Nissan Navara (2017) First Drive


The long-awaited new Nissan Navara has made landfall in South Africa. Does the newcomer have what it takes to upset the pecking order in South Africa’s thriving double-cab bakkie market? Let’s take a closer look…

It’s an exciting time for the local bakkie market: the new Mitsubishi Triton was recently introduced and Nissan’s new Navara has now finally arrived on our shores. The Navara is currently imported from Thailand, but it's expected to be produced locally at Nissan’s Rosslyn plant in the very near future. 

Key design improvements

The new Navara features coil spring five-link rear suspension that has improved ride quality and handling substantially over its predecessor. 

Design-wise, the Navara represents a leap forward over its predecessor; it looks much more like an SUV than a bakkie, especially from the front. The nose is characterised by Nissan’s next generation V-motion grille design, flanked by full LED headlights with boomerang-shaped LED daytime running lights. The rear taillights have also been redesigned and the tailgate features an integrated lip that’s said to aid aerodynamic efficiency.

From a technological point of view, the Navara takes a bold step forward for the leisure double-cab market through the adoption of a 5-link coil rear suspension (as opposed to the traditional leaf spring configuration found on chassis-based bakkies) in conjunction with an independent double wishbone front setup, which sets the newcomer up with the potential to set a new standard for ride comfort in its segment (but more on that later).

Although the Navara is claimed to weigh 176 kg less than its predecessor, one can hardly tell on account of its dimensions. The load bay has increased in length by 67 mm and is also 18 mm deeper compared with the previous version; it offers a capacity totalling 1 016 litres and, in terms of load carrying ability, the Navara can transport up to 1 002 kg (specification dependent) with a maximum braked towing capacity of 3 500 kg. 

The Navara range

The new Navara comes to market with good standard specification, competitive pricing and a 6-year/150 000 km warranty.

The Navara double cab is initially available in 4x4 guise with 3 models on offer. The range will expand when 4x2 models arrive before the end of the year. There are two trim grades on offer, namely the mid-spec SE (manual only) and high-spec LE (manual and automatic).

The big news is the introduction of a new 2.3-litre twin turbodiesel engine offering peak outputs of 140 kW and 450 Nm of torque. Buyers have a choice of either a 6-speed manual or 7-speed automatic transmission and for the former, Nissan claims an average fuel consumption figure of 6.5 L/100 km, representing an improvement of 19% over the outgoing Navara.

What’s the interior like?

The interior is well-specced and buyers will appreciate that navigation is offered as standard on all Navara derivatives.

The Navara is well sorted in terms of features and the interior design is simple and uncluttered. Graphite cloth seats are fitted across the range but customers can opt for 8-way adjustable heated leather seats as an option on LE derivatives. The steering wheel is tilt adjustable with mounted controls and dual zone climate control air conditioning is standard on LE derivatives.

Cruise control is standard across the range as is navigation, which is a boon in this segment. A touchscreen infotainment system is standard too and although it’s easy to use, we found the screen to be a bit small and it’s not the clearest screen we have seen, especially in bright light. We think Nissan could have fitted a better infotainment unit. However, the system does offer Bluetooth functionality along with USB and auxilliary inputs.

Space for rear passengers is generous with good leg, head and shoulder room.

There’s ample storage up front with a total of 4 cup holders, 2 bottle holders in the door mouldings, a centre console storage bin, upper dashboard storage, glove box and some space ahead of the gear lever for good measure. Two 12V sockets are standard and we were impressed with the electrically sliding rear window. Rear passengers have ample leg-, head- and shoulder room and an aft rear-facing air vent is a welcome addition. 

Safety features include ABS with EBD, vehicle dynamic control, traction control, brake assist and 7 airbags. A reverse-view camera is fitted as standard across the range, but unfortunately the unit's image quality is not great...

What’s the Navara like to drive?

The Navara delivers excellent ride quality on tar and gravel and it proved to be adequately capable offroad.

Our long drive in the Navara started in Durbanville in the top-spec LE automatic derivative fitted with optional leather trim. The launch route started in Durbanville and we set course for Lamberts Bay on the West Coast.

The Navara’s 2.3-litre twin turbodiesel engine is a peach and well calibrated (if not near-perfectly matched) with the 7-speed automatic transmission. The motor delivers its power with gusto low-down in the rev range resulting in good acceleration from standstill with minimal lag.

Overtaking acceleration is effortless as the 'box works through its ratios with little to no hesitation. There’s more than enough shove on offer; suffice to say we were impressed with the engine’s performance! The engine is relatively quiet under normal driving but does become noticeably noisier as you flatten the accelerator, but it’s not harsh. What’s more, the bakkie returned a fair fuel consumption figure of 9.5 L/100 km during our journey.

The Navara's instrument cluster is made more upmarket by the central TFT full-colour trip computer readout.

Perhaps the most noticeable highlight of the new Navara's on-road performance is indeed its settled ride quality. In fact, by bakkie standards, it’s nothing short of a revelation. Even on long sections of puckered gravel road, little unsettled the Navara’s composure. The ride was never crashy.

We also took the Navara automatic for a brief 4x4 session in the sand dunes on the outskirts of Lamberts Bay where its ability to navigate powdery hot sand was put to the test (the bakkie has a ground clearance of 229 mm).  After deflating the tyres, we headed onto the sand for some fun.


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The Navara’s 4-wheel-drive system is easily operated via a mechanical transfer case using a handy turn-knob where the driver can switch between 2H, 4H and 4L. The switch between 2H and 4H can be made on the fly at speeds up to 100 kph.

Depending on traction and speed, a new active brake limited slip differential system (ABLS) will manage power delivery and wheel braking between the front and rear axles, which, in conjunction with the Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) system, ensures optimal performance in tough terrain.

The Navara glided over the dunes with seemingly little effort and proved to be suitably capable. The automatic 4x4 derivative is also equipped with Hill Descent Control and Hill-start Assist as standard.

Shifting between 2- and 4-wheel modes on the fly made it easy to coax the Navara from road- to off-road modes.

We also managed to get behind the wheel of the mid-spec Navara SE manual derivative. Much like the automatic transmission, the 6-speed manual, although marginally notchy in operation, performed well. We were particularly impressed with the transmission’s tractability in sixth gear. Even at lower speeds, this gear offers good punch and the driver does not have to gear down in search of power, it’s just there, ready when you need it. This will be quite beneficial on long journeys because you can simply cruise along in sixth gear without gearing down for every incline or overtaking manoeuvre. What a pleasure…

The manual derivative was marginally thirstier though, and during our stint, the readout displayed an average figure of 10.0 L/100 km.

The Navara has established itself as a credible rival to the segment leaders for the hearts and minds of lifestyle buyers.


We think the Navara’s excellent ride quality and solid engine and transmission combinations are admirable. Factor in a good dose of standard features and all of a sudden the Navara is a strong contender in this segment. It also helps that it’s competitively priced against its main rivals too, with a reassuringly lengthy warranty to boot. The limited extent of the range's line-up limits the Navara's appeal a little, but for buyers looking near the top end of the market, the Navara makes the opposition seem a little too "bakkie-ish" by comparison. Ford and Toyota have a battle on their hands.

Look out for our thorough evaluation coming your way soon!

New Nissan Navara – Price in South Africa

2.3 DDTT 4x4 SE Double Cab MT  R514 900
2.3 DDTT 4x4 LE Double Cab MT   R565 900 
2.3 DDT 4x4 LE Double Cab AT     R597 900

Prices include a 6-year/150 000 km warranty and a 3-year/90 000 km service plan.

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