The ‘TOP 5’ Utes And Pickups For 2015: Ranger, BT-50, D-Max, Hilux, Amarok Photo:

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TMR Team | Jan, 14 2015 | 10 Comments

Which are the best cars competing for your dollars right now?

In the lead-up to TMR’s Best Buy Award 2015, we will be publishing over the next 14 days our top five picks from each of the key market segments.

The top five in these lists, many of which may have been on the market for some time and may not be eligible for our Best Buy Award 2015, nevertheless represent the best buying value in the key featured segments.

(We will not cover all VFACTS categories but will examine sub-groups of special interest to buyers - like hot hatches.)

We’ll start with Light Commercials - the versatile 4X2/4X4 utes and pickups that hold such a grip on the top ten of Australian car sales and find favour with both family buyers and trade buyers alike.

Neither of these ‘top picks’ are contenders for TMR’s 2015 Best Buy Award - each has been on the market for a number of years - but each of these versatile dual-purpose vehicles packs a lot of robust capability, as well as easy-to-live-with road manners and accommodation, into its showroom price.

Our top five picks, and most worthy of your ‘hard-earned’ are:



Price Range: $28,740 (Single cab-chassis 4X2) - $57,390 (Wildtrack Double cab 4X4)
Engines: 110kW/375Nm 2.2 diesel | 147kW/470Nm 3.2 diesel
Transmissions: 6spd manual, 6spd auto

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Without question, Ford’s Ranger is the best of the light commercial utes.

Big, ballsy, with robust lines and a comfortable and well-finished interior, it is a strong performer on-road - particularly the 3.2 litre five-cylinder diesel - and near unstoppable off it.

It stunned us when it launched in 2011, and remains, as we said when launched, “head and shoulders above everything in the sector”.

The Ranger (and BT-50) took out our Best Buy Award in 2011.


Our review verdict

Everywhere you care to look, on every objective measure, where HiLux is good, Ranger is better. Ditto for Triton, ditto for Amarok and ditto for Navara. It’s that good.

HiLux deserves its four-star rating. It has pounded its usurpers mercilessly for nearly two decades. But Ford’s Ranger is a game-changer.

This is the best dual-cab diesel 4X4 ute you can buy at the moment. But don’t believe a word of this review; go and have a look for yourself.

MORE: Ranger News & Reviews



Price Range: $25,570 (2.2 litre XT Cab-chassis) - $53,140 (GT 3.2 litre auto)
Engines: 110kW/375Nm 2.2 diesel | 147kW/470Nm 3.2 diesel
Transmissions: 6spd manual, 6spd auto

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As with Ford’s Ranger, ditto for Mazda’s BT-50.

It is little-known that Mazda engineers are responsible for the guts of this pair of twins, ie., what sits below, and that Ford Australia is responsible for the top-hat and accommodation.

The Mazda twin is slightly cheaper, and, some argue, slightly better finished inside. Feature-for-feature, it also bests the Ranger on buying value.

It is not as settled as the Ranger on-road - there are the bare margins in it - but is every bit as capable off-road.


Our review verdict

It would be a mistake to dismiss the Mazda because of its awkward ‘out-there’ styling. Look beneath the surface and you’ll find one of the most capable utes on the market today.

It’s got a remarkably tractable engine, a commodious and comfortable interior and an equipment list that boasts more mod-cons than the typical 4x4 ute.

A superb workhorse, it is also super off-road. And, with that 3.5 tonne tow rating, anyone with a boat, horse float or heavy trailer to tow, will find the BT-50 right up their alley.

MORE: BT-50 News & Reviews



Price Range: $27,400 (EX Cab-chassis 4X2) - $48,300 (LSU Crew cab 4X4)
Engines: 130kW/380Nm 3.0 diesel
Transmissions: 6spd manual, 6spd auto

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Isuzu builds its trucks to last. The understressed and well-proven 3.0 litre diesel and commercial drivetrain in the D-Max do not make the power and torque claims of other contenders here, but are built to outlast the Rosetta Stone.

No show-pony, the D-Max is built for work and lots of it. It is better finished than the related Colorado and reasonably settled on-road.

Thanks to its heavy-duty commercial origins, and wide, loping toque band, you will never find this Isuzu at the side of the road with its tongue hanging out.


Our review verdict

We like the D-Max. It's a genuine 'tough truck', one with a proven record for strength and durability and good-value buying.

Pound for pound, it's bettered by the exceptional Ranger and BT-50, but there's not much in it and the D-Max offers a considerable saving over those two contenders.

It loses to the Colorado on power and torque, and a missing transmission ratio, but wins for that proven under-stressed gut-busting diesel under the D-Max bonnet.

Like others in the segment, the crew-cab D-Max is a viable option both as a family car and versatile work-companion.

Add in genuine off-road capability and it's certainly one we would put high on the short-list if shopping in this segment.

MORE: D-MAX News & Reviews



Price Range: From $31,490 (TDI340 2WD cab/chassis manual) - $65,290 (TDI420 Ultimate 4MOTION auto)
Engines: 103kW/340Nm; 132kW/400Nm; 132kW/420Nm 2.0 litre diesel
Transmissions: 6spd manual, 8spd auto

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The Amarok has found lots of friends for its car-like accommodation, impressive highway manners and on-road dynamics - it’s the most settled and comfortable on-road.

It is also quite brilliant off it, in particular the auto which does without a transfer case, utilising instead ultra-low gearing.

The Volkswagen ute has also proven robust, and its relatively small 2.0 litre diesel is both strong and tractable, and the smoothest of the commercial diesel utes.


Our review verdict

Comfortable, quiet, swift, and composed, the Amarok is almost everything you expect a commercial vehicle not to be. For refinement and on-road compliance - on any road - its performance is without peer in the light commercial segment.

But it's also a very capable go-anywhere, climb-anything off-roader.

We particularly like the base model Amarok TDI420 with its rubber mats and no-nonsense interior, but with all the mechanical features and capability of the higher-specced models.

MORE: Amarok News & Reviews



Price Range: $18,990 (4X2 SR ute) - $55,990 (HiLux Black Limited Edition)
Engines: 116kW/240Nm 2.7 petrol, 126kW/343Nm 3.0 diesel, 175kW/376Nm 4.0 petrol V6
Transmissions: 5spd manual, 5spd auto

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Still king of the heap, Toyota’s HiLux is without question one of the most recognised and trusted of ‘badges’ on the Australian market.

With proven reliability and a proven appetite for hard graft, it is the ‘go-to’ purchase for private buyers and corporates alike.

It may not have the power and torque outputs of some of the newer contenders, but, like the D-Max, can be trusted in the hottest, dustiest and remotest of Australian workplaces.

There is a new HiLux coming and, early indications suggest, it will be a very good one.


Our review verdict

With the HiLux, Toyota demonstrates time and again that it understands best buyer-needs in this segment.

Its reputation and bullet-proof resale value is deserved: it hasn’t spent 14 continuous years at the top of the segment for nothing.

The updated HiLux is an improvement to a very robust and very capable package. We particularly like the diesel SR 4x4 Double Cab. It’s not only improved, but cheaper than the model it replaces.

The HiLux is still top of the heap. This is an easy one to recommend.

MORE: HiLux News & Reviews

For TMR’s Best Buy Award 2015, the Contenders, are:

(Click on each model to learn more)

From this list, on Monday, 26th January, Australia Day, we will announce both the overall winner and the Top Ten Best Buys of 2015.

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