Jaco Van Der Merwe

By Jaco Van Der Merwe

Head of Motoring

Nissan Navara single cab: The story of a bakkie, bike and road trip

First-ever Navara two-seater bakkie will give Nissan better chance against Toyota Hilux, Ford Ranger and Isuzu D-Max.

In a day and age where double cab bakkies have become very popular leisure and family-orientated options, their single cab siblings remain predominantly focussed on work.

And unlike double cab buyers prone to shopping around for their ideal ride, most regular drivers of single cabs are given their employers’ choice of vehicle whether they like it nor not. It is for this very same reason that manufacturers don’t even bother putting single cabs in the media test fleet.

But Nissan recently bucked the trend with the first single cab version of the new Navara. The reason being that this locally-assembled bakkie is rather significant for the Japanese carmaker in the sense that it is the first ever single cab to bear the Navara badge.

Previous generations of the Navara were only available in double and King Cab guise, with Nissan offering the NP300 or Hardbody as one-ton single cab workhorse alongside the smaller NP200. But with the NP300 discontinued, the Nissan Navara has now filled the one-ton single cab void.

Navara single cab road test
Rear facia and extended loadbin a new ‘face’ for the Navara in South Africa.

The arrival of a Nissan Navara single cab in 2.5 DDTi SE 4×4 guise at our office last week was heaven sent. Although we did not have a cubic meter of building sand or pallet of bricks to transport, we had a proper job nonetheless. To collect a motorcycle in Kariega, formerly known as Uitenhage, and bring it back to Johannesburg.

With a payload of 1 119 kg, a 182 kg Kawasaki KLE500 was never going to challenge capabilities of the Nissan Navara single cab. But the sheer size of the loadbin, which measures a mammoth 2 311 mm in length, was the perfect way to manage the chosen cargo with ease. And besides, what better way to get acquainted with a vehicle than a 2 133 km road trip?

ALSO READ: New Nissan Navara faster than Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger

The SE trim level is reserved for Nissan’s mid-spec offerings and is positioned above the entry-level XE and below the more generously specced LE models.

Similar to the double cab range, single cab SE derivatives are powered by a 2.5-litre turbodiesel mill producing 120 kW of power and 403 Nm of torque. The entire Nissan Navara single cab engine line-up is mated exclusively to six-speed manual gearboxes that in the case of our test car, sends the grunt and twist to all four wheels.

Navara single cab road test
Side-step aids access to the loadbin in lieu of the lack of a rear bumper/step.

The transmission and clutch combination were a pleasure to operate, with the sixth gear the star of the show. On the open road, sixth gear has enough pulling power to cover everything between 70 and 120 km/h, which mean that hardly any gear changes was required.

The suspension, which benefitted from significant upgrades over the previous version of the Nissan Navara double cab, was the other highlight of the trip. Even without a load it felt planted on some bumpy Eastern Cape roads. The eventual addition of the load made it even better.

Nissan claims a fuel consumption of 7.6 L/100 km and we came close to achieving this number on the way to the Eastern Cape. Carrying only a driver with the only load his padkos, while never threatening the national limit, we managed to get 8.0 L/100 km.

On the way back it was a different story altogether as we clocked 10 L/100 km. We did carry a load, but cargo weighed less than a sixth of the payload and should not make a huge difference. But despite the increased consumption, an average of 9.0 L/100 km for the entire trip is nonetheless still very acceptable.

Navara single cab road test
16-inch steel wheels a feature of the SE

The cabin is quite humble taken into account how far bakkies have advanced over the years, but does feature just the right combination of specifications to make the daily drive a comfortable one.

If a three-way adjustable driver’s seat, air-conditioner and entertainment system featuring with Bluetooth connectivity, USB input and CD player can keep you comfortable on an 11-hour road trip, it will get the job done while going about its daily workhorse chores too.

Even the hard plastics used on the upper dash, which has been scrutinised as being too cheap a finish in the double cab, looks perfectly in place in the single cab.

The loadbin is pure old school workhorse-like with nothing fancy that will break on its first visit to the building yard. There is no fancy centre tailgate handle with gas lowering and lifting assistance, but rather a clamp handle on either side with the tailgate held up by steel cables.

Navara single cab road test
Loadbox measures 2 311 mm overall and 1 560 mm in width. Claimed payload for the SE 4×4 is 1 119 kg.

All the fastening points for ropes and straps are made of steel and are located on the outside of the loadbin’s top edge.

Rather strange is the fact that the Nissan Navara single cab does not have a rear bumper which on a bakkie traditionally acts as a step to access the loadbin.

For this purpose, designers have fitted a moulded plastic step on both sides between the front door and rear wheel, similar to what Ford Bantams used to have.

One of the exterior highlights is undoubtedly the “proper bakkie” 16-inche steel rims that is standard across the whole Nissan Navara single cab range.

Navara single cab road test
SE spec means the single cab gets air-conditioning, an audio system, electric windows and mirrors as standard, along with the 4WD exclusive Hill Descent Control.

Nissan did their homework with the new Navara. The carmaker realises the only way it can truly rival Mzansi’s big three, the Toyota Hilux, the Ford Ranger and Isuzu D-Max, in terms of sales numbers, is by virtue of selling truckloads of single cabs.

If you take into account the significance of the upgrade from the NP300 Hardbody single cab to the Navara single cab, Nissan is well set in its efforts to upset the apple cart.

For more information on the Nissan Navara single cab, click here.