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The Navara has seemingly always been content with being number two in the four-wheel drive dual cab ute scene, but the brand new 2016 Navara NP300 is a clear statement that they’re gunning for the top spot.
I’ll be the first to say that looks are subjective, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the Nissan Navara is the one of, if not the, best-looking of the trio of just-released dual cab utes. Its neutral styling lacks the ‘surprised’ sweeping look of the Triton, and the ‘squinty’ look of the HiLux, yet still manages to be modern. The new Navara is comprised of a series of relatively complex shapes; there isn’t a single flat panel on this ute. It’s a serious step up from the previous generation D40 Navara which had a bit of a plastic-like feel to the whole vehicle.
The inside of the new Navara is a nice place to be – much nicer than the plastic coffin that was the D40. You’ll find almost everything you need – an ample sound system, comfortable seats (power and heated is available), and a well thought out touch screen multimedia system. There are air vents for the rear passengers, which is a nice touch, and the rear seat folds flat for additional storage room. It’s also perfect for throwing the dog in without worrying about ruining the fabric. In summary, it’s modern, but it doesn’t look fragile, and it looks easy to clean.
This is where the new Navara really shines, and where it begins to separate itself from the rest of its competition, including the just-released Toyota HiLux. The NP300 features a five-link coil sprung rear end, which eschews the traditionally unbalanced ride of a dual cab ute and gives it a more civil characteristic. On a closed course, we hit significant triple digit speeds on rough corrugations, and I haven’t personally driven anything that comes close to this vehicle’s suspension. On a side note, the five-link looks like it will be an absolute weapon once the aftermarket gets hold of it. There’s also going to be an option for leaf springs in the future.
A five-link coil sprung rear end, with coilovers on decent length control arms and the option of a rear locker, means this latest Navara is going to be a goodie. Unfortunately we didn’t get to do anything too extreme on our test drive, but I can confirm that there’s a decent low range, and quick tests make it look like the Navara might be in contention for the top spot as far as dual cab ute capability is concerned. We can’t wait for all of the next generation of utes to land on Aussie soil so we can do a proper comparison.
The RX will serve as the base model 4X4 dual cab, and will be priced from $39,990 with a manual transmission. The mid-level ST dual cab will be priced from $45,990. The range-topping ST-X, equipped with all the bells and whistles, starts at $51,990. Automatic transmissions are $2,500 extra on all models.
Words and photography by Matt Scott