What is it?
After years and years of revisions since first launching in 2014, Nissan has now dropped the latest version of its enduring D23 Navara. Officially the Series 5 iteration, not only does the Navara now have a tougher new look courtesy of a heavy facelift, but Nissan now claims to have finally solved the model’s longstanding suspension woes.
The range has been revamped as well with the introduction of the new range-topping PRO-4X variant tested here – priced at $58,130 with a manual gearbox, but $60,630 for this automatic – which draws heavily upon the influence of the American-made Titan PRO-4X which isn’t OEM-offered here in Australia.
Why are we testing it?
With Nissan finally claiming to have got the Navara to its prime point mechanically, we were keen to really put it to the test to see how it holds up both on-road and off-road, as well as on the worksite. Having been impressed by the Aussie-developed Navara N-Trek Warrior we looked at last year (a new PRO-4X Warrior is imminent as well) we’re hoping to see some of the know-how from that applied here as well.
Additionally, the Navara will soon be dropped in Europe when Nissan’s Barcelona plant closes in December, so this review will also give that part of the world an insight as to what it’s now missing out on.
What’s different on the outside?
Everywhere you look aside from the distinctive door and cabin profile when viewed side-on, the Navara looks noticeably different to the pre-facelift design that was looking pretty long in the tooth.
Up front, the bold new rectangular grille with integrated ‘Navara’ lettering certainly does the job of giving it a bold, American look, and the lower section of the bumper gives it a much stronger jawline as well. At the back, the reworked tailgate that has been angled at the top to look as though it has a bit of spoiler certainly helps it look sportier – as does the sail-plane sports bar, extensive red highlights, and black wheels and badging.
However, with the same old cabin shape in the middle and things like its dated door handle design as well, it does give the Navara the appearance of not being too cohesively tied together from front to back given how modern the new front looks tacked onto the rest of the old design. Certainly, though, it’s a step-up from before, and the murdered-out treatment the PRO-4X gets definitely gives it a tough edge.
What’s it like inside?
While the cabin hasn’t been drastically overhauled, there are more than a few changes to be seen here as well. A new – and vastly more attractive – steering wheel design is the first thing you’ll notice after slotting into the driver’s seat, which feels more supportive and features new quilted leather upholstery with red and white stitching, and the PRO-4X script embroidered around the shoulder area as well.
Behind the wheel is a new semi-digital gauge cluster which has a very clear and high-res 7.0-inch screen fitted between the two big mechanical dials, which is impressive given the majority of utes still stick with a small 4.2-inch display here. The same 8.0-inch touchscreen introduced last year remains in the middle as well, which has integrated satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, and an unbelievably handy 360-degree camera system that’s a godsend both in carparks and when off-roading.
One new thing you’ll notice next to the clunky and chunky old shifter, though, is a drive mode selector switch that allows you to flick through its three new drive modes – Standard, Sport, and Off-Road. This marks the first time the Navara has actually had any distinct drive modes – but more on how they perform in a moment.
Something that is disappointing, however, is that a few comfort features available on the lower-tier ST-X model aren’t available at all on the range-topping PRO-4X – namely, heated front seats, power-adjustment for the driver’s seat, and a sunroof. The steering column still lacks telescopic adjustment as well, so for those of us who have to sit further back, it may feel a bit unergonomic having to reach that bit further for it.
At least it does finally feature some long-overdue safety tech in the form of autonomous emergency braking and blind-spot monitoring, though – which, again, is important given many rivals such as the Isuzu D-Max include this on all models from the base-spec up.
Even with some disappointing omissions, then, the cabin refresh is certainly a welcome one as it looks far more attractive than before and benefits greatly from the primary additions its received.
What’s it like to drive?
One thing that remains effectively unchanged is the engine that powers the Navara. All variants bar the base SL manual are powered by a 2.3-litre four-cylinder twin-turbo diesel engine that produces 140kW at 3750rpm and 450Nm from 1500-2500rpm. The six-speed manual and seven-speed automatic transmissions it’s available with are a carry-over as well, while the PRO-4X tested here is only available with part-time four-wheel drive.
While the engine may be a carry-over, it’s clear that the new tuning (remember that drive mode selector mentioned earlier?) makes a difference when it comes to throttle mapping in particular. When left to its own devices in Standard, it feels smoother and more progressive than before when the second turbo coming on was far more clearly felt; in Sport, it actually feels far more responsive than I’d ever have thought this thing could.
In the case of the seven-speed auto fitted to my tester, it feels as though it’s been benefitted by the retune as well – it no longer feels busy, instead holding gears for that bit longer, and being happier to drop down a cog or two when you press the loud pedal a bit harder.
The loud pedal doesn’t seem to be quite as loud as before now either, mainly as the cabin insulation has been noticeably improved, with very little wind and tyre noise intrusion in particular – impressive, given it’s hardly the most aerodynamic thing, and it’s now riding on all-terrain tyres.
What’s really made the biggest difference of all to the Navara, however, is yet another suspension revision. While cab chassis models still have a leaf-sprung live rear axle as is the case on most utes, higher-spec’d models like the PRO-4X feature a coil-sprung live rear axle. While certainly something that benefits ride quality, until now it has been to the detriment of the Navara’s abilities as a ute, with notable sagging when heavily-laden and a payload that was short of its competitors.
After all those past attempts at striking the right balance, the Series 5 is the one that gets it right. Payload now exceeds one tonne on all dual cab models (the PRO-4X automatic can handle 1004kg) and the sagging has been reduced to a minimum thanks to dual-rate springs. With a tray full to the brim with mulch, I recorded 38mm of sagging to give you an idea. Side note: the bloke tipping said mulch into the back of it noted that sports bars like the Navara had do make jobs like that more difficult, so that’s something to keep in mind.
What’s more, it still rides just as comfortably as before, but it takes care of one additional issue it used to suffer from – atrocious body roll. I noted in my review of the Navara N-Trek Warrior how impressed I was at how well it handled with its custom suspension setup, and I’m glad the normal Navara now feels just as settled through the bends as it.
There’s still one area where the Navara’s suspension does still miss the mark, though, and that’s off-road. At standard height like this, it simply doesn’t have enough suspension travel or rigidity for really difficult terrain. On my articulation test I take all utes through, it raised the right-hand rear wheel while on the left-hand side the suspension was compressed right down to the bump stop – many utes can keep both rear wheels on the ground comfortably through the same section.
It’s a big step up, then, for the Navara, but ultimately, it’s still hard for it to overcome some of the characteristics of a coil-sprung live rear axle setup. Kudos to Nissan for sticking with it and continuing to revise it, though, as it’s clearly come a long way.
How do the numbers stack up?
At a list price of $60,630 for this range-topping model, the Navara certainly manages to undercut many competitors’ equivalently-placed models – do keep in mind, though, that the Navara misses out on a few features many of these offer. However, Nissan is offering the PRO-4X automatic at a fixed drive-away price offer of $62,790 which certainly sweetens the deal. Certain other variants are also offered with fixed drive-away pricing as well.
In the warranty and servicing department, Nissan offers an industry-standard five-year warranty with an unlimited kilometre allowance during that time. Along with regular capped-price servicing, pre-paid service plans covering the first three, four, or five years are also available. For the five-year plan on a PRO-4X automatic, you’re looking at $2847, equating to a rather dear $569.40 per service – that’s just shy of $100 more than the Mazda BT-50 for each of the first five services, to given an example, and that’s already more expensive to service than the related Isuzu D-Max.
Also worth highlighting is the Navara’s fuel consumption of 9.0L/100km over the course of my 685km of testing – an acceptable rise over the 8.1L/100km claim, and on the lower side of average for the class.
So, what’s the verdict?
Without question, the D23 Navara is in the best form of it’s life thus far. Finally, the coil-sprung suspension manages to make some sense, striking the impressive balance between comfort and strength (for the most part) that it always needed to.
However, the top-spec Navara PRO-4X’s value proposition is let down by it lacking features features available both on rivals and lower-spec’d models in its own range, and the high servicing costs are also quite a detraction – even if it being offered at a set drive-away price is one positive in this regard.
Nonetheless, the Navara is now worthy of consideration against the class’ best, and with how worthwhile an update this regular PRO-4X variant has brought to the range, the imminent PRO-4X Warrior ought to be pretty impressive as well.
2022 Nissan Navara PRO-4X Automatic List Price: $60,630 | Drive-Away Price: $62,790
- Performance - 8/108/10
- Ride & Handling - 8/108/10
- Tech & Features - 7.5/107.5/10
- Practicality - 8/108/10
- Value for Money - 7.5/107.5/10
Pros: Engine and transmission tuning is smoother and more responsive, new suspension tune has reduced body roll and increased load handling greatly, American-inspired new looks are pretty tough
Cons: PRO-4X lacks heated/power adjustable seats when they’re available on the lower ST-X, rear axle still lacks articulation, expensive to service
Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by Nissan Australia for a week with a full tank of fuel.