My introduction with Nissan goes back to my childhood days. My parents both drove Sentra’s at one point (they had the same car at the same time; auto and manual). I tried learning how to drive on my dad’s car briefly before he realised I’m better off learning in someone else’s car – LOL. Subsequent to that, I briefly drove some of Nissan’s SUVs (including Infiniti) at a women’s day event back in 2015, and tried out the Leaf.

Last week I was invited to the media launch of the new Navara in Cape Town. It involved a super early 5am start (yes, really!) to catch the sunrise on the mountain but alas that was not the case on Wednesday morning due to the much needed rain. Our convoy headed out after getting a quick coffee, at which point it got a bit light. Those (optional) seat warmers before sunrise were much appreciated.

We drove up the mountain while it was still dark, so had no idea what I was actually driving on. At 5am in the morning, I jumped into the first available Navara that was lined-up and ready for the road; turns out it was the automatic. I’ve never been introduced to a Navara before, so up until that point I knew it held the 2016 International Pick-up of the Year award. All are 4×4 models powered by a 140kW 2.3L twin-turbo diesel engine, and available in 3 variants: a mid-range manual (SE); a high-end manual, and automatic (LE). According to Nissan, the 4×2 variant will arrive later this year.

It was interesting to see the pathway on the way down when it was much lighter, as we had to shift to other driving modes (4H) to tackle the various terrains throughout our drive in the dark. Other interchangeable modes are 2L and 4L. My driving partner got to try the 2L on another stretch of off-road.

Regarding the Navara itself, it doesn’t give off a “bakkie” vibe, at least not from the front. It reminds me of an SUV (don’t even know fully if the terms applies to SA market), which I seem to be getting to drive more often over the last couple of years. The dashboard layout is neat, and doesn’t feel too cluttered. The infotainment screen is a decent size, not too large to be distracting (but this is subjective). I found the actual system not to be the most up-to-date or modern. The interface felt dated based on previous systems I’ve tried, and when I paired my phone via Bluetooth for music, I couldn’t see any song info (i.e. no artist, track name, never mind album art). That said, anyone buying a Navara is not gonna be too fussed about the interface on the infotainment system.

I liked the layout of it all, buttons felt like they were in the right place, as well as the cup holders. Some of you might roll your eyes at this but I appreciate good design and having things in the right place with minimal fuss – and drink spillage. I had a car where my coffee spilled so often, it was awful and a bitch to clean; so good cup placement is appreciated. Inside the compartment by the centre console had a power outlet (cigarette lighter), in addition to the USB port on the front. Between the four passengers we had, we could charge at least three smartphones at once. Handy for charging depleted power banks, too!

After loads of driving and a driver change, it was time to hit the dunes… and by this point, the sun was out, which worked out perfectly. We went to a remote spot where cellphone signal was minimal, and wow, didn’t know South Africa had this hidden gem (to me at least); looked like Namibia.

For this part of the trip, we went on the dunes in all the automatic vehicles. Once we were in the right driving mode, instructions were simple – keep the same pace and don’t break hard. It’s not as easy as it sounds as some of the most experienced drivers still get stuck in the dunes. Thankfully I didn’t need rescuing like a couple of other vehicles, but what an incredible experience. Instructors guided us along the way, especially as we approached steep dunes, and we were reminded not to stop once we reached the top, but to carry on steady and slow.

Later in the day, I got to drive the (SE) manual Navara. I missed the electric seat adjustments, keyless ignition, seat warmers, etc… everything I had gotten used to in the previous car. If you’re thinking of getting one, get some extras 😉 For a vehicle of this size and the terrain we covered, I preferred the automatic Navara. The SE version didn’t feel as nice as the LE, but this is subjective. If you want nicer things, pay up. 

Overall, as someone who isn’t into bakkies, I had a pleasant drive with the Navara; tackled some terrain I didn’t think I could and the vehicle made it easy, along with the various modes. It’s a matter of trusting that it can do whatever you put it through. 

PRICING (everything includes VAT):
– Navara 2.3 SE manual: R514 900
– Navara 2.3 LE manual: R565 900
– Navara 2.3 LE automatic: R597 900
The black leather seats with heater function are optional on LE grade models for R13 000 (worth it!)
The new Navara comes with a 6 year/150 000km warranty and a 3 year/90 000km service plan.