Utes were mainly used for work related transportation in the past. Easily they could be spotted at sites where construction work is going on; however, these days they have become dual purpose vehicles. During the week, Ute is used to accomplish traditional duties and on the weekends, they are used as a family hauler. Utes are considered as a powerful four-wheel drive due to their huge towing capacity. Dual cab Utes amount to one in every ten new car sales and rightly so, they have a good potential market.
The default choice for the past several years was undoubtedly the Toyota Hilux Ute, which has strongly risen in popularity since the late 1990s and numerous times during the past few years, it has been the largest selling Ute in Australia. However, with the arrival of many new Utes manufactured by various automobile makers, Toyota’s Ute faces a tough competition ahead.
We bring to you some fascinating Utes comparisons so that you can better decide which Ute would be the perfect choice for fulfilling your needs. These details have been taken from the extensive research work conducted by drive.com.au.
Mitsubishi Triton GLX-R
Mitsubishi’s Triton is the present generation trendsetter for dual cab Ute but it has undergone several upgrades since it was launched in the year 2006. Mitsubishi’s Triton was certainly the first intentionally built Ute to offer better stability, superior control and ultimate safety with 6 airbags, Triton has undergone several upgrades since its launch, yet by far it feels old by comparisons.
Mitsubishi Triton has a very basic kind of dashboard consisting of plastic material, the switchgear is not smooth enough and its ergonomics are average, especially the low-range gear-shifter that intrudes into the driver’s left leg. Under thigh support is missing and centre storage options are not adequate and it’s integrated with an average audio system.
The remarkable thing about Triton compared to its competitors is that its rear seat has a very spacious head, leg and toe room. However, during the road trips, passengers sitting in the rear seat will have their knees cramped up, as Triton’s cabin has an elevated floor than its competitors. The rear seat has superior storage than the front, with respectable door pockets and a fold-down armrest with cup-holders; however, it has only two child seat controls.
The professionals who had test driven the Triton feels that the vehicle is way behind the times. It gives a bouncy ride, shaky over smaller bumps and leaping loosely over the larger bumps. It’s not well balanced vehicle when compared to its competitors in the same segment. It has got bulkier and the inconsistent steering wheel and it doesn’t feel quite balanced and comfortable on the road. The Triton’s engine has undergone several upgrades and provides a respectable force while on the move, but tilts at lower speeds and you can feel awkward. When carrying light loads, the 5-speed auto shifts quite smoothly and comfortably, but can be awful under stronger acceleration. When compared to other rivals in the same segment, the Mitsubishi’s tray is the shortest and narrowest at 1470mm wide and 1505mm long.
It doesn’t have 12-volt socket or hard cover or light in the tray; however, Triton is the only vehicle in Australia, which has a powered wind-down rear windscreen that facilitates lengthy items to push through, and a sports bar being the standard fitment. Compared to other vehicles in the class, it has a decent loading capacity of 935 kg and offers a towing capacity of 3000 kg, which is substantial. The positive point for the Triton is its longest warranty period that stands at 5 years or 130,000 km.
Nissan Navara ST-X 550
Nissan Navara ST-X 550 is well known mainly for two things. The first thing is the number 550 which you can find in its name which refers to the amount of torque the turbo diesel V6 engine generates, a gigantic 550Nm or roughly 60% higher than the HiLux and Triton. The second thing is its price tag that starts from little over $60,000 not including on road costs, certainly makes it the most pricey dual-cab Ute in its class.
If you desire performance, undoubtedly Nissan Navara is the perfect choice from all the other Utes tested in its category. The 3.0-litre power horse generates natural sound at different speed levels, and has a very little turbo gap and enormous propel during overtaking steers. When not under heavy weight it feels advanced and tranquil, and the 7-speed automatic gearbox make the utmost of the engine, though it consumes highest fuel when compared to other vehicles in its category.
In order to validate its high ownership cost, the ST-X comes with roof racks, side steps, a sports bar, a tray liner, hard cover, tinted glass, climate-controlled air conditioning and Bluetooth as its standard fitments. On the contrary, it doesn’t have a rear-view camera, Sat Nav and parking sensors. It comes with standard fitments such as 6 airbags and stability control, but it has received a 3-star ANCAP crash safety rating, which is probably most horrible thing for an expensive Ute.
The Nissan Navara has clean and neat interiors, but certainly it does not seem quite special for the price it comes at and steering-wheel reach adjustment is missing. It has received certain pleasant texture in the cabin; however, the dash and the door plastics are not scratch resistant. It has a decent storage space that includes dual glove boxes and respectable door pockets, and comfortable seats. However, the rear seat is stiff with a straight backrest and a shortest seat squab.
The Navara is equipped with direct action steering with decent weight, and easily manages corners while on the road. The ride quality is largely good, but its bigger wheels and slimmer tyres make even the minor bumps felt in the cabin, especially by means of the tray. Additionally, it has an enormous turning circle of 13.3 metres, which makes closer turns and parking a challenge. The Navara has pretty spacious tray comparable to its competitors, but somewhat smaller at 1560mm wide and 1510mm long. The loading capability of 909 kg is decent whereas it has a towing capacity of 3000 kg which is equivalent to the Triton.
Volkswagen Amarok Ultimate
Volkswagen’s first ever purpose built Ute was made with an exclusive Aussie spirit to provide a bit of luxury that the buyers were looking for and at a price range (starting from a little over $58,000 not including on-road costs) that’s convincingly competitive for the upper Ute market segment. Thus was born the Amarok Ultimate strictly targeting the Aussie premium Ute market.
As standard fitment, the Ultimate comes with climate control, side steps, a sports bar, 19-inch alloys, and a touch-screen media system along with leather seats. However, it doesn’t include standard steering wheel audio controls, Bluetooth, Sat-Nav, USB input, a reversing camera or sensors, and a tub-liner and tow bar. Also, it doesn’t have an option for automatic gearbox though an 8-speed automatic is to be launched in the mid of this year for the 4WD variants.
Amarok Ultimate has adequate safety levels as it comes with standard dual front and front-side airbags and stability control. Airbag safeguard in the rear is missing, which didn’t hinder its 5-star ANCAP rating, the 1st dual-cab Ute to acquire the top crash-test safety rating.
It has a smart cabin, a tidy dashboard that has an intelligent top-mounted storage bin with a power outlet for Sat-Nav systems and superior door storage facility. The glove box and centre console are rather undersized but they have been duly compensated for by having a clever under-seat drawers.
The Ultimate tested had a fixed 4WD drive-train (other Utes require the driver to choose 4WD) and ”comfort” suspension (taking away one of the leaf from the rear-leaf-spring suspension), which contract its carrying capability by 220kg. At 710 kg, its loading capability is the lowest in the segment, whereas its towing capability is also not any better at 2800 kg when compared to some other models in its class. However, it has the largest tray which is 1620mm wide and 1555mm long and it receives a flash light and a 12-volt outlet.
Due to its suspension, the Amarok is effortlessly very similar to driving a car. It smoothly rides over the bumps and due to its 4WD system, it gets a superb grip through corners and also when starting the vehicle from a standing position on slippery surfaces. In spite of having hefty 12.95-metre turning circle, making inner-city lane alterations and roundabouts is easy to tackle with because of its light-weight and very user friendly steering.
On the other side, manual transmission in the Amarok Ultimate is not that easy to manage with due to its inconsistent clutch feel and an extremely bulky pedal action. The dual-turbo powered diesel engine certainly has a fuel competence of 7.9-litre per 100km comparable to fuel efficiency of an SUV; however, at times it can be laborious and also felt slow when compared to other mighty engines of Mazda and Ford.
Mazda BT-50 XTR
The Mazda BT-50 XTR is easily the affordable Ute in its segment if you don’t fit optional accessories to it and rightly it offers true value for money. Its price range starts at a little over $48,000 excluding on-road costs. It comes with fog lights, climate control, Sat-Nav, USB input, Bluetooth with voice control and audio streaming.
The Mazda BT-50 XTR is rightly equipped with similar safety equipment as the Ranger, with 6 airbags and stability control; it comes with the highest 5-star ANCAP safety rating. However, the BT-50’s interior is not that user-friendly as it is in the Ranger. It comes with smaller door pockets for both front and back passengers and the audio controls are fussy. Yes, it is spacious and comfortable just like the Ranger – the seats have good support, the glove box and central bin are generous and it has fantastic leg and head space in the rear. It is equipped with two child seat restraint points and has three 12-volt outlet compared to the Ranger’s two.
Just like the Ford, engine and transmission are one of the strongest selling points of the Mazda BT-50 XTR. It shares the same 5-cylinder diesel engine and 6-speed automatic that work competently together. Regardless of the fact that it is loaded or vacant, the transmission is smooth; however, just like the Ranger, at times it can waver somewhat. Again, just like the Ranger, BT-50 XTR gives similar fuel economy at 9.2 litres per 100 km.
When both the Ranger and BT-50 XTR are driven consecutively, it’s hard to differentiate between the two, but certainly you will notice that Mazda’s engine is a bit noisier than that of Ranger’s. The steering has good weight, reacts as expected and you can corner with absolute confidence, yet the BT-50 XTR used for the test drive remained more uncomfortable during the ride, moving restlessly over smaller bumps and jerking over bigger bumps, most probably it could be because of its lumpier tyres.
For work related uses, the BT-50 is similar to Ranger, as it is equipped with a tray that measures 1560mm-wide and 1549mm-long. Also, BT-50 has the finest loading capability of all the 6 Utes that were tested by drive.com.au that remained at 1097kg. At 3350 kg, BT-50 has the finest towing capability as well.
Ford Ranger XLT
The Ford’s Ranger is at an advantage as it is exclusively designed and engineered in Australia to suit the toughest Australian conditions. No doubt, Ranger’s price range starts from little over $53000 excluding on-road costs, is certainly higher than the Mazda’s BT-50; however, the specifications of the Ranger partly compensates for that excess price range. It acquires a sports bar, tow bar, rear parking sensors, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, auto headlights and wipers, and a tub-liner with 12-volt socket compared to BT-50, which is a cheaper Ute model.
The Mazda has the option for a rear-view camera, whereas Ford provides the potentially life-saving technology only on its high end model Wildtrak that starts from a little over $57000. Otherwise, the remaining life-saving items are standard like the 6 airbags and stability control.
The standard gear also comprise of a cooled centre-console bin, huge door pockets for both front and rear, a bigger glove box, USB input, Bluetooth with audio streaming and voice control and unquestionably the finest seats both for support and comfort among all the 6 Utes tested by drive.com.au. Additionally, it acquires 3-twelve-volt power sockets in the cab. The rear seat is roomy enough, with a wide rear pew, which can quite easily accommodate three average adults comfortably. With thick audio buttons and robust, angular dashboard features, the interior rightly has a masculine feel to it. It has a superior cabin arrangement, but lacks steering-wheel reach adjustment.
With its smooth ride quality, brilliant road manners and excellent cornering capability, the Ranger fares well on the road. It can be a little shaky on rippled parts of the road; however, it feels far less bouncy than most of its competitors. Its steering has good weight, responds well and stirs up a soft-roader. The 5-cylinder diesel engine and 6-speed automatic joins excellently, with smooth, smart shifts with a loaded or vacant tray. For achieving superior competence, gearbox tends to shift early, which can cause minor wavering. In spite of that, Ranger still is quite thirsty at 9.2 litres per 100 km. The diesel rattle is also well muted from the cabin.
At 1041kg, the Ranger certainly is the 2nd-biggest load bearer in this segment, and its tray is 1560mm wide and 1549mm long. The towing capability of 3200kg is also the 2nd best in the segment.
Toyota HiLux SR5
Toyota has made a reputation for making the strongest and the most dependable Ute. Toyota HiLux has undergone a recent upgrade wherein it got a slight facelift, and has more equipment to its credit and a bit of a price alteration has been done; certainly the HiLux also gives good value for your money.
The high end SR5 model is priced from a little over $50,000 excluding on-road costs (which is lesser by $2700) and is well equipped with standard automatic headlights, fog lights, 17-inch alloys, a sports bar, touch-screen Sat-Nav, Bluetooth phone connectivity and USB input. Yet, Toyota’s recent upgrade just added stability control and the full set of airbags that includes dual front, front-side and full-length curtains to its most expensive models whereas other vehicles in the segment provide these features across their relevant ranges. The SR5’s interior updates have lighted up the cabin somewhat, but it is still a grey and a dull place to be.
It offers excellent storage both in the front and rear, which includes decent door pockets, a big sunglasses holster, bottle holders, and only one cup caddy; certainly it is comfortable enough. The rear of the SR5 is pretty roomy, although toe and knee space can be slightly improved. Nevertheless, the head space is pretty decent, and the rear pew is comfortable and also there is a smart storage box beneath the rear seat, which can be accessed when the seat-base flips up.
At 1515mm wide and 1520mm long, the HiLux’s tray is one of the smaller ones. Also, it has the second lowest loading capability at 835 km behind Amarok, whereas at 2500 kg, it has got the lowest towing capability, and it lacks smart lights or sockets that its competitors have. At higher speeds, regardless it is loaded or not, it bounces over most bumps and the HiLux’s rear end shakes when vacant. It also bends greatly through corners and the rear tyres can wail without much support. The HiLux’s steering is heavy, still it offers good feel to the driver’s hands, but over mid-corner bumps it kicks back.
Since a long time, its 3.0-litre turbo diesel engine remains the same and is the least powerful of all Utes in the segment. In the current competitive Ute market, it certainly feels like a dated model. Also, it’s noisy in the cabin and feels as though it is stressed most on steep sections. Yet, the simple 4-speed auto is candid and shifts well enough.
With the advancement in technologies, the newest range of dual-cab Utes has truly evolved.
The Mitsubishi Triton GLX-R, which was once seen as the trendsetter is a live example. Though the specifications of GLX-R offers good value, longer warranty time period, excellent safety gear and space, but still give a feeling that it is outdated when compared to some of its competitors.
The Toyota HiLux might be leading in Ute sales, but it clearly makes its age felt with its outdated features that doesn’t keep pace with the requirements of the current generation.
The Navara ST-X 550 comes in as a surprise package. It is rightly equipped with an awesome engine and transmission and gives a respectable drive experience, but it is put down by weak interior and not up to the mark fitments, which certainly fails to do justice for its high asking price.
The Amarok Ultimate comes in the 3rd position, and gives you a feeling that it’s a bit pricey compared to other models, and its driveline is a bit intricate to control in traffic.
So, you have the Ford and Mazda to battle it out for the top position. Both have good drivability, are comfortable and endowed with appealing interiors and are well equipped inside and have strong, advanced engines, smart transmission and exceptional safety and security features.
Out of the two Utes, the Ford Ranger is undeniably the best choice for those who are prepared to pay a little more in order to acquire those extra creature comforts. It also offers rock solid looks, which might be a factor for some buyers to pick it up. Nonetheless, it would be quite a deal to grab the Mazda BT-50 XTR because it’s really affordable though it lacks certain standard features of the Ford.