The Nissan Navara King Cab offers versatility for on and off-road jobs.
Story by Bruce McMahon
The humble ute has come a long way and covered millions of kilometres since Ford engineer Lew Bandt designed a coupe utility for a Victorian farmer in the 1930s.
For many seasons the Australian ute – also known as a tilly in some parts – was an integral part of the business of agriculture; back in town, tradesmen were just as likely to ply their skills from a panel van.
By the turn of the new century, Ford and Holden utes had taken on cult status, and become streamlined and low-slung sportsters. This move, plus an ever-widening product range of Japanese workmates, saw farmers and tradies move away from the local products; both are now soon to disappear from the showrooms.
That leaves the ‘one-tonners’ – in the main Japanese-designed, Thai-built utes in a number of versions. Most popular, for now, are dual cab, four-wheel drives, with many used as family wagons.
There are other options though, from two-wheel-drive utes to single cabs, cab-chassis utes, plus the king cab, or extended cab, version. These are more the single-minded work ute, albeit with the ability to carry four passengers from time to time.
Most ute makers have one of these on the fleet, with Nissan’s NP300 Navara King Cab one of the most recent arrivals.
Nissan has been making utilities – or pickups as other nationalities call them – for more than 80 years. And while the basic concept has not changed too much, today’s utes are loaded with comforts and conveniences once considered luxuries.
The Navara King Cab arrives with the choice of two- or four-wheel-drive, cab-chassis, or pickup style with tub body, in three model grades: RX, ST and ST-X. Yet even the base RX sports seven airbags, air-conditioning, electric windows and mirrors, Bluetooth connectivity and steering wheel-mounted controls for the audio system, and cruise control. The ST and ST-X versions add reversing cameras and more.
A driver and front seat passenger sit safe and comfortable in an RX King Cab.
Access to the pair of fold-down rear seats is through a half-door behind the front doors. This opens at the front of the door and swings toward the back of the Nissan; care needs to be taken here with the full-sized front doors needing to be open before the rear door can be opened or closed.
There is not a great deal of leg room back here and the back window is fixed. So this area is best used for short trips, short people or storing valuable work gear out of sight.
The King Cab’s advantage over a dual cab includes a longer tray and better payload. The 4WD Navara RX King Cab can tow 3.5 tonnes with a payload of almost 1.2 tonne; the dual cab’s payload is just over the one tonne and the floor of the pickup tray about 250 millimetres shorter than the King Cab’s 1750mm.
The RX King runs a 2.3-litre turbocharged diesel engine producing 120kW and 403Nm mated to a six-speed manual. Both are perhaps a little old school and the diesel is harsher at the top end than the twin turbocharged, 140kW engine found in the ST and ST-X grades yet the RX is a keen worker.
And, as with most working utes riding on leaf springs at the rear, this Navara rides and runs better with a load over the back wheels. Unladen it can be a roughish ride when compared with a family wagon and care is needed if braking hard on a rough surface. In other circumstances – whether running down the bitumen or raising dust down a dirt track – the Navara handles and rides well enough for this class of vehicle.
The driving position is good and front seats hold occupants well. Cabin ergonomics, instruments and conveniences, including 12-volt sockets, are all at hand. The cup holders in the centre console are joined by a pair of pull-out holders in the dashboard that are most sensible, as is the fuel consumption meter, which has a distance-to-empty digital display.
In the paddock, the 4WD versions can be slipped into high 4WD with the turn of a dial. The 4WD low requires a stop and a push-turn of that dial.
It is here that the versatility of today’s popular utes is displayed. Machines such as Nissan’s Navara RX King Cab may not be the first choice as a family ute but have much to offer the farmer or tradesman – more, it has to be said, than the old Holden or Ford.
Cab chassis from $35,490; pickup from $36,990
For more information phone 1800 035 035 or go to www.nissan.com.au.
This story excerpt is from Issue #108
Outback Magazine: Aug/Sep 2016