First Drives Nissan Navara with Darren Moody

It’s hard to believe we are at Series III already, within three years of Navara’s original launch, but you have to look backwards a little bit to understand why.

When Nissan launched the then-named NP300 Navara in 2015, they had bravely set about to do away with the traditional leaf-sprung rear suspension in their dual-cab models (which all their competitors still use) and replace it with a more car-like coil spring set-up in a bid to improve ride quality.

Unfortunately for Nissan they didn't get it quite right. Any substantial weight in the tray or on the towball saw the rear end drop substantially, exacerbating slow, unresponsive steering because of reduced weight on the front wheels. The Series II upgrade also failed to totally address this fundamental issue.

Enter Series III and you now have an upgrade that has had substantial testing and validation in Australia by the Chief Vehicle Assessment Specialist (CVAS) team, while also benchmarking leading opposition brands. Navara now sits 25mm higher unladen and 40mm higher at maximum load. The fivelink rear suspension in the dual-cabs features a newly developed dual rate coil spring that uses a lower spring rate for unladen and low payloads to ensure premium ride quality, with the higher rate managing higher payloads and towing while maintaining better vehicle posture and good ride quality.

The other criticism from the original model was the slowness of the steering to driver inputs, causing Nissan to rework the steering rack with a quicker ratio. A 14% lower steering ratio has reduced lock-to-lock from 4.1 to 3.4 turns.

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In addition to the suspension changes, ST-X king and dual-cab models get an 'around view' camera set-up, giving a bird's eye view of your vehicle via the 7" infotainment screen. It also has two ISOFIX child restraint anchor positions in the dual cab with a digital speedo for all SL, ST and ST-X models from June production onwards. Rear-view camera is now standard on all pick-up models, although cab chassis variants miss out.

The 2.3L single or twin turbo diesel engines continue to perform relatively strongly. I only drove models with the seven-speed auto transmission that went almost unnoticed (which is a good thing). There are no changes to power, torque or fuel consumption, and a six-speed manual is standard across the range.

At the national launch, Nissan wanted to show off their work on the suspension and steering, so they provided dual-cabs that were carrying 650kg, towing laden trailers or were empty to demonstrate that the new Navara was up to the job under any circumstances.

After driving the entire range in both suburban, highway and country areas, I can report there is considerable improvement in the vehicle stance with and without load. Ride quality, especially with a load or towing, is clearly better, while improvements are less evident unladen. Steering is definitely quicker than the previous model, but it still feels a little slow and isn't as precise as its main competitors.

With 27 variants ranging from a single-cab chassis to the top of the range dual-cab ST-X 4x4, there is a Navara for every occasion. The most popular in the range is the ST dual-cab 4x4 auto, which incidentally would be my pick. This model will cost you just under $54,000 drive away.
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