First Drive: Nissan Navara 2.3 DCI Double Cab 4×4 AT

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By thinking outside the box, Nissan is set to stir the pot with its all-new Navara. A twinturbo diesel engine, coil springs and seven gears means that their latest premium pick-up, the D23, may be the one to beat.

At its launch in Morocco, we were given an opportunity to put it properly through its paces, enabling us to gauge ride comfort, off-road ability and much more over a range of challenging terrains.

What’s New?

When compared to the old Navara (D22), everything is new − from the chassis to the engine, gearbox and the interior. Nothing has been carried over from the previous model, and it boasts some unique features… for a contemporary bakkie, that is.

As we know, the international launch for the D23 Navara was back in 2014; but, for South African conditions, the Navara gets a 25mm suspension lift and the option of both 18-inch and 16-inch wheels to suit your off-road needs.

Coil springs in a bakkie?

The new Navara takes cues from the ladder-frame SUV segment and fits coils to the rear end in a five-link setup. The benefits of this combination include a reduction in lateral movement of the rear axle, improved wheel articulation, and a softer ride when unladen.

By replacing leaves with coils, Nissan has removed the friction that occurs as leaves slide over each other. The reduced friction makes a huge difference over small, high-frequency bumps like corrugations or ridges in the road. In fact, the ride quality is so good, and the handling characteristics so SUV-like, that you very quickly forget that you’re driving a pick-up. Gone is the jitteryrear- end feeling and the fast rebound that we’ve become used to in double cabs; the new system is compliant and soft. It’s also quiet, with no trace of the incessant squeaking that often plagues leaf-sprung vehicles. A class-leading ride? Absolutely.

Of course, sceptics may point out that coils would reduce the load capacity, but the fact is that a one-ton payload is right on the money. Remember, Land Rover has been using coils in its own high-capacity pick-up for years, and that’s about as utilitarian as they come.

The main downside of coils is a higher manufacturing cost, which is why you’ll still find leaf springs on single cab and king cab Navaras, where a lower price takes priority.


Nissan Navara Gallery


What’s under the bonnet?

An all-new, Renault-derived 2.3-litre four-cylinder diesel engine does duty in top-spec Navara double cabs. The old 3.0-litre V6 diesel and 2.5 diesels have been ditched. Using twin sequential turbos (a small one for low revs and a big one for high revs), the Navara puts out 140kW with 450Nm of torque available between 1500 and 2500rpm. A broad power band, thanks to the twin turbos, provides linear performance without much of the ‘peaky’ feeling found in many other small-capacity turbodiesel engines.

A single-turbo variant of the same engine, with 120kW/403Nm, will be available in single cab variants, along with the option of 2WD, a six-speed manual gearbox and the same 2.5-litre petrol engine you’ll find in the Nissan X-Trail. The top spec Navara’s seven-speed automatic gearbox represents the only seven-speed unit in its class that also features a low-range transfer case. A rotary dial engages low range almost instantly, while highrange 4WD/2WD can be shifted on the fly, as we’ve come to expect.

The gearbox also features a snappy manual over-ride mode for when you need to keep control of your cogs. Mated to the automatic gearbox and twin-turbo diesel engine, towing capacity is rated at 3.5 tonnes. During the on-road portion of our drive in Morocco, we averaged around 8.3l/100km, though the claimed figure is as low as 7l/100km with a steady right foot.

How about the interior?
Any new technology?

The D23 interior benefits from the latest technology available, including keyless entry, dualzone digital climate-control and an intuitive 7-inch touch-screen system, as well as satellite navigation and a surround camera system.

True to old form, it’s spacious enough in the back for a large-ish man to enjoy long stints, while rear passengers also get their own air-con vents. A sunroof is an option unique in the LCV segment. Other smart technologies include hill descent control (HDC), hill start assist (HAS) and forward emergency braking.

When will it reach South Africa?

The local launch date is set for March this year and the Navara will be priced as the premium product that it is. We don’t have definitive pricing yet; but, according to overseas listings, we can expect top of the range double cabs to be pitched somewhere between R500 000 and R600 000. This should be competitive with rivals such as the Toyota Hilux 2.8 GD6 Double Cab automatic and the Ford Ranger Wildtrak auto.

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