Tradesmen and farmers, along with a handful of city folk, have long appreciated the versatility of the one-tonne ute. Good for carting tools, fuel drums or the kids back to boarding school. Good for shifting house or rubbish to the dump.
Somewhere in the past couple of decades, as more Baby Boomers discovered the joys and tribulations of caravanning and free-camping, many in that particular contingent found a ute – more likely a four-wheel drive version with optional canopy on the tray – was a cheaper and more useful option than lumbering Land Cruisers et al.
Meanwhile tradies and farmers were buying imported utes that were becoming more and more civilised; while Holden and Falcon utes were getting lower and more sporting.
The humble one-tonne ute was becoming the lifestyle choice, useful kit that could be jacked-up, over-tyred and taken for a weekend jaunt into the scrub then back to day-to-day business through the week.
All this spurred on the “gunnas” – buyers who were gunna drive to Cape York one day, gunna cross the Simpson, gunna see the Outback.
There are males in the suburbs with flash utes, shod with meaty all-terrain tyres, adorned with spotlights and UHF radios and roof racks and such that will never see red sands or black mud, never cross a river, never wear out those tyres.
That’s all fine. Most sports cars never see a race track.
Yet many pundits out there decry the state of the car park. Too many over-sized utes (and SUVs) is the grumble. Can’t call them cars. The world’s going to hell in the tray of a Ford F-150.
Mind you, these utes and such are better suited to today’s rough and ready conditions away from major highways, than the low-slung Commodore sedans, wagons and utes.
Plus, there’s now extra business for what’s left of the local automotive industry where the likes of Premcar rework Nissan’s Navara dual cab ute, in either PRO-4X or SL trim, into an even better proposition as a work and play horse for Australia.
With revision to suspension, tyres and wheels in the main, Premcar-fettled Navaras ride, steer and cover rough ground with more poise and confidence; sitting 40mm higher with all-new springs, shock absorbers and better approach angle up front. There are more off-road focused tyres, tow bar, unique bull bar and bash plate. It’s for the more serious truckers.
Much of the Warrior SL ($58,00 for the six-speed manual, $60,500 for the seven-speed auto) remains the same which means a small suite of safety aids and driver conveniences.
It also means the driver’s seat remains a bit too high and that the 2.3 litre diesel engine’s 140kW and 450Nm initially feels a tad sluggish as the turbochargers wind up; it’s okay once into its stride, just a bit lazy from the get-go.
But as a sensible, competent four-wheel drive, four-door ute for all manner of travels and all seasons this Navara is a nice piece of work. Another reason to buy a dual cab ute.