Muscular cosmetic surgery to give ute tougher looks
Injectables seem to be all the rage at the moment. Women and men of all ages are embracing needle treatment to erase wrinkles and combat the tyranny of time.
Nissan’s former rough-and-tumble ute went through a rigorous pampering campaign in recent years. It was relaunched back in 2015, after ditching the previously lauded V6 engine, and boasting far greater family values with improved on-road prowess.
But the dual-cab has since been relaunched on five occasions — this time the upgrade is more cosmetic than wholesale underskin changes.
KEL: That’s a square front end and a groovier looking tailgate emblazoned with “Navara”.
GRANT: Dual-cabs are all the rage and it seems everyone wants a brawny looking ute. Inspired by the Titan pick-up truck found in the US, these 2021 models come with that revised muscular grille, along with a new bonnet, headlamps and pumped up wheel arches.
KEL: We have spent a fair bit of time in the Series III Navara, along with a couple of their other special editions, and I would have seriously considered buying one. Did they really need this?
GRANT: The gradual changes over the past six years delivered a good product, but the ute market is ultra-competitive and Nissan is looking to keep pace. Where enthusiasts of former eras used to soup-up their V8s, now they’re spending cash on these off-roaders with all the bells and whistles.
KEL: So I’d expect a premium for the new look.
GRANT: We’re in the ST-X which sits one rung from the top at $58,790 drive-away — the one we tested a couple of years back was about $3000 less for the same model but it had fewer features. There is now also a new PRO-4X variant that costs $2360 more than the ST-X for more hardcore kit.
THE LIVING SPACE
KEL: Everything looks pretty familiar. The new leather-bound steering wheel has an almost premium feel.
GRANT: Our test car also had the optional leather trim, which includes power seat adjustment, heating for the front two chairs and leather door finishes. That adds $1000 to the bottom line; if you also want the sunroof that’s another $1k.
KEL: Having the eight-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto makes the infotainment system easy to use. Otherwise the Nissan system is pretty basic.
GRANT: There’s a USB and auxiliary port in front of the shifter, but limited storage space nearby — I made the mistake of putting my phone in the small space underneath and it disappeared at the first corner. Bottle holders in each door are great, and the console cup-holders ensure our caffeine hits are safe.
KEL: The driver’s display is good, it’s clear and easy to change views with the new steering wheel design.
GRANT: That seven-inch digital cluster complements the analog speedo and tacho. It’s a quieter cabin now too, courtesy of extra sound-deadening insulation.
KEL: Those in the back had no complaints thanks to better cushioning. The fold-down rear armrest with cup-holders is another welcome addition.
GRANT: Little has changed mechanically, with the same four-cylinder turbo diesel used across the dual-cab range. It still has a 3.5 tonne towing capacity, but payload has been bolstered to 1024kg (up from about 940kg).
KEL: It gets away from the lights nicely and feels responsive under acceleration.
GRANT: Unladen, the ute feels nimble. It’s jittery over harsh surfaces like most dual-cabs without a load in the back, but the Navara soaks up the bumps better than many rivals courtesy of dual rate rear springs. That essentially means the performance shouldn’t be compromised when the weight goes into the tub.
KEL: Around town it can be difficult to navigate in tight spots, and carparks can be challenging, but during recent years I’ve found the Navara easy to drive for daily activities and it’s definitely more comfortable than a lot of utes.
GRANT: This model comes with an around view monitor which pieces together camera angles. It’s awesome to ensure you’re evenly within the lines when parking. There is also a rear traffic alert to warn of oncoming vehicles when reversing.
KEL: With the groceries, it’s the traditional ute challenge of storing a heap of bags.
GRANT: Filling up the rear footwell and seat is the best option, but it’s worth exploring the optional tub compartment extras. Soft tonneau covers are also really handy and the Navara does come with adjustable sliding side load rails in the lined tub which offer brilliant flexibility.
KEL: Although, there is also the battle of getting heavy bags over the top and into the back.
GRANT: The Navara is an adept all-rounder. It’s capable off-road as well, not as good as perhaps a Jeep Gladiator or a Toyota LandCruiser, but never shies away from the tough stuff. Shifting into low range can be done via a console dial, and there are now also drive mode selectors for sport, off-road and towing (the tongue and tow ball are now also standard). Extra road grip comes via 18-inch alloys on the ST-X.
KEL: Our weekend test included a highway trek which was comfortable.
GRANT: Dual-cabs of bygone eras had upright rear seats and comfort levels that rivalled a stack of bricks. Things have changed and the ST-X has rear air vents along with a USB port, while upfront is dual zone aircon.
KEL: Filling the role of taxi for a couple of lanky youngsters was no issue courtesy of reasonable rear leg and head room.
GRANT: We’re increasingly seeing families with a dual-cab as their primary vehicle. The Navara walks the line of blending work and pleasure.
KEL: They are certainly multiskilled. Throwing the bikes in the back to go explore, transporting bulky items and embarking on dump runs — I can certainly see the appeal.
GRANT: It has a five-star safety rating, but that dates back to testing in 2015. Yet the tech rivals, or in some cases betters, many passenger cars. Automatic brakes that are applied if an impeding collision is detected and the driver fails to act fast enough, as well as an ability to gently steer the Navara back into the middle of the lane if attention wanders are both standard features.
KEL: But it’s missing radar cruise control that maintains a safe distance from others on the highway. I like that function in traffic.
GRANT: It’s also missing traffic sign recognition to provide a constant reminder of the speed zone.
KEL: Family budgets would like the efficiency. We averaged less than eight litres for every 100km.
GRANT: Servicing is $2900, which is less expensive than key challengers like the Toyota HiLux and Isuzu D-Max.
KEL: This new model feels more cosmetic than groundbreaking. I’ve liked the Navara over the past couple of years, and these new models deliver some nice extras to add more of life’s luxuries.
GRANT: Many buyers want their utes to be muscular and tough. The new Navara looks like it’s been to the gym for some extra beef. It remains a solid and reliable buy, even if the latest changes are more evolution over revolution.