The Navara has always occupied a rather unique spot in the never-ending dual-cab ute race. It’s not quite as cool as the Ranger or HiLux, doesn’t have the D-Max or Triton’s reputation for reliability and value for money (respectively), and has never been afraid to do things just a little differently to its class peers.
As a result, they tend to be a bit of a love-them-or-hate-them sort of rig. Their sales, while strong, are simply never going to threaten either of the top two, but for many folks, that just makes them all the more desirable.
The latest iteration is the NP300, or D23, and in sticking with the Navara ethos of standing out from the pack, is the first mid-size dual-cab ute to have coils in the rear end (not counting the Land Rover Defender, which I wouldn’t call mid-size, but have to mention to prevent me getting ten thousand emails about it). In many ways, this straying from the established design brief has been both a blessing and a curse for the brand. But we’ll get to that in a minute.
The D23s also feature a single or twin-turbos, Renault-derived diesel (there was a petrol model too which are as uncommon as vegans who don’t feel the need to tell you they’re vegan), a solid ladder frame chassis and about a billion different models and variants. The NP300 Navara ticks a lot of boxes for the average ute-buyer and can represent absolute dynamite second-hand value. Here’s what to look for when buying a used NP300 4×4.
Making sense of the range
As mentioned, there’s a ridiculous amount of variants and special editions and models with the word Navara written on the tailgate. I think it was like 27 or something. And they all changed what was included over the years too, just to make it more confusing for the buyer. So we’re just going to give broad overviews of each to keep this article shorter than the Lord Of The Rings trilogy. Be aware that some of the later models included stuff like reverse cameras and safety additions – the best way to work out what has what is to take a few for test drives and see for yourself what accessories you like and which ones you can live without.
Broadly speaking though, between 2015 and 2021, there have been 5 series of D23s, and as you might expect, the later the series the better they got. Although with that said, nothing huge changed on them – the updates were almost all to do with trim levels, suspension tweaks and safety inclusions. I promise they didn’t sneak in any long-travel IFS or blown V8s when you weren’t looking. Would have been a lot cooler if they did, but whatever.
The base model, discontinued in 2020. Came with the 2.5L four-banger petrol engine and was about as exciting as a primer-grey cardigan. Still, if bare-bones vehicles are your jam, this is your kind of party.
The next step up with the single-turbo 2.3L Renault diesel. Also came in king cab as well as single and dual-cab configurations. Slightly bigger rims, slightly nicer interior – copped a reverse camera in the rear-view mirror in the 2018+ models. Discontinued in 2020.
Introduced in 2017 as part of the Series 2 update. Came with the twin-turbo donk and continued improvements through to the current Series 5 models – things like an 8in touchscreen and autonomous emergency braking.
A churched-up SL limited edition model with only 900 units built. It featured ground-breaking stuff like a polished sports bar, 16in alloys and (gasp!) a mobile phone holder in the cabin.
The mid-range model. It comes with a lot more electrickery (electric mirrors, LED daytime runners, smartphone connectivity, sat-nav etc.) but, more importantly, came standard with the electronic-actuated diff-locker.
A fancy-boi ST model that was a limited edition in 2016. It featured 18in rims, tough-guy black accents, sat-nav with 3D mapping and fully hectic exclusive badging.
ST Black Edition
Another 900-units-only special edition model that went on sale in 2018. Came with a black styling package, LED light bar, 18in alloys with AT tyres and a few more things that the people who write the sales brochures had to dig real deep to make sound exciting.
Yep, another limited-edition model that flipped the paint-it-black styling game on its head by introducing some gunmetal sidesteps and rear bumper. It also included black and grey leather trim, a front spoiler that added heaps of downforce at 450km/h (we presume) and some unique 18in wheels.
This is the one we’d probably buy. It was top of the range for a minute until the N-TREK and PRO-4X models came out, but this has a solid base from which to build a weapon. All the safety and electrics, Utili-Track tie down rails in the tub – everything you need and very little you don’t. Didn’t get a reversing camera until the 2018+ models.
ST-X N-Sport Black Edition
Same as the ST-X but with, you guessed it, a limited edition run of 500 units and several rattle cans of black thrown at it. It did come with a light bar though, so there’s that.
Another limited-edition ST-X model, that was designed to appear “more rugged”, with flared wheel arches, and a couple little dabs of orange in amongst the usual sea of blackness. Weirdly, they didn’t include the electric sunroof on this model, nobody seems to know why. It was discontinued in 2020.
Developed by Premcar in Melbourne, this guy was built to compete with the HiLux Rugged-X, the Ranger Raptor and all the other “how do we make this ute more butch?” models from other manufacturers. It actually had some cool stuff like the 3mm staino bashplates, two-stage springs, a factory lift kit which bumped ground clearance up to 268mm and a steel front bar with LED lightbar. In order to prevent people from worrying, Nissan also added a bunch of black styling. It’s kind of their thing.
This replaced the N-TREK in 2021 and really does nothing that different to the other Navara models, except added a polished sports bar and a bunch more black styling cues.
The pointy end of the Navara pyramid. As denoted by the Warrior badging this model was again modded by Premcar in 2021 for Aussie conditions and featured a lift with beefy 275/70R17 ATs (just shy of 33in) which is pretty rad for a stock car. They also tweaked the spring rates, added 3mm bashplates, increased GVM up to 3250kg, added a winch-ready bulbar, revised front and rear suspension damping, increased payload to 961kg, increased track to 1600mm, increased approach and departure angles and essentially made the Navara the most bush-ready it had ever been.
Nissan Navara NP300 specs
Body: Single cab; King cab; dual cab
Engines: 2.5L 4cyl petrol (152hp 244NM); 2.3L single-turbo diesel 4cyl (161hp 403NM); 2.3L twin-turbo diesel 4cyl (188hp 450NM)
Transmissions: 5-speed manual; 6-speed auto; 7-speed auto
Chassis: Separate ladder frame
Driveline: Part-time 4WD; IFS and coilovers; solid rear axle and coil springs. Leaf spring rear on single and king cabs
GVM/Payload: 3150kg (can vary between models)
Tow Capacity: 3500kg (braked)
Fuel Economy (twin-turbo diesel): 8.3L/100km (claimed combined average)
Navara series changes
Series 1 2015-2016
D23 model line-up introduced, featuring 2.5L petrol DX models, and RX, ST and ST-X single-turbo 2.3L diesels. Rear coil 5-link suspension immediately had problems with sagging under heavy loads.
Series 2 2016 – 2018
SL models introduced along with twin-turbo 2.3L diesels. N-TEC models released in 2016. Suspension tweaks across the range begin.
Series 3 2018-2020
Silverline limited edition model introduced along with N-TREK and N-TREK Warrior editions. More suspension tweaks are developed and more electrics such as reverse cameras, sat-nav and larger infotainments units are incorporated into the interior. ISOFIX child seat mounts are added as standard across the range.
Series 4 2020-2021
Suspension and steering get further refinements to handle load carrying. Minor tweaks to trim and exterior looks.
Series 5 2021 – present
RX and DX models get yeeted from the line-up. Suspension is largely sorted among later models and the Navaras finally get the active safety features like autonomous braking and lane keeping shenanigans et cetera. Whether that’s a good thing or not is up to you. Pro-4X and PRO-4X Warrior models replace the N-TREK editions.
Nissan Navara common problems
Problems with the first couple of D23 years mainly stemmed from the rear coil set-up. Although it was initially seen as a ballsy move to throw a set of coils in where every other dual-cab had leaves, Nissan ran into problems when people went to actually use their Navara as a ute and loaded up the back. The suspension sagged to buggery, the steering became light and super-vague and the peanut gallery swept in, decrying the Navara as a piece of junk and a poser ute.
It’s a shame because it can be fixed easily and relatively cheaply with a set of new springs and, depending on your usage, a set of airbag helpers. These days all factory Navaras come with two-stage progressive springs that handle the weight a lot better, while still providing better ride comfort than the leaf-brigade. The steering valving has been made a little heavier too, allowing for much more feel through the wheel.
The diesel engines are prone to leaks – insert scathing cynicism about Renault reliability here – and should be thoroughly checked over before any purchase. Rear mains and transmission outputs seem to be among the most common offenders, and there’s a turbo pipe that has a seal that can only be replaced with the entire pipe from Nissan, so yeah, check carefully.
The interiors tend to hold up pretty well but there are numerous reports of the driver’s side leather seats getting scuffed up and flaking, as well as trim panels coming loose and rattling. Check carefully on your test drive. Not a deal breaker necessarily, but good to bargain on.
Navaras are also notorious for having touchy body control modules, so no licking and sticking a set of spotties to the bullbar eh? If in doubt, get a qualified sparky to wire up any aftermarket lighting.
There have been a few reports of chassis’ bending, but the ladder frame on the NP300 is not weak by any stretch. The damage is almost universally caused by people overloading the rig, then hitching up their caravan then driving at mach speed over corrugations. This is not just a Navara problem, it’s a common sense not being that common problem. If you’re at or near GVM, take it easy and you’ll be fine.
Finally, almost all of the problems we have either heard about or encountered firsthand stem from a lack of servicing. Bizarrely, Nissan Australia recommends 20,000km service intervals, but if you go off-road, tow heavy, drive hard or place any load on your engine then the hot tip is to halve the recommendation and get some fresh fluids and filters into it every 10,000km. To be fair, if you go to just about any specialist diesel mechanic they’ll tell you this is the strong suggestion for any late-model turbo diesel. Tight tolerances, higher revs and rough conditions mean regular oil changes. Such is life.
Should I buy one?
As always, this one comes down to your requirements from a vehicle. If you’re towing heavy, or need to cart a mobile welding set-up around, or need 1000Nm to impress your mates with, or want to enter a rock crawling competition every weekend, then no, a D23 is not the pony you should chuck a sneaky pineapple on.
If you’re chasing a vehicle that’s comfy without being a limo, capable without being an Ultra 4 buggy, torquey without being a freight train and able to cart a family’s camping gear or tow a camper trailer without being a flatbed F450, then the NP300 should be on your shopping list. Is it the best at anything? Absolutely not. Is it good, at times nudging great, at everything? You betcha.
Keep in mind there are a lot of variations in price between the ten million various models, not to mention level of mods, so take these prices as an ultra-rough guide.
- 2016 RX D23 Series 2; manual, dual-cab, turbo-diesel; ~280,000KM; $17,000
- 2018 SL D23 Series 3; auto, dual-cab, turbo-diesel; ~195,000KM; $28,990
- 2021 ST-X D23 Series 5; auto, dual-cab, turbo-diesel; ~37500KM; $54,990
Before You Buy Checklist
- Service history (every 20,000KM minimum, preferably 10,000KM)
- Check for oil leaks, especially around the rear main and sump gasket
- Check underbody for signs of damage
- Check lower rad hose isn’t rubbing on pulley – recall has been done
- Check turbo system, especially oil leaks around boost hoses and dump pipe
- Check paint carefully for fading, abrasion or rust damage
- Check rear suspension springs and bushes for undue wear and signs of consistent heavy loading
- Ensure 4WD system all works
- Check interior for rattles or excessive signs of wear and tear
- Run through the infotainment unit to ensure all works as it should