There’s a lot of buzz around utes in the Aussie market at the moment. Dual cab 4x4s are fast becoming the best-selling cars in this country. But, there’s a lot more to the modern ute than a top of the range fourby.
A blinged up 4x4 ute may look cool but is it really practical as working wheels? And even if you do want a cushy hauler, do you really need four-wheel drive?
Take the Nissan Navara for example. There are 27 basic variants to choose from in the range, encompassing work-focused single cab 4x2 trayback utes through to fully kitted-out 4x4 dual cab utes with the comfort of a passenger car.
With such an extensive array of models on hand, how do you choose the right ute for you?
WHAT STANDS OUT
The Navara ute range starts with the work ready DX model. It sits on 15-inch steel wheels and like the rest of the Navara line-up comes with seven airbags for better accident protection. Towing across the Navara range is 3500kg with trailer brakes fitted.
The single cab Navara RX 4x4 uses the same 2.3-litre single turbo diesel as the other vocationally focused Navara models, and makes 120kW and 400Nm of torque. Behind it sits a six-speed manual transmission. Rear suspension comprises dependable leaf springs, which isn’t new technology, however it works well if lugging a load is your thing.
You still get steel wheels, which are less attractive and heavier than alloy wheels, but these ones are 16-inch in diameter. You also get keyless entry, a rear window demister and some splashes of chrome.
As you’d expect for a work-ready ute, the inside is fairly commercial with its swathes of plastic, practical rubber floor mats and a lot of easy to clean hard surfaces.
But if your priority in life is carrying cargo away from the road, then this is the Navara you’re after. One bonus of these work orientated models is a higher payload than more expensive variants
The King Cab configuration however, is an often-overlooked option.
Navara King Cab models feature extra cabin space behind the front seats for secure storage, and there’s even enough room to seat a couple of passengers if needed. Though anyone on the large side may get uncomfortable on a long trip
The Navara 4x4 ST-X King Cab comes with a lot of creature comforts. The 2.3-litre diesel engine also gets an extra turbo which bumps power up to 140kW and 450Nm of torque. Inside you get heated front seats with leather, a 7.0-inch touchscreen, climate control push button start and reversing sensors. It also sits on 18-inch alloy wheels.
King cab and single cab utes are much better at lugging a load than dual cab utes mainly due their lighter weight, which makes for a higher payload rating, as well as having more load area behind the cab. The load is also carried between the axles rather than on top of, or behind the rear axle.
The mid-spec dual cab Navara ST featured in the video here is actually a 4x2 model. Under the rear, instead of leaf springs there’s a multi-link coil sprung rear end to provide a little more refinement on road, especially when unladen.
The obvious advantage of the dual cab ute is the ability to seat five people comfortably.
A potential sweet spot of the Navara ute line-up is the plain jane SL 4x4 variant. The SL gets the high output twin-turbo engine, five-link rear suspension, a reverse camera, side steps and a rear diff-lock as standard equipment. It’s the value option dual cab ute with sensible real world features, without the shiny add-ons of variants further up the price tree.
Dual cab utes are a versatile vehicle, they offer near car-like levels of comfort and performance, and can carry a load as well as passengers. Opting for a two-wheel-drive variant saves you money on the purchase price as well as ongoing savings in terms of fuel and servicing costs without sacrificing load or towing capacity.
If your requirements are purely commercial then it’s hard to go past a single cab ute for strictly working wheels, just bear in mind that things are a little more basic inside. These utes perform much better under load than their dual cab stablemates.
If you’re after a compromise between these two and passengers aren’t a priority then a King Cab ute isn’t a bad option. It’ll give you the flexibility to fit a couple of extra passengers inside at a pinch, without sacrificing load capability.
Really, It’s all about the way you carve up the work/play equation.