Dave Morley’s 2018 Nissan Navara Review with pricing, specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.

In a nutshell Nissan took a big swing at the dual-cab ute concept a coupe of years back, tossing out the old, clunky, stiff leaf springs under the rear of its Navara four-door pick-up and instead fitting coil springs and a five-link set-up. The idea was to make the workhorse ride more comfortably without a load on board. Which it did, but then somebody put half a tonne in the tray and the Navara ceased to cope. This early-life facelift is all about fixing that.

2018 Nissan Navara

Pricing From $33,490 to $54,490 Warranty Threeyears/100,000km Safety Five star ANCAP Engines 2.3-litre four-cylinder, single turbo diesel/2.3-litre four-cylinder twin-turbo diesel Power/Torque 120kW 403Nm/140kW/450Nm Transmission Seven-speed automatic/six-speed manual Body 5255mm (long) 1850mm (wide) 1825mm (high, 4X4) Weight From 1810kg Fuel tank 80 litres Thirst 7.0 l/100km combined (twin-turbo 4X4)

NISSAN COULDN’T really go back to leaf rear springs to fix the Navara’s droopy backside, because that would have been admitting defeat and choking down a huge slice of engineering humble-pie. So, the plan was to try to beef up the Navara’s load-carrying credentials while retaining the coil springs thus maintaining the Nissan hay-hauler’s big point of difference. And since it was the Australian market that complained most loudly about the Navara hitting its rear bump-stops with anything more than an esky on board, Nissan sent its best Japanese assessment specialists, engineers and quality boffins to Central Victoria and the Yarra Valley throughout 2017 to work out and validate the changes.

There have been other alterations, too, with a new steering ratio and various detail and trim refinements. And those all-important rear-suspension fiddles aren’t just for us; they’ll eventually find their way on to the dual-cabs destined for all 120 or so of Nissan’s Navara markets.

What is the 2018 Nissan Navara dual-cab?

While the more utilitarian versions of the Navara remain relatively unchanged (and retain the conventional leaf-spring rear end) the dual-cab variants which are the hot sellers in Australia (the Navara dual-cab ST makes up 28 per cent of Aussie Navara volumes) all the pick-up (style-side as opposed to cab-chassis) versions get the five-link, trailing arm suspension and coil springs to locate the live axle.

2018 Nissan Navara Review

The problem was, of course, that the coil spring Nissan initially specified was simply too soft when a load was hurled into the tray. Yes, the vehicle rode better than most of the competition unladen, but a ute that can’t haul a load is up there with a chocolate teapot on the useless scale.

The fix has turned out to be a fairly simple one: Dice the soft, linear-rate rear coil spring for a stiffer one with a variable rate. The variable rate is courtesy of the spacings in the coil’s windings and the softer part of the spring comes into play when there’s no load on board. Compress the spring beyond that point (with a load) and the stiffer part of the coil chimes in, offering much more resistance to the mass and keeping the axle off the bump-stops. The revised spring has delivered a new ride height with the Navara now sitting 25mm higher at the rear unladen and 40mm higher than before with a full payload.

A quicker steering rack has also been developed to match the new rear end, and dual-cab Navara pick-ups now have a 14 per cent faster rack.

2018 Nissan Navara Review

Other changes that come with the facelift include the deletion of the NP300 badging (leaving just ‘Navara’) a 360-degree bird’s-eye-view camera for top-shelf ST-X versions and a rear-view camera becomes standard on all dual-cab pick-ups. Cars built from June this year onwards will also have a digital speedometer and adjustable tie-down hooks in the tray.

The rest is the rest, including a huge range of models and trim levels, two and four-wheel-drive variants and, for the dual-cab line-up, the same choice of DOHC, common-rail 2.3-litre diesel four-cylinder engines with either single or twin turbochargers and a six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic transmission.

2018 Nissan Navara Review

The Navara dual-cab range is split across two and four-wheel drive models, with the former taking in the RX, ST and ST-X versions, and the four-wheel-drive line-up offering RX, SL, ST and ST-X trim levels.

What’s it like to drive?

It comes as no real surprise to discover that the stiffer rear springs have done the job and fixed the Navara’s biggest practical shortcoming. In fact, we’d say the bigger question is how Nissan Inc. managed to get the thing so wrong in the first place, when it was launched in 2015.

While the Navara retains the sort of ride quality that is closer to a SUV than most of its tray-back competition, it can now cope with a load in the back without coming over all faint. Whether the unladen ride is any different to the original Navara is difficult to say, other than to suggest that it would take a back-to-back drive with new and old unladen Navaras for the definitive answer. Which is another way of saying that it’s pretty much as good as it ever was.

2018 Nissan Navara Review

But the body control with 650kg in the tray is the big improver. Where the previous version would simply sag in the tail and wobble around as it ran out of suspension travel, the revised Navara is much more composed, controllable and predictable even at highway speeds. There’s still a degree of secondary jounce over bumps and lumps, but a lot of this is surely down to unsprung weight which is a natural consequence of the off-road suspension and driveline and the wheel/tyre package.

The faster steering rack gives the Navara a bit more point when you haul on the lock, but it’s still not what you’d call scalpel sharp or remotely involving to steer. It’s definitely not on its own there. The flip-side is a high degree of insulation from steering shock which is a necessary evil in any off-road vehicle.

2018 Nissan Navara Review

The 2.3-litre turbo-diesel in either of its two tunes remains a real sweetie in this market segment and while It can feel a little gruff at low revs, it revs up cleanly and enthusiastically, although the long-travel accelerator pedal means big throttle inputs are the order of the day. No complaints about the automatic transmission – it does what it says on the box – but we weren’t able to sample the manual version. That said, the manual-gearbox take-up rate by buyers is very low to say the least.

What about safety features?

Fleet operators keen to give their workers the best safety package will definitely have the Navara on their short-list. Every Navara dual-cab has seven air-bags (including a knee air-bag for the driver) and full-length side-curtain air-bags that protect both rows of seats. You also get the usual electronic braking aids, traction control and stability control on all variants.

The safety upgrades this time around includes Isofix child-restraint points on both outboard rear-seat positions, that 360-degree camera on the ST-X and the rear camera on all pick-up versions (not the dual-cab cab-chassis, in other words).

So what do we think?

If you disregard the baggage accrued due to the vehicle’s original shortcomings and take the new version of the Navara pick-up on face value, it suddenly comes back into the reckoning. The engine looks small on paper but is pretty big on actual abilities and it teams nicely with the automatic transmission that the vast majority of buyers will specify.

There’s a distinct feeling of plushness in the cabin (compared with some of the Nissan’s peers) and build quality seems up to speed. Throw in the optional leather trim package at $1500 and the sunroof for another $1000, and you’re getting downright ritzy. And while the Nissan is not the cheapest of the breed, it features a huge spread of price-points once you factor in the two-wheel-drive alternatives and the plethora of trim levels and body styles.

2018 Nissan Navara Review


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  1. Very happy with the faster steering rack ratio, that should also fix the heavy steering weight and kickback through the wheel during turns, if you want more feel the only solution is to drop tyre pressure* down to lets say 28psi on the front wheels, that will make it feel heavier at slow speeds but once the tyres warm up to operating temp you will notice the difference, there is also better ride but the downside is loss of ground clearance which is not an issue on sealed roads but could be once off road.

    The change to dual pitch springs, that it interesting, let’s see if it works, there is not much more they can do as panhard rod coil spring set up are limited to what they have done or stiffen it up by using stiffer shocks (dampers) but the downside is loss of ride balance and a very jittery ride, GM Holden had this issue for years with the Commodore wagon from 79′ VB to the 96′ VS, remember they went back to leaf springs for the VY/VZ ute and the Crewman.

    *Either do that or change your driving style.

  2. So, still part time 4×4 Dave?

    I’m on the lookout for a dual cab ute with the option of full time all wheel drive, and seem to be the only person in Australia dumbstruck by the reluctance of most manufacturer’s to include it. Particularly when many of the utes already have a wagon sibling running AWD.

    The Ranger Raptor I figured, surely, would fill this void- but alas, what a disappointment that was- on more than one front.

    I’d be keen to hear any insights you or anyone might have as to why AWD isn’t more prevalent. I’m beginning to think that it’s because the majority of 4×4 ute buyers are more interested in posing than performance. It would certainly explain the plethora of sticker-pack specials on the market.

    1. Ted, the Mitsubishi Triton in GLS and Exceed specification would be he only option for full time any surface all speeds 4X4 essentially AWD mode due to Super Select II which does provide a 4X4 High with an Open Centre Differential, the torque split is something like 30/70 front to rear, it maintains there ASC (active stability control) and Traction Control system, once off road you can select 4X4 High with Locked Centre Differential for added traction as it’s a full time 50/50 torque split but won’t be able to driven on sealed surfaces due to binding, sure the Triton is not the best overall but it’s the only one in the mid size body on frame trucks that offeres this option in both manual and auto, same goes for Pajero Sport (all versions) and the older Pajero (still on sale till at least June 30 2018). Note only the Triton exceed has a rear diff locker as standard, it was an option on GLS but has been removed from that version.

      The other option is the Amarok automatic (4cyl or V6) with the 8-speed auto as that is there 4MOTION constant AWD set up (40/60 torque split) the downside is you won’t have 4×4 Low Range but you do get a super low 1st and 2nd gear ratio and there the ability lock the rear diff which somewhat helps when off roading.

      It’s a real shame that Ford could not take the AWD set up from Everest and use the for the Ranger Raptor, my understanding is it’s due to the shorter wheelbase the Everest has over Ranger, they could not make it work on the longer wheelbase base on the T6 LWB platform.

      1. You are right Theo,

        Having owned a 580nm ML Triton for the past nine years which has done most of it’s miles on corrugated gravel & gnarly tracks , I can certainly vouch for Super Select AWD.

        In instances where I’ve had to run a Hilux or Ranger, I’ve frustratingly found the limitations of part time 4×4 very quickly- “Why isn’t it going up this? Oh, I see- 4H engaged now… and it understeers like a sled. Also, why is it beeping and bonging at me just because I’ve opened the door or put the key in the ignition??”

        What I’d desperately like to do, is upgrade to something that doesn’t mean starting the whole modification thing again- something that doesn’t need an ECU tune to make enough power for towing at highway speeds, something that doesn’t need the shocks replacing so they don’t melt over corrugations and something that runs full time AWD for surfaces that switch between high traction/low traction a dozen times an hour.

        The Amarok may come closest, but their dealer network fades pretty fast when going bush, and I’d still need to throw suspension, barwork & less ridiculous side steps at what is already a Very Expensive Ute.

        As for the Everest AWD under the Ranger platform; I am quite sure that a longer wheel base only means more room to fit drivetrain components in, and that the prop shaft to the front diff is easily lengthened/shortened to accomodate. I expect it’s more a case of the accounting department scrimping on things ‘the market doesn’t really want anyhow’.

        Which suggests that the market is a bunch of suburban ‘look-at-me’s’ who aren’t interested in using their vehicle’s 4×4 potential, or seeing any of this amazing country beyond the sealed roads of Sydney & Melbourne.

        Yes, I am annoyed, and still maintain that the first manufacturer to build a Raptor-esque ute, with all wheel drive and circa 600nm will be killed in the rush as buyers who actually use their toys flock to them, wallets in hand.

        1. The best alternative then would be Everest, I have one and don’t have any major issues with the dampers over-heating when doing extended corrugated dirt/gravel road driving at speeds of 70 to 120km/h.

          Shame about the Ranger Raptor engine choice but that is for another article not this one.

          Looking forward to driving the Series III Navara with the new faster steering ratio & rear suspension changes as overall the Navara is very good, that Renault twin-turbo diesel has some serious get up and go and there automatic gear ratios are well spaced, when driving the Np300 a few years ago it was fun to flick it into sport mode and be able to manually hold gears and do up/down shifting, it showed just how flexible that engine is, more so than the Ranger’s 3.2L turbo diesel.

          1. Thanks Theo,

            I need a ute for my purposes, though I appreciate your views on the Everest.

            I’ll be interested to hear how the dampers fare after 60 000km of corrugations – aka about 12months worth- but will always stand to be corrected.

          2. There are ways to keep dampers from over-heating, one simple way is to up tyre pressure (provided it’s dry conditions), the downside is a bumpy ride due to the stiffer tyre sidewall but it will also mean less suspension travel keeping the dampers from over-heating, it also means more direct steering which can catch people out who are not used to that.

            It will be interesting to see the next gen Triton/Navara as they will be linked to each other with Mitsubishi platform being the one they are both working on, without any knowledge of future plans so speculation on my end, will Triton change to coil spring and part time 4×4? I doubt Mitsubishi would want to loose the Super Select II system but I doubt Nissan would want to go back to leaf springs for the “passenger” version of Navara (nor would Mercedes for X-Class & Renault for Alaskan), Nissan on the other hand would love to be able to offer full time AWD + 4×4 High Locked Centre & 4×4 Low Locker Centre , lol they could bring back locking front hubs 🙂 like on the now very old D22 Navara.

            I am surprised that the automotive media in Australia have not taken Ford Australia to task over the Raptor engine selection, my best guess is they are fearing loosing all that marketing money that Ford will throw at them once they ramp up Raptor marketing, such a shame that the automotive media are letting Ford control the narrative on that one.

          3. Thanks again Theo,

            Airing up for corrugations is definitely not something I’ve come across before.

            I normally air down to let the tyre do it’s share of the work- I find 28PSI & 90kph the most comfortable for corrugations, and at that pressure you don’t need to reach for the air compressor every time you find a bitumen jump up or tar RFDS strip. But I’m learning everyday.

            We’ll watch with interest as the new utes roll in over the next couple of years.

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