Drive test – Nissan Navara 2.5dCi 4X4 XE K/C

Thy Kingdom come

Read the magazine review in Drive Magazine.

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The Nissan Navara is an iconic bakkie, and in a country where these vehicles are so adored, that means a lot. The Navara is pretty much the ultimate incarnation of the leisure bakkie, a vehicle which combines hefty load-carrying capabilities with the comfort and ambience of a family saloon – a genuine multipurpose machine usually acting as a hard working business tool during the day and a prestigious, comfortable runabout whenever it isn’t performing these duties.

And the Navara stands as a leading player in this space. At least, it did.

Nissan has recently expanded its Navara lineup, with the new models heading downstream from the original which was fully-specced, which suited the positioning at the top of Nissan’s commercial vehicle lineup. It was this generous spec, along with the availability of the only 6-speed manual transmission in this class and those rugged, distinctive looks that seemed to turn the Navara into a brand of its own. Buyers just chose between the more frugal but very strong 2.5-litre turbodiesel or vocal but thirsty 4.0-litre V6 up front and drove away happy.

Now Nissan has added two new spec levels in to the mix, increasing customer choice, as well as a new King-Cab body option. This is the model we received for testing, the new entry-level diesel 4X4, the King Cab XE-spec, which means the deletion of some niceties like leather upholstery for cloth, wheel-mounted controls for the speedo cruise and audio, and that aluminium-look trim that lifts the interior of the full-fat SE models so nicely, among other things.

You do get some useful extra space behind the two front seats at least, although no lockable load boxes or anything like that, at least not in standard spec. A pair of suicide doors, one on either side of the vehicle, improves access to this secure load area, although as useful as they are out in the open these can actually be a massive pain if you’ve parked the large, imposing vehicle in a comparatively cramped garage and try to get your goods out the back while squished in a door/wall-defined triangle.

There’s also less chrome brightwork smattered about the exterior of the car, which in the case of our white test unit somewhat dulled the distinctive Navara face. All right, it’s definitely still clearly a Navara, just not quite so striking as it once was, a little like a Fleetline version of the icon in fact.

That turbodiesel mill is still strong though. With 403Nm on tap it makes light work of any load or trailer attached to the towbar, and unladen it pulls strongly for the redline. It isn’t the most refined unit we’ve ever tried however, and a bit like an old-school diesel it sounds pretty heavily strained closing in on the redline. There’s also a frightening lack of punch anywhere below the 2000rpm mark, but the 6-speed shifter makes working the narrow power band to keep the engine in its sweet spot pretty hassle-free.

Now we’re not sure if it’s to do with the more basically-appointed interior, but the ride of this King Cab seemed more workmanlike compared with the original D/C as well. The positioning of those suicide doors and their leading edges jutting into the airflow makes for more road noise especially when cruising on the highway, and also makes for C-pillars which look incomplete and decidedly fragile, not what you expect judging from the tough exterior. They have the seatbelts integrated into them you see, but the mounting arrangement doesn’t extend all the way to the roof naturally, making the whole concept look a little like an afterthought.

There’s more squeaking and rattling from the suspension permeating the cabin as well. Now normally a bit of volume on the radio would eradicate this from one’s mind, but the aftermarket combo-system fitted to our test car made this, woefully, impossible for us. Allow me to elaborate.

This system is one of these new-fangled all-in-ones. So you can play DVDs and watch TV on the large touchscreen display, handle all your conventional audio playback and control functions, and operate the integrated Garmin GPS.

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But, the system incorporates speed-limit warnings, bonging annoyingly whenever you get to within 7km/h of the limit, and continuing to pester you forevermore. Now with a standalone system it’s no problem, the annoying digital noise barely penetrating above the volume of your radio itself, and of course it’s off if you’re going somewhere you already know how to get to well, which is a lot of the time.

In this case, as long as the radio is on (and, peculiarly, there’s no off button), the GPS actually mutes what you’re listening to to annoy you with its histrionics. With me at the wheel, that meant I couldn’t listen to the radio at all, as it was merely a string of “LaadedBONGdedeeBONGdedahBONG”, or, in traffic reports, “Avoid theBONGas there are BONGlays due to BONGwhich should be clear byBONG.” Abso-bloody-lutely infuriating, in the end I had to spend the whole time with the entire system muted, although late in the test a possible alternate solution emerged – it seems that if you’re 40km/h or more over the posted limit, the GPS decides you’re utterly bonkers and stops talking to you… although this workaround seems a bit unreliable, and possibly expensive.

So whatever you do, don’t go for the GPS. Buy a standalone Garmin and attach it permanently to the screen. Trust me.

Otherwise, it’s certainly a capable bakkie but I am concerned that it’s eroding the strength of that Navara brand. It’s like those Elvis lookalikes, they’ve got the face, even often got the moves, but as soon as they open their mouths the spell is broken. This entry-level King Cab, apart from the 6-speed box, feels more like an NP300 Hardbody than the famed Navara leisure bakkie most of the time. It wears the famous face and badge uneasily, in short.

I’m sure the full-on SE specifications will maintain the strong name but these lower-specced variants automatically decrease even its strong street cred. And that’s a bit of a shame. Personally, if I wanted more of a workhorse than a leisure bakkie, I’d buy an NP300 end of story, and if I was a fleet owner looking for comfort as well as pulling power, this is no substitute for the Navara SE models except in appearance.

Reviewer: Russell Bennett

Liked

Distinctive styling.

Disliked

Driving the lifestyle brand downstream

Annoying SatNav “features”

Rough riding

Footnote: Upon originally publishing this review we were contacted by the local fitment agents for the infotainment system who insisted that, despite our best efforts at discovering it, there was indeed an option to turn the speed-limit warning off, as there surely must be. We did print the full instructions for doing so as provided to us, as well as an apology for the error, in the December issue of Drive Magazine.

Vital Stats

Engine : 2.5-litre turbodiesel

Power : 128kW @ 4000rpm

Torque : 403Nm @ 2000rpm

Weight : 1962kg

Price : R320 900

For more information visit the Nissan SA website.

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  • http://lifesfashion.com Dean Maffeo

    My daughter loves your post!She and I have the same interest by the way. :)

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