If you've been keeping a close eye on the South African bakkie scene, you'll have noticed that bakkies are hotter than ever, and they are no longer just rugged workhorses but also stylish and comfortable family leisure vehicles.
And one of the pioneers of this trend is the Nissan Navara in PRO-4X trim.
The Navara is one bakkie that shook up the market when the first-generation model arrived, packing good ride quality, a sleek design and refined features.
It set a new standard for what a bakkie could be, and it still holds its own in 2023, with the third-generation model introduced in 2020. While it isn't entirely new, it doesn't exactly fall short of the newer competition.
While the Navara PRO-4X is a bakkie beast that can easily conquer any terrain, its interior is a different story.
It feels like stepping into a time machine and returning to the days when plastic was king and style was an afterthought. The interior has been carried over almost entirely from the pre-facelift model, and its quality is its biggest letdown. We wish it had more flair and finesse to match what competitors bring to the market.
Also, the steering only adjusts for tilt and no reach, and if you are a taller driver, you will find the lack of such a function irksome.
In its defence, you get a host of features such as a spacious cabin, a 7" TFT screen, an 8" touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, a 360-degree camera, an attractive multi-function steering wheel, rear air vents plus a USB port.
You see, the Navara separates itself from other bakkies by doing away with leaf springs in favour of the rear-end coil springs. The result is a more comfortable, compliant ride even when taking a shot left off the tarmac, thanks to the superb 4x4 system.
The 2.5-litre turbocharged diesel engine with 140 kW and 450 Nm pushes good shove without being a class leader when looking at performance. The 6-speed automatic transmission effortlessly distributes drive for fowards propulsion, skillfully picking the right gear even when carrying a full load in the bed.
Despite the use of coil springs at the back, we could easily load heavy stuff during our trip to Bushbuckridge. Towing? No stress there; the Navara PRO-4X has a towing capacity of 3,500 kg, which made towing during our annual Bakkie Wars instalment a breeze.
However, the Navara PRO-4X has its share of drawbacks. The steering felt heavy and unnatural, while the wind noise at higher speeds on the highway was so intrusive that we had to turn up the volume to enjoy our favourite tunes.
The Navara PRO-4X is difficult to overlook, even with the growing competition from all corners. Combine its excellent coil-spring rear suspension with an impressive fuel consumption of 7.9l/100 km, and you get an exceptionally easy-to-live-with bakkie, despite its quirks.
There is no significant criticism of the Nissan Navara PRO-4X, and it still feels premium with the looks and off-road credentials to match its robust physique. Priced at R812,900, it makes for a decent deal when other bakkies are close to the R1m mark.