BAKKIE BRAWL: Nissan Navara PRO-2X takes on the Ford Ranger Stormtrak
Johannesburg - With the launch of the upgraded and now locally-built Navara earlier this year, Nissan wants to reclaim the prime spot it once enjoyed on the bakkie sales charts with its earlier Hardbody models, while also rising to prominence in those sometimes fiery braai-side bakkie debates.
The past few sales months have seen it fighting with the GWM P-Series for fourth spot, but Nissan has the burning ambition to be in the top three with its vastly expanded Navara range.
But does the new Nissan Navara have what it takes?
We recently had the opportunity to test the new Navara PRO-2X double cab model alongside the Ford Ranger Stormtrak special edition and it made for an interesting comparison. And yes, we know that the Hilux should be here too, and that’s what we plan to do when the new Ranger hits the scene later next year.
In our previous comparison between the Hilux and the Ranger we found them to be relatively equally matched so for this test the Ranger acts as the proxy for the traditional rivals. Of course, the playing field could change drastically when the new Ranger hits the scene, but you’d be surprised at how competitive the current generation still is.
So let the games begin!
ENGINE PERFORMANCE AND ECONOMY
While the imported pre-facelift Nissan Navara was fitted with a modern 2.3-litre twin-turbo diesel engine, Nissan South Africa opted to revert back to the previous D40 generation’s 2.5-litre mill for the locally-built Navara, which it felt was more suited to the local and African market, and perhaps more cost effective. But thankfully in high-output form the 2.5 matches its more modern counterpart’s outputs of 140kW and 450Nm.
The Ford Ranger, on the other hand, comes equipped with a thoroughly modern, and locally produced, 2.0-litre twin-turbo diesel engine that trumps its rivals with outputs of 157kW and 500Nm.
While the Nissan’s engine is certainly capable and competitive, delivering decent performance, the Ford’s more modern unit does have the upper hand, albeit not by a wide margin. The Ford’s heavier kerb weight of 2 098kg (versus the Nissan’s 1 943kg) does erode into its output advantage, with the Ford producing 75kW and 238Nm per ton versus the Nissan’s 72kW/t and 232Nm/t. However, the Ford’s engine feels more effortless and refined in its operation, while its 10-speed automatic gearbox swops cogs with precision, although with all those ratios it can get a bit busy at times.
Although the Nissan’s cabin is well insulated, its 2.5-litre engine does sound a bit more industrial by comparison, albeit not to the point of annoyance. It’s a decent engine package all round, paired with a seven-speed autobox, but the Ford just does things a little better here.
As for fuel economy, Nissan claims a combined fuel consumption figure of 8.1 litres per 100km, while Ford claims 7.8. Both test units consumed a shade under 11 litres per 100km during their time with us.
RIDE, REFINEMENT AND HANDLING
Things rapidly shift in Nissan’s favour when the conversation turns to ride quality however. But first, it must be said that the Ford Ranger rides really well for a leaf-sprung bakkie and is arguably the best of that bunch.
However, the Nissan’s dual-rate 5-link coil rear suspension simply takes things to the next level. The Navara doesn’t ride like a bakkie at all; instead it provides the kind of bump absorption that you’d normally expect from an SUV.
When it comes to the actual driving sensation, the Ranger has a slightly more positive feel to it, thanks to its relatively well-weighted and communicative steering system. The Navara’s steering, on the other hand, feels too light and disconnected.
Because the Nissan that arrived at our offices for testing was a 4x2 model, we decided to compare it with the rear-driven version of the Ranger Stormtrak. However, it’s worth noting that both are available with competent four-wheel drive systems that feature low range and all the hardware that you’d expect from a proper off-roader.
Both would get you to difficult to reach places without much fuss but very few people actually drive their bakkies on hardcore 4x4 trails and it’s more likely they will spend time on dirt roads getting to their destination. In that department the Navara inches out the Ranger thanks to its suspension especially if you’re loaded with luggage and the road is corrugated.
CABIN AND FEATURES
Moving to the cabins, the Nissan somehow manages to impress and disappoint at the same time.
The dashboard wasn’t given an update when the model was facelifted, and many of its plastic surfaces look a little low-rent. That said, the steering wheel, with its red Nissan logo, looks great and we loved the uniquely quilted seats with red stitching, which are fitted to the Pro2X and Pro4X models.
The Ford has its fair share of glamour, with the special edition featuring Stormtrak logos, illuminated treadplates and red stitching throughout. We couldn’t really fault the quality of plastics and dashboard surfaces and clearly Ford made a good call when redesigning the Ranger’s cabin when it was facelifted a few years back. It has aged rather well.
When it comes to practicality, both are relatively equally matched, offering a fair amount of rear legroom but nothing too extravagant in terms of stretching space.
In terms of spec, both pack all the luxuries you’d expect at this level, including leather trim, climate control and touchscreen infotainment systems.
The Ford’s Sync3 infotainment and navigation system with Tracks4Africa offers more than the Nissan and its resolution is better too.
They are also fairly well equipped when it comes to active safety kit, with both packing autonomous emergency braking, lane keeping alert, driver alert system, and blind spot warning. However, whereas the Nissan has conventional cruise control, the Ford comes with the adaptive kind as well as lane keeping assist and semi-automated park assist. However, the Nissan claws back slightly with its rear cross traffic alert and surround view monitor.
Nissan claims a payload of 1 086kg for the Navara Pro2X, but like most bakkies on the market the load bin comes with a lot of wasted paint and no rubber lining.
The Ford Ranger Stormtrak, however, is significantly more practical when it comes to loading everyday items such as shopping and luggage. This is thanks to its cargo bed divider and electrically operated roller shutter. It also has a drop in bedliner to protect the bin from everyday scratches and scuffs. The Ford’s payload is slightly lower, though, at 957kg, but it’s a small price to pay for the extra versatility.
VALUE AND PARTS PRICING
The Nissan Navara Pro2X retails for R699 000, while the Ford Ranger 2.0 BiT Stormtrak 4x2 commands R775 200. However, the Ranger Wildtrak, which also competes directly with the Pro2X, is priced at R735 000, which still represents a premium over the Navara.
However, when it comes to parts pricing, the Ford wins by a huge margin. Earlier this year the Automobile Association published a parts pricing survey and in the double cab section it listed a Ranger 2.0 single-turbo model and Navara 2.5 LE. The Ranger’s overall parts basket worked out to just 13.6% of its purchase price, while the Navara came last in the pack at 43.7%.
The Navara’s service price parts came in at R11 332, double the Ranger’s R5134 basket and the gap was even wider when it came to body repair parts (R256 929 vs R79 515).
On the flipside, the Ranger no longer has a service plan as standard, while the Navara comes with a six-year/90 000 plan.
VERDICT - JASON
This is a very close call, and there’s a big part of me that wants to declare the Navara as my winner. Its ride quality, lower price tag as well as its fresher design all make it a very appealing package. However, I cannot ignore that the Ranger is likely the best all-rounder when everything is factored in. That’s impressive for an outgoing model.
VERDICT – WILLEM
As with Jason, there’s not much to separate the two, and my vote goes to the Ranger despite coming to the end of its run. I find the interior slightly more appealing with its soft touch surfaces as well as the infotainment system but it’s the bin’s cargo bed divider, roller shutter and more sophisticated engine that pushes its chest out to break the tape.