The “Coupe Utility” emerged in the ‘30s and ‘40s as the combination of a coupe-shaped front cabin with a cargo tray in the rear, and rather than looking like a car and a truck sandwiched together, the tray was styled to look like an extension of the cabin.
In true Aussie style, we shortened its name to Utility, then to Ute (trust us to abbreviate an abbreviation) [not to mention its rhyming slang name: the ‘you-beaut’ – Ed.], and while the name is short, the list of ute styles and specs is getting ever longer. Demand for this practical workhorse comes not just from its traditional farmers and tradies segment of the market, but from families, adventure seekers and animal lovers alike.
But while we may be spoilt for choice, there are really only three main ute body styles, and there are advantages (and disadvantages) that come with each variant, depending on your wants and needs.
Short for Single Cabin, and also called a Single-Cab-Chassis, this is the quintessential ‘tradies’ ute with two doors, two seats, and a big, long tray for carrying the tough stuff. Single Cab utes typically come in two styles; a box-backed workman’s ute with an alloy flat or panel-sided tray perfectly suited for big lock-boxes and load carrying, or car-based iterations such as the iconic Ford and Holden utes. Depending on the rear suspension, the latter can be limited in the weight of load they can carry; an independent or car-style rear suspension won’t take the one-tonne payload that a leaf or heavy-duty spring will. They also boast a broader buyer base, ranging from blue to white collar and beyond, and topping out with fully-laden luxury performance variants which are more at home at the racetrack than on a work site.
As the name suggests, the dual-cabin ute has four doors and at least four seats, though most have five these days. It is also called a Double Cab or a Crew Cab. Because of the extra passenger row, the rear cargo area is shorter than other ute styles, though many can still carry a tonne in the tray. Tow capacities are typically quite high as well, with some claiming to haul up to 3.5 tonnes.
The roof is longer and well suited to roof racks and rooftop storage, which is very important for some professions and hobbies. Most Dual Cabs come in a variety of drivetrains, powertrains, driven wheels and specifications; their popularity and practicality making them supremely popular with all walks of life. In fact, many manufacturers now classify the Dual Cab Ute in their SUV or Passenger range rather than a commercial vehicle; such is their level of luxury, practicality and popularity.
Also called a Supercab, Space Cab or King Cab, this bodystyle splits the difference between single and Dual Cab utes. Think of it as a one-and-a-half cab, and the extra room behind the first row of seats can be used as either seating or storage. Many Extra Cabs feature ‘suicide doors’, smaller entry doors that are hinged at the rear and open the cabin right out, and allowing goods and people in and out without needing to shift the front seats like your typical two-door, two-row car.
The second row of seats in Extra Cab styles are perfunctory at best, designed for occasional use and stowed away when not needed for passengers. Many don’t have a fifth (centre) seat either. This feature flattens the floor for bulky items, and lets the driver lock up and store items in the cabin instead of the tray for extra safety or convenience.
There is also more usable length in the trayback than a Dual Cab Ute, and the longer cabin also lends itself to roof racks and rooftop storage.