Along with more purposeful styling the updated Navara is improved in refinement. Picture: SUPPLIED
Along with more purposeful styling the updated Navara is improved in refinement. Picture: SUPPLIED

Ahead of the newly upgraded Nissan Navara going on local sale in June, Motor News was recently invited to test drive a pre-production unit ahead of its market debut.

The vehicle is built at Nissan SA’s Rosslyn plant near Pretoria, and we drove it back to back with the pre-updated Navara which has sold here since 2017 as an import. In a R3bn investment, Nissan’s one-tonner range will be produced for the local market and export to sub-Saharan Africa. It will be built alongside the NP200 half-ton bakkie, and the ancient NP300 Hardbody one-tonner ceases production.

Along with a midlife facelift to sharpen its styling and modernise the tech, there have been under-the-skin upgrades to improve how the Navara drives. Driving the old and new double cab top-of-the-range versions back to back on the same roads, I noticed clear improvements to the refinement and ride quality.

One of the big selling points of the Navara launched in 2017 was its coil spring independent rear suspension, designed to give a more comfortable ride than the rear leaf springs traditionally used in bakkies, including the Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger that dominate segment sales.

It gave the Nissan a better-than-average ride, and the updated model gets chassis and suspension tweaks to make it even more refined. A new chassis with revised mountings for less vibration, better shock absorber damping and a new dual-rate five-link coil suspension results in a noticeably smoother ride on bumpy roads and rippled gravel.

The smart leather seats in the new range-topping Pro-4X grade. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
The smart leather seats in the new range-topping Pro-4X grade. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

It generally feels more solid and rattle-resistant, and there’s more sound deadening for a quieter experience overall. The steering’s also been lightened and given a quicker turning ratio to improve driver comfort, particularly when lugging heavy loads. I liked the result: it requires less muscle to turn and has improved steering response.

The Navara’s payload capacity has improved by 100kg thanks to a strengthened rear axle and an increase in the height of the load box.

The 140kW/450Nm 2.3 twin turbo diesel four-cylinder engine has been ditched in favour of a single-turbo four-cylinder 2.5 diesel with the same outputs. Nissan’s PR team wouldn’t explain the reason behind the change, and I couldn’t feel any difference in their performance.

Paired with seven-speed automatic gearboxes (no change there), both engines feel gutsy, delivering easy-going cruising and relatively brisk pulloffs.

The 140kW engine is used in the automatic Navara models, while manual versions have a mid-spec 2.5D engine detuned to 120kW and 403Nm (with the exception of high-spec LE manuals which also get the 140kW engine).

There have been major tech and styling improvements inside the Navara, and the new Pro-4X grade lays on a sassy interior vibe with its red-stitched black leather sports seats and red Nissan logo on the steering wheel.

For the first time the Navara will be available as a single-cab, having previously only offered double-cab derivatives. These workhorse versions have leaf spring rear suspension in place of the coil springs found in the leisure-focused double cabs.

The locally-built Navara range will grow to 17 models in single- and double-cab derivatives. Picture: SUPPLIED
The locally-built Navara range will grow to 17 models in single- and double-cab derivatives. Picture: SUPPLIED

The updated Navara range will offer a choice of both single and double-cab, 2WD and 4WD options, and a choice of automatic and manual transmissions. The line-up will also include a petrol version for the first time, in the form of a 2.5l four-cylinder turbo model with outputs of 118kW and 233Nm, available in single-cab only.

ABS brakes, brake assist and dual front airbags come standard across the range, with higher models getting additional safety fare like side airbags, stability control and reversing cameras.

Unusually, the upgrades come with substantial price drops of between 4.4% and 11.5% across the range, with the exception of the new flagship models, the Pro-2X 4x2 and Pro-4X 4x4, which are priced higher than the former range-topping derivatives.

The keen pricing and greatly expanded range should give the Navara a leg-up in a market where it has sold at a trickle compared to rivals like the Hilux, Ranger and Isuzu D-Max.

Orders are now open for the new Navara, with deliveries starting in June at the following prices:

SINGLE CAB

Navara 2.5 petrol XE 4x2 manual — R311,000

Navara 2.5D XE 4x4 manual — R350,000

Navara 2.5D SE 4x2 manual — R426,000

Navara 2.5D SE 4x4 manual — R492,000

Navara 2.5D LE 4x2 manual — R456,000

Navara 2.5D LE 4x4 manual — R527,000

 

DOUBLE CAB

Navara 2.5D SE 4x2 manual — R474,000

Navara 2.5D SE 4x2 auto — R498,000

Navara 2.5D SE 4x4 manual — R552,000

Navara 2.5D SE Plus 4x2 manual — R505,000

Navara 2.5 SE Plus 4x2 auto — R528,000

Navara 2.5D SE Plus 4x4 manual — R580,000

Navara 2.5D LE 4x2 auto — R606,000

Navara 2.5D LE 4x4 manual — R660,000

Navara 2.5D LE 4x4 auto — R677,000

Navara 2.5D Pro-2X 4x2 auto — R686,000

Navara 2.5D Pro-4X 4x4 auto — R740,000

Prices include a six-year/150,000km warranty and six-year/90,000km service plan

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