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Access denied! The mid-sized trucks that Ford Ranger, Toyota HiLux, Isuzu D-Max and Mitsubishi Triton buyers can't buy, including the latest on the hot Ram Dakota, Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier

Ram's new Dakota/1200 ute is in the goldilocks zone for Australia. (Image: Thanos Pappas)

With the new-generation Ford Ranger about to launch, it’s time to check out some of the medium-sized pick-ups on the global stage that Australians are currently missing out on.

For this list, we’re looking at current and future body-on-frame constructed trucks, which means none of the smaller and lighter car-based utes like the new Ford Maverick (already a runaway sales success in America) or Hyundai Santa Cruz this time around.

Likewise, we’re avoiding the over-priced and over-sized Ford F-Series-style biggies, choosing instead to target the ‘Goldilocks zone' of the Australian vehicle market ­– the best-selling medium-sized pick-ups that actually fit our urban roads, driveways and carparks.

They’re out there, but not over here, so let’s check the more interesting ones out…

2 x Ram Dakotas?

Ram has been sitting out the Toyota HiLux class since the last Dakota ducked out of its native North American market since 2011.

Instead, the Stellantis owned brand has relied on the full-sized 1500, as well as rebadged versions of other carmakers’ smaller pick-ups – namely the 2016-2019 Ram 1200 (a rebadged Mitsubishi Triton for the UAE market) and Brazilian Fiat Toro-based Ram 1000 – to appeal to consumers seeking a more compact truck experience.

But Dakota’s back, baby! At least, it will be in spirit, with not one but two midsized trucks reportedly planned before mid-decade.

The first may end up being a rebodied version of the Jeep Gladiator. Set for unveiling next year and possibly wearing the Ram 1200 badge, ‘Project 291’ is expected to offer exceptional off-road capabilities, V6s in petrol and diesel options and very sturdy construction.

The second proposal with the Dakota name attached is an altogether more-forward-looking beast, as a smaller electric alternative to the massive Ford F-150 Lightning and Chevrolet Silverado EVs. Due in 2024, it could beat the Ranger/HiLux in this electrified space by a considerable margin. 

If it comes to fruition, this one should leverage Stellantis’ coming ‘STLA Large’ architecture that’s going to underpin the group’s ‘AWD Performance and American Muscle’ models from Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep, according to the company, including the Dodge ‘eMuscle Car’. It’s speculated the Dakota EV can offer up to 660kW of power and 800km of range.

Whether one or both Dakotas transpire, let’s hope Australia’s in the brand’s crosshairs.

Toyota Tacoma

If you imagine a pick-up version of the Prado that sits above the HiLux but below the full-sized US Tundra, you might get some idea of how and where the Tacoma fits into Toyota’s hierarchy of trucks.

This is an entire line of North American-made and focused Toyotas that Australia misses out on, since the Tacoma also sires the 4Runner (and the beloved FJ Cruiser no longer sold here), and shares much with the Tundra and its Sequoia SUV behemoth. Last year, some 265,000 were sold in North America, despite this generation approaching its seventh birthday.

Engines are currently time-honoured Toyota petrol staples (2.7-litre I4 and 3.5-litre V6), there are the usual cab variations, and wheelbases vary, bridging the gap between medium and larger trucks.

Which means, inevitably, the next-gen Tacoma that may surface as early as next year will switch to the scalable Toyota New Global Architecture GA-F componentry introduced by the LandCruiser 300 Series. The anticipated downsized four-pot petrol-hybrid engines will be supplemented by an all-electric version over time, while independent rear suspension is rumoured to replace the old leaf springs. Sophistication is the name of the game here.

Don’t hold your breath for an Australian debut, though, since we’re very much locked into the related coming HiLux version. It's this country's number one selling vehicle, period, after all. 

Nissan Frontier

The existing Nissan D23 Navara received a substantial facelift in late 2020, and the PRO-4X Warrior versions provide an impressive Australian upgrade for serious 4x4 buyers, but there’s no hiding the advancing years of this 2014-vintage midsized pick-up out of Thailand.

Over in North America (where else!), however, their version of the Navara has long been something different. Wearing the Frontier name yet based on the older D40 series available in Australia for a decade from 2005, it’s been soldiering on pretty much unchanged for years, until the overhaul you see here arrived about a year ago.

Fresh exterior panels, a restyled interior, updated multimedia and improved safety are the main changes, but underneath that blocky body is a modified version of that old D40, complete with the leaf-sprung rear end that Australia’s (slightly smaller) D23 ditched in most models nearly eight years ago now.

As is mandatory in all North American-market midsized trucks, big petrol engines dominate, and the same applies to the Mississippi-made Frontier’s 3.8-litre V6/nine-speed auto combo. It’s assembled alongside the big Titan truck, rides on Nissan’s long-lived F-Alpha platform, and is related to the Y62 Patrol.

Now, a Frontier Warrior with that sort of powertrain would really give the coming Ranger Raptor V6 a run for its money. Sadly, being left-hand-drive only and actually long-in-the-tooth underneath, we’re never likely to see this big old handsome beast bounding along the badlands of Brighton or Balmain.

But what the Frontier does provide Australian pick-up buyers is a possible preview of what the next-gen Navara might look like when it finally drops sometime before 2025.

Peugeot Landtrek

Now for something completely different.

Chinese state-owned brand Dongfeng currently has a 3.17 per cent share in Stellantis, overseers of the Peugeot/Citroen/DS, Fiat/Alfa Romeo/Lancia/Maserati, Chrysler/Dodge/Ram and Opel/Vauxhall brands, among others.

But when it was just the Peugeot/Citroen group in the ‘90s, a joint-venture was stuck, that years later resulted in this handsome truck that wears the Peugeot Landtrek badge.

Assembled in China, Africa and South America, it was launched in late 2019 as a modern, comfortable and affordable midsized pick-up with robust underpinnings and high-tech equipment levels, including a very stylish dashboard.

Though the Landtrek wears the Peugeot branding, elsewhere it is sold as the LDV T60-rivalling Kaicene F70 and Changan Hunter, meaning it can also serve the lower-end of the segment against the GWM Cannon.

So why isn’t this apparent shoe-in available in Australia? No factory RHD production as yet rules that out, while it lacks safety items deemed essential in Australia like Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB).

But being the lynchpin Stellantis brand, there might be a Peugeot version of that coming all-electric Dakota/1200, so don't discount the Landtrek badge for Australia in the future.