The current Nissan Navara’s launch was beleaguered by a host of issues from the outset. For starters, it was rather late to arrive at the leisure bakkie party in Mzansi, having already debuted in other markets – including neighbouring Mozambique - some many months in advance. And, by the time it finally debuted in SA, it was marred by a few other issues. These included a surprisingly unyielding suspension, which according to the company at the time, was beefed up slightly (read: lowered and stiffened) for our market, but the trade-off was a rather fidgety ride quality, despite having coil springs on the rear axle – ala passenger car instead of the LCV staple leaf springs.
Previous Achilles heel
Also, the 2.3-litre twin turbo, four pot, diesel engine looked perky on paper, but the opposite was true in application on the road. Then not a fault of its own, it was also embroiled in arguably one of the most controversial MU projects, the Mercedes-Benz X-Class, which borrowed heavily off the Nissan Navara’s platform and was also built at the Japanese marque’s plant in Spain to boot. The Merc bakkie, sadly, was a sales disaster and the Navara was unfortunately wrapped in the same controversy and was spoken of in the same breath as the Benz pick up.
Making a splash
Forward to 2020 and Nissan has put out all the stops to shake off, firstly, the Merc X-Class relation, but chiefly to create an identity all its own and try and return the Navara nameplate to the former glory enjoyed by its predecessor. I seriously dig what they have achieved with this updated model. It looks the part. Bold for most part, thanks to the large grille that is further accentuated in the new specification grade dubbed PRO-4X, which has eye-catching red and grey accents. It is geared towards the more outdoorsy, active lifestyle customer, but I reckon its main purpose is to make it stand out more cosmetically than the current Stealth specification has mustered thus far.
“While pickup customers want their new car to look fresh and impressive, they do not let us sacrifice functionality in the name of style,” explained Ken Lee, Senior Design Director for pickups and frame SUVs. “Equipped with the latest advanced technologies the new model features a very recognisable, iconic look, but it is now more imposing in nature with its high command structure, new interlocking frame grille and new high-tech, squared C-shaped headlamps.”
Safety tech abound
Updated Navara will also bring with it a raft of safety equipment that has up to now been a reserve for passenger cars, these count items Lane Departure Warning; Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and even a 360 degree camera setup to ensure the driver is privy to any movements and the environment around the vehicle.
The bigger news, of course, is that the Navara will finally be built here in Mzansi at Nissan’s Rosslyn plant in Tshwane, which brings to fruition, the R3bn investment into the project, which bodes well for the industry at large, but also for the Japanese maker. It will be exporting the first Navara units out of SA from December 2020, solely to East and West African countries. Local sales are set to come on stream around April/May 2021, according to a Nissan SA spokesperson.
Full specification and pricing of the updated Navara for the Mzansi market will be announced towards the end of the first quarter of 2021. Suffice to say, it will have to be aggressive enough to be competitive against the market leaders and fellow locally manufactured rivals in the form of the Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger. As mentioned, the previous Navara was a popular offering in the bakkie market as at the time offered the most stylish bakkie on the market, hands down. Whether they can recoup the ground lost to opposition in this segment remains to be seen, but I for one hope it can finally get a bigger slice of the segment as it seems to have the styling aspect thoroughly licked this time around.