NISSAN have done their homework with the Navara range of four-wheel-drives, and the diesel powered manual ute I road tested recently was certainly a pleasure to drive. The combination of ride, handling, and roominess have come together very smoothly in a handsome vehicle that just begs for a run up the beach or out where the freshwater native fish strut their stuff.
Nissan's Navara is a large vehicle, designed to carry 1.5-tonne loads and up to five passengers in a substantial degree of style and comfort. This big utility was originally marketed as a workhorse but, following market acceptance, Nissan has added additional features along the way to take the Navara to where it today.
There is no questioning this ute’s workhorse pedigree, but the pleasure of driving the Navara comes as a surprise. Initially, the impression gained while seated behind the soft feel thick rim steering wheel is that of driving a somewhat smaller and more compact vehicle. The driver's seating is just right, with excellent forward visibility over the broad bonnet. There is a feeling of overall lightness due in no small part to the very responsive engine, the taut handling, and the ease of using the five-speed gearbox and clutch. Both of these latter items were feather light and direct.
While the Navara STR diesel would certainly be at home in the paddocks, or up the beach with the fishing gear in the back, this big ute is still very easy and tractable to drive in city traffic – which is where a fair number of our four-wheel-drives spend a lot of time anyway.
Driver and front seat passenger are seated on very comfortable bucket seats with ample padding and adjustment. The sports style instruments, which are in direct view of the driver, are easy to read. About the only one you need to keep an eye on is the speedometer, as the Navara will sneak away from designated speed limits very easily thanks to the lack of engine noise in the passenger compartment and the easy, long-legged power of the engine.
As the top-of-line within the Navara range, the STR featured many items to endear itself to both passengers and driver. Inside the roomy cabin were such things as a double glove box, electric windows, full carpet throughout, very well padded rear seats for up to three adults with rear squab adjustment, and a really good sound system with CD player/radio. There are also plenty of drink holders and large door pockets all round as well. Keyless entry is a feature that is sure to be appreciated, too.
Doors on the Navara STR close with a solid little 'chunk' and there is obviously nothing loose or rattly about the one piece doors which are also very well sealed. I took the Navara for a run to the New England area in search of the elusive cod, and even though the drought was at its worst – with dust quite unbelievable on some of the more well used tracks – the excellent door seals kept all dust well out of the interior.
In all, the Navara proved an excellent vehicle for the three-hour journey. A huge amount of load space is available in the rear tray (which features double walls to prevent exterior panel damage from loads), and if I owned one of these excellent vehicles, the addition of a lockable canopy would just be the icing on the cake. That rear load area would swallow up a huge amount of camping and fishing gear. Even some of the loads we put together for prolonged trips would not faze the Navara. There is also a good amount of storage space behind the rear seat which would be a handy place to store larger items away from prying eyes.
The Nissan Navara STR was a pleasure to drive. The acclaimed three-litre direct injection turbo diesel had a tonne of grunt, and the turbo kicks in at very low revs with the result that there is virtually no turbo lag. As mentioned, the engine was surprisingly quiet too, with only a little (typical) diesel resonance upon warming up. Gearing from the five-speed box was well suited to both city and highway work.
The Navara moves off very smoothly in traffic, with first gear being reasonably tall and not requiring the driver to make an instant change to second to keep up with other cars. On the highway, fifth gear is virtually an overdrive and reduces engine revs considerably. Cruising at the 100km/h mark will see the tacho sitting on around 2200rpm.
Ride, both on road and off road, was very good with the coil front, leaf springs rear, suspension setup keeping passengers well insulated from most road defects. Only on the worst bumps – with the car totally unloaded – did the leaf springs rebound a little too enthusiastically, but for most practical driving purposes the leaf springs were fine. Bear in mind that the Nissan Navara is designed to carry up to 1.5 tonnes, after all.
We didn't really test the off-road ability of the Navara STR to its limits, other than to give the ample ground clearance the thumbs-up on deeply rutted areas, but the low range and limited slip diff are certainly there when required for maximum traction. The ride on really rough corrugations on a winding bush track was surprisingly docile.
In all, the Nissan Navara three-litre diesel STR is a smooth and very comfortable car with some endearing handling and driving characteristics. It will fulfil the dual role of weekday workhorse and weekend escape vehicle admirably. And it looks good, very good indeed, thanks to a high level of finish and smart design.
The Nissan Navara three-litre diesel STR is priced from approx. $42,990 (excludes on-road costs).
1) The Nissan Navara STR is a great car for a run into the country in search of cod.
2) The sports style instruments of the Navara are easy to monitor.
3) A bold grille and wide bumper give the Navara a distinctive appearance.Reads: 2101