Nissan’s Navara SUV

Nissan's Navara SUV

South Africa’s bakkie-based SUV market space could become a whole lot more interesting soon. Isuzu’s MU-X is confirmed and now there’s the possibility of a Navara 7-seater too.

It’s called the Terra and although the market of destiny is China, where Terra is due to go on sale later this year, the similarities in configuration to what would do well locally are all too clear. Terra is an SUV evolution of Navara which means it has a ladder-frame chassis for gravel travel durability but also multi-link rear-suspension, providing tidy road manners and high-speed stability.

Terra’s styling has real presence and for a brand which is effectively only bakkies and SUVs in South Africa, Nissan must be thrilled at the probability of introducing a 7-seater Navara locally. In the later 1980s and 1990s, before Isuzu brought its Frontier to market, the locally converted Sani was South Africa’s only bakkie-based SUV. Unfortunately, Nissan retired from that market before Toyota introduced Fortuner and proved that a bakkie-based 7-seater was exactly what South Africans desired.

It’s questionable if the Terra name will follow this 7-seater Navara to all markets. In South Africa, the bakkie branding has sufficient leverage to perhaps justify retaining Nissan’s Navara branding for the SUV. One could even imagine a revival of the Terrano nameplate, that incredibly underrated low-range enabled compact SUV from Nissan, that nobody remembers.

Mechanically, Terra should differ very little from the Navara and retain its range of 2.3-litre turbodiesel engines and that seven-speed automatic transmission. Expect low-range enabled versions and an entry-level rear-wheel drive only Terra too, with traction security provided by a differential lock. The one area of differentiation might be its rear suspension spring ratings, with SUVs never expected to carry a similar load to any bakkie, Nissan’s engineers could option to recalibrate the coil and dampers stiffness in the interest of providing superior ride quality.

Once there was only Fortuner. Then Ford’s came with Everest. Now Isuzu is due to bring M-UX and Mitsubishi Pajero Sport is available too. A 7-seater bakkie-based SUV from Nissan would give South Africans an amazingly diverse choice in this segment, something unimaginable a decade ago.

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