Nissan RX: Overdressed for dirty jobs' rough'n'tum

By Phil Hanson

But is that really so bad in a ute?

What's with Nissan? They can't even put together a stripper ute and get it right.

Not that many years ago, almost all utes were strippers, basic-spec vehicles designed to do a hard day's work on a farm or worksite and be hosed down at knock-off, inside and out.

Then the lifestylers and suburbanites discovered the double cab ute, kick-starting the motor manufacturers' ongoing mission to make them "just like cars".

However, a need for hose-out strippers remains and it's for this market that Nissan has introduced the RX range based on the D40 Navara, a truck that's normally fully equipped and priced at the upper end of the market. It supplements the somewhat smaller D22 Navara that soldiers on as a low-priced single cab-chassis or double cab in either 2WD or 4WD.

But compare the RX, of which eight variants are available, to the typical stripper ute specification and it's clear Nissan doesn't know what it's doing.

Here's a checklist of what you'd expect to find and what Nissan has actually provided:

Clattery, noisy diesel engine: Nissan tried. They dropped the smooth powerhouse in the ST-X Navara 450 and went with a 126kW and 403Nm version in the 4WD RXs. Trouble is, the lesser engine is smooth and punchy and only with a full load do you know it's not the A-lister.

Vinyl trim, including the floor: Well, sort of, except the RX test vehicle had carpets on top of the vinyl. Jeez, Wayne. Seats are cloth, so expect a damp bum next morning.

Manual windows and outside mirrors: One tick; the mirrors are manual.

None of this remote central locking malarkey: Fail.

Steel rims: Tick. Fitted with street-oriented 255/70 16-inch Dunlop Grandtrek AT20s.

A radio is okay, but none of this other rubbish such as aircon and cruise control: Unfortunately, Nissan has it all.

A decent limited-slip diff (LSD) in the back, to aid off-road traction, but none of those fancy electronics: Yup, the LSD's there but, um, so are ABS brakes, ESP and airbags. Bugger. Oops, that's the other brand, isn't it?

Five-speed manual only, mate: Failed again; four RXs have a five-speed automatic, including the one Driven drove.

Single cab only, so you can fit a decent-size tray: Oh dear, Nissan goes and offers an extended cab, called the King Cab, with King Cab and double cab wellsides.

Chuck on any old tray you want, it's only for the load: Big failure here. Costing around $2000, the Best Bars tray, sold through Nissan dealers, is a class act. It has new laminate wood decking that's light, strong and absorbs no moisture, which can cut into the longevity of wooden decks.

It's a working truck, mate, you don't need a fancy dash: See, Nissan still doesn't get it. They have the D40 dash, which is one of the best looking in the business.

It's gotta be cheap: The RX costs from $39,900 for the 2WD; from $46,490 for 4WD, so they've failed there, too.

Although the RX fails on most counts, it's a magnificent failure. Few grumpy old men still really want only a proper stripper ute. The RX offers basic-spec, 2012-style and does it very well. If you're going to spend the day driving around in a one-tonne working ute, it might as well be this one.

Versatility is King

Nissan was right to go with its King Cab version. The double door arrangement (far right) transforms the usability of an extended cab ute.

Nissan's solidly built arrangement laughs in the face of criticism that the doors might lack rigidity.

The King Cab still allows a long tray, yet makes the truck more versatile. Fold the little seats at the back out of the way for cargo space.

- Hamilton News

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