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Dual-cab ute comparison

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    This trio boast the rough'n'tumble skills to get away from the black-top but customers are now demanding something akin to soft-roader tarmac manners - or better - from these utilitarian machines. Photo Gallery

Can Toyota's HiLux fend off the all-new twin challenge of Ford's Ranger and Mazda's BT-50?

Multi-tasking is allegedly a female's domain and perhaps this is why cars are oft monikered with nametags from the fairer sex.

But the 21st century new car market in Australia has a growing number of multi-taskers - once-masculine machines that were previously tasked with towing the tools and weekend duties were limited to a dump run. Not any more.

The light-commercial brigade are now asked to carts the kids and tows the toys on the weekend, without depriving the family of passenger-car features and some small measure of comfort.

Toyota is - surprise, surprise - the market leader and HiLux has just had some rhinoplasty accompanied by a re-fit of features.

A host of newcomers have taken a swipe at the market leader but have failed to significantly erode its sales volumes - particularly its bread-and-butter fleet sales - but the Ranger/BT-50 cousins from Ford and

Mazda are the latest ute releases most likely to attract significant sales.

This trio boast the rough'n'tumble skills to get away from the black-top but customers are now demanding something akin to soft-roader tarmac manners - or better - from these utilitarian machines.

TEST DRIVERS

We've gone a little off-beat when it comes to guest test drivers.

Cara Jenkin is National CareerOne editor but has also moonlighted as a car-tester for Carsguide.

A V8 Supercar fan with one Red Eye, she's sampled a broad cross section of passenger and light-commercial vehicles in the course of writing Girl Torque stories foraif The Advertiser Carsguideaifin Adelaide.

When it comes to verdicts, our second test driver has delivered plenty - former prosecutor and judge (as well as the author's father) Brian Martin has driven and owned more cars than he cares to recall.

Everything from an old Simca (you'll have to Google it like I did) to early Range Rovers, big square Volvos, Subaru 4WDs to Lexus SUVs and Mercedes-Benz sedans has passed through the Martin garage.

VALUE

This trio are the near-top-spec models currently available - Ford will bring a Wildtrak model in above the XLT - and all dwell in the $50,000 bracket.

The XLT Ranger in auto form is $55,390, the Mazda BT-50 XTR is priced from $50,810 and the HiLux SR5 dual-cab sits at $53,490 - the Ford and the Mazda have both gone up (but with an expanded features list) and Toyota has come down $2200.

Standard fare within all three includes climate control (Toyota is single-zone, the others are dual), MP3 audio with USB (the Ranger's is the most conveniently placed, in the centre console) and Bluetooth for phone and music, wheel-mounted controls for cruise, phone and audio, 17in alloys and trip computers are on all three, HiLux and Ranger both get automatic headlights but none of them have reach-adjustable steering - something less forgivable on the Ford and Mazda given the more recent clean-sheet design .

The Ford misses out on satnav that appears in the other two, with the HiLux's a larger touchscreen set-up.

TECHNOLOGY

The Ford and Mazda both run the 3.2-litre in-line 147kW/470Nm common-rail direct-injection five-cylinder and six-speed auto combination, while the HiLux has held onto the four-cylinder three-litre turbodiesel producing 126kW and 343Nm, teamed with a four-speed automatic.

It misses out on grunt but the HiLux driveline has been honed over time and doesn't feel as lacking as the numbers suggest.

The HiLux also retains the transfer case lever while the kissing-cousins have a rotary knob for selecting 4WD, as well as a push-button rear diff lock.

The front suspension across the triplets here are equipped with double-wishbone front ends, which are all well planted and don't jump around much - the Mazda's nose approaches enthusiastic on turn-in.

But don't look at the rear-end for any technological advances with suspension - leaf springs that have heritage dating back to the old west are still there, tweaked to offer better ride quality.

DESIGN

One is what the company calls a "major, minor facelift" and the other two are far more comprehensive.

The Hilux looks similar to its predecessor, taking the traditional line for light trucks and offering more front than a department store and presenting a macho nose.

The beast from Broadmeadows follows a similar path - Ford's new Ranger takes much inspiration from its American F-Series relative (albeit a distant one) and the Blue Oval's truck heritage.

It's a handsome brute and it's no surprise it's not being sold in the US (just everywhere else it seems) as the F-Series might not be as attractive a proposition if the Ranger was in the same line-up.

The Mazda follows a less traditional truck path, in some ways taking a similar path to the Mitsubishi Triton - swooping lines and a striking snout transplanted from the rest of the revamped family.

It turns heads, but then again so does a messy car crash - some love the Mazda look, others are less enamoured, as was the case with the adventurously styled Mitsubishi Triton.

SAFETY

This segment has come a long way in terms of active and passive safety equipment, but some have travelled further than others - the Ford and Mazda products both offer stability control as standard range-wide, while the Hilux puts the safety feature only into its top SR5 dual-cab models as standard.

Front discs and rear drums are also the staple braking set-up, with anti-lock and brakeforce distribution across the trio as well.

Anyone looking to tow a trailer (or something larger) will be assured by the trailer sway system, which uses single-wheel braking via the electronic safety systems to counteract "fish-tailing" - nothing worse than the tail wagging the dog, automotively speaking.

The airbag count stands at six - dual front, side and side-curtain - but the Ranger takes points here for having reversing sensors and Ford and Mazda score with an auto-dimming rearvision mirror; these two also get five lap-sash belts, where the HiLux still has a centre lap belt.

DRIVING

No longer is the compromise as great for the tradie who is looking for an all-rounder the missus can pinch and not want to give back.

These are big machines - all are around 5.2m long, 1.8m tall and wide, as well as tipping the scales at around two tonnes, although the HiLux is just under and the Ford and Mazda both go just over 2100kg - but none are drive like an aircraft carrier, except maybe in turning circle.

The turbodiesels are quiet at cruise but remind the occupants of their diesel nature under throttle load - it's not a harsh intrusion and the five-cylinder powerplants in the Ford and Mazda sound a little off-beat, but the Toyota has to work a little harder given the torque deficit.

All three finished the drive in the 9-10l/100km bracket - only the Mazda tipped into double figures, which could perhaps be explained by its more enthusiastic handling.

While it misses out in torque and ratio count, the HiLux drivetrain is by no means out of the hunt - but add the big gap in braked towing capacity (2500kg versus 3350kg) and the twins score towing points.

Inside, the Ranger and Mazda part ways - the Ford is funkier, with chunkier switchgear, while the Mazda goes flat and black, but both are easy enough to decipher.

The Hilux is a little easier to get into but the Ford's tubular sidesteps don't score as highly as the traditional flat steps adorning the Mazda and Toyota.

All three have backseats that are far more comfortable than the right-angled benches of ye olde trade machines, with extra storage under the rear bench in the Mazda and Ford - but none are easy to put a child's seat in and the Hilux loses out with a centre lap-only belt.

All three can hustle along a back road, sealed or unsealed, with reasonable aplomb, although the rear-end on any of the trio will wander without the benefit of stability control and/or 4WD being selected (for unsealed surfaces).

A load in the rear would benefit the ride quality as well from the leaf-sprung rumps on all three, but the Mazda's suspension feels on the sportier side, with meatier steering (befitting the Zoom Zoom mantra).

The larger newcomers have a little more length, width and tray wall height than the HiLux - but the tray size on any of them is useful for a dump run, but a trail bike is not going straight in.

The judges preferred the fit and finish in the HiLux cabin over the Ranger and Mazda, and also noted the Ranger's tray was fully-lined tray and had a 12-volt outlet, the Hilux tray had a bottom liner and there was no tray lining in the Mazda.

The Ranger and Mazda found favour for their drivetrains, with more gears, higher braked towing capacity and fuel efficiency, but the HiLux was noted for its ride quality.

VERDICT

The battleground has changed for the Hilux and its newest challengers - it is still the reigning monarch of the LCV kingdom just - resale history, resilience and reputation are on its side, but the margin is very narrow.

The Ranger's extra torque, towing capacity and six-speed transmission - as well as a less taut ride - put it into second (but again it's close), but those qualities and a handling bent to the Mazda's suspension will suit a different crowd.

TOYOTA HILUX SR5 DUAL-CAB

Price: from $53,490
Engine: 3.0-litre DOHC common-rail 16-valve 4-cyl, 126kW/343Nm
Transmission: four-speed auto
Thirst: 9.3L/100km, 245g/km CO2, tank 76 litres
Towing capacity: 750kg, braked 2500kg
Clearance: 227mm
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km
Service: 12 months/15,000km.

FORD RANGER XLT DUAL-CAB

Price: from $55,390
Engine: 3.2-litre turbocharged intercooled direct-injection common-rail 5-cyl, 147kW/470Nm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Thirst: 9.2L/100km, 246g/km CO2, tank 80 litres
Towing capacity: 750kg, braked 3350kg
Clearance: 237mm
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km
Service: 6 months/10,000km.

MAZDA BT-50 XTR DUAL-CAB

Price: from $50,810
Engine: 3.2-litre 20-valve DOHC intercooled turbodiesel 5-cyl, 147kW/470Nm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Thirst: 9.2l/100km, 246g/km CO2, tank 80 litres
Towing capacity: 750kg, braked 3350kg
Clearance: 237mm
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km or 2 year unlimited km
Service: 6 months/10,000km.

Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 33 comments

  • FORD has the best quality build and have more pedigree than Toyota, I cannot understand why people even consider a Japanese pickup as the japs don't support our European British and American built vehicles. Fly to japan and check it out yourself. If we support our best commercial vehicle builder, we will seek the Rewards in future vehicles. Toyota are crafty as they put container loads of spare parts and ship loads of vehicles into countries like Africa etc together people hooked on buying. I wish ford landrover Volkswagen and JCB would do this. Hopefully they see this message!

    Truck breaker Ireland of Ireland Posted on 02 February 2014 11:17pm
  • I think Stuart Martin is a long time Toyota man, and is trying to justify the Toyota as having a edge on the ranger and BT50, I mean come on, Look at the features, 4 speed verses 6 speed for starters, If i have a choice it will be Ford/ Mazda. PS not that i am Toyota bias. How about motoring editors doing a thorough un- biased fair dinkum on road/ off road test with and with out load under all conditions, and carrying the maximum permited occupants inside the utes, making a fair and honest judgement for all to read and veiw for there personel preferance. After all the ute has become the new family persons car.

    Mark of Victoria Posted on 06 February 2013 10:27pm
  • On part of a Hilux the transmission is 4 speed and the engine 3.0 .what model of the hilux can came in the same Rank with BT-50 mazda,ford Ranger xlt dual,because a hilux is 4speed the other 6speed and the engine a hilux is 3.0 and mazda,ford 3.2,so we want to see the model for the hilux which matchs same rank than we give scores.

    madaliso ngoma of zambia Posted on 09 January 2013 4:21pm
  • Due to my work, I have driven the Rangers and Hiluxs a fair bit. I have also had a far bit of experience with 200 series Landcruisers, Pajaros and Patrols. My experience has been a combination of sealed and dirt roads with a bit of rough terrain requiring recovery. Due to the nature of the job we can give the vehicles a pretty hard time. I haven’t actually driven the Mazda, but both the Hilux and Ranger are very good vehicles. If you can put away brand bias, the Ranger is probably the best dual cab ute you can buy at present. It is certainly a better all-rounder than the Hilux, but having said that, there is nothing wrong with the hilux either. There seems to be a lot of brand bias in car reviews, which helps the Toyotas a bit.

    Matt of Queensland Posted on 03 January 2013 1:01pm
  • I am confused I had made up my mind to buy a SR5 Hilux but I am now having doubts as the Ford Ranger looks like a great vehicle. I have read all the reviews and they all seem to favor the Ford.

    Confused of Maida Vale Posted on 07 October 2012 4:13pm
  • I put a deposit on a Hilux, until i drove the BT-50. Mazda kills the Hilux in every way. Ive had it since November 2011 and its a beast. I test drove all the utes on the market and the mazda was the best followed closely by Ford and then Triton. Amarok was even better that the Hilux. Hilux is a great ute with a tonne of reliability but Toyota have become complacent. Tell me how can you add more stuff to the Hilux yet drop the price tag by $2200? Just goes to show Toyota have been ripping off the buyer for years.

    mattc of sydney Posted on 20 August 2012 8:44am
  • I drove all 3 and I liked the Ranger the best, I think both BT50 and Ranger are streets ahead and so they should be as the Hilux is out dated, wait and see what Toyota do with the new model in 2014 I believe. Due to Ford stuffing me around for 6 months I went back to Mazda and brought a 2012 plate which I have noticed FoMoCo all over it so I am the winner as it was $4000 cheaper and I still got Tint,Tow Bar,Sports bar,Spray in Liner,Headlight protectors, Window Shields, Floor Mats, Dash Mats. TOTALLY STUFFED UP REVIEW

    Phil Chapman of Jurien Bay, Western Australia Posted on 25 June 2012 2:11am
  • I would put my money on the Hilux being around for a lot longer than the other two and worth more money too. In the long run, Ford will be Ford and Mazda will be Ford, neither worth a pinch of sh!t when they drive out of the dealer. They are a bit lke Great Wall 4wds, they have all the glitz and glamour of a high end market vehicle, but poor quality parts. Give it a few years and you will not be a happy camper. And seriously, 99% of people won't tow more than 2500kg braked, unless towing a heavy car/4wd on a trailer or similar, its really not important for most. I hope I am proved wrong in 10 years, but I'm not going to hold my breath.

    Some Guy of Planet Earth Posted on 01 June 2012 11:30am
  • This is why I would never buy a car/ute/any vehicle that a "judge" did a story on, I love reading the comments from the "normal end user" who is honest with their critique and is not any any car bodies payroll.

    John from Karratha of Western Australia Posted on 21 April 2012 4:59pm
  • The hilux's have dropped off, made in same country as others, yes they have a good resale value but times will change as there quality is dropping off. The new Ford-mazda and 550 Nissan 4 cyl are the picks at this price, they answer the gap between the light 4 cyl utes and the 8cyl cruisers. Lot more grunt and a better build quality! How the hell can the Toyota edge the Ford, Ford is better build, better interior, and actually has some go. Need to get off Toyota's payroll!

    Joel Prince of Gladstone, QLD Posted on 27 January 2012 12:12am
  • Three drivers and an editor all on toyota's payroll................

    Mick from the Outback of Mt Isa Posted on 12 December 2011 10:56pm
  • Not much of a review, straight from the brochures!

    Robert of Q Posted on 04 December 2011 7:44pm
  • Not much of a review. Why were these not tried out in 4WD/off-road? Then we could have a better understanding of how capable they really are.

    Jayson of rockhampton Posted on 29 November 2011 4:02pm
  • Why test both the Ranger and BT-50? Basically the same car. Should have had at least the Amarok and maybe Navara or Triton.

    John of NSW Posted on 22 November 2011 7:44pm
  • What happened to the new Mitsubishi Triton (as as noted by Gwilym) and the Volkswagen?

    David of Normanhurst of NORMANHURST SYDNEY Posted on 22 November 2011 6:24pm
  • Well done Ford and Mazda for raising the bar. Towing specs, safety and size . A lot of thought has gone into these vehicles. Who else but Australians could be better placed to design and engineer utes. It's only logical.

    Jimmy of Tom Price Posted on 21 November 2011 10:46am
  • I wouldnt get too uptight people this was judged by a judge yes and a woman! Brilliant choice.

    Matt of Coffs harbour Posted on 20 November 2011 8:31pm
  • Where is the Volkswagen Amarok?

    Gwilym Knowles of Ballarat Posted on 19 November 2011 3:38pm
  • Where is the Volkswagen Amarok?

    Fred Gerk Posted on 18 November 2011 6:07pm
  • Perhaps you'd be better taking more notes about the cars themselves than writing up this cryptic article. I've driven all 3 of these utes, and you've got the placings in reverse. People want to read reviews, not ads.

    Nic Wilke of Albury Posted on 17 November 2011 12:05pm
  • Was this a Toyota Ad? As I can see no way how the Hilux could have won this. Clearly either it's an Ad for Toyota, Toyota is paying for the comments or the judges were sniffing too many exhaust fumes.

    george Posted on 16 November 2011 9:30pm
  • What a pathetic piece of blatantly biased journalism. The Ranger & BT-50 outclass the Hilux in virtually every department and the victory STILL goes to the stone age Toyota, what a joke! As for "reputation", Toyota have been ripping people off for years with that old chestnut as an excuse not to keep up with modern technology - it must be true that Hilux badges are made from solid platinum, because there's no other justification for their price tag! "Resilience"? Well, a rock won’t break easily either, but I'd sure as hell rather use a modern hammer if I was banging in nails all day ... And to top it off, the Ranger pips the BT-50 because - wait for it - the BT-50 has better handling! Good lord, this guy must have had the exhaust gasses pumping straight into his air con during the test ... Oh, wait. Do you actually get air con standard in a Hilux yet?

    Luke Posted on 16 November 2011 1:32pm
  • Glove is speaking gibberish. John Walker has answered his own question.!! The history of Navara in the Dakar Rally shows the true strength of Navara.The strength of the Hilux is it's marketing rather than the vehicle itself. Indestructible??? I don't think so from what I have heard!

    Lawrence Baker of Perth Posted on 15 November 2011 10:48pm
  • What about comparing them all in one hit or is that too hard! Hilux, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Colorado, Mazda, Ranger, Amarok and even Great Wall. I know which one will win anyway ... the Amarok! But for price, the Colorado is best and the Great Wall, well nothing more than crap!

    Andrew of Sydney Posted on 09 November 2011 12:50pm
  • Let’s see how the Mazda goes in the long run. All my Hiluxes have reached over 40,0000kms with no trouble. Mates had Nissan’s, Mitsubishi’s etc. Problems always start at 100,000km. Towing capacity: read the fine print before you tow!

    Hilux owner Posted on 09 November 2011 9:44am
  • Agreed, where is the Amarok?

    Wayne Hobbs of Fleurieu Peninsula Posted on 08 November 2011 6:14pm
  • I agree with Rajeev, the Hilux doesn't keep up with the new BT-50 or Ranger or even the Nissan Navara. It is dated, under specified, poor towing, poor power, has had a great reputation but even that is now flawed. I should know because I fix them.

    Gav Posted on 08 November 2011 5:25pm
  • Hmmm, no load rating? Are these one tonners or just posers? Get the Pik Up - proper 1 tonne load rating, rear diff lock standard and starts at $30k!

    NJ Joseph of Brisbane Posted on 08 November 2011 5:08pm
  • Where's the VW Amarok?

    Jerry Atrick of bulamakanka Posted on 08 November 2011 12:13pm
  • Nissan Navara's are for part time 4-wheel drivers. Couldn't even tow a broken down Triton.

    Glove of Morwell Posted on 08 November 2011 9:20am
  • Why wasn't the Nissan Navara V6 turbo diesel included in this comparison? It would have kicked the arses of the others, particularly in power.

    John Walker of Brisbane Posted on 07 November 2011 5:51pm
  • Ha! All through, I see Ranger and Mazda are better than Hilux because of this and this - and hardly any Hilux better than Ranger, etc. Yet the Hilux wins! I don't get.

    Rajeev Singh Posted on 07 November 2011 1:42pm
  • Give me a break ...sounds like all three of these judges were drunk when they submitted the comparisons. Ford and Mazda (Ford in particular) trump the Hilux. Good to see the 5 star ENCAP/ANCAP rating awarded last month did not get a mention.

    Benji of Keilor Posted on 07 November 2011 12:29pm
Read all 33 comments

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