The N-TREK is a new dual-cab in the Navara range designed to take a bite out of sales of Toyota’s Rugged HiLux and Ford’s XLT Ranger. At $56,450 plus on-roads for the manual (auto adds $2500), it’s a $3700 leap from the 4WD ST-X. For that you get a host of mainly cosmetic enhancements. The partial leather seats feature orange mesh cloth inserts and orange stitching continues through the seats, centre console, armrests and wheel. Outside, black is very much the theme, extending to the alloy wheels, wheel-arch flares, sports bar, side mirrors, door handles, sidesteps, grille, roof rails, bumpers and fog light surrounds. There’s also a splash of orange on the sidesteps and lower grille. If that’s not enough differentiation, there are decals on the doors and rear. Extra creature comforts include heated front seats, with power adjustment for the driver’s.
When this model Navara came out, much was made of the fact that it had car-like coil suspension in lieu of the old-fashioned leaf springs on most rivals. The unfortunate result resembled jelly on a plate, the ute wobbling over small bumps and failing to quell bigger ones. In the latest incarnation, the Nissan feels more comfortable than most rivals. The cabin is also quieter than most and the surface finishes and build quality are above par too. Rear air vents make life more comfortable for rear passengers, although the rear seat backs are a little too upright.
The Navara has fallen off the pace in the area of crash avoidance and despite its luxury car price, it misses out on autonomous emergency braking, as well as blind spot and lane departure warnings. Safety gear is limited to seven airbags, bird’s-eye view reversing camera and rear sensors.
Apart from its jiggly suspension, the first iteration of this Navara had steering that was disconcertingly disconnected. Tweaks made at the same time as the suspension upgrade have improved steering response and feel, although it still trails the class-leading Ranger and Amarok. No dual-cab utes are agile but the Navara sits mid-pack in this regard, leaning through corners and pitching under brakes. The 2.3-litre four-cylinder diesel (140kW/450Nm) is relatively refined for a workhorse and all that grunt enables towing capacity of 3500kg. The seven-speed auto shifts smoothly and faithfully.
TOYOTA HILUX RUGGED, $55,865 PLUS ON-ROADS
Tough looks and a reputation for reliability have made the HiLux king of the one-tonners. Can be a little unsettled without a load in the back.
FORD RANGER XLT, $56,340 PLUS ON-ROADS
The accepted benchmark for comfort and cornering prowess, the Ranger also comes with an impressive array of safety features.
The N-TREK isn’t cheap but it looks the part and is well appointed inside, with above-average refinement.
Originally published as Nissan’s new top-end ute