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2018 Ute Test: Results and verdict

By Fraser Stronach | Photos: Ellen Dewar & Alastair Brook, 07 Jul 2018 Reviews

2018 Ute Test results verdict review

Nine utes, but only one winner...

Ranking the utes from our 2018 Ute Test is made difficult by the fact that 4x4 dual cabs can be many different things to different people: family car, recreational 4x4, work or farm truck, load carrier or tow tug. The fact that they are so versatile is what makes them so popular.

4X4 Australia Ute Mega Test 2018 - Results and verdictView all contenders
Watch and read as we put all of the popular 4x4 dual-cabs through their paces off-road and on-road.

Most people probably buy them to fulfil more than one of the roles, if not most or all of them. How you prioritise these roles and balance driving enjoyment, role fulfilment and functionality, and practicality of ownership, will determine your winner. However, for us, the ranking looks like this:

8th Place (tie) - Nissan Navara

Driven in isolation and not driven and tested side-by-side against its peers, as we have done here, the Navara actually feels like a good thing and impresses with its spritely performance and equipment for the money. The chassis, too, is now much better sorted for general driving, even if heavy-duty load and tow still isn’t its forte, nor would it be the first choice for more serious off-road driving.

8th Place (tie) - Isuzu D-Max

The D-Max doesn’t perform particularly well on- or off-road and isn’t the last word for heavy-duty load or tow performance given its modest engine and the now softer rear springs. Nor does the D-Max offer much in the way of refinement, but it does have a reliable and easy-to-service engine and a proven six-speed auto similar to Hilux.

If you lined up all the utes here and drove them around Australia until they dropped, the D-Max feels like it would be among the last standing. If Isuzu could recalibrate the ETC, at least that would bring it up to speed off-road.

6th Place (tie) - Mercedes-Benz X-Class

The X-Class is very strong on refinement, comfort and safety, and has a notable solid and robust feel that contributes to a high level of driving enjoyment, all testament to the good work put in by Benz’s engineers. But all this comes at a price and the X-Class isn’t a star off-road performer, nor does it appear to have the chassis for heavy-duty load and tow duties.

6th Place (tie) - Mitsubishi Triton

Thanks to ongoing factory discounting, the Triton’s trump card is pricing, which is probably part of the reason why it’s out-sold only by Hilux and Ranger. Full-time 4x4 is also a notable safety and functionality advantage, while its small size and tight turning circle help make it a handy city or general-duties ute. It’s not a good choice for heavy load carrying or towing, or for more hardcore off-road driving.

4th Place (tie) - Mazda BT-50

For most of the reasons Ranger is an excellent ute, so too is the closely related BT-50 a good ute. It just lacks some of Ranger’s on- and off-road polish that came about with the 2016 upgrades adopted by Ranger but not with the BT-50. Countering that is the BT-50’s sharper pricing.

Interestingly, the next-gen BT-50 looks like being off the back of a joint venture with Isuzu and not Ford, breaking a long-running relationship.

4th Place (tie) - Holden Colorado

Thanks to the excellent work of Holden’s local engineering team in its 2017 model-year ‘rebirth’, the Colorado has been dragged up by its boot straps from the bottom of the pack to what is now a much more respectable mid-field place in the pecking order. Highlights include a punchy engine, well-sorted on-road dynamics and heavy-duty on load and tow ability. It’s also much better off-road than it originally was.

3rd Place - Toyota Hilux

The Hilux isn’t the strongest performing, nor does it offer the confident road feel of the best here, but it’s unbeatable on ownership practicality and offers top build quality and excellent refinement. Like Amarok and Ranger it’s also a top-tier performer in difficult off-road conditions, while the chassis isn’t fazed by heavy loads.

The competition from Ranger also means Toyota isn’t as inflexible on pricing as it once was.

2nd Place - Ford Ranger

The Ranger is a big, tough ute that does it all, especially when there’s hard work to do or a difficult trail to conquer. A spacious cabin, a relaxed and smooth-running engine, nicely sorted suspension and a stable chassis also make the Ranger an agreeable drive, especially if there’s distance to cover.

Read more: 2019 Ranger revealed

A new high-tech 2.0L four-cylinder bi-turbo-diesel with more power and torque than the 3.2 ‘five’ will soon be available on top-end models.

1st Place - Volkswagen Amarok V6

With stellar performance, confident handling, comfortable ride, spacious cabin and excellent refinement, the Amarok is in a class of its own. Throw in hardcore off-road ability as good as it gets, ease of off-road driving that you won’t believe, and class-leading power and torque for heavy-duty load hauling and towing, and the Amarok is impossible to go past. No airbags in the cab’s rear is, however, a notable omission in this company.

The Contenders

4X4 Australia Ute Mega Test 2018 - Results and verdictView all contenders
Home of 4X4 Australia’s Ute Test, where we have put all of the popular 4x4 dual-cabs through their paces off-road and on-road.