• The Nissan Navara is a warrior bakkie with strong survival instincts
• The new bakkie will feature a much bolder front-end.
• American customer demand is influencing all global bakkie projects.
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Nissan's Navara has strong survival instincts.
Don't believe us? Consider the fact that in America, Nissan still manages to make a tidy trade in its previous-generation D40 Navara. And the current D23, available in South Africa, has outlasted its more fancied platform twin, Mercedes-Benz's X-Class.
In a market dominated by Hilux and Ranger, it has been tough going for Navara. Despite its SUV-like coil-sprung rear axle, Navara has also come under increasing pressure from VW's Amarok in the competition for lifestyle double-cab buyers.
Within Nissan's broader bakkie strategy, Navara is crucial, and some leaked brochure images show what followers of the Japanese double-cab can expect when a significant update is officially revealed. This is likely to happen within the next few weeks.
Achieving some sense of product differentiation is challenging for any bakkie marketing and design team. The easiest way of achieving that is by creating a bold and stylized grille, within the constraints set by pedestrian crash safety regulations.
Is this the new 2021 Nissan Navara? (Supplied by Lance Branquinho)
It is all about the grille
To illustrate how vital grille design is, contemplate the case of Ford's latest F-150. It is the world's most popular bakkie and gives its customers a choice of no less than 11 grille options. That is unrivalled in any other vehicle segment. No SUV or passenger car offers nearly such a diverse offering of front-ends.
Bakkie buyers identify strongly with how their double-cab looks from the front, and Nissan wants Navara to make more of an impact in this regard. From the leaked images previewing Nissan's updated D23-series Navara, it is clear that the new bakkie will feature a much bolder front-end. Although some double-cab bakkie design has resisted the trend to outrageous grille dimensions, most notably VW's Amarok, the industrial design team at Nissan is going all-in with new Navara.
The restructured grille is so massive that its frame extends onto Navara's bonnet. This is one of the interesting styling features visible on these grainy product images: how the top of Navara's grille has now become part of the bakkie's bonnet stamping.
The current Nissan Navara (MotorPress)
Basically a downscaled Titan
Nissan bakkie design language uses three defined horizontal bars as its brand identity, and these have been considerably enlarged with new Navara. They have actually grown so large, that the grille now spills down into most of the front bumper.
The source of inspiration for Navara's new grille design, especially its huge chrome surround and sheer size, is the largest bakkie Nissan makes: the Titan.
In a market where Toyota has just introduced its most daringly-styled Hilux to date, Navara has no choice but to follow the market leader's example. It is telling how American customer demand is influencing all global bakkie projects.
The new Hilux is very similar to Toyota's American-market Tacoma bakkie. No surprise, then, that new Navara is going to look a lot more similar to the Titan.
Aside from its unique grille, the new Navara also has a reshaped front bumper, with the fog lights housed in narrower vertical recesses, instead of the current bakkie's rectangular fog light shape.
Beyond the dramatic new front-end design, mechanical upgrades for new Navara will primarily be related to its engine. Nissan is expected to retain the 2.3-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel architecture but should be adding a second turbocharger, to boost both efficiency and throttle response.