Welcome to the most important test we will conduct all year. In 2020 these five models, the Ford Ranger, Isuzu D-Max, Mitsubishi Triton, Nissan Navara and Toyota HiLux, accounted for 13 per cent of the overall new car market.
And that’s just the 4x4 versions. Add the less popular 4x2 variants and they account for 15.8 per cent of the market; this means one-in-six new cars sold in Australia is one of these five models. Like I said, important stuff.
As such, we want to get it right, so we’ve put each through the wringer, testing straight-line performance, load-carrying and towing capability, on- and off-road dynamics, infotainment, and comfort and convenience, all at the ex-GM Lang Lang proving ground, a venue purpose-built to torture-test vehicles.
Judges and writing team: Scott Newman, Byron Mathioudakis, Louis Cordony, Evan Spence, Tom Fraser
Photography: Ellen Dewar, Alastair Brook, Cristian Brunelli
VIDEO: Tune in on Thursday and Friday for our off-roading and comprehensive wrap-up videos.
Catch the full series here
- Premium utes: Ranger vs D-Max vs Triton vs Navara vs HiLux
- Budget utes: GWM Ute Cannon-L vs Ssangyong Musso XLV Ultimate
- Off-roading: Ranger vs D-Max vs Triton vs Navara vs HiLux vs Musso vs Ute Cannon-L vs Ranger Raptor vs Gladiator Rubicon
We’ve arranged our quintet as closely as possible – within the realms of manufacturer press fleet availability – so in alphabetical order we’ll start with the Ford Ranger XLT fitted with the optional 2.0-litre bi-turbo engine and 10-speed automatic.
While its regular RRP is $60,940, at the time of writing the current offer is a tempting $58,990 drive-away. This lines it up very nicely with our next contender, the Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain, which is currently on offer for $59,990 drive-away, a handy saving over its regular $62,900 RRP.
The Mitsubishi Triton GLS significantly undercuts both at a very sharp $48,290 drive-away. We requested a range-topping GSR for price parity but it was sadly unavailable, although the GLS is still very representative of the Triton offering.
Our newest contender is the freshly facelifted Navara, here in $58,270 (RRP) ST-X guise.
Last but not least is the Toyota HiLux SR5, our most expensive entrant at $59,920 (RRP), though that figure is lifted by a further $3804.50 for the optional steel tray for a total of $63,724.50.
All vehicles are fitted with automatic transmissions.
So, the question is: if you have around $60,000 to spend on a dual-cab ute – and the sales figures suggest plenty of Australians do – which one should you buy?
In 2020, these five models accounted for 13 per cent of the overall new car market.
PERFORMANCE, TOWING & BRAKING
If straight-line performance is important to you there is really only one option. The Ford Ranger XLT is definitely the sprinting star of our assembled group, taking just 8.93sec to hit 100km/h and 5.0sec to shoot from 60-100km/h.
Its engine may offer just two litres but a pair of turbos help produce a healthy 157kW and 500Nm. It makes a reasonably sporty noise as far as diesels go and there’s an impressive spread of torque, but the star of the show has to be the 10-speed automatic, which always keeps the engine on song.
The figures prove the efficacy of this approach and the transmission, in general, does a good job of figuring out which of its myriad ratios it wants at any given moment.
Sadly, the Ranger blots its copybook with sub-standard braking. It wears similar all-terrain tyres to its rivals – in this case Dunlop Grandtreks – but takes more than 42 metres to come to a stop from 100km/h.
That figure blows out to almost 64m on a wet surface (averaged over three runs to account for any surface variation), a poor performance that prevents the Ranger XLT from being the clear performance leader.
Nevertheless, its grunt pays dividends when hauling a load, taking 3.6sec to accelerate from 20-60km/h with a 500kg pallet aboard and 6.0sec when towing Street Machine’s Turbo Taxi Falcon, both figures easily the class of the field.
The D-Max shoots off the line eagerly, even chirping its tyres. This enthusiasm doesn’t last, with acceleration tailing off as speeds increase, but the 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel offers respectable mid-range muscle, taking 10.1sec from 0-100km/h and 6.0sec from 60-100km/h for second place.
It would benefit from more gears than its current six to exploit the engine’s relatively narrow power band.
The noise is also a definite reminder of the Isuzu’s workhorse roots, with plenty of diesel clatter at all revs. The impressive grunt helps it with a load aboard, though. Laden acceleration is a respectable 4.0sec from 20-60km/h and 6.9sec when towing.
Dry braking performance is impressive for a vehicle like this, with a consistent and confidence-inspiring sub-40m stop.
Wet braking is quite poor at more than 57m and on the final stop, some steering correction was required to keep the D-Max straight despite all electronic stability programs being activated.
The Toyota HiLux’s upgraded engine serves it well. The 2.8-litre four-cylinder diesel now produces 150kW/500Nm (as an automatic; the manual is limited to 420Nm) and it feels every bit of it, pulling strongly through the rev range accompanied by an intense growl.
Not that this seat-of-the-pants sensation is backed up by the data, with a 0-100km/h time of 11.1sec and a 60-100km/h effort of 6.0sec. This particular SR5’s accelerative efforts are hampered somewhat by the weight of the steel tray, which adds a whopping 290kg.
Braking is an SR5 strong suit, with a sub-40m dry stop backed up by an impressive wet performance of just over 50m – the class of the field.
It’s unfazed by heavy loads, too; its 20-60km/h times of 4.5sec and 7.2sec might not be too impressive but at no point does it feel strained.
Nissan’s Navara feels better than the numbers suggest, which is a kind way of saying it’s very slow. Certainly, 0-100km/h in 11.32sec and 6.4sec from 60-100km/h are nothing to crow about.
The 2.3-litre twin-turbo four-cylinder diesel isn’t overly powerful at 140kW/450Nm but the seven-speed automatic does make the most of it.
The engine revs keenly to almost 4500rpm, making the Navara feel really quite sprightly and its lacklustre figures all the more surprising. Still, it’s quite a pleasant experience, but is that preferable to a more rugged engine that’s more powerful?
Probably not if you’re lugging heavy stuff about, though the Navara shaved a tenth from the HiLux’s 20-60km/h effort (4.4sec) with a 500kg pallet in the back but struggled when towing, taking 7.8sec to complete the same increment.
Braking is quite poor, taking well over 40m to stop in the dry, though its mid-50m effort in the wet is more competitive. An unusual case, the Navara: the data is quite damning but from behind the wheel it’s much more impressive.
Last and also least is the Mitsubishi. The Triton also struggled massively during wet braking, its first stop taking more than 76m, which goes to show that in very poor conditions even our tested wet figures can extend considerably.
This run is an anomaly and ignored but the Triton’s fortunes don’t improve much, taking an average of almost 63m to stop in the wet; it wears the same Dunlop Grandtrek tyres as the Ranger – coincidence?
Its dry deceleration is much more respectable at less than 40m but acceleration isn’t a Triton strong suit, taking 11.36sec to reach 100km/h from rest and 6.0sec to accelerate from 60-100km/h.
Outputs of 133kW/430Nm from its comparatively small 2.4-litre four-cylinder diesel result in leisurely straight-line performance. The engine doesn’t struggle to haul the Triton’s bulk but is happy to take its time doing so.
Its roll-on acceleration is more competitive but it makes plenty of noise in the process, especially higher in the rev range.
Laden acceleration is quite good at 4.2sec from 20-60km/h but attaching the Turbo Taxi exposes its lack of power again with an 8.2sec result. This is a substantial 2.2sec (or 36.7 per cent!) slower than the Ranger.
It’s not all sunshine and roses for the Ford, though. Its poor braking is alarming, taking a massive 11.02m longer to stop in the wet than the benchmark HiLux. To put it another way, at the point the HiLux stops the Ranger is still travelling at 41.6km/h!
That figure assumes constant deceleration so shouldn’t be taken as gospel, but even allowing for a significant margin of error it’s clear that the accident the Toyota avoids would be a fairly serious one in the Ford (and Mitsubishi).
It’s a shame, as the Ranger XLT is otherwise very impressive dynamically, clearly the most car-like of our assembled quintet. Like most trucks, the 2197kg XLT wears leaf springs rather than the coils of its Raptor big brother.
Yet even with a seemingly primitive rear-end spec, the former’s sophistication is palpable, providing beautifully fluent handling, outstanding body control and a downright sumptuous and isolated ride backed up by an outstandingly subtle yet effective ESC calibration at speed over gravel.
Light and easy to manoeuvre, the XLT remains the dual-cab pick-up high-water mark for driver enjoyment and passenger comfort alike. A decade on, the Ranger still shows them all how it’s done and even in its final year can hold its head up high.
The Ranger is also a stand-out for laden composure; its steering does lighten with 500kg in the tray but the chassis remains responsive in tight corners and sails over undulations with encouraging poise. It’s a similar story when towing, with the vehicle retaining its stability through corners and corrugations – you can tell the Ranger was tuned for Australian conditions.
At the other end of the spectrum is the HiLux. It offers easy, eager and responsive steering and surprisingly sure-footed handling but a denture-rattling ride on roads that the others managed with measurably greater finesse.
It has much more mechanical and tyre-noise intrusion and the stability control remains on high alert on bitumen or gravel.
Happily, the situation doesn’t deteriorate when hauling, the HiLux offering stability and confidence-inspiring poise when towing or loaded.
Our other three contestants lie somewhere in the middle. The third-gen D-Max is a huge step over its predecessor and few drivers will complain about the effortless steering that’s nicely weighted for around-town commuting and agile enough for tight-spot parking manoeuvres.
It can’t match the Ranger for bump absorption or isolation, but Isuzu’s engineers should be lauded for quelling road and tyre noise while offering a pleasingly soft ride on normal roads.
The steering lightens when loaded, though that’s partially a consequence of our 500kg pallet not fitting squarely in the tub thanks to the tonneau’s storage cartridge. With the Turbo Taxi attached, the ride improves and the steering feels well balanced.
Ever since the D23-series Navara surfaced in 2014, it has struggled to fulfil the promise of its costly coil-sprung rear end, providing neither the expected agility nor comfort.
Happily, the MY21 facelift makes progress, with a wide and planted feel. It’s quite easy to park, too.
The steering remains numb but is well-weighted for more positive handling and roadholding, and there’s a newfound plushness to the suspension rather than the lumpy, thumpy ride of old. It doesn’t bother the Ranger, but the Navara is at last sorted.
This softness counts against it when towing, though, with doughy steering feel, jelly-like suspension and significant sag when loaded. Aftermarket suspension upgrades would be well worth considering if you’re using your Navara for heavy-duty work.
Mitsubishi’s Triton is getting on in years compared to the latest metal but the basic recipe still works ok: consistent competence with just enough engineering nous to keep from falling too far behind.
A tight turning circle and light controls make it relatively agile at slow speeds and it almost seems to shrink around the driver at speed with confident steering and ample grip, though there is a fair bit of noise.
The suspension is proficient enough at dealing with rougher roads and the ESC intervenes gently when required, but the ride can be quite bouncy.
When loaded, the Triton performs well and absorbs most bumps but the short wheelbase hampers it when towing, pitching into a see-saw motion that’s slightly off-putting.
This shorter wheelbase is of benefit off-road, making the Triton feel very nimble. It’s also packed with clever features, such as Super Select, which allows you to run in high-range 4x4 on bitumen with the centre differential unlocked.
It takes a few goes to get the 4x4 system to engage but once it does, there are various terrain modes for rock, gravel, mud/snow and sand. Combined with the rear diff lock and traction control, they help make the Triton a fairly capable unit.
Isuzu’s D-Max is similarly good but not great. The rear diff lock is a huge advantage compared to the previous generation but unfortunately engaging it cancels the traction control.
Wheel travel is decent but the engine is great, with plenty of low-down torque, and 4x4 engagement is a piece of cake.
Soft suspension might have hindered the Navara ST-X when lugging loads but it works a treat off-road. It’s nice and flexible and the gearing is also sensational, allowing the Nissan to crawl down steep slopes at a snail’s pace.
The heavy steering is a let-down and its 4x4 system required a few attempts to engage low range but with a couple of tweaks, the Navara would be a handy off-road performer.
Meanwhile, the Ranger is basically a set of tyres away from excellence. The 2.0-litre twin-turbo engine isn’t quite as good as the older 3.2 five-cylinder off-road, but there’s still plenty of torque and the 10-speed automatic has a gear for every occasion.
Compliant suspension, excellent steering and impressive traction control allow the Ranger to tackle most off-road obstacles with ease, though the side steps do catch on obstacles.
Just as the Ford dominates on-road, the Toyota is the king off-road.
The HiLux has firmer suspension and heavier steering than the Ranger but its trump card is its traction control, which is nothing short of amazing.
As soon as it feels a tyre slip, it sends drive to a wheel that can use it. Combine this with sensational gearing, plenty of engine power, great engine braking and super slick 4x4 engagement and you have a brilliantly effective 4x4, even in stock trim.
Just as the Ford dominates on-road, the Toyota is the king off-road.
SAFETY & EQUIPMENT
Inside, the HiLux cabin presents a neat and relatively fresh-looking workstation. Clearly designated areas for controls improve functionality while the front seats, which Toyota calls high-grade bucket items, fare okay for comfort and support.
Legroom up front is a touch smaller than rivals. Meanwhile, outward visibility is on par with the class average – except smaller rear windows penalise your over-shoulder view on the left side.
The SR5 comes with single-zone climate control, power windows with an auto function on the driver's side, keyless entry and start, side steps, heated mirrors and auto LED headlights but misses out on auto wipers.
ANCAP awarded the HiLux with a five-star crash safety rating in 2019. Equipped with seven airbags, it sports active safety features like adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist and AEB but forgoes blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
Meanwhile, out back, occupants must deal with hard and flat seats. These can be hoisted up against the backrests for extra load space and split 60/40 in case you need to retain room for a passenger or two.
Legroom is on the shorter side compared to rivals. Cup holders in the centre armrest and doors accommodate large bottles.
Both the USB-A and dual 12-volt outlets are situated in the front, leaving rear occupants with air vents, plastic floor mats and 4kg luggage hooks, though there is also a handy 220-volt outlet. There are also ISOFIX anchorages on both outboard seats.
Infotainment in the mid-spec HiLux SR5 is provided through an 8.0-inch central touchscreen display and a 4.2-inch driver info screen within the instrument cluster.
Unlike the higher grade HiLuxes, the SR5 misses out on digital radio and doesn’t have native satellite navigation, though smartphone mirroring somewhat makes up for that.
Functionally, the HiLux's infotainment is a breeze to use and it is easy to switch between separate screens, while there’s also a home screen that displays key information. The four-speaker stereo is very basic in its ability but the Bluetooth is a quick system to set up and subsequently reconnect to.
The Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain cabin is dominated by piano black inserts and features a lot of plastic in general. Leather accenting adorns the steering wheel, gear lever, seats and centre console armrest.
Its centre stack layout is clean and functional, while the cluster and steering wheel controls are concise and easy to read.
Ultimately, though, the interior looks utilitarian and short on comfort. The seats, both front and back, feel flat.
Outward visibility is average. ANCAP rated the D-Max five stars for crash safety in 2020, explaining why the X-Terrain ticks off every active safety feature under the sun, from adaptive cruise control to rear cross-traffic alert and a rearview camera.
Other equipment is plentiful and includes keyless entry, remote start, auto-locking, an eight-way adjustable electric driver’s seat, auto wipers, auto LED headlights with auto high beam, auto driver’s window and dual-zone climate control.
In the back are two vents and a single USB port to complement the one up front. Rear occupants also score two large cupholders in the doors, two coat hooks and a 4kg bag hook behind the front seat.
The X-Terrain on test stocks a 9.0-inch infotainment screen that runs Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and features a smaller digital read-out nestled within the instrument cluster to provide key vehicle information.
Front-seat passengers can connect using one USB-A port or charge up using a single 12-volt outlet, though the omission of wireless charging while allowing for wireless smartphone mirroring is a bit of a miss.
Switching between the native Bluetooth connection and Apple CarPlay is at least straightforward, and the stock eight-speaker sound system is surprisingly decent with crisp and clear audio.
The centre screen is prone to some glare but it’s otherwise a simple unit to use thanks to shortcuts along the bottom of the display.
Although the Navara cabin is starting to look old, the ST-X steps it up for luxury over lower-grade variants with part-leather seats. They are comfy but lack under-thigh support and the footwell is spacious but omits a dead pedal.
The ST-X has keyless entry and start, dual-zone climate control, rear parking sensors, heated mirrors, auto wipers, leather accents on the steering and gear lever, quad-LED headlights and a tyre pressure monitoring system.
ANCAP rated the Navara five stars for crash safety back in 2015. This updated version includes a full suite of active safety gear that should satisfy the test’s stringent requirements of such technology today. The Navara also packs seven airbags.
The rear bench sits unusually high on firm cushioning and legroom is seriously compromised, important considerations if you’re planning on ferrying around full-size adults. Meanwhile, four cup holders feature, split between the doors and centre armrest. None, however, fit a large bottle.
Convenience wise, rear occupants are treated to two air vents and a single USB port. There are floor mats complemented by an opening flap in the rear windscreen and ISOFIX child seat anchors on the outboard positions.
A large 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment and 7.0-inch digital display between the instrument dials help lift the interior for a more contemporary feel.
The Navara’s native infotainment software is fairly simple in functionality and design, though wired smartphone mirroring is available for both Apple and Android users who want more options.
Charge ports are very well catered for; front-row occupants get a choice between two USB-A ports, one USB-C port and two separate 12-volt outlets for charging.
The Bluetooth functionality is simple to tee up initially, and the system will reconnect to your phone within seconds of re-entering the Navara. The touchscreen is also very responsive and digital radio is included along with the AM and FM bands.
Off-road information is available through the central display and repurposes the 360-degree surround-view cameras to show various views of the vehicle when off-roading, at up to 10km/h. It’s a useful feature and clever use of existing hardware.
The Triton’s utilitarian character is underlined by its basic cabin. Cloth on the front and rear seats feels cheap to the touch and looks drab, but they’re well cushioned and surprisingly supportive.
With GLS trim comes keyless entry and start, an automatic driver’s side window, parking sensors front and rear with a rearview camera, dual-zone climate control, automatic headlights and rain-sensing wipers.
Visibility out of the Triton is better than most of its rivals, especially over the right shoulder. However, the upswept glasshouse can pinch vision on the left side.
ANCAP rated the Mitsubishi Triton five stars for safety back in 2015 and the GLS carries seven airbags. Its active safety list includes everything from AEB to rear cross-traffic alert but it cannot be equipped with adaptive cruise control.
Rear occupant comfort suffers from the short thigh supports and firm back cushioning. There’s good lumbar support, though. Floor mats feature in the rear along with two sets of ISOFIX and top tether anchors.
Practicality wise, the rear doors feature storage bins that hold a large bottle, while the centre armrest has two smaller cup holders that are complemented by two USB ports and ceiling-mounted air vents.
Mitsubishi’s 7.0-inch infotainment screen does service in the Triton GLS and features both wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability. Interestingly, it doesn’t have a native satellite navigation system but will serve up GPS coordinates if you do ever get stuck in the middle of nowhere.
It has FM, AM and digital radio bands, and features two 12-volt outlets and two USB-A inputs. It also has an HDMI port. While the driver can change audio volume on the steering wheel, touch-sensitive controls on the screen itself will no doubt annoy passengers.
The six-speaker stereo system doesn’t impress, sounding tinny and unrefined. On the plus side, there’s a dedicated ‘Apps’ button that effectively acts as a smartphone mirroring switch, and there are features like keyless entry and dual-zone climate control to keep occupants happy.
Overall, the Ranger XLT presents a functional workstation that’s ergonomically sound.
The seats are more comfortable than some other Ford commercial vehicles, such as the Transit, but they are still average. It’s worse up back, though, where the firmly cushioned rear seats lack contouring and support. That said, legroom is class-leading for rear occupants and the front footwells are also generously sized.
Features wise, the XLT makes do with manual adjustment for its cloth seats but has carpet floor coverings, auto headlights and wipers, a leather steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, a one-touch power window on the driver’s side and keyless entry.
The Ranger scored five stars in ANCAP crash testing back in 2015 but its equipment list in this area is far from comprehensive.
The XLT misses out on blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and adaptive cruise control. It features six airbags. Meanwhile, forward visibility is okay and even bettered by over-shoulder visibility on both sides.
Practicality is improved for rear occupants by large cup holders in the doors. But the absence of USB ports or ventilation back there is redeemed by a 12-volt power supply, 230-volt inverter and a centre armrest with two small cup holders.
For child seats, there are also two sets of ISOFIX and upper anchorage points.
Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system is viewed through an 8.0-inch touchscreen, bringing app integration goodness including Spotify and AccuWeather, but also a swathe of FordPass features that control items like remote air-conditioning priming, remote unlock and a vehicle locator function.
Slow-to-respond Sync 3 systems are a known problem, but it seems to be luck of the draw whether an individual car is affected and this test car has no issues. Users report the problem is easily fixed by rebooting the system.
In addition to the 8.0-inch main screen, the Ranger also features two multi-function TFT displays within the instrument cluster that can provide handy access to information from various systems such as navigation or phone.
This level of customisation is a unique feature that few dual-cab ute rivals can match. Also unique to the Ranger is a USB port near the rearview mirror that’s designed for dashcam connectivity.
Servicing for the Ranger XLT is capped at $299 for the first four services before getting more expensive for subsequent 15,000km intervals.
In order to receive seven years of roadside assistance benefits, Rangers must be maintained at participating Ford service centres where each consecutive visit will award a further 12-month membership to the brand’s program.
The Ford Ranger XLT is covered by a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty and according to Glass’s Guide data, after three years a Ranger XLT will retain a respectable 56 per cent of its purchase price.
If there’s one thing we know about the Toyota HiLux, it’s that you’ll fare comparatively well when it comes time to sell. Like the Ranger, the HiLux SR5 is said to retain 56 per cent of its value after three years.
Every part, panel and factory-fitted accessory of the Toyota HiLux SR5 is warranted for five years/unlimited kilometres. Servicing can be arranged through the myToyota smartphone application.
Each of the first four visits to Toyota’s service centres will set you back $250. As a bonus, if you stick to Toyota’s 10,000km/six-month service intervals, Toyota will include an extra two years of driveline warranty. Pricing for Toyota’s roadside assistance program begins at $89 per year.
The Navara ST-X is covered for five years/unlimited kilometres under Nissan’s warranty program and roadside assistance is also provided for the first five years of ownership.
Nissan caps the cost of the first six services, which occur at 20,000km intervals. After three years from the date of first delivery, the Nissan Navara is expected to retain 53 per cent of its initial value.
Isuzu’s after-sales offering is impressive, with a six-year/150,000km warranty, seven years of roadside assistance and seven years of capped-price servicing, which includes a complimentary three-month or 3000km inspection.
Each subsequent service will occur at 12-month or 15,000km intervals – whichever comes first. Both the capped-price servicing and warranty are transferrable to subsequent owners and the X-Terrain is expected to retain 49 per cent of its value after the first three years.
No other manufacturer can beat Mitsubishi when it comes to warranty cover. Its generous 10-year/200,000km warranty applies to the Triton GLS tested here, though you must maintain the vehicle through the Mitsubishi-approved service network in order to get all 10 years.
That’s not such a bad thing, as Mitsubishi offers 10-year/150,000km capped price servicing to match, but it is worth noting that servicing schedule falls 50,000km short of its 200,000km warranty, meaning owners will have to front-up to full price for the final 50,000km worth of maintenance to maintain their coverage.
For owners who go elsewhere for their Triton servicing during the first decade of ownership, the warranty will halve to a five years and 100,000km.
Roadside assistance is included as a courtesy for the first four years as long as the Triton is serviced through Mitsubishi’s network.
While the Triton is by far the cheapest ute here, its resale is also the worst, with an expected retained value of 47 per cent after the first three years.
AUSTRALIA'S POPULAR DUAL-CAB UTES RANKED
In the final reckoning it’s the Mitsubishi Triton that brings up the rear in this comparison, but it’s not quite that simple.
As many dual-cab utes have increased in price and specification, it’s allowed the Triton to carve out a value-for-money niche, sitting above challenger brands like the Ssangyong Musso and GWM ute but below more expensive rivals like those here.
With that in mind we’d forget about the upper reaches of the Triton range and stick to a GLX ADAS or GLX+, which will leave you with a capable and affordable no-frills dual-cab with the peace of mind of Mitsubishi’s industry-leading warranty.
If you’re on a more modest budget, it’s easy to recommend.
Next in line is the Navara ST-X. Kudos to Nissan for undergoing a constant process of improvement in an effort to rectify the shortcomings of the most recent generation, particularly in the area of suspension.
It’s a solid performer in all areas bar perhaps its ability to carry loads, without being a standout in any specific category. It’s not a bad ute by any means, but there are better offerings.
Happy news for the tens of thousands of Aussies that bought a HiLux last year: it’s a good ’un. The upgraded powertrain is impressive and while it still trails the best in terms of on-road dynamics, it’s brilliant off-road, unfazed by towing or heavy loads, is competitive in terms of running costs and drives well enough.
Then there’s the kicker. Not only does a HiLux offer top-notch resale, there’s still the Toyota factor, that wherever you go in this wide, brown land you’re likely to find parts and support. It’s a tough thing to measure in a comparison, but it matters to buyers.
Well done, Isuzu, it’s the most improved award for you. From stone motherless-last in our previous dual-cab megatest, the D-Max is now a real player.
It’s now the industry leader in terms of safety equipment and continues its reputation of offering a grunty, dependable drivetrain along with vastly enhanced dynamics and a much nicer interior.
There’s still room to improve off-road and we’re not sure the range-topping X-Terrain is the sweet spot of the range, but it’s an excellent dual-cab offering.
All hail the king, the Ford Ranger XLT Bi-Turbo. The only real blot on its copybook is its terrible braking performance, which is unacceptable for a vehicle that’s increasingly being used as family transportation.
Nevertheless, Ford’s evergreen ute still leads the pack in terms of performance and on-road dynamics (and it’s not particularly close), it’s excellent off-road and when carrying loads, has cutting-edge (for this segment) infotainment, great resale and decent aftersales support.
The interior is feeling its age but then the Ranger has been around a long time now. And that should be the scary thing for its competitors, for the all-new Ranger is less than a year away.
1st: Ford Ranger XLT Bi-Turbo
Things we like: Benchmark driving experience; impressive in all areas
Not so much: Dreadful braking performance; ageing interior
2nd: Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain
Things we like: Safety kit; grunty engine; much-improved dynamics
Not so much: Low-range performance; enough of a leap forward?
3rd: Toyota HiLux SR5
Things we like: Strong engine; brilliant off-road; towing performance
Not so much: Could be better dynamically; lacks some equipment
4th: Nissan Navara ST-X
Things we like: Smooth engine; improved suspension; capable off-road
Not so much: Needs more grunt; suspension still struggles with loads
5th: Mitsubishi Triton GLS
Things we like: Good value; benchmark warranty; solid in all areas
Not so much: No standout talents; lacks engine performance
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