CAR REVIEWS

2012 Nissan Frontier Navara 4x4 TechXtreme

2012 Nissan Frontier Navara 4x4 TechXtreme image

Text: Brent Co / Photos: Dean Ang | posted June 27, 2012 14:39

High-tech workhorse

The Nissan Navara made its debut in late 2007 as the most-powerful pickup in its class with only a 2.5-liter commonrail diesel engine. The top-spec 4x4 variant fitted with a high boosting variable geometry turbocharger churned out 174 PS, while the base 4x2 model churned out 144 PS; this was a huge feat for the segment as it changed the playing field for utility trucks. Replacing the aging D22 Frontier, the D40-chassis Navara quickly climbed up the sales charts boasting of its engine and 8 crossmember chassis as well as a significantly improved suspension and handling capabilities.

While it has seen changes for the 2011 model in the US and European markets with new headlights, a retouched front end, along with several other driving and interior feature upgrades. The 2011 upgrade also brought out an updated YD25DDTi High Power engine pumping out 190 PS, a 16 PS gain from the previous version.

2012 Nissan Frontier Navara 4x4 Rear shot

Nearly five years after its local debut, nothing has changed with the Navara, while its competitors the Toyota Hilux, Mitsubishi Strada, Isuzu D-Max, and Ford Ranger have gone through their own major facelifts and model changes. No doubt the Navara is in dire need of change if Nissan intends to keep up with the pack. The only significant change so far I've seen for the ASEAN market is a "sports version" in Thailand which features a new bumper design and horizontal lines to replace the honeycomb grill, this variant however did not make it to Philippine shores.

2012 Nissan Frontier Navara 4x4 Dashboard shot

Universal Motor Corporation's (UMC) answer to this call for change is a new TechXtreme accessory package introduced as a new variant in late 2011 with a very minimal premium (24,000 for the manual transmission and 28,000 for the automatic transmission). The "tech upgrades" include a QuickN navigation system and reverse camera integrated into its DVD entertainment system, two LCD screens mounted behind the front headrests for rear occupants, iPod, USB, AUX, Bluetooth connectivity, and a 3G USB router for wireless internet connectivity.

2012 Nissan Frontier Navara 4x4 Engine shot

The Navara can still boast of being the first six-speed manual trasmission equipped 2-ton pickup truck with well matched gear ratios to the 174 PS engine. It will soon have company soon as the next generation Ford Ranger will come equipped with a six-speed manual gearbox as well. In the engine department, the VGT-equipped Mitsubishi Strada has already nudged it out of the power department with 4 PS more but at the expense of 53 newton-meters less torque, which is quite a significant figure for commercial vehicles which are mainly used as workhorses. The Navara still stands as one of the powerhouses equipped with a high-output 2.5-liter CRDi engine. Handling is pretty much the same as previously reviewed, since there have been no changes to the suspension either.

The entertainment system does give a big improvement in terms of sound quality to the rather sub-par Clarion-sourced head unit originally installed. I've personally experienced a significant improvement in my personal Navara when I upgraded my head unit with an aftermarket one as well. The first major gripe about the navigation system is the rather bulky remote control that could be mistaken as a remote from the house. The user interface is also cumbersome to navigate through and quite sluggish in terms of responsiveness, but sound quality as mentioned is a step up from the original source unit. While the WiFi function sounded like a good idea as a marketing come-on; this would've been good if this were an SUV or van rather than a pickup which is normally self-driven. It is very difficult, not to mention dangerous to be going online while driving unless you plan to get stuck in traffic everyday.

The QuickN navigation system is based on the AVT navigation system which has a very good coverage of Metro Manila and major metropolitan cities in the Philippines. User interface response is decent, and graphic display is similar to the AVT system.

Aesthics-wise, the only addition outside is the TechXtreme decal on both sides of the bed and a rather strange-looking painted interior panels to give a two-tone modern "techy" look. I personally didn't like it and though they should've left those panels alone or fitted a grey interior like the one on the base XE variant.

While the "upgrades" can be considered a good addition to the package, I'd rather they introduce a facelifted version with hopefully the 190 PS engine to boot. The competition has already stepped up, I think its about time they introduced something that's really new. Don't get me wrong, its not a bad pickup, it just needs a real upgrade.