TRENDY TRADIES TRAVELLING TOOLBOX | UTE REVIEW 4×4

Delivery Magazine delves into the growth of the off-road load carrier for the recreational tradie – Stuart Martin reports 

To suggest there’s been solid growth in the LCV 4×4 dual cab segment of the Australian new vehicle market is akin to suggesting the Coalition has a mild dislike of alternative energy options.

The multipurpose machine that tows both tools and toys, dependent on the day, as well as potentially carting kids to school and tradies to the site, has exploded in popularity due to better road manners of the various contenders.

The market leadership battle is a two-horse race – the new champ from the Blue Oval against the long-reigning monarch from Toyota.

So far this year, in the 4×4 market HiLux is lagging behind the top-selling Ranger, but it’s still daylight to the third-placed Triton.

The Australian-engineered Ford Ranger, recently facelifted but still sporting the same fundamental line-up, has some models asking top dollar for the Blue Oval privilege.

The diesel cab/chassis line-up is all XL – like the rear-drive range available in single, super and dual-cab guises, with the 118 kW/385 Nm 2.2-litre four-cylinder and 147 kW/470 Nm 3.2-litre five-cylinder on offer under the beefier facelifted front. They come with a standard rear diff lock, Bluetooth phone system with emergency assist, stability control, front and side airbags, a reversing camera and sensors (on the ute models) among the range-wide features.

The XL single-cab starts from $39,090 (a sizeable jump from the entry-level 4×2 model), or $41,590 for the five-cylinder model. A workhorse XL Plus Single is offered for $46,790 with dual batteries, canvas seat covers and 17-inch wheels (up from 16s) as standard fare.

Additional room behind the front seats is one of the benefits of opting for the XL Super Cab for $44,090 or forking out another $2000 will add full rear doors. There’s also a 2.2 double-cab on offer for $43,590.

Aim for a ute-bodied Ranger and pricing starts at $45,090 for the 2.2-litre engine in XL dual-cab, or another $500 buys the bigger engine in XL super-cab guise.

The more powerful 3.2-litre in-line five-cylinder is the only choice above that, with the XLS dual-cab asking $48,890, an XL Plus dual-cab workhorse demanding $53,290, the XLT dual-cab wearing a $55,490 price tag and the Wildtrak flagship starting from $59,590.

The top-spec Ranger gets rain-sensing wipers, climate control, tyre pressure monitoring, auto-dimming mirror and the full safety list of adaptive cruise with collision warning, lane departure warning and auto high beam.

Alphabetically close but worlds away is the 4×4 Foton Tunland range. It is the only ute powered by a 2.8-litre Cummins diesel (a 130 kW/365 Nm) and is only offered as a dual-cab, starting from $29,990 with 2.5-tonne braked towing, one-tonne payload, and a rear LSD, but no auto.

Great Wall trotted back into the Australian 4×4 ute segment on the back of a Steed, which is offered only in a dual-cab one-tonner body style. It has some merit in terms of cabin comfort and features, as well as a workable low range, but only a 110 kW/310 Nm 2.0-litre turbodiesel, 171 mm of ground clearance and a manual gearbox for $29,990.

The Holden Colorado underwent a major front-end overhaul, with suspension, steering and transmission tweaks being among the changes beneath the revamped snout – and it has given the Thai-built workhorse more to brag about than just cost.

Pricing is still something the Colorado has in its favour. The LS single-cab/chassis starts from $37,490, rising to $40,990 for a space-cab and the four-door will set you back $43,490 for the crew-cab.

Vinyl flooring is standard in the LS, as is the entry-level MyLink infotainment system on a seven-inch colour touchscreen, with USB input and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.

Safety features include seven airbags, rear parking sensors and reversing camera (on ute models), stability control and a rear limited-slip differential.

Only the ute-bodied models are offered from here up, with the LS dual-cab asking $44,990, rising to $46,990 for the LT, which adds fog lights, side steps, 17-inch alloys and carpet flooring.

The LTZ range starts in a space-cab for $48,990 or the dual-cab wears a $50,490 price tag, with the Z71 priced from $54,990.

Power and torque went unchanged from the 2.8-litre turbocharged four-cylinder – 147 kW and 500 Nm (but only from 2000 to 2200 rpm) with the auto, and 440 Nm (across 1600 to 2800 rpm) when teamed to a manual.

What has been revamped is the interior, with a MyLink touchscreen control system, full smartphone integration as well as its own satnav and digital radio reception.

Road manners of the LTZ tested are much improved, showing the benefits of involving the Colorado’s Australian engineering team with nicely-weighted steering, reasonable ride and load-lugging prowess with 3.5-tonne braked towing and 1.0-tonne payload for much of the range.

Rear disc brakes would be nice – the Amarok V6 has them and so does the Great Wall Steed (guess which one doesn’t really need them) – as the Holden can feel a bit underdone in the stopping department with a load on board.

Former GM bedfellow Isuzu has updated its D-Max with a refreshed drivetrain, improving emissions and outputs, while bolting a six-speed automatic to the upgraded 3.0-litre turbodiesel four-cylinder.

Its entry-level 4×4 model is the EX cab/chassis starting from $34,800, with the price rising to $38,000 for the SX in the same single-cab/chassis guise. The SX space-cab/chassis model starts from $40,700, with the more luxurious LS-U also on offer in space-cab form for $46,200.

Dual-cabs also start in an SX model, asking $43,200 for a cab/chassis and another $700 for a ute, which is all that’s available for the rest of the Isuzu Ute range. The LS-M is priced from $46,400, an LS-U is $48,300 and the top-spec LS-T asks $54,200.

We spent a bit of time in the LS-T and it maintains its role as “Old Faithful” with a relaxed demeanour from the 130 kW/430 Nm 3.0-litre turbodiesel, albeit one that’s on the noisy side. The leather-trimmed cabin is showing its age but has been given a lift with a touchscreen satnav infotainment system, and its 3.5-tonne towing capacity, genuine 1.0-tonne payload, five-year warranty, roadside assistance, capped-price servicing and a solid reputation for getting the job done keeps people going their own way with the breed.

A stint behind the wheel of the base-model cab-chassis 4×2 does remind occupants of the D-Max’s veteran status – it still gets the tough towing and lifting jobs done and the engine and automatic upgrade were welcome, but the Isuzu is starting to lose touch with the top players in the field.

Mahindra has single and dual-cab models on offer in both the Genio and Pik-Up range, with an 88 kW/280 Nm 2.2-litre turbodiesel, 1.0-tonne payloads but only a five-speed manual gearbox on offer for a starting price of $24,990.

A coil-sprung front and leaf-spring rear deliver a decent ride, as well as having a proper 1.0-tonne payload and 2.5-tonne braked towing for the Pik-Up (they’re coy about a braked towing capacity for the Genio), but the absence of an auto and relatively low outputs make this one (like Foton and Great Wall) a tough sale.

Mazda’s BT-50 shares plenty under its less-appealing snout with its more-handsome cousin, the more expensive Ford Ranger, until its deal with Isuzu for a replacement eventually bears fruit, but, unlike the 2WD range, the 4×4 utes are all propelled by the impressive 3.2-litre five-cylinder engine.

The entry-level single-cab/chassis XT starts from $36,850, rising to $40,815 for the roomier Freestyle cab, while $2000 more will buy the dual-cab. The ute bodystyle skips the single-cab and starts with the XT dual-cab for $44,615, with the XTR Freestyle model priced from $47,675.

The pick seems to be the XTR dual-cab, which slides in just under $50K by $300 despite being equipped with rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming mirror, satnav, dual-zone climate control, a reversing camera and a diff lock, while the flagship GT gets digital radio, power-adjustable driver’s seat, heated exterior mirrors, and leather trim among it extras, and sits at $51,790.

It is a strong package but misses out on some of the active safety features introduced to the Ranger in the last update, and its warranty (a two-year unlimited-kilometre warranty that can go to three years, but is then limited to 100,000 km) is not up to segment average.

Mitsubishi’s Triton is seen by many as the best value for money in equipment terms – the Exceed flagship is priced from $48,000 when much of the segment dwells well beyond $50K in top-spec guise, or in the case Ford and Volkswagen a $60K price tag is on the standard bearer.

It is not up to some of the competition for outright capacity in towing or payload terms, but the Triton is well equipped, quiet and deceptively capable – it is one of the few that has reach and rake steering adjustment and the ability to select all-wheel-drive on the bitumen.

The 4×4 range is powered only by the frugal 2.4-litre turbo diesel (133 kW and 430 Nm) with six-speed manual or five-speed auto, anchored by the GLX 2.4 single-cab/chassis for $32,500, or the same designation in a club-cab model asks $35,300, while a dual-cab ute GLX starts from $36,250.

Ute body shoppers start with a GLX dual-cab from $37,000, the same asking price for the GLX+ model (which adds alloy wheels, climate control, upgraded centre screen and trim tweaks), while the GLX+ club-cab model asks $38,500.

Seen by some as the best value of the Triton range, the GLS provides the upgraded 4WD system, improved infotainment with full smartphone integration, xenon headlights, leather steering wheel and 17-inch alloy wheels. The Exceed starts from $48,000 with auto headlights and wipers, rear diff lock, front seat heaters, and an auto-dimming rear mirror among the highlights.

Nissan’s Navara had a Series 2 model update that included major revisions to the coil-sprung rear suspension that were first mooted as required by Delivery magazine when the NP300 Navara first appeared.

The entry-level workhorses are by-and-large leaf-sprung under the one-tonne-rated rump, with front, side and a driver’s knee airbag as well a single-turbo 120 kW/403 Nm turbo diesel engine with six-speed manual or seven-speed auto, starting from $31,990 for a DX single-cab/chassis and $32,990 for the RX model on 16-inch steel wheels with remote keyless entry, a rear window demister, but retaining the plastic steering wheel.

It is also available in a king-cab model that adds cabin space and flip-up jump seats in the rear for a starting price of $35,490 – the king-cab is also available in ute body style.

Dual-cab buyers are restricted to ute body styles in all bar the $36,990 RX cab/chassis, with its ute equivalent priced from $39,990. The SL priced at $43,990 retains the cheap-feeling plastic steering wheel and cloth trim, but improves on the infotainment front with six speakers and a larger screen; there’s still no touchscreen or nav but the driver does get manual height adjustment.

The SL’s payload slips just under a tonne (987 kg) for the suspension that has been toughened up (not completely to the detriment of the ride quality), with braked towing capacity unchanged at 3.5 tonnes. The more-refined and muscular twin-turbo 140 kW/450 Nm powerplant starts in the SL dual-cab model and above, providing a more refined soundtrack as well as better outputs, frugal fuel use and a more civilised delivery via the seven-speed auto. It also powers the ST, which slips in at $46,990. The top-spec model is the ST-X at $51,990, and it gets leather trim, satnav, heated seats, dual-zone climate control and a leather helm among its highlights.

The revamped Toyota HiLux has returned to form at the front of the sales pack and has petrol and diesel engines in its 4×4 workhorse line-up, although the vast majority sold are diesel burners.

The SR kicks off the dual-cab line-up with a 4.0-litre petrol V6 that is auto-only at $48,490, rising to $56,390 for an SR5.

The diesel cab/chassis 4×4 line-up starts with the 110 kW/400 Nm 2.4-litre turbodiesel (with six gears in manual or auto form) in the WorkMate single for $36,990, or the extra-cab rises in price to $40,490. The up-spec SR is equipped with the 130 kW/420 Nm (450 Nm in the six-speed auto) 2.8-litre turbodiesel and is priced from $39,490 in single-cab or $44,490 for two rear doors and more space in the cabin. Of note is the manual (despite a 30 Nm handicap) tow-rated to 3500 kg, while the auto’s braked towing capacity drops to 3200 kg.

Ute body styles in diesel form start with a WorkMate 2.4 double-cab for $43,990, with the SR raising the stakes to $44,490 for the extra-cab or $44,490 for a dual-cab with the 2.8-litre turbodiesel.

The flagship 4×4 is the SR5, which in extra-cab is $52,390 or $54,390 for the SR5 dual-cab, and a rear diff lock, reversing camera (standard on the bulk of the ute range), satnav and digital radio reception are among the standard fare.

Volkswagen’s Amarok is a class leader for refinement and car-like road manners, but the arrival of the V6 has overshadowed the still good 132 kW/400 Nm four-cylinder models, which start in dual-cab/chassis guise for $41,990 for the TDI400 Core manual, rising to $44,990 for the TDI420 Core eight-speed auto.

Dual-cab utes start from $43,490 for the TDI400 Core (an auto adds $3000), while the Plus ups that to $47,490 with the addition of carpet flooring, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers and 17 (up from 16) inch alloy wheels.

A 3.0-tonne towing capacity, near-1.0-tonne payload and the ability to sneak a pallet between the wheel arches are among the Amarok’s claims to fame.

The 165 kW/550 Nm V6’s arrival has given the Amarok the sort of punch for which it has always been yearning, and it needs the four-wheel discs to haul it in – the Sportline starts from $55,490, rising to $59,990 for the Highline and leaving the Ultimate as the flagship for now at $67,990.

The big Volksy has been lauded for the reach and rake steering adjustment, infotainment inclusions, genteel road manners and quiet cabin, but lambasted for the absence of curtain airbags, limited legroom aft and none of the automatic emergency braking systems that appear on its passenger cars beyond multi-collision brake, which doesn’t stop the initial impact.

There’s no easy pick for a winner in this segment, but, if someone was going to leave one in my driveway, it would be the V6 Amarok.

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