Gone also are the days where, in a yarn such as this, we could merely suggest all of the entry-level utes in 4×2 guise because they’re generally the cheapest options, and their very basic, hose-out-interiors and no-nonsense approach have been traditionally well suited to those who don’t wear suits to work – but, as we said, times have changed.
Utes are big business in Australia. One look at the sales data says everybody wants one. But of all the options in the market right now. Utes are very popular with tradespersons, perhaps because they are like a tool on wheels. You can use them to haul your equipment and materials around, and some of them are so good that you can even use them as your family car on your days off.
Every two years, car sales take the opportunity to look at the best-selling utes in the Australian dual-cab 4WD light commercial market and see which is the pick of the litter. For 2019 our comparison test grows to 10 utes, each a highly-specified example of its kind and fit for a variety of uses. With trade, agricultural, recreational and family buyers all flocking to the ute in droves, the Ford Ranger, Holden Colorado, Isuzu D-MAX, Mazda BT-50, Mercedes-Benz X-Class, Mitsubishi Triton, Nissan Navara, SsangYong Musso, Toyota HiLux and Volkswagen Amarok are worthy contenders for any potential purchaser. Here, we test the towing and load-hauling ability of each, as well as their cabin comfort, technology, safety, value, and on- and off-road performance.
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Ford Ranger XLS
Let’s face it – the Ranger is the bar against which all other utes are measured. It’s just that good. And the XLT Double Cab ($57,600 plus on-roads) is the pick of the Ranger bunch.
Currently, Ford’s most popular model, the Ranger XLS, is built to perform on the job site and the open road.
The Ranger can be used as a tradie’s workhorse, off-road 4WD, tow vehicle or as an everyday family car. It’s tough, classy, comfortable and capable.
The XLS comes to a dual cab ute with a 3.2-litre engine and can have either a manual or automatic transmission. The standard fit-out includes a rearview camera, rear parking sensors, 16-inch tyres, fully adjustable steering wheel for reach and height, multimedia touchscreen and cruise control with steering wheel-mounted buttons.
As it did on the leaderboard for total vehicle sales in 2017, the Ford Ranger came in second place, with 12 percent of tradies voting it as their favourite ute. Top-end Rangers have nicely trimmed double cab interiors and can comfortably take a family tour. All 4WD Rangers have lockable rear differentials and go well off-road.
Ford’s Ranger offers refinement and unquestioned practical capabilities, including top-rung on-road behaviour, which keeps it among the front-runners in the segment.
Since the latest edition joined the lineup, the Ranger has gone on to become one of the most popular utes on the market. Its equally impressive sales figures in both the 4X2 and 4X4 segments mean it caters for a wide range of duties. The 3.2-litre turbo-diesel five-cylinder is a standout motor, developing a stout 147kW and 470Nm. It’s also one of a handful of utes that boasts five-star ANCAP safety across all variants.
When it comes to dual-cab utes, the Ford Ranger is in a class of its own, which is saying a lot, given the stiff competition it faces. Combining good looks, a great driving experience, and an impressive set of features, it’s easy to see why we chose the Ford Ranger as the best used dual-cab utes for families in Australia. Some of the Ranger’s more flashy features include adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and lane-keep assist.
Add to this an insanely smooth driving experience no matter the terrain, plus a well-designed cabin featuring a state of the art infotainment system, and it’s no surprise that the Ford Ranger is one of Australia’s best and most popular dual-cab utes.
The Pros of this model is the engine and gearbox work well in combination, upgraded power steering system, great safety record, modern and intuitive infotainment system
While the downside is it’s Slightly narrow cabin
Mercedes Benz X-Class 250d
If you want a tough vehicle equipped with luxury features, the Mercedes X-Class is the recommended choice for luxury and strength.
The X-Class has fitted with a leather-bound steering wheel, electronically adjustable front seats, and reversing camera. Powered by a 2.3-litre twin-turbo, it idles with a distant tick-over and is much quieter than other utes to drive because of extra sound deadening.
Compared to the Nissan Navara, which is similar in appearance, the Mercedes X-Class has its own suspension tune, increased girth and larger ute tray.
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Toyota Hilux Rugged X
The latest additions to Toyota’s top-selling Hilux offers tradies more space.
Featuring a tweaked interior and refreshed façade, the Rugged X is favoured for its off-road abilities. Off-road driving is made better with new features such as steel bulbar, front and rear recovery points, front under guard, LED light bar, slider steps and a snorkel on the driver’s A-pillar.
Other standout features include a 3,500kg towing limit (manual), highly effective traction control, an all-wheel-drive system, climate control and extensive power and safety features. Choose from a 6-speed manual or automatic.
At the time of writing, HiLux (4154 units) and Ford Ranger (4069 units) had topped the May 2017 new car sales charts, thrashing mainstream vehicles such as Corolla and Mazda3.
The HiLux continues to top sales charts because it blends new-school levels of refinement* with good ol’ durability and reliability (*its ride is harsh but it has improved over previous models).
While not as tow-capable as some rivals (the auto is max rated to 3200kg, braked), the HiLux is armed with a hard-working 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel (130kW/450Nm) and slick six-speed auto and so remains a master of the job-site domain.
The interior is not as flash as its rivals, but it’s adequate, with a 7.0-inch media display and plenty of storage spaces – great for tradies. The tray is 1550mm long (on the floor), 1515mm wide (on the floor), 1110mm wide (between the wheel arches), and 495mm deep (from floor to top of the deck). The tray has four tie-down points, one at each corner.
The HiLux has a five-star ANCAP rating (seven airbags in the cabin, reversing camera, and ISOFIX points in the rear seat) but could do with more safety measures.
Fuel consumption is a claimed 8.5L/100km; it has an 80-litre fuel tank. It has a three-year/100,000km warranty and capped price servicing for three years/60,000km.
At $55,990, the SR5 is not cheap and, for the cash, it’s not as refined as Ranger and Amarok, but it has been supremely well-built and -engineered and, despite its new ‘softy’ looks, it’s still bloody tough. A stack of safety and off-road tech help its cause.
The Toyota Hilux is a predictable tradie favourite, with 39 percent giving the thumbs up to what has been Australia’s best-selling ute for the past 17 years, and was Australia’s biggest selling vehicle overall for 2017. Hilux holds it’s own off-road and tows very well, and Toyota’s remote-area service is second-to-none.
Compared with the previous generation, the latest incarnation of the HiLux has more dynamic looks, better performance and reduced fuel consumption. What hasn’t changed is its legendary reputation.
How can anyone devise a top 10 list of vehicles for tradies without starting foremost with the HiLux? It’s the most popular commercial vehicle in Australia by far, and sometimes the best-selling vehicle in the country overall. Toyota Australia offers a vast range in terms of specifications and cabin configurations, including petrol and turbo-diesel, rear-wheel and four-wheel drive, and in workhorse-ready to classy luxury trims. For the latest model, Toyota has concentrated on upping the ante in terms of comfort and making the ute a more family-friendly option.
Now into its eighth-generation, the Toyota HiLux has developed a well-earned reputation as one of Australia’s toughest and most reliable dual-cab utes. How has it earned this reputation? Well, let’s start with the obvious. The HiLux blends a comfortable suspension setup with a standout, refined 2.8L engine that never feels overwhelmed, no matter what you throw at it.
Elsewhere, the HiLux also offers precise steering, as well as a sleek interior that truly has all the trimmings, plus an excellent safety record, highlighted by ISOFIX anchor points. Pair this with an easy-to-use touchscreen entertainment system, and you get a fantastically well-rounded dual cab ute. The pros of Toyata HiLux is its great safety features, comfortable interior, precise steering, intuitive infotainment system, good suspension. While the cons is Engine lacks the raw power of some of its competitors
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Holden Colorado LTZ
The Holden Colorado is the most underrated tradie’s ute. The LTZ was revamped in 2016 to a more attractive, functional and smooth-driving model.
The LTZ is practical and spacious. Like the Toyota Hilux, it also offers value for money and drives better than many comparable utes. However, there’s no petrol option.
Whilst it is the less able of utes off-road, Holden’s LTZ is well-equipped with a turbo diesel engine, good cabin storage and smartphone integration with 8inch touchscreen and seven-speaker premium audio. This model also has sharper steering and a good fuel economy at around 9.5L/100km.
The much improved Holden Colorado claimed 4.0 percent of votes. It’s a well-equipped tool with an excellent diesel engine and the option of a dual-range four-wheel drive. Inside, all Colorados have excellent smartphone integration via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Volkswagen Amarok V6 Sportline TDI 550
Considered Australia’s most powerful tradie ute, the VW Amarok is a performance king.
The ute is favoured among tradies because of its powerful performance and convenient features. It also boasts electronic stability features such as hill descent control and has a towing capacity of 3,500kg.
Its power. The V6 model is powered by a 3.0 litre V6-turbo diesel engine with an ‘over-boost mode.’ This function gives a seamless transition of 180kW burst of power in third and fourth gears.
Volkswagen’s Amarok took LCVs to new levels at its introduction, with exceptional road manners and all-round abilities. Originally exclusively a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel, it’s now also available with a 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel.
The internationally popular Volkswagen Amarok is yet to crack big-time sales in the Australian market in the same way Hilux and Ranger have managed, yet its popularity is steadily growing, with 7.5 percent of tradies voting it as their favourite, if not most desired, commercial ute. The comfortable and sophisticated Amarok handles and steers better than most SUVs with the V6 versions providing unmatched highway performance.
Australian tradies might seem like a burly bunch, but they can have a distinct taste for style and efficiency. And that’s where the Amarok comes in. It manages to be both strong and robust yet also very fuel efficient and quite sharply dressed. It’s available with an eight-speed automatic transmission – usually unheard of in this segment – as well as a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol (the only ute in Australia with a turbo-petrol motor). It also comes in twin-turbo-diesel four-cylinder flavour, developing 420Nm, and powerful V6 diesel with up to 550Nm. Like most European vehicles, it can be filled to the brim with advanced features and luxury appointments via the optional extras catalogue.
If you like your dual cab utes to be roomy, no-nonsense, and powerful, then look no further than the Volkswagen Amarok. First things first, the Amarok offers the biggest tray among its close competitors, which is a huge plus for anyone who regularly hauls large amounts of cargo. Better yet, the interior is still super spacious even with the larger tray, affording passengers plenty of head and legroom.
On-road, the Amarok delivers an extremely comfortable ride, while still packing a good amount of power under the hood. The Amarok also comes with permanent all-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox with eight ratios, which is again the most among its close competitors. Clearly, the Amarok leaves no stone unturned in its pursuit of excellence. Its Pros are the largest tray in its class, permanent all-wheel drive, roomy interior, gearbox features eight ratios, good fuel economy and engine while its Cons is the ride can be slightly firm at times
The D-Max has recently been updated and now comes with a new six-speed auto or manual, new engine (Euro 5 compliant 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel, 130kW/430Nm) and a bit of a facelift. Who cares about the refreshed looks? This is a rock-solid old-school ute for better or worse – mostly better.
The Isuzu D-Max is popular with private buyers but unfairly lacking the tradie street cred of its rivals, despite being a down-to-earth ute that carries and tows well. The D-Max’s newly revised diesel engine and six-speed gearboxes deliver good fuel economy.
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At first glance, the Nissan Navara promises a lot. Luckily, the Navara combines style with substance, meaning it easily lives up to that promise. Unlike many of its competitors, the Nissan Navara features a coil-spring rear, which is sure to be a nice bonus for buyers who spend a lot of time behind the wheel. This is especially noticeable if you take the Navara off-road, where its suspension is miles ahead of most of its competition. Other standout features include the Navara’s rugged yet stylish exterior and equally well-designed interior, highlighted by heaps of storage space.
On the road, the Navara combines a power-packed engine with sharp steering, making for a riveting driving experience. This performance doesn’t come at the expense of efficiency either, as the Nissan Navara offers a class-leading fuel economy. In other words, the Nissan Navara has everything that a solid, reliable dual cab ute should!
The Pros of Nissan Navara are the coil spring rear, class-leading fuel economy, punchy engine, sharp steering, plenty of storage space while its downside is the lacks some of the ‘flashier’ tech features that its competitors have
Nissan’s smooth-riding Navara came in at sixth-spot with 6.0 percent of the vote. The most striking feature of the Navara ute is how well the better-equipped versions combine high power output with low fuel use. The Navara also offers a very comfortable cabin, and, like the Triton, is smaller, and easier to park, than most other utes.