Commercial utes continue to pick up trade in Australia. They accounted for 15 per cent of the total new-vehicle market last year, with 2015 4x4 ute sales more than double what they were in 2005.
Models such as the Toyota HiLux, Ford Ranger, Mitsubishi Triton and Holden Colorado are even regular visitors to monthly top 10 sales charts.
The appeal of these ‘one-tonne’ vehicles – so labelled due to their average payload-carrying capabilities – has increased as households have come to appreciate the dual-purpose abilities of the dual-cab ute variant that can be a workhorse during the week, and a family/lifestyle vehicle on weekends.
With accessories proving to be vastly popular, and enhancing the profitability of these models, it’s no wonder more manufacturers are looking to enter the segment.
Here’s WhichCar’s guide to five new utes that are on the way.
A ute featuring a three-pointed star is not that unexpected when you consider the German luxury brand already offers a vast commercial vehicle line-up. The model expected to adopt the GLT badge will be based on the Nissan Navara, and is due about 2018.
Both single-cab and dual-cab versions are possible, with both aiming to capitalise on the trend towards utes with more premium-looking interiors and car-like dynamics.
Engines are set to comprise four-cylinder and V6 turbo diesels.
A high-performance AMG variant is less likely than an AMG-line variant featuring sportier bodywork and accessories.
Testing will incorporate Australia in 2017.
Renault will be the first of the French brands to launch a modern dual-cab ute. A production version of the Alaskan concept shown last year will appear by mid 2016.
Like the aforementioned Benz GLT, it will share its underpinnings with the Navara – though it makes a more natural twin owing to the Nissan-Renault alliance.
The showroom Alaskan – the final nameplate hasn’t been confirmed – is said to stay faithful to the concept that combines a classic dual-cab shape with the Renault family ‘face’.
Renault is already claiming its five-seater ute will offer best-in-class fuel economy from the 2.3-litre four-cylinder twin-turbo diesel borrowed from the Renault Master van.
Body styles will mirror those of the Navara, including a 4x2 (rear-wheel drive) single-cab as well as 4x4 (all-wheel drive) dual-cab.
HYUNDAI SANTA CRUZ
Korean car maker Hyundai showed off a Santa Cruz ute concept at the 2015 Detroit motor show, though a production green light has yet to be illuminated.
It’s also unclear whether the model will be available initially in right-hand drive, with the US marked as the key market for sales.
Waiting several years is unlikely to be worth it for those requiring a work ute. Hyundai says towing capacity, payload and ground clearance are not priorities for its tray-backed vehicle as it wants to target SUV and sedan buyers looking for greater utility without the driving-experience compromises associated with ‘trucks’.
Indeed, the Santa Cruz concept was based on the platform of Hyundai’s compact ix35 SUV (since replaced by the larger Tucson).
Hyundai Australia says it will look at the business case for the Santa Cruz, while it would seem strange if sister company Kia weren’t to offer a rebadged and restyled twin.
JEEP WRANGLER UTE
The next-generation of Jeep’s iconic Wrangler off-roader will spawn a ute version that’s expected in 2018 and already confirmed for Australia.
It’s not difficult to imagine a four-door Wrangler ute, thanks to the Crew Chief 715 concept the US off-road brand showed in 2015. A seven-slot grille and hybrid tyres (rather than military-style rubber) would be among notable changes, though.
A Wrangler foundation means the Jeep ute would feature body-on-chassis construction and live (heavy duty) axles that would ensure it has the off-road capability associated with the brand.
It will also benefit from Jeep’s determination to improve the Wrangler’s fuel efficiency with reduced vehicle weight and engines that include a four-cylinder turbo.
Few details are known about these French twin-under-the-skin utes, though they have been confirmed by the PSA (Peugeot-Citroen) Group as part of a five-year model expansion.
While the two brands are both unexpected players in the ute segment, Peugeot did offer a 504 ute back in the 1980s and 1990s.
Peugeot and Citroen will reduce development costs by linking up with another manufacturer to base their utes on an existing model.
A current light-commercial-vehicle tie-up with Toyota in Europe has made the HiLux a strong favourite to be the donor ute.