brand platform pollination...
Richard Emery, who heads up Nissan Australia - and who, in my honest opinion, also needs to think somewhat harder about what he says publicly - said, around the time the NP300 was launched, 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?
Perhaps less surprisingly, Renault (which is joined at the hip to Nissan in a partly unholy French-Japanese 'alliance' headed up by Carlos Ghosn) is hell-bent on re-badging the NP300 too. Renaut's version of the Nissan ute knock-off will be called the Alaskan, and it will launch in Australia in 2017 - before the Benz GLT. Naming relevance to Australia: minus infinity out of a possible 10.
Here's what the Alaskan looks like (spoiler alert: it's almost all Nissan):
Pricing and specifications on the Renault Alaskan are not yet known. But you can bet it will be so similar to Navara that only their mothers will be able to tell them apart.
2017 Model Range
There are 34 different flavours of Navara Series II on sale here in Australia - that's an increase of seven variants for 2017. (See image on right - new variants are listed as 'New Grade'.) Series II was launched in November 2016.
2017 Series II Update
The Series II highlights: There's a new 'SL' grade added to the dual-cab range, below ST. It's $3000 cheaper and features a standard reversing camera and NissanConnect smartphone integration, plus 16 x 7 steel wheels and 255/70R16 tyres and a vinyl floor.
ST has gone up $1000, but adds GPS sat-nav on dual-cab models.
RX dual and single cabs now have a vinyl floor instead of carpet, and there's now an auto available to dual-cab 4X4 RX buyers.
ST-X buyers are no longer presented with a (headroom-limiting) sunroof as standard equipment. It's been relegated to being an option.
All dual cab pick-ups have new suspension tune flowing from local testing. The dampers front and rear are new, as are the rear coils. This was done to counter criticisms of load-carrying capability and also to improve lateral stability as well as ride quality and handling - especially loaded ride and handling.
In a nutshell, single cabs are available with DX and RX equipment grades, in cab-chassis only. There's a token 2.5i petrol manual price leader in 4X2.
King cab variants are available as RX, ST and ST-X - diesel-only. As for dual-cab models ... there are a staggering 22 options there, overwhelmingly pick-ups and overwhelmingly diesel. There's a cab-chassis available in RX 4X4 dual cab, and the token petrol price leader in 4X2 DX as an auto or manual.
DX model grades all feature seven airbags including a driver knee airbag, daytime running lights and 15-inch steel wheels. Single cab models get leaf springs and dual cabs get the advanced five-link rear that's better at unladen (and lightly laden) ride quality, but worse at actually carrying a load. This is the same right across the range - all single and king cabs are leaf sprung; all dual cabs are coil sprung.
RX essentially adds remote keyless entry and 16-inch steel wheels. King cabs kick off in RX, and these add a neat power-sliding rear window as well as fold-down 'Guantanamo Bay-style' temporary rear seating - which is actually very useful for occasional short hops, but not intended for longer regular trips. (Detail, right - click to enlarge.)
RX and DX grades in diesel get the single-turbo version of the 2.3-litre engine with 120kW @ 3750rpm, and 403Nm @ 1500-2500rpm.
SL and above diesels get the biturbo 2.3-litre engine: 140kW @ 3750rpm, and 450Nm @ 1500-2500rpm.
The token petrol 2.5i discussed above produces 122kW @ 6000rpm and 238Nm @ 4000rpm. Anorexic, in comparison, especially at low- and mid-revs.
If you opt for the RX 4X4 dual cab N-Sport variant, you also get a black sports bar, black steel bullbar, ROH alloys and 4WD-specific springs, plus black fender flares - a tidy upgrade for real 4X4 enthusiasts.
SL grade, as discussed, adds the NissanConnect smartphone integration, the reversing camera, the vinyl floor, sat-nav and 16-inch steel wheels. It's 4X4 dual cab only - therefore you get the five-link coil rear.
ST essentially adds LED headlamps and daytime running lights, plus 16-inch alloys.
ST-X adds a silver sports bar in the try, a tub liner, two-channel load-securing 'Utili-Track' system, hill descent control and hill start assist, leather trim accents, a seven-inch colour display and 18-inch alloy wheels.
Standard Equipment by Model Grade
- Black door mirrors and door handles
- Chrome rear bumper (on dual-cab)
- Tilt-adjustable steering wheel - but, critically, no reach adjustment...
- Auto headlamps
- Cruise control
- Cloth upholstery
- Vinyl floor covering
- Manual air conditioning
- Four-speaker audio system with USB and AUX inputs (single & king cab)
- Six-speaker audio system with USB and AUX inputs (dual-cab)
- Bluetooth phone connectivity
- Front and rear mudguards (dual-cab)
- Tie-down hooks inside bed (dual-cab)
- 15-inch steel wheels
- Full-size spare wheel and tyre
- Seven airbags
- Electronic stability control
- Daytime running lights
Navara RX additional features
- Chrome door handles & mirrors
- Rear privacy glass (king-cab & dual-cab)
- Rear power sliding window (king-cab and dual-cab)
- Rear window demister
- Remote keyless entry
- Electromagnetic fuel lid lock
- Front sunvisors with illuminated vanity mirror
- Rear seat flip-up functionality (king-cab & dual-cab)
- Rear roof light in centre
- Chrome interior door handles
- Carpet floors
- 16-inch steel wheels
- Vehicle alarm
Navara ST additional features
- Electric folding & heated door mirrors
- Auto-dimming rear-vision mirror
- Auto-levelling LED headlamps
- LED daytime running lights
- Front fog lights with chrome surrounds
- Premium steering wheel with silver accents
- Premium gearshifter and handbrake lever
- Advanced Driver Assist display
- Compass inbuilt in rearview mirror
- Piano black centre cluster finish
- Audio with 5.0-inch LCD display
- NissanConnect smartphone connectivity system
- Wide-body over fenders
- Side steps
- Differential lock (4X4 only)
- 16-inch alloy wheels
- Reversing camera
- Alloy bullbar
Navara ST-X additional features
- Door mirror LED side turning repeater lamps
- Proximity key
- Pushbutton start
- Part leather seat trim
- Electric driver's seat adjustment with lumbar support
- Heated front seats
- Front seat-back storage pockets
- Footwell lamp
- Two-piece rear personal lamps
- Premium door trim
- Dual-zone automatic climate control air conditioning
- Digital display for air conditioning controlsl
- GPS sat-nav with 7.0-inch touchscreen display
- SD card slot for performing map updates
- Bluetooth audio streaming
- Silver roof rails
- Two channel Utili-Track system
- 18-inch alloy wheels
- Full-size alloy spare wheel
- Active brake limited slip (4X4 models only)
- Hill descent control (4X4 models only)
- Hill start assist (4X4 models only)
- Rear parking sensors
- Tub liner
- Carpet mats
Multi-link suspension paradox
As you can see from the sales figures graph above, all the action is in 4X4. And all the action in 4X4 is in dual cabs. And all Navara dual cabs have the multi-link, coil-sprung rear suspension setup. This is a 'good news/bad news' story for ute buyers. It's actually great news if you want a ute because you just want a ute, and you don't really have any hard-working aspirations for it. Increasingly, this is common.
This is ute-mad Australia, after all. Utes are a fashion statement ... depending on whose barbeques you are invited to.
The good news: Dual-cab Navaras are brilliant for ride unladen quality. Dual cab Navara easily has the best unladen ride quality you're likely to find in a ute. This also means it rides and handles really well when only lightly laden. Therefore, if you are a 'suit-in-a-ute' type, who likes the tough look but really has no intention of towing the QE2 across the nation, or hauling 1000kg of sand onto a building site regularly, then the Navara is a rock-solid choice. It's still a good choice if you only intend to haul heavy stuff very occasionally, and just run around unladen or lightly laden the rest of the time. But...
The bad news: Dual cab Navara is simply not cut out for regular hard work. The rear suspension just doesn't cope with that (ie heavy towing and/or heavy payloads). It sags in an undignified manner and it's not confidence inspiring to drive in that state. A dual cab Mazda BT-50 >> or Mitsubishi Triton >> is simply a better bet if regular hard work is in the brief for your next ute. They won't ride as well unladen, but they will cope a lot better under pressure.
The bottom line is that leaf springs are better at carrying heavy loads, and coil springs are better at ride, comfort and handling, unladen. That's just how it is - automotive engineering in the beer garden.
On paper, towing capacity is right up there with the other competitors: 3.5 tonnes. However, see my comments just above - the coil-sprung, dual cab Navara is not the sharpest tool in the shed for heavy towing.
Here's where it gets complex: you can't just hook up a 3500kg implement and sail off into the sunset without first cranking up your pocket calculator. This is an example:
ST-X auto has a gross combination mass of 5910kg and a gross vehicle mass of 2910kg. Kerb weight is 1980kg. Gross combination mass (GCM) is the all-up weight of the vehicle plus whatever you tow. So, if you hook up a 3500kg trailer, the maximum loaded weight of the vehicle is 2410kg. (That's the GCM of 5910 minus the 3500kg for the trailer.) The kerb weight of the vehicle is 1980kg, so if you're towing that 3500kg caravan/boat/etc the maximum payload you can carry in the vehicle - inclusive of passengers - is 430kg.
Let's drill down into that 430kg. Kerb weight does not include the driver (except in Europe, where a 75kg allowance is made for the driver). But it does include all the liquids plus a full tank of fuel. Therefore, that 430kg maximum payload noted above is the driver plus any passengers, plus any luggage and/or equipment on board and any non-standard accessories.
Conclusion: With a 3500kg load in tow, it's very easy to blow the GCM by overloading the vehicle. You need to be very careful about this. The really obvious conclusion is that towing anything that heavy in a vehicle like this is a fool's errand. You need to be realistic - it seems to me that the manufacturers are all in a race to tick the 3500kg tow capacity box, and doing this is a really dumb idea with a vehicle that weighs under two tonnes unladen. Especially as there are no additional licensing requirements for driving such a ridiculously heavy combination on a public road.
In theory, you could drive a Toyota Corolla your whole life, retire and buy a ute and a 3.5-tonne boat, hook it up and drive off as a grey nomad, primed for the big adventure. Hands up everyone who thinks this is a fine idea...
With all of these notional 3.5-tonne tow capacity utes, it's a great idea - in my view - to limit yourself to 2.5 tonnes in tow. And remember that Navara dual-cab (because of the rear coils) is not the best heavy tow platform available.
In addition to the loaded ride quality of the dual cabs, there's the steering. It offers an incredible 3.75 turns, lock to lock. What were they thinking? It's impossible to understand the rationale that made 3.75 seem like a good number back at Nissan R&D Central, when 2.5 would have in fact been much more in-step with reality.
See also: Towing basics for SUVs and utes >>
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 shortage of choice in the ute market today, with a great deal of jockeying for position having happened since 2014. In that time there's been a new Mitsubishi Triton >> as well as major updates to Ranger, BT-50 >>, Colorado and a new Hilux.
I don't recommend Volkswagen's Amarok because of the company's appalling track record of poor (in many cases nonexistent) customer support. This is also why I don't recommend the Ford Ranger and Holden Colorado - nothing to do with the vehicles themselves, and everything to do with the underlying ethics of the parent carmaker. This is a vital consideration for owners.
Hilux is the market leader, and it has its fans - but I'm not one of them. A six month service interval is a joke, and a key example of the underlying Hilux (and to a large extent Toyota) philosophy, which is: 'Why attempt excellence when you can lead the market with mediocrity?'
Navara is a classic paradox - it's a great ute, especially if you never ask it to do any real work. A dual-cab Navara is undoubtedly the most sophisticated ute you can buy - in terms of refinement and ride comfort. Just don't ask it to lift anything heavy. It's the classic ute for a 'suit-in-a-ute'. I'd put the Mazda and the Mitsubishi significantly in front as workhorses, and slightly in front in terms of customer support - but all three are light-years in front of Volkswagen, Ford and Holden when it comes to acting responsibly towards customer.
I can help you save thousands on any new ute. Click here >> to get the ball rolling on that, or hit that big, red button just below.
Owner impression by e-mail from Jarrod, following this promotion >>
I have just read your article about the all new navara and I have to agree I had a D40 which had nothing but trouble. I sold it with only 36,000km on the clock as it's had more rattles than a babies toy box and had been back for substantial warranty repairs three times. I have since purchased a Ford Ranger and am absolutely nothing but impressed with the quality and features of this vehicle.
The reason I am writing to you is because you mentioned the service to the customer on Ford is bad and worse than Nissan. I have to disagree i had a lot of trouble with Nissan as a parent company with my warranty claims I was given a copy of correspondence from the dealer and Nissan over one issue I had and Nissan rep was a smartarse in the emails and did not want to honour the warranty. I did however end up getting the vehicle fixed but not before about a 3- to 6-month fight and having to sign a letter saying that Nissan don't admit fault but as an act of good faith they would fix it.
This Ranger is the third Ford I've had and nothing with the Ranger has gone wrong but little warranty issues on my previous falcon and Falcon Ute I had ford were amazing in fixing the issues. They even took it upon themselves to check the vehicle at the 95,000km service and fix a few things prior to the warranty ending. Maybe it's just a really good dealer.
I will never buy another Nissan again just because of the way I was treated by the company.
Comment from Graeme inn the UAE by e-mail:
Marhaba (hello) John
I’m a Kiwi currently living in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, returning home in 2017 after five years in the sandpit and will be looking to buy a ute to tow a fifth wheeler when I get back to New Zealand. I recently came across your website and have signed up for your AutoExpert Newsletter. Received the first one today on the 2017 Nissan Navara NP300. Interesting. Now “no thanks” to a Navara !
Are you aware of the rusting problems with Nissan Navaras ? Here’s the “Nissan Navara snapped chassis group” Facebook public group https://www.facebook.com/groups/505526562959686/?hc_location=ufi which has been extremely busy with Navara owners discovering the problem. Screen prints below. It seems to be with Spanish-made Navaras, mainly with UK owners but some Aussies have posted recently. Nissan seem to be paying reasonable buy-back prices. They must have paddocks of rusting Navaras by now !
Keep up the great blogs.