Brand allegiance plays a crucial role in the cutthroat world of ‘bakkie’ sales in the South African market and goes a long way to explaining why automakers will go out of their way to provide very specific model derivatives and specifications to satisfy customer requirements.
In the last 10 or 15 years, the light commercial vehicle market competition has become intense – and the brand allegiance is often more from the manufacturer side than the consumer, with the former trying to keep customers and the latter becoming ever more choosy and demanding, knowing if manufacturer ‘A’ does not offer item ‘X’ then manufacturer ‘B’ will make it happen.
Tough economic conditions have forced the overall market to contract somewhat, but has not lessened the intensity at all levels – business workhorse vehicles, combo work and play or the pure leisure segment.
The new Nissan Navara, launched locally earlier this year, falls mainly in the leisure segment where vehicles of this type are widely taken in place of a company car and the leisure pursuits are more genteel and rarely involve full-on donga-diving.
The demand here is for all the safety specification and systems that would be found in a luxury car along with the identical convenience and comfort features – and the Navara provides all of this in bucket loads.
The design of the Navara centres on the V-motion grille where the chrome grille flows into the creased bonnet and is resolved on the tailgate, which features a stamped V-motif.
Hints of SUV-features are seen in the full LED-headlights with boomerang-style LED daytime running lights across the range.
Viewed in profile, the lowered roof line (by 20 mm) gives it a more sporty look helped by the diamond-cut wheel design and 18=inch rubber.
The load bay on double cab versions has been stretched by 67 mm to 1 503 mm and been made deeper (474 mm from 456 mm), resulting in a capacity of 1 061 litres.
Load carrying capacity has also been upgraded significantly. The new Navara can carry up to 1 002 kg, depending on specification level and can tow a braked trailer of up to 3 500 kg.
The Navara has a 229 mm ground clearance, but the new raised suspension set-up has allowed for a 3-degree improvement in the approach (33,0 degrees), ramp-over (25,2 degrees) and departure angles (27,9 degrees). The suspension and drivetrain set-up also means the Navara has a lateral tilt angle of up to 50 degrees.
The fully-boxed ladder-frame chassis has been reinforced with high-strength steel and improvements in design and manufacturing result in a 176 kg weight reduction over the previous generation Navara.
The 2 298 cm3 engine in the Navara is a new one for the coming, being a twin-turbo diesel that combines common rail direct injection and both a smaller, high pressure turbo and a larger, low pressure turbo to deliver more linear power throughout the engine speed range.
The two turbos are connected with a series of bypass and impeller valves to optimise boost pressure at different engine speeds. The smaller, high-pressure turbo is utilised mainly at low engine speeds, although neither turbo is disengaged fully at any engine speed. At higher engine speeds, the exhaust gas flow is channelled to the large, low pressure turbo. This layout allows for more low-speed power and improved fuel consumption.
The new engine delivers 140 kW at 3 750 r/min and 450 Nm available between 1 500 r/min and 2 500 r/min. Fuel consumption in a combined cycle has been officially rated at 6,5 l/100 km, which we found to be somewhat optimistic.
Covering nearly 500 km of city, urban and rural (excluding dirt) roads on the test route my overall average was 10,6 l/100 km and this brings it into line with the opposition vehicles on the market that all average between 10,0 l/100 km and 11,0 l/100 km.
In this category power and torque mean a lot and the Navara is bested only by the 3,2-litre Ford Ranger with 17 kW and 470 Nm.
My test vehicle was the 7-speed automatic variant and I was a tad at odds with the ratio choice – trying to maintain a steady 120 km/h (on the speedo) on an open, if undulating, road I found it tended to hunt a little too often on longer inclines.
Getting off road and into more challenging terrain, the auto box worked extremely well, allowing me to keep both hands on the steering wheel at all times – and, naturally, the Navara has both High Range and Low Range options available at the twirl of a dial on the dashboard.
It soaks up bumps and ruts being the first mainstream pick-up to offer a coil spring five link rear suspension (Land Rover did use a coil spring on its pick-up some time back).
The set-up combines traditional pick-up load carrying capabilities, with the benefits of improved road holding, car-like ride comfort even over rutted gravel roads and better tracking through high-speed corners.
In four-wheel drive mode, either High or Low, the Navara will engage its new Active Brake Limited Slip Differential system (ABLS). This electronic system actively manages power delivery and wheel braking between the front and rear axles and between the left and right of the vehicle, depending on traction and speed.
The ABLS system works in conjunction with the Vehicle Dynamic Control system (VDC) and anti-lock brakes and the High-spec models also add Hill-start Assist (HSA) and Hill Descent Control (HDC) as standard features, also connected to the ABLS-system.
Inside, the plasticky look of the previous version is gone and replaced with soft-touch materials and Spinal Support front seats that feature a new spinal channel in high-density foam. These seats are designed to distribute body pressure on the seat surface and have been proven to reduce fatigue significantly over long journeys – and they do!
Leather seats with heating function and electrical adjustment on driver’s seat, are available as optional on the High-grade models.
The on-board Navigation system with 3D mapping and live traffic updates, includes radio – with up to 30 pre-set radio stations, video in DVD/VCD/CD/MP3 or MPEG4 format, USB connectivity and Bluetooth with audio streaming – all operated from the steering wheel.
Standard luxuries include automatic headlights, air-conditioning, cruise control, three 12V sockets in the cabin, an automatic dimming rear view mirror and seven air bags (including an air bag to protect the driver’s knees).
High-grade models also add features such as dual zone climate control and keyless entry with a Start/Stop button.
On the new Navara, the Nissan Assured warranty includes a mechanical warranty for 6 years or 150 000 km and a comprehensive 3-year / 90 000 km service plan.