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Nissan bolsters local Navaras

2009-07-06 09:28

Lance Branquinho

The local bakkie market is as forbidding a product sales environment as you’re likely to imagine. South Africans are intractably linked to their bakkies – working them vigorously during the week, while enjoying them over leisurely weekends.

Whereas hot hatches, svelte coupes or super saloons are usually the image boosting hero cars for manufacturers, Navara has managed to boost Nissan’s brand image appreciably, with bakkie leaf-sprung rear suspension and all…

Problem is, though, as popular as Navara is, the range has always been truncated at best, competing only at the very highest echelons of the double cab market.

Keen to market Navara more democratically (and cash in on the broader bakkie market), Nissan has added junior Navara double- and extended-cab models to the range.

More trim options

Three trim levels now denote the double cab Navara range – XE, SE and LE.

Curiously enough, the range is headlined by LE trim which has been stripped of the Navara’s characteristic chrome grille and side mirror finishes, replaced by new grey accents – a regressive trim option in my opinion for a range-topping model.

SE is the midrange option, with side mirrors and grille in chrome, standard roofrails and 16-inch alloy wheels – which should appeal to Navara owners keen on venturing outside local borders and not keen on trying to find 17-inch spare tyres.

Interior trim is quite comprehensive too, with a six-speaker CD player and cruiser control functional leather trimmed steering wheel. Only the Bluetooth hands-free kit and front seat lumbar support are deleted compared to LE models.

The buy-in point to the Navara range is now the XE model. Cruise control is binned and you'll have to make do with two speakers less than other Navaras in the range. Cabin architecture and ergonomics are hardly utilitarian though.

If you’ve ever seen the plethora of Navaras parked outside a rural church on a Sunday morning you’ll know the image appeal of these bakkies. General consensus is they’re a bit too pretty to take off-road.

Fortunately, the XE entry-level models do without side-steps (always a snagging cosmetic weakness on other Navaras) which should appease potential Navara customers keen to explore the SADC region’s rural treasures. Like all other Navaras, these XE trim bakkies tow 3t in 4X4 trim, which is appreciably more than other double- or extended cab bakkies.

Succinctly then, the utilitarian appeal of Navara’s previously narrow range lacked, has been fully redressed by the new trim levels, especially the value-oriented XE versions.

King cab utility

If you own bikes or practice a hobby necessitating class-leading loadbox dimensions, yet need safe, lockable, weatherproof stowage room too, the King cab models are perfect. Unlike their double-cab brethren, King cabs do not have standard roofrails. A full cross-over set is priced as R1 772 in the Navara options column.

King cab features neat suicide doors, which swing open 90-degrees on their rear hinges, allowing access to generous rear seat space. Optional stowage bins are tidily finished and easy to remove.

Powering the Navara line-up is Nissan’s range of high-output 2.5-litre compression ignition or 4.0-litre V6 engines. True to its more functional billing, the King cab models are motorised by turbodiesel engines only, 2.5-litre in capacity, producing 106- and 128kW in 4X2 and 4X4 trim, respectively.

On the road, Navara remains a relatively urbane drive (for a bakkie), thanks primarily to its comfortable interior appointments, refined (yet powerful) engines and independent double-wishbone front suspension.

Despite Nissan’s unsurpassed off-road racing success with the Navara range locally, there is a lingering perception that Navara is not really suited to traversing rugged terrain.

On the launch, we meandered around the Sabie area's engaging classic Lowveld terrain.  Although the rear bumpers did their fair share of ploughing, the Navara diesels sauntered up a particularly challenging 30-degree rock incline in first gear low-range, rear axle locked and with a distinct lack of drama.

On tar the diesel engines remain disconcertingly quiet and the surfeit of ratios (six on the floor in manual trim) ensure seamless overtaking urge is always only a gearshift away. At speed, NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) is generally a non-issue, with only those oversized door-mirrors audibly reminding one of their presence with some wind noise at speed.

If you enjoy towing a boat, these are brilliant bakkies with unmatched towing capabilities in their class.

The new King cab configuration should be particularly appealing to youthful buyers who can do without the second row seating, yet desire the additional cabin space (and safe stowage) augmented by optional loadbox practicality at R2 109.

There are a couple of foibles though. The lack of side or curtain airbags is one, as is the slight departure angle (due to Navaras capaciously accommodating loadbox) ensuring plenty of rear bumper remodelling off-road.

Pricing is quite competitive, with neat options like the comprehensive SatNav suite available across the range at R10 580.

If you’ve always lusted after the 3t 4x4 towing capacity of a Navara, yet had no need for the urban off-roader cosmetic treatment or double-cab configuration, the extended range, and more specifically extended cab models, are sure to find favour within your purchasing rationale.


2.5 dCi K/Cab XE 4x2 6M/T:     R279 900    
2.5 dCi K/Cab XE 4x4 6M/T:     R320 900    

2.5 dCi D/Cab XE 4x2 6M/T:    R293 900    
2.5 dCi D/Cab SE 4x2 6M/T:    R318 900    
2.5 dCi D/Cab XE 4x4 6M/T:     R334 900    
2.5 dCi D/Cab LE 4x2 6M/T:     R334 900    
2.5 dCi D/Cab LE 4x2 5A/T:     R344 900    
2.5 dCi D/Cab SE 4x4 6M/T:    R359 900    
2.5 dCi D/Cab LE 4x4 6M/T:    R375 900    

4.0 V6  D/Cab LE 4x2 6M/T:    R334 900    
4.0 V6  D/Cab LE 4x4 6M/T:    R375 900

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