Rugged charm

Rugged charm

Remember the Nissan Navara Tough City TV ads from a couple of years ago? “Keeping it rugged” was a central theme – the Navara the main character. GAVIN MYERS tests the theory.

The arena of the rough-and-tough 4×4 double cab is filled with pretenders to the throne. Each has its own character, and overall they aim for supremacy at the top of the hill, with a tonne of “I am the greatest” in tow.

Admittedly, most will remain urban-bound for a lot of the time. Nissan quite brilliantly brought all this through in its Navara advertising campaign not long ago, so I was interested to see what it could do. Yes, if you want a tough, no frills 4×4 and Nissan is your brand, the NP300 is your bakkie – the Navara is slightly softer and much more luxurious. What this translates to, though, is a double cab with a slightly more compliant ride than most.

In 2010 the Navara range received a facelift as well as an interior and spec upgrade. On your LE-spec vehicles (as was our test unit) you receive such niceties as dual-zone climate control, MP3/CD radio with USB, auxiliary and Bluetooth hands-free connectivity, cruise control and a trip computer.

The neat, comfortable interior benefits from great ergonomics, but it must be said that the quality of some of the plastics was not as good as expected – some surfaces being unexpectedly hard and showing scratches. Our test unit also had a squeak from the rear doors on rough roads. The interior feels slightly tighter than some newer rivals, but is nonetheless a lovely place to be.

Rugged charmThe bold exterior remains familiar Navara, and even eight years into its lifecycle, it remains a “looker” and still has presence aplenty.

The tailgate is also lockable on LE models, and the loadbay offers an 845 kg payload. The vehicle’s GVM is 2 825 kg. There are no tie-down hooks, but Nissan’s innovative five-point C Channel system is standard – which allows positioning and securing of loads.

On the road the 2,5-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine provides satisfying surge from its 140 kW (at 4 000 r/min) and 450 Nm (at 2 000 r/min). However, before the turbo starts spooling up at around 1 500 r/min, it really has nothing to offer – so keeping the revs up is a must.

I also didn’t like the six-speed manual transmission. While the ratios keep the engine in the torque band when on the move, the poor shift action and wide gate really detracted from an otherwise pleasant driving experience. The five-speed automatic version (fitted with a 128 kW, 403 Nm version of the same engine) accompanied us to Durban and back for Truck Test 2012 and I personally found that gearbox a better fit.

Nissan claims combined fuel consumption of 8,5 l/100km for the vehicle and a 224 g/km emissions rating. In and around town, the fuel consumption seemed heavier though, the vehicle’s on-board computer reporting 12 l/100 km after a week in our hands.

On the safety front, the Navara LE comes equipped with six airbags, ABS anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and Brake Assist, and ISOFIX child seat mountings.

The Navara is still a very good and comfortable, yet tough and rugged, vehicle. It’s easy to see where its popularity and charm come from. While not over priced, the 2,5 dCi 4×4 LE Double Cab’s retail price of R450 000 (with a standard three-year/100 000 km warranty and service plan) does seem a little steep in the face of newer competition.

One also has to ask how much longer it will be around before its replacement model is announced. One thing is certain, though; the Navara, even as a second-hand buy, will keep its popularity and rugged attitude.

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