2018 Nissan Navara ST-X dual-cab 4×4 Review
Dan DeGasperi’s 2018 Nissan Navara ST-X dual-cab 4×4 Review with Price, Specs, Performance, Ride and Handling, Ownership, Safety, Verdict and Score.
In a nutshell: A Series III update is a case of third time lucky for a continually improving Nissan Navara in top-sped ST-X dual-cab 4×4 guise
2018 Nissan Navara ST-X dual-cab Specifications
Price $54,490+ORC Warranty three-years, 100,000km Safety 5-star NCAP Engine 2.3-litre 4cyl twin-turbo diesel Power 140kW at 3750rpm Torque 450Nm at 1500-2500rpm Transmission seven-speed automatic Drive four-wheel drive Dimensions 5255mm (L) 1850mm (W) 1855mm (H) 3150mm (WB) Angles 33.2-degrees (approach) 28.2-degrees (departure) 24.7-degrees (ramp over) Ground Clearance 228mm (claimed) Kerb Weight 1996kg Payload 914-931kg Towing 3500kg maximum braked GVM 2910kg GCM 5910kg Fuel Tank 80L Spare full-size steel underslung Thirst 7.0/100km (claimed combined)
THE bigger the business, the more the new car business will pay big attention. It’s a simple equation that explains why the D23-generation Nissan Navara has been locally tuned for its Series III guise.
The ute market, and in particular the 4×4 dual-cab part of it, sells up a storm in Australia, and that demand means every mainstream car manufacturer wants in on the potential for lucrative profits.
But the D23 Navara hasn’t hit the mark, despite being unique with rear coil springs instead of everyone else’s leaf springs, which are purported to provide greater comfort that rivals. The flipside was soggy towing ability, causing two retunes of the suspension.
Being behind on sales also meant that Nissan’s Japan headquarters took note and sent engineering big wigs to Australia to study our conditions and provide a fix. Dual cabs are big business after all.
What is the Nissan Navara ST-X dual-cab 4×4?
As with other utes, there are single- and crew-cab, plus 4×2, variations of the Navara available. But dual-cab 4×4 (with automatic transmission) is where the sales are at, and here it starts from $42,990 plus on-road costs for the RX.
The $46,490+ORC SL retains humble steel wheels, but adds widebody flared guards, side steps, LED headlights, a digital compass, rear locking differential and – crucially – both the aforementioned suspension upgrades and also quicker steering for the first time.
Nissan gets most of its volume from the $49,690+ORC ST and the $54,490+ORC ST-X tested here, with the former adding 16-inch alloy wheels, foglights, sports bar, leather wrapped steering wheel and satellite navigation on a 7.0in touchscreen to the mix. This latter flagship then adds 18in alloys, keyless auto-entry with push-button start and electric-fold door mirrors, a tub liner, hill-descent control, rear parking sensors and a 360-degree camera. It then asks $1500 for leather trim with an electrically adjustable driver’s seat and heated front seats, then another $1000 for a sunroof, as fitted to our test car for a hefty $56,990+ORC ask.
This is especially perplexing pricing given that, at the time of writing, the SL auto is advertised for $39,990 driveaway and this ST-X (with the leather but no sunroof) is marketed for $51,490 driveaway. Huge discounts, sure, but even then is it all enough compared with one particular fierce rival from a brand actually owned by Nissan? Read on.
What’s the Interior Like?
For some context, Nissan purchased Mitsubishi last year, and its global executives are perplexed at how the former is outsold by the latter in Australia. Usually it’s the other way around by some margin in most markets. But note that the Mitsubishi Triton is currently advertised online for $46,990 driveaway in top-spec Exceed spec, and that’s still a $4500 saving on Nissan’s equivalent ST-X-with-leather deal. The Navara is a bigger ute, but the exterior size advantage isn’t necessarily reflected inside, while cabin kit is only comparable.
Up front it lacks the Exceed’s digital radio and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring technology, for example, though it does respond with integrated satellite navigation that is easy to use. A digital speedometer will also be added from June production. A couple of side-mounted pop-out cupholders complement the twin console bottle holders, but both the centre storage bin and cupholders are very small indeed.
While hard plastic trim is the norm for the dual-cab ute class, and the front seats are decently comfortable, the same cannot be said for the rear bench that lacks the depth and tilt of the Triton and also the Ford Ranger that are among the best in the segment here. The base is short and the backrest upright, while its positioning low to the floor forced a knees-up position – worth keeping in mind if lanky teens or adults are regulars in the back seat.
On the upside there are both air vents and map lights back there, if not a fold-down armrest, and Nissan’s unique electric-sliding small rear window is ideal for a bit of ventilation without side buffeting – or if you have a hound in the rear tray. Speaking of which, at 1503mm long, the tub (impressively with plastic lining as standard) is 17mm short of the Mitsubishi, but a substantial 90mm wider (at 1560mm) than what is widely known as one of the narrowest utes in the class. It all depends how much that width means to you.
What’s it like on the road?
Even if you buy the base dual-cab 4×4 Navara RX for $43K, you’re still only getting a 120kW/403Nm single-turbo version of this 2.3-litre engine. Keep in mind that every dual-cab 4×4 Triton, including those from about $35K, gets a 133kW/430Nm 2.4-litre turbo diesel, and there could be cause for value concern. However, it takes at least $46.5K and the dual-cab 4×4 Navara SL to get the twin-turbo version with a competitive 140kW/450Nm.
Allied with an adept seven-speed automatic (compared with only five speeds for Mitsu) and the result is impressive response anywhere, for an energetic and keen engine that is allowed to relax at speed. There’s too much clatter either at idle or on light throttle, but it then smoothens out.
Only the SL, ST and ST-X 4×4 dual cabs take the new suspension tune, as well. But Nissan reckons 90 per cent of buyers pick the dual cab, 83 per cent of them choose one of those grades, and 80 per cent of the total select 4×4 – so at least most buyers get the upgrades.
Speaking of which, new ‘dual-rate’ coil springs allow a lower rate in the first stage of travel for a more comfortable unladen ride, plus a higher rate in the second stage to help prop-up heavier loads (such as when towing) without causing sag. Teamed with quicker steering (down from 4.1 to 3.4 turns lock-to-lock) and the Navara has become highly competitive on the road. The steering isn’t in the league of a Ranger, still being a bit too muddy in weighting, but it is now fairly tight and linear in response.
The unladen ride quality can feel a bit too firm, especially at low speeds, but on anything faster than urban arterials it does improve to become very acceptable, if not outstanding. Payload of between 914kg (if leather and sunroof are optioned) and 931kg is comparable with others (including the 965kg Exceed), and when a heap of house furniture was loaded into the rear we can confirm that the body remained very level, and the handling assured. With 3.5-tonne towing, too, it ousts the 3.1t Mitsubishi and matches the best in the class.
What’s it like off the road?
With highly competitive approach, departure and ramp-over angles (see specs at top) the Navara performed effortlessly over our heavily rutted course punctuated by steep inclines then drops. But corrugations are not this suspension’s best friend, especially at speed and unladen where it can turn jittery – a bit like how it feels a fraction too firm at times on-road.
While there also isn’t quite the rebound compliance to take large dips and humps at much beyond walking pace, it scrambled over anything without fuss and never bottomed out. The simple four-wheel drive hardware includes 2H, 4H and 4L, the middle of which isn’t recommended to be used at anything over 100km/h (dirt-road cruising, for example), but it can be flicked from two- to four-wheel drive on the fly at up to that speed.
With seven gears, we didn’t find 4L overly necessary despite the odd sharp climb – though it was enough to cause one rear wheel to be fully compressed and the other high in the sky, so the locking rear diff button did prove useful. The overwhelming feeling is that, on road or off road, the Navara is now a highly competitive unit among some real A-grade peers.
What about ownership?
Nissan offers a three-year, 100,000 kilometre warranty, which is sub-par these days.
Long service intervals – every year or 20,000km – are impressive, and a six-year/120,000km servicing plan is available for a capped-price $547, $603, $714, $603, $547 and $770 per check-up respectively.
What about safety features?
Seven airbags (including for the driver’s knee) combine with ABS, traction control and electronic stability control (ESC), plus there’s rear parking sensors and a 360-degree camera. But there is a disappointing lack of active safety technology, with even a blind-spot monitor lacking, let alone lane-departure warning and autonomous emergency braking (AEB).