WC Fields once said “Never work with children or animals”. Fields was an actor, and never (as far as we know) drove a ute on a farm for the purposes of a photoshoot (despite his rather coincidental surname).
His prophetic words echoed in my head as three farm dogs were loaded onto the back of the Nissan Navara ST-X. It was the dogs, two pregnant horses and a decaying earthmover 50m up the paddock that I was interested in. Conveniently all located on the Matakana farm of a friend-of-a-friend, I was there for a ‘relaxing’ weekend of intensive, blister-splitting drum workshops, so I had to get on with it because time was limited.
Animals know this. They have a sixth sense when it comes to foiling the best-laid human plans — like the cat that conveniently disappears when you need to take it to the cattery so you can catch your flight, the dogs would not stay on the back of the ute. Try as I might to get said canines, aforementioned pregnant mares, and the rusting machine in the same frame, the dogs had other ideas.
Fortunately the Navara is more reliable and controllable than 12 legs of barking belligerence. Ours featured a king cab (suicide doors provide access to the rear fold-down seats) and a flat deck, though it comes in other configurations, such as double cab wellside. A towbar comes as standard. Three engines are available — a 198kW 4-litre V6 petrol or 128kW 2.5-litre turbo diesel on the 4×4 models, and a 106kW turbo diesel on the 4×2 model, mated to a six-speed manual or five-speed auto. Our 4×4 auto drove very much like a car, though low speed tight corners in the wet resulted in some occasionally lairy moments with the unladen tray. Blame that on a very healthy 403Nm of torque — useful for towing up to 3000kg in a braked trailer. Luckily there’s ABS to assist the stopping, backed up with brake assist and electronic brake force distribution, and even a couple of airbags (something you don’t get in the lower specification DX).
The Navara is a big car — 5220mm long and 1850 wide, excluding the mirrors. This leads to a fairly large turning circle of 13.3 metres. Ground clearance on the king cab is not as good as the double cab – at 205mm it gives up 30mm — but the angle of approach is 32 degrees (compared to 29) and angle of departure almost 30 degrees (compared to 22). And, the flat deck has a much better load size capacity than the wellside, with a significantly larger tray (600mm longer and 240mm wider), though it loses 100kg against the wellside version in the weight it can carry (820kg as opposed to 920kg in the king cab variant).
For a two-tonne ute, the fuel economy is ok, but not stellar — Nissan quotes 10.5l/100km with the auto; 9.8l/100km with the manual.
The hour’s drive to Matakana might well have been made in a car, with the Navara eating up the motorway miles like a mid-sized sedan, albeit one that allows you to see over the traffic in front of you while carrying seven bales of hay. Compared to the DX we tested a couple of months ago, the ride is more refined, and the interior is, too. In the back there’s a couple of fold-down seats — you wouldn’t want to ride on them for long, though. The fit-out other than that is very car-like, even getting a reasonable quality stereo, cruise control, power mirrors and a leather steering wheel. Externally, you’ll see 16-inch alloys, colour-coded mirrors, a towbar, side runners and side steps as standard.
Eventually, threats and shouting by the dogs’ owner saw them take up a relaxed position in the ute’s tray, but the horses had moved on to greener pastures. The digger sat there impassively. So, I didn’t get the shot — it had to be all separate. WC Fields was right — imagine what a nightmare it would have been if I had had to get three children on the back!
Click through to the next page for a list of specifications for the Nissan Navara ST-X
Price: from $45,000; as tested $51,900
What we like
- Excellent towing
- Drives like a car
What we don’t like
- Be careful in the wet with an empty tray in 2WD mode
- Toyota Hilux is more stylish
Nissan Navara ST-X (2008) – Specifications
5 speed auto
Transfer case — Dual range 4×4 w/ electric 4WD selection
Rated Towing Capacity
Trailer with brakes (kg) 3000
Trailer without brakes (kg) 750
Gross front axle (kg) 1365
Gross rear axle (kg) 1720
Fuel type — diesel
Fuel tank capacity (litres) 80
Fuel economy (manual) 9.8
Fuel economy (auto) 10.5
C02 Emission LTNZ Standard (g/km) Manual 235 Automatic 248
Emission Comp. Std Euro 4
Fuel Consumption to ADR 81/01
ABS brakes with BA & EBD
Front suspension — independent, double wishbone with coil over shock
Rear suspension — rigid axle with leaf spring
Rack and pinion power assisted steering
Limited Slip Differential
16×7 JJ alloy wheels with 255/7OR16 tyres
17×7 JJ alloy wheels with 255/65R17 tyres
Steel spare wheel
Words and photos Darren Cottingham