For just over four years, the Navara has been making waves in the increasingly popular pick-up truck segment. It's not hard to see why, especially since there is serious appeal to a vehicle that can not only perform the duties of a pick-up truck, but offer a ride that's quite comparable to SUVs.
There's now a new model with the Navara in its top spec guise and it comes with a neat update.
For those wondering, there isn't really anything new with the exterior. It's still the same look as the one they premiered in 2014 and launched in the market in 2015. Five years isn't really a long period of time for an update in the LCV segment; you'll most likely see passenger cars get updated in 3 or 4 years. So it comes as no surprise that there are virtually no changes to the exterior, maybe unless you look really closely at the grill. That's it. Not that it's a complaint, though.
We've always liked the look of the Navara NP300. The Nissan grill looks good, as do the headlamps in projector form. The hood has those nice muscular on the flanks to match the fenders; the kind you would get if you went to the gym a lot. The wheels are neat, and the stance is nice.
The profile is all truck of course, and that's because there's a bed in the back so you can carry pretty much whatever you can get in there. The Navara VL is a double cab, so that means you sacrifice a bit of bed length, resulting in a load space that measures in at 1.5 meters long, 1.56 meters wide (or 1.49 meters between the wheel wells), and 474 meters tall. There's also a neat ledge on the tailgate if you want sit on it whilst parked up on a hill to enjoy the view. Oddly enough, this particular tester didn't come with a bed liner. If you want one, there are plenty of options in the aftermarket anyway.
That would mean it has a volume of 1,111 liters (1.11 cubic meters) or 1,059 liters (1.05 cubic meters) if you factor in the width between the wheels. Interestingly enough, the Navara finds itself in the middle ground of the double cab pick-up class in terms of rear bed volume, besting the Mitsubishi Strada (1,061 liters) the Isuzu D-Max and Chevrolet Colorado (both at about 1079 liters). The Toyota Hilux has slightly more cargo volume (1,149 liters), though the Ford Ranger is the undeniable leader (1,235 liters). Correct us if we're wrong, though also take note these computations do not factor in the wheel wells.
Inside, not much really has changed for this top-spec Navara VL variant. The dashboard is the same, the switches, leather, and even that dual cupholder/umbrella holder on the floor at the back are the same as before. They didn't have to change anything because frankly, it still looks very nice and classy for a pick-up truck.
If you haven't sat inside a Navara before, chances are you'll like it. Nissan really nailed it when it comes to driver or front passenger comfort, as the contour of the seat is really nice as we've learned over the years. Unless you really sit in an unusually awkward position, then you'll enjoy the low fatigue qualities of these seats, even in traffic. We also particularly like the rear legroom and overall seating position in the back. Your rear passengers won't mind too much sitting back there, unless maybe you put three big guys there side by side by side.
The engine is likewise unchanged: it's the 2.5 liter turbo intercooler diesel that makes 190 PS and, more importantly, 450 Nm of torque. You can opt for a 6-speed manual gearbox, though this one comes with a 7-speed automatic. And it's a 4x4, and you can engage 4WD high range or low range (if you need to) via a knob on below the climate control system.
In all honesty, we've driven the Navara in all kinds of conditions, be it rocks, soft mud, crossing streams and rivers, and even on the sand dunes up in Ilocos as well as the flat deserts of Morocco's interior. The Navara will not let you down off-road, unless you get a bit too frisky with the steering or too heavy with the braking or the throttle. It really does work well in tricky conditions, and can traverse water up to 750mm at its maximum depth; hopefully you won't need to push it that far, but it's there.
On the road, there is no question that the Navara VL excels. The turbo-diesel is one of our favorites for its power and torque. We particularly like the way it rides given its full coil spring suspension set-up; that means more comfortable damping, and more balanced handling as an unladen rear won't try to bounce all over the place if you're driving fast around the bends.
There is, however, a slight sacrifice with this coil spring set up, and that's payload. Nissan didn't release the payload numbers in their brochure, but we can compute it using the weights they published. The Nissan Navara VL has a curb weight of 1,946 kilograms, but has a gross vehicle weight of 2,910 kilograms. If you subtract 1,946 from 2,910, you'll get 964 kilograms. Compared to the Ranger Wildtrak which has a payload rating of 1200 kilos on traditional leaf springs, the Navara has a payload that is 236 kg less.
Here's the kicker: that payload weight will also factor in passenger weight. So if you have 5 Filipino men at the supposed national average weight of 61.3 kilos per, that means you'll have to subtract 306.5 kilos from the total payload, leaving you with 657 kilos for actual cargo on the bed. Yes, there is a slight sacrifice in overall payload capacity, but if you're looking for a truck you can use everyday with a relatively light need for carrying stuff, the Navara presents a happy compromise upon the altar of everyday comfort.
So drive-wise, there's nothing new with the Navara VL, and neither is there a new look nor are there new trim pieces. But there is one thing that they changed, and it's not so obvious unless you're familiar with the 2015 to 2018 model: they swapped out the head unit.
New for this year is this new display audio system; the old one was much smaller and already felt dated. The new one is far more modern and is much larger at 8-inches. It comes with 6 speakers, Bluetooth, USB input and -finally- Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for enhanced connectivity with your phone.
The new system also allowed Nissan to fit the Navara VL with their Intelligent Mobility package, particularly with enhanced safety features. On top of the safety features like ABS, EBD, stability control and the like, the IM package adds the Around View Monitor or AVM into the mix that simulates a “bird's eye” 360 degree view around the vehicle. Actually, if you look under the side mirrors, the front bumper, and on the rear tailgate, you'll see that they've actually added cameras there for this system. This actually makes parking so much easier and more convenient, particularly in places with tight parking spots.
We do wish they changed more (i.e. that steering wheel with the long horn button) but overall, the 2019 Nissan Navara 4x4 VL is still a very nice package to own and drive at PhP 1.479 million. It's not fancy with technology like a Ranger, nor is it as hardy as a Hilux or as stylish as the new Strada, but it holds its own very well, and is still the most comfortable truck in the market... unless you count the Raptor with its soft Fox shocks.