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Not everyone wants a ute with all the fruit, but for those who still like a few creature comforts Nissan offers the surprisingly well-equipped Navara ST for nearly $5k less than the top-spec ST-X.
What is the 2018 Nissan Navara ST Dual Cab Auto?
The Navara is Nissan’s entrant in the competitive 4x4 dual-cab ute segment. There are four trim levels in the Navara 4x4 dual-cab line-up starting with the base-spec steel-wheel RX (single-turbo) and SL (twin-turbo) models, the more upmarket ST model (tested here) and the top-of-the-range ST-X.
With a manual transmission the Navara ST Dual Cab costs $47,190 and the optional seven-speed auto adds $2500. There are plenty of factory offers on Navara at the moment and at the time of writing we’ve seen the ST Dual Cab Auto for as little as $44,990 for ABN holders with a $2000 EFTPOS card thrown into the deal.
The Navara ST is powered by the twin-turbo version of Nissan’s 2.3-litre four-cylinder diesel engine that makes a claimed 140kW of power at 3750rpm and 450Nm of torque from 1500-2500rpm. The engine is mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission which sends drive to the rear wheels, or all four wheels, via a two-speed transfer case with a shift-on-the-fly 4x4 system activated via a console-mounted dial.
Standard exterior features on the Navara ST include 16-inch alloy wheels, an alloy sports bar, rear privacy glass, LED headlights, front fog lights, sidesteps, heated and power adjustable mirrors, chrome trim, lockable tailgate and a tailgate spoiler.
The Navara ST’s interior package is a mix of base-spec stuff, like manual seat adjustment and cloth trim, and some surprising niceties such as seven-inch colour touchscreen with Satnav and reversing camera, standard rear air conditioning vents, leather accent steering wheel and power-sliding rear window. Other standard equipment on the Navara ST includes six-speaker sound system with Bluetooth connect and steering wheel controls, manual-adjust air-conditioning, remote keyless entry, illuminated vanity mirrors, day/night rear-view mirror with electric anti-dazzle and compass, three 12V power outlets, Drive-Assist display with trip computer and digital speedo, alarm and immobiliser.
What’s the interior like?
The interior design of the Navara is dominated by grey plastic and grey cloth, although there are a few silver highlights, some bits of chrome and contrast stitching in the seats to break things up a little. The vents are up nice and high on the dash and the multi-media screen is well positioned for reach and easy viewing, although the interface takes some getting used to and is not as intuitive as some systems with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto.
For those who like to see how much mileage they can get out of a tank of fuel will like Nissan’s Eco Score function on the multi-media display; it awards scores for smooth acceleration, cruising and braking, then gives the driver an average score out of those three criteria – it can be a fun way to try to drive more economically.
The HVAC controls are clearly marked and logically positioned, with big dials for temperature and fan, and big switches to direct the air where you want it.
The rear diff lock switch is next to the 4WD mode selector; both are quite low on the dash but are simple to operate, with the selector in the form of a big dial with 2WD, 4H and 4LO settings.
There are three 12V power outlets in the cabin; one up high on a dash tray (ideally positioned to power a phone or secondary satnav such as a Hema Navigator or VMS), one down low on the dash (next to the auxiliary input and a USB port) and one in the centre console bin.
The driver’s seat only offers six-way manual adjustment but it’s a pretty comfy pew with generous space, good fore and aft range and good lumbar support, despite a lack of lumbar adjustment.
There’s a good view from the driver’s seat, too, although the raised sides of the sculpted bonnet can make it a bit difficult to judge where the vehicle’s front corners are when driving off-road.
There are plenty of storage spaces throughout the cabin, including the aforementioned dash tray, big bottle holders in the front and rear door pockets, pop-out cupholders on the dash (just below the vents so they keep cans cold in summer and coffees warm in winter), reasonable-size centre console and glovebox and small-ish door pockets.
The rear seat offers good width and headroom, but like most utes there’s not a lot of leg room and the low seat base results in a knees-up seating position. Omissions include no fold-down centre armrest and no centre headrest, although the power sliding rear window provides access to the tub area.
The outboard seats have ISOFIX points and getting in and out of the back is aided by decent grab handles on the roof and the B-pillars. And speaking of grab handles, the front-seat passenger also scores two of them; one on the roof and one on the A-pillar.
The Navara ST’s tub is about class average for length and width. It misses out on the ST-X’s adjustable load restraint set-up, but has four cargo tie-down points, unfortunately located too high on the sides of the tub to always be of use. There’s also a 12V power outlet in the tub, which is handy to run a fridge or other electrical accessory.
What’s it like on the road?
The Navara ST is surprisingly comfortable on the road; it runs dual-rate coil springs at the rear, unlike most of its leaf-spring competition, so there’s good compliance when unladen and decent load-carrying capability when the tub is full of gear. The ST spec’s 255/70R16 tyres also benefit ride quality over bumpy roads, offering more sidewall flex than the ST-X models 255/60R18 rubber.
The steering isn’t the sharpest in class, but Nissan did revise the rack ratio not so long ago, so it feels more direct than it used to. Body roll is well controlled and the Navara ST feels predictable and surefooted when cornering.
As for performance, the Navara’s 2.3-litre twin-turbo-diesel engine might not be the most powerful in class but it’s certainly one of the most refined, with a smooth and free-revving nature as well as an abundance of mid-range torque. The engine offers spritely acceleration and easily handles the tall overall gearing of the Navara ST, which sees the tacho needle sitting on a relaxed 1800rpm at 100km/h in top gear, and 2000rpm at 110/km/h.
The automatic transmission offers smooth and decisive shifts and works well in manual mode, holding on to the selected gear until you bump the selector to grab another cog.
Road and wind noise suppression is not as good as some others in class (most noticeably the Navara-based Mercedes-Benz X-Class) but it certainly can’t be described as excessive.
Maximum braked towing capacity is the class standard 3500kg.
What’s it like off the road?
The Navara ST has a decent 33.1° approach angle and a reasonable 28.2° departure angle. The bottom edges of the tub angle upwards towards the rear bumper bar, which doesn’t stick out too far like some other 4x4 utes, and the OE towbar fitted to our test vehicle was also well designed, not overly impacting on departure angle like some class competitors. Ramp-over angle isn’t fantastic at 24.5° and the plastic sidesteps look vulnerable, so those who want to go rock crawling should invest in some quality aftermarket steel sidesteps or rock sliders.
The Navara’s driveline is well suited to slow-speed off-road driving; the engine develops plenty of low-rpm torque and there’s impressive overall low-range reduction in first gear of 44.565:1. The electronic traction control system is effective, and it continues to operate even when the rear diff is locked.
Maximum wading depth is a reasonable 600mm and the engine’s air intake is located high-up in the passenger-side inner guard, while the alternator is situated above midpoint in the engine bay.
Those who want to fit a dual-battery set-up won’t find much space under the Navara ST’s bonnet, so might have to locate the auxiliary battery in the tub or in a special under-vehicle tray.
The 255/70R16 111H Toyo A25 Open Country tyres have a road-friendly tread pattern and passenger-car (P) construction, but there are plenty of all-terrain and mud-terrain Light Truck (LT) alternatives in this off-road friendly size.
What safety features does it get?
The Nissan Navara has a five-star ANCAP safety rating, awarded in 2015. Standard safety equipment includes ABS, TC, Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) with Brake Limited Slip Differential (BLSD), Active Brake Limited Slip (ABLS), Brake Assist (BA), electronic rear diff lock, driver and passenger airbags, driver’s knee airbag, side curtain airbags front to rear, three-point seat belts all around and LED DRLs.
The Navara ST misses out on hill descent control and hill start assist as fitted to the ST-X model and, as mentioned, there’s no rear centre headrest.
So, what do we think of the 2018 Nissan Navara ST Dual Cab?
The Navara ST represents great value for money thanks to a long standard-equipment list and sharp pricing. It’s a comfortable and refined on-road performer and offers good off-road capability.
2018 Nissan Navara ST Dual Cab Auto
Pricing $49,690+ORC Warranty five-years/100,000km Service 12 months/20,000km Safety Five star ANCAP Engine 2.3-litre four-cylinder twin-turbo-diesel Power 140kW at 3750rpm Torque 450Nm at 1500-2500rpm Transmission seven-speed automatic Drive part-time four-wheel drive Kerb weight 1942kg GVM 2910kg Payload 968kg GCM 5910kg Towing capacity 750/3500kg Dimensions 5255mm (L); 1850mm (W); 1855mm (H) Track 1570/1570mm Turning Circle 12.4m Ground Clearance 226mm Cargo bed 1503mm (L); 1560mm (w); 474mm (H) Spare Full size Fuel Tank 80L Thirst 7L/100km (combined)