First Drive: Updates refine the Nissan Navara experience
What is it?
The growing demand for pick-ups is showing no sign of abating. In fact, Nissan sold more than 230,000 one-tonne trucks worldwide last year, with markets such as America and China snapping up these commercial vehicles thick and fast.
And the UK is no different. The Navara has been one of the most popular models in the country, and due to the influx of new pick-ups on the market, Nissan has seen fit to update it to help keep up with the pace. We’ve headed out to the wilds of Iceland to see what it’s like.
It’s a subtle update here, that’s for sure, but the changes made to the new Navara are just enough to bring into line with newer rivals. The engine has been upgraded, the five-link rear suspension refined and the brakes beefed up. Tech-wise there’s a new, larger screen which runs the firm’s latest software, while the towing capacity has been increased too.
Exterior-wise, it’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it similar to the truck it replaces, but the small number of refinements made to the visuals do give it a little more edge. We’ll look at these in a little more depth later on, however.
What’s under the bonnet?
The Navara is powered by a 2.3-litre twin-turbocharged diesel engine with 188bhp and a useable 450Nm of torque. It’s more efficient than the one it replaces, now emitting a respectable 194g/km of CO2, and driving power to all four wheels through either a seven-speed automatic gearbox (as was the case with our test vehicle), or a newly refined six-speed manual.
Performance figures are respectable, with Nissan quoting a 0-60mph time of 10.9 seconds, but the reality is that for workhorse pick-ups like the Navara, acceleration isn’t the be-all and end-all. Its range of off-road systems are far more useful, with features such as hill descent control, a proper locking rear differential and the choice of three different four-wheel-drive modes making far more sense to the traditional pick-up owner.
What’s it like to drive?
As with most vehicles based on a ladder chassis, you can’t expect limousine-like levels of refinement, but the Navara does surprisingly well to isolate a lot of the exterior chatter which can make a drive more wearing. There’s a little wind noise, but engine drone is kept well isolated from the cabin – providing you’re not being harsh with the throttle, that is.
The Navara feels most comfortable off-road, where its five-link rear suspension system copes handsomely with large rocks, potholes and a myriad of different surfaces. Around town there’s a fair amount of jostle, and faster corners do tend to invoke a fair amount of body lean. That’s no different from other pick-ups on the market today, mind you. The engine pulls strongly, while the wealth of torque on offer means there’s plenty of grunt available whenever you need it.
How does it look?
As we’ve already mentioned, the changes that have been made to the way the Navara looks are few and far between. The rear lamp units are now smoked, while the fronts have been given a subtle refresh. The standard alloy wheels size has been bumped up from 17-inch to 18 too, giving it a little more presence – not that this truck was short of it in the first place.
In truth, Nissan didn’t need to overhaul the exterior of the Navara – it was a good-looking truck before, and it remains so now. We’ve been told that an updated version of the go-anywhere Arctic Trucks model will be along before the year is out – so keep a beady eye out for that if you’re after the most imposing Navara model available.
What’s it like inside?
The Navara has always managed to toe the line between consumer-friendly comfort and utilitarian solidity for some time, and it’s still the case now. Yes, many an SUV owner would baulk at some of the interior plastics used here, but they’re hard-wearing and likely to stand up to years of abuse – which is just what you want from a pick-up. The leather seats fitted to our test car were comfortable though and, thanks to eight-way electrical adjustment, easy to get into the right position too.
Rear seat space is decent enough, with a good amount of leg and headroom available. One criticism we would voice is the lack of USB outlets throughout the cabin – there’s just one. It may sound trivial, but given the number of devices the average family carries with them, this may be an oversight which could be annoying over time. There are two nine-volt plugs though, which does go some way to alleviating this issue.
What’s the spec like?
The biggest change when it comes to in-car tech on the Navara is the inclusion of Nissan’s new eight-inch infotainment screen – up a full inch on the previous generation system. It may sound like a trivial increase, but it makes a big difference. The new operating system is the biggest benefit here, however; it’s far easier to use than the system it replaces, with smooth graphics and little delay when changing through menus.
You also get a full navigation system, while top-spec trucks receive over-the-air map updates too. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are thrown in as standard too, meaning it’s far easier to integrate your smartphone into the car’s system.
The Navara has been brought firmly back up to date with this new update. Though they may be relatively minor, they’ve done enough to help the big Nissan retain an edge. One of the biggest changes is that new infotainment system – it makes the cabin of the Navara far more user-friendly – while the changes made to the suspension and engine have made it even more refined. It may not be the most powerful truck out there, but the Navara ticks all of the pick-up boxes elsewhere.