Picking a pick-up

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Dual-cab pick-ups account for nearly one in 10 new-car sales in Australia.  A staggering 100,000 vehicles last year, of which the majority come from Thailand.

One of the motoring columnists down-under compared the one tonne pick-ups available in Australia, with the Toyota HiLux (Vigo), Ford Ranger, Mazda BT 50, Mitsubishi Triton and Nissan Navara looked at.  Also in the mix was the VW Amarok, a vehicle we do not get in Thailand.

New Ford Ranger. New Ford Ranger.

The Toyota has been one of the best selling vehicles in Australia many times.  Last year, the HiLux Vigo was the third-highest selling vehicle and the highest-selling pick-up with a lead of 14,449 units.

However, the testers reported that some aspects of the vehicle were starting to show their age.  “The 3.0 liter turbo diesel engine has not changed for years and is the least powerful here.  Against this competition it feels outdated: it is loud inside the cabin and feels as though it is struggling most on steep sections.  The simple four-speed auto, however, is honest and shifts well enough.”

The Mitsubishi Triton was marked down as getting long in the tooth as well.  Their testers also felt, “The drive experience also feels behind the times; a bouncy ride was described by several testers as ‘agricultural’, shuddering over smaller lumps and bounding loosely over bigger bumps.  It feels the least stable of the six, with heavy, inconsistent steering and some body roll through corners.”

So to the Aussie’s opinion on the Nissan Navara.  “On the road, the Navara handles corners well, its steering direct and nicely weighted.  The ride is generally good but the larger wheels and thinner tyres mean even minor bumps transmit into the cabin, particularly through the tray.  It also has a mammoth 13.3 meter turning circle, which makes parking and tighter turns a challenge.”

The final two in the comparison test were the Ford Ranger and the Mazda BT50.  Sisters under the skin and gaining in popularity in Thailand every day.  The Australian opinion was, “As with the Ford, the BT-50’s engine and transmission are strong selling points.  It shares the same five-cylinder diesel engine and six-speed automatic, which work well together.  Again, the transmission is smooth whether laden or empty but, as with the Ranger, it can dither slightly at times.  It matches the Ranger, too, for fuel use at 9.2 L/100 km.

“Driving the two back-to-back, it is hard to pick the difference, although the Mazda’s engine seems slightly noisier.  The steering responds predictably, has good weight to it and corners with certainty.  However, our test car’s ride was more unsettled – fidgeting over small bumps and bucking over bigger ones – presumably due to chunkier tyres.”

Will the Australian opinion be reflected in sales here?  It will be difficult for the Ford/Mazda pair to unseat Toyota, but after the public look carefully at the pick-up offerings at the upcoming Bangkok International Motor Show, the gap could be smaller.