Coming out of retirement is usually an activity reserved for poverty-stricken heavyweight boxers, but Nissan has proved that even a ute can return to former glory with its Navara DX. The D22 model Navara was a big seller for Nissan from the late nineties till 2004 when it was replaced by a cocky new model in the Navara ST-X. Utility vehicle sales dropped and Nissan decided to return its old champ to the ring to see if it could still be a crowd favourite. After some reconstructive surgery in face-lift form, the Navara DX is back, but is it still a true contender in the highly competitive pick-up truck division?
The Navara measures up well. Most of the new styling has been done around the front end with new lights, bumper and grille, giving the vehicle an honest-looking face, neither aggressive or soft. Recently utes have become overly concerned with aesthetics, pushing them toward being more car-like in their styling, this cannot be said of the Navara DX. A thick black plastic front bumper and guards show that it is still a working vehicle and the matching black bonnet scoop lets everyone know it’s packing a punch. It is exactly this decision not to have flashy chrome detailing and a more curvaceous shape that may appeal to many buyers in the niche utility vehicle market.
The Navara’s interior styling is consistent with the exterior, its spartan and purposeful, various plastics cover the entire cabin including footwells making the entire area easy to clean with a wet sponge if not a hose. The dashboard and instruments are one area where the Navara does show some age – the heater controls and two adjacent ashtray set up really required more revision. The steering wheel is thin and poorly suited for big rough farm-workers’ hands.. The velour front seats are comfortable and easy to jump into and out of. In the double cab the rear seat is a tight fit for an adult, but comfort can be found with some leg positioning. The back doors are narrow which makes entry and exit tricky, it is still useful having this extra seating as an option, if not for everyday use. Good cabin storage is provided between the front seats, in the large glove box and two cup holders. Air-conditioning, electric windows and a single CD player come as standard; airbags are optional. The tested Navara had central locking but no keyless entry — useful for rugged conditions where an electronic remote may get wet or damaged easily, but annoying if it’s used for regular stopping, vacating and returning to the vehicle.
The Navara DX packs a tidy punch with a 2.5 litre 4-cylinder turbo diesel powerplant that produces 98kW and 304Nm of torque. This unit offers some grunt when worked well through the gears and cruises smoothly at motorway speeds, if noisily. The high level of torque generated makes the Navara DX a true brawler-hauler with an impressive load potential of over 1,000kg for the double cab and 1,300kg for the single. Towing is a breeze too with a pulling capacity of 2,800kg.
Handling? The Navara leaves you in no doubt that it’s a truck, dealing with corners more like a punch drunk has-been than a heavyweight champ. Independent suspension at the front and heavy-duty rear-leaf suspension at the back is set-up for heavy loads so quick cornering with an empty load-bay isn’t advised. Potholes and dips can cause a bouncy ride and driving over judder bars is an easy indication that the Navara is more suited to a rural setting. The grip is generally good, even in the wet the tyres shouldn’t slip if driven sensibly so footwork isn’t the Navara’s weakness. Off road credentials are good with a ground clearance of 230mm, an approach and departure angle of up to 31 degrees and it can cope with a climb of 39 degrees.
The Navara DX has had a big career and Nissan has done well to extract so much from this platform, but it doesn’t have any title fights left. That said, the Navara does score points for being no-nonsense, highly functional and strong in the working duties that utes are expected to perform. The age of the model and its no-frills appearance are reflected in its pricing so it offers good value for money. The ride could be more refined and the interior is dated but the Navara remains a competent journeyman if no longer a king hitter.
For the full specifications of the Nissan Navara DX click through to the next page.
Price: from $32,995
What we like
- Good load capacity and towing power
- High clearance
- Hard-wearing interior
- Reasonable price
What we don’t like
Nissan Navara DX – Specifications
2.5 Litre Diesel DOHC, 4Cyl In-line Turbo
Capacity cc: 2488
Power kW: @ rpm 98 @ 3600
Torque Nm: @ rpm 304 @ 2000
Bore and Stroke mm: 89 x100
Fuel System:Common-rail Diesel
Direct Injection, Common Rail
Fuel tank capacity litres: 75
Fuel economy L/100km: 9.2
CO2 Emissions g/km: (LTNZ Standard) 239.7
Emission Compliance Standard: Euro 4
5 speed Manual
Transfer Ratio Low
2.02 : 1
Front Suspension: Double wishbone with stabiliser bar
Rear Suspension: Leaf spring with telescopic shock absorbers
Overall Length mm: 5090
Overall Width mm: 1825
Overall Height mm: 1715
Wheelbase mm: 2950
Track – Front / Rear mm: 1525/1505
Ground clearance mm: 230
Minimum Turning Circle m: 12
Weights and Capacities
Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) kg: 2860
Kerb Weight kg: 1765
Total Payload kg: 1095
Gross Axle Front kg:1380 Rear kg: 1800
Towing Capacity Brake kg: 2800
Unbraked kg: 750
Words Adam Mamo, photos Darren Cottingham