Meet Tjeu and his 2009 Nissan Navara Diesel. Someone with a pick-up who actually has it for the purpose it’s meant for; doing a lot of (heavy) work and hauling. Who can give a more objective opinion about this Navara than someone who actually lets it sweat? Let’s find out if the Navara is really as good as the press leads us to believe.
Where do you live? What do you do for a living?
I live in a part of Gent. I work as a self-employed building contractor. (binnebeek) This means I visit my clients, make financial quotations, prepare construction yards, and sometimes I do some breakdown servicing. When I have to prepare a construction yard, I have to haul a lot of materials.
You’re driving a 2009 Nissan Navara. A pickup from a range with a lot of competition in it. How did you end up with this choice? Why this Navara, and this type?
After my previous cars, I had a list with a few must-have options for my new car:
- standard rear wheel driven
- 5 seats
- light freight (in Belgium that means that you only pay €125 driving taxes per year, and other CO2 taxes for self-employers)
- with roof racks, the height had to be less than 2M to be able to still get into all the underground parking garages
- heated seats
- multi-cd radio
- cruise control
- leather seats
- being able to take large objects (piping 5+M in length) with me
- being able to hitch on a 2+ ton trailer
- enough power to have a lot of fun in driving it
In the pickup range, the Navara was one of the first I came across which met all the requirements I made. This one doesn’t only have good charisma, it also has one of the biggest cargo areas, the most power, and known technics. At my work, we’ve got quite [a few] Renault Masters, which are using exact the same engine. The fact that those get an uncomplicated mileage of 300,000km, was another big plus for this choice. After doing some research, I found out the Platinum Edition of the Navara had every single option I wanted. The choice, within the pickup range, was made quite easily. Besides the Navara, the Hyundai H1 in light freight made also a good choice, but when the roof racks are mounted, the height was 2+ metres, which meant I couldn’t enter the underground parkings anymore, which made the car a lot less practical. Apart from that, the Navara is a lot more comfortable and pleasing to get you somewhere.
Load: 933kg (2,057lbs)
Length: 5220mm (205.5″)
Ground Clearance: 235mm (9.25″)
Height: 1887mm (74.3″)
Width: 1850mm (72.8″)
Engine Layout: transverse inline 4
Valves: DOHC 16V
Compression Ratio: 16.5:1
Gearbox: 6-speed manual
Power: 126kW (169hp) @4000rpm
Torque: 400 Nm (295lb-ft) @ 2000 rpm
How long have you owned this Navara? Are you planning on keeping the Navara for a long period of time?
I’ve got the Navara just about a year (16,000 km/9,900 mi). I’m planning on keeping the car until it reaches a mileage of 450,000 km (approx. 280,000 mi), but if it will reach that mileage is quite uncertain…
Tell us something about your previous car(s)?
I started on my 14th with a Renault Express 1.9D. A car which has a lot of nice memories for me. I’ve driven all the generations of Renault Master, and I’ve driven a lot of kilometers in a Renault Twingo, Renault Safrane 3.0 V6, Peugeot 1.4 HDI, and a Range Rover TD6. The first car I bought myself, with my girlfriend at that time, was a Renault Clio 1.2 16v from 2004. My girlfriend at that time soon became my ex-girlfriend, and that was in my opinion the perfect timing to get rid of that car.
Through a contact of a cousin of mine, I bought a 1990 BMW E34 520i (150hp) for 1400 euro, with 180k on the odo and still the original mufflers – which had no effect whatsoever anymore at that time – which gave the car quite a sound. I bought the car on a Tuesday, without even going for a test drive in it, on the evening of Wednesday the papers were in order, and on Thursday morning I left with the 520i and 2 friends for a trip to Hungary. Almost a year later and with 199k on the odo, I decided to sell the BMW. It lacked cruise control, had no decent radio, steering had a lot of play, tires were due to be replaced, and the clearcoat was fading all over. I sold the car for 1500 euro.
After a search of two months, I found myself another bargain, exactly like I wanted to. I found a BMW E39 523i (originally a 525i, but with the horsepower decreased to 163 for Belgium tax reasons), with 130k on the odo and a lot of options. I bought it for 4100 euro, all new tires included and a year of warranty.
What do you think of the Navara once you start comparing it with some of your previous car(s)?
From all the cars I’ve owned; the 523i is, without any doubt, the car I enjoyed driving the most. But because of the fact it had a non-foldable rear seat, it was the most unpractical as well. In the last 6 months I’ve had it, I’ve hardly driven it. Only like 2000 kms in those 6 months. Because of the high CO2 taxes in Belgium, I decided to part with it and search for a more practical car. Despite the fact that the Navara has quite some more options than the 523i had, it surely can’t reach the same driving comfort as the 523i did. If you look at the technical side, that isn’t so strange either.The Navara still has a live axle (solid axle) and leaf springs. All very basic, but because the car is way more practical, I use the car more, and I get to enjoy it a LOT more.
The Nissan Navara is often praised for its options and interior. More than once the fact is mentioned that the interior is way more than just a practical pick-up interior, but it’s at the level of a luxurious 4door. What’s your opinion on this, now that you’ve driven it some time?
The first impression is exactly like mentioned. Everyone who gets into the car starts talking about the options,equipment and decent interior. Not something you would expect from a pick-up like this. On the other hand is the fact that the quality of the materials they’ve used for the interior just isn’t sufficient. The plastic is all very hard, and definitely not scratch-proof. Every little scratch is visible and the seats offer NO lateral support at all.
Have you already driven the Navara off-road? If so, how does it perform off-road?
In the first week after I bought it, I went to a mountain bike course and drove it there in a fair amount of rain. I noticed right away that the Navara stays controllable under almost every circumstance, but the mass behind the rear axle is just TOO great. When the tracks are too deep, the tow hook crashes on the ground and the cables are ripped apart.
Is it a luxury Pick-Up with only the looks of a Pick-Up, or is it a real off-road champ?
The Navara is in its element in the tracks. He can handle a lot of off-roading, but does have his limits. The standard tires are a compromise between road and off-road as well, but in 4×4 mode and low gearing, you can take on a LOT! More than I expected. Only the clutch seems to have difficulties taking of on a steep hill.
Did you do mods/upgrades/changes on the Navara? If so, which ones?The first modification was the installation of a rearview camera. A must-have for this Navara, since the rear of the car is very hard to oversee. The rear wheel arches hide everything that’s behind them, and there’s quite a bit of length behind those. The camera is a real blessing. Not just for backing up, but I often turn it on during “normal” driving. If it’s dark, you can’t see anything trough the rearview mirror, because there are three darkened windshields between the rearview mirror and the outside of the Navara. Same goes for when the trunk is filled with stuff; you can’t see anything trough the rearview mirror, and because of this camera, I can still see exactly behind the pick-up. The video feed is displayed on the screen in the center console.
The second modification was the transfer of the tow socket from next to the towing hook to the height of the license plate. It’s better protected there against rain/water and it can’t be damaged in the future while off-roading.
The third modification was the install of a roof rack on the hardtop, so I would be able to carry pipes in length of 5 or 6 metres. While putting them up there, you’ve got to keep something VERY important in mind. The roof of the car and the hardtop on the cargo area are separated. They move different due to aerodynamics as well. You’ve got to keep in mind, due to that, to only attach the pipes to 1 point on the roofrack of the car, and one on the hardtop. If you fail to do that, and attach them on more points on either the roofrack of the Navara or the hardtop, you’ll definitely get problems.
The torque boost at 2000rpm is unbelievable! Because of this, you can very easily powerslide the Navara in a bend in the 3th gear.
The last modification was the install of a power chip. This one increases the torque from 400 Nm (295lb-ft) to almost 500Nm (369lb-ft) and increases the horsepower with 35 hp to 207 hp. The outcome is incredible. The torque boost at 2000rpm is unbelievable! Because of this, you can very easily powerslide the Navara in a bend in the 3th gear. Of course you have to be careful doing this, because the pickup still weighs 2200+ kg, and it will lose it grip at some point. It’s like a whale tapping at the water with it’s tale, hence the nickname.
Even though the chip is a very good upgrade, and the miles per gallons are noticeably better, I’m removing the chip one of these days. The clutch definitely can’t handle the extra torque, and soots a lot more. Even the cruise control has problems with the extra torque. It wasn’t responding fast, nor was it accurate, before I installed the chip, but now it’s a disaster, even causing the mileage to drop when using the cruise control.
You’ve got the Navara for quite some time now. Obviously, you start noticing things on the Navara; both positive and negative. What are the most important things you’ve noticed, both positive and negative?
One of the most positive things I noticed is the fact that the car is very quiet. The engine creates a lot less noise than the TD6 in my Range rover. It does have some more wind noise, but allround it’s very quiet. The driving comfort is very good as well. The only downside is that when my twin axle trailer is hooked, the rear suspension shocks a lot. It should’ve had a lot better suspension on the rear for this kind of work. As well in the longer, higher speed bends, the rear suspension isn’t on the road like it should be; it’s “jumping.” You need some experience with this car to be able to drive it under these conditions.
A part of the solution for this is probably a driving style which is more suitable for a pick-up like this one. I often drive it like i’m driving my BMW 523i. This brings up my next point as well. When i’m driving it like that, you’ll notice that the seats have no lateral support at all. The comfort on the back seat is very limited. The seats are too short and too low. The only positive thing about this is that you can take 5 adults with you for short distances, and a bunch of kids for longer drives. Since I’m planning on keeping the car for a longer period of time, that last point was very important to me. The back seat has isofix points for childseats as well.
A real disapointment is the materials they’ve used, like I mentioned before. These ones are meant for a luxury car, but definitely not for a pickup like this. They are hard and not scratchproof. The stuff you’ve put into the glove compartment shakes and makes a lot of noise because those comportments aren’t fitted with damping materials. The dashboard buttons and knobs don’t look like they will reach 450,000 km either. If we look at the underside/undercarriage, a lot of rust is visible. A lot more than you would expect from a car with only 42.000 kms on the odo.
The display has some serious problems from time to time with the right contrast, the sunroof won’t close completely from time to time, and the first signs of wear are visible on the rubbers. If we take a look at the cargo compartment, the fact that the tailgate of the pickup doesn’t lock together with the central locking bothers me. The tailgate is quite heavy as well, and the paint isn’t protected enough. If you use it a lot and (un)load a lot, the paint will quite fast be scratched. All of those things I would’ve never expected from a robust car like this.
It looks like I’ve got a lot of negative comments on this car, but I’ve got a lot of pleasure with this Navara. On the highways it’s just perfect. The sound of the 4 cylinder diesel isn’t a punishment either. I wouldn’t mind if the radio would’ve had a subwoofer though. The mounting rails in the cargo area are a BIG plus as well. It only takes as few moments to get everything tightend. The Navara is quite cheap in maintenance as well. My last service cost only 105 euro. The service before that costed me 400 euro though, but that was at another garage. Both are official dealers though. Last but certainly not least; the car is standing when and where I need it, but without looking vulgar.
So, it sounds like you are quite happy with the Navara? Is the Navara still old-school Japanese engineering, or is it the thoroughness less than expected?
I do have the idea that the thoroughness is less than I originally expected. The car feels a lot more like a French car. No wonder, if you keep in mind that Nissan and Renault have joined forces on quite some grounds.
Are you a real GearHead?
I like to think I am. If I’m to buy a new car, I’m doing research for months before I decide which one to buy. Even before I bought the BMW 523i, I knew I was going to buy a pick-up in the near future. Even then I was thinking about the pros and cons of pick-ups in general. And I believe I’ve succeeded in that.
The Navara is 90% of what I’ve expected it to be when I bought it. I’ll only sell it when I start missing the automatic gearbox or when the costs become just TOO high. I’m on Belgium’s biggest car forum, I read a lot of different car magazines, and I never pass the chance to get to drive a car I’ve never driven before. The fact that I’ve owned two 6-cylinders on gasoline and I’m always looking for RWD cars already says a lot, but my biggest love isn’t found on four wheels, but on two. The biggest part of my time I’m driving my bike. I only use the Navara when the weather just is too bad, or when I need to haul a lot of materials.
How can people get in contact with you? Are you on (Nissan) forums? If so, which username do you use there?
I am registered on not one Nissan forum. I am registered on autoforum.be , 2fast4u.be, paneuropeanforum.be and I can be found on Twitter; TjeuBuurman.
Which car review is better than the one given by someone who actually uses the car in the ways for which it was meant? None, and that’s why this opinion from Tjeu Buurman on the 2009 Nissan Navara is worth so much. Everyone who is in the market for one know exactly knows what he/she can expect now. And the fact that Tjeu is still planning on keeping the car untill it has a mileage of 450,000 km’s says more than enough. Gearheads united; keep doing your thing, and keep sharing it with us and the rest of the world!