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It's time to move on from the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger, these are the forgotten utes that you should consider! | Opinion

The Ford Ranger and Toyota HiLux might rule the sales charts, but that doesn't mean there aren't other ute models to consider.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the Australian ute market only consists of about four models because the Ford Ranger, Toyota HiLux, Isuzu D-Max and Mitsubishi Triton tend to get the majority of the headlines and press coverage.

But that’s not the case at all.

There’s plenty of choice available across numerous brands and you might just find exactly what you’re looking for – and at your preferred price-point – if you consider such low-key utes as the Nissan Navara, Mazda BT-50, SsangYong Musso or LDV T60.

They may get less attention than they actually deserve, but these are some of the forgotten utes that you should consider.

Nissan Navara SL Warrior

Nissan’s Navara is an under-rated ute in the grand scheme of things, and the Premcar Warrior program brings it closer in line with more expensive and better-regarded rivals.

The Nissan Navara SL Warrior is an entry-level option for ute buyers keen on owning a Premcar-engineered Nissan ute.

Based on the SL Navara, the SL Warrior is only available as a dual-cab ute with either a six-speed manual gear-box ($58,750 before on-road costs) or seven-speed automatic transmission ($61,250).

The SL Warrior is an entry-level option of the Nissan Navara. (Image: Mark Oastler)

Standard features include 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, AEB, lane-keeping assist, around-view monitor, and a rear diff-lock.

Premcar, the vehicle-engineering company responsible for Nissan’s Warrior program, has added more than $11,000 worth of extras to the SL Warrior including a black bash plate (with Navara branding) at the front, an off-road bullbar with hoops and integrated LED light bar, fender flares, suspension lift, Warrior wheels and all-terrain tyres (Cooper Discoverer AT3s, LT (Light Truck) 275/70R17), a tubliner, and a towbar.

The Warrior has a 2.3-litre four-cylinder twin-turbo-diesel engine – producing 140kW at 3750rpm and 450Nm at 1500-2500rpm – and a seven-speed automatic transmission.

Standard features include an 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen. (Image: Mark Oastler)

It’s not the gutsiest or torquiest ute on the market but it is very capable of tough off-roading. It has a part-time four-wheel drive system with high- and low-range 4WD, and a rear diff lock.

And, for a vehicle that’s been engineered to impress off-road, the SL Warrior is actually quite good on road – for a ute.

Premcar’s work here, as in the higher-spec Pro-4X Warrior, is focussed on wheels and tyres and the suspension. The springs and shocks, which add a 40mm total suspension lift, are engineered to produce a more controlled and comfortable ride.

The Warrior has a 2.3-litre four-cylinder twin-turbo-diesel engine. (Image: Mark Oastler)

The tub is 1509mm long, 1560mm wide, 1134mm (between the wheelarches), and 519mm deep.

The cargo space has four tie-down points. It has a durable tub-liner, but misses out on the Pro-4X’s Utili-track load-restraint system.

Payload is listed as 1026kg. Towing capacity is 750kg (unbraked) and 3500kg (braked). Gross vehicle mass (GVM) is 3250kg and GCM (gross combined mass) is 5910kg.

The SL Warrior wears all-terrain tyres (Cooper Discoverer AT3s, LT (Light Truck) 275/70R17). (Image: Mark Oastler)

The Navara range is covered by a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty – adequate in terms of years, but the unlimited kms factor is in its favour.

Nissan’s five-year warranty covers all of the Premcar work and the accessories.

This ute has all the great qualities of its more expensive stablemate (the Pro-4X Warrior) – impressive locally-engineered upgrades that deliver improved off-road ability across the board – but it’s $10,000 cheaper.

Mazda BT-50 GT

The Mazda BT-50 has never threatened to ever top the sales charts, but it’s always managed to impress in some way.

The Mazda BT-50 GT 4x4 Dual Cab Pickup, towards the high end of the BT-50 line-up, has an MSRP of $62,510.

Standard features onboard include a 9.0-inch multimedia touchscreen (with sat nav, Apple CarPlay (wireless and USB) and Android Auto – USB), dual-zone climate control air-conditioning with rear vents, leather seats, heated front seats, leather wrapped steering wheel and gear knob, eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, 18-inch alloy wheels, and more.

The Mazda BT-50 GT 4x4 Dual Cab Pickup has an MSRP of ,510. (Image: Marcus Craft)

The BT-50 has a 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine, producing 140kW at 3600rpm and 450Nm between 1600-2600rpm. It has a six-speed automatic transmission, a part-time four-wheel drive system (with high- and low-range gearing), and a lockable rear diff.

The engine and auto generally work pretty well together, although the combination feels a bit underdone. The engine would benefit from more grunt and the transmission is not quite as smooth as it should be.

There’s adequate power and torque on tap, and acceleration is generally on the right side of crisp.

Standard features onboard include a 9.0-inch multimedia touchscreen. (Image: Marcus Craft)

Overall, the BT-50 is pretty impressive off-road for a standard ute. It has a tractable engine, good low-range gearing, and nicely recalibrated off-road traction control.

The tray is 1571mm long at floor height, 1530mm wide (but 1120mm between the wheel-arches), and 490mm deep. It has four tie-down points and the optional tub liner.

The BT-50 has an unbraked trailer towing capacity of 750kg and a braked towing capacity of 3500kg. Maximum payload is listed as 1065kg.

The BT-50 has a 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine. (Image: Marcus Craft)

Gross Vehicle Mass is 3100kg, and Gross Combined Mass is 6000kg.

A five-year/unlimited warranty applies to the BT-50.

The Mazda BT-50 is a decent ute with a lot to like about it: it’s comfortable, capable and has a premium but work-friendly feel to it.

SsangYong Musso Ultimate XLV

If you’re in the market for a dual-cab ute but your budget doesn’t quite stretch to the $70K price tags of a lot of new models – then perhaps the SsangYong Musso represents your best chance at a budget-friendly buy.

The Ultimate XLV variant, a lifted and stretched version of the standard Musso, is 4WD, auto, it has a stack of standard features – and its pricetag is closer to $45,000 than $70,000.

There are two variants in the Musso line-up: the entry-level ELX, available as a manual or auto, and the top-shelf Ultimate, which is available as auto only, and has a driveaway price of $43,590.

The SsangYong Musso represents your best chance at a budget-friendly buy. (Image: Glen Sullivan)

Standard features include an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated leather steering wheel, leather seats, LED daytime running lights, and 18-inch alloy wheels. It also has a 12.3-inch digital LCD instrument cluster, smart key with auto locking, a tyre pressure monitoring system, HID headlights, and surround-view camera.

The Musso XLV also boasts increased dimensions, stretching the ute’s length by 300mm and the wheelbase by 110mm, yielding 251L of additional room in the tub.

You can also option Aussie-tuned suspension (Ironman 4x4 coils and dampers) which costs another $730.

Standard features include an 8.0-inch touchscreen. (Image: Glen Sullivan)

The XLV pack, the Ironman 4x4 suspension, tow bar ($1530 fitted), electronic brake controller ($620 fitted) and Pearl White paint ($595) pushed our latest test car's price to $47,065.

The Ultimate is powered by a 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine – producing 133kW at 4000rpm and 400Nm at 1400-2800rpm.

However, it’s worth noting that in Ultimate XLV Guise, the Musso gets another 20Nm of torque, bringing it to 420Nm at 1600-2600rpm.

You can add Ironman 4x4 coils and dampers, adding another 0 to the price tag. (Image: Glen Sullivan)

It has a six-speed automatic transmission, part-time 4WD with low- and high-range gearing, and an auto-locking rear diff.

The engine outputs look a bit underwhelming, but it does pretty well with what it has once you’re driving it. And that Aisin auto is a well-regarded transmission, having already proven itself in other utes, such as the Isuzu D-Max.

The Musso is quite refined and rather impressive, in terms of comfort and performance, especially for a ute that’s considerably cheaper than a lot of others in the dual-cab realm.

The Musso's tub is 1625mm long, 1612mm wide and is 578mm deep. (Image: Glen Sullivan)

It’s not too shabby off-road, either.

This stretched Musso feels controlled and well settled on dirt tracks at speed.

It feels suitably agile on bush roads peppered with shallow ruts, potholes and moguls, with the Aussie-tuned Ironman 4x4 coils and dampers working effectively to keep everything under control.

The Musso is quite refined and rather impressive, in terms of comfort and performance. (Image: Glen Sullivan)

The tub is 1625mm long (at floor height), 1612mm wide (1140mm between the wheel arches), and is 578mm deep, which is handy for extra packing space.

The load space has a durable looking plastic tub liner and four tie-down points that appear pretty solid.

The Musso has an unbraked towing capacity of 750kg and a braked towing capacity of 3500kg.

Standard features include leather seats. (Image: Glen Sullivan)

The Musso has a seven-year/unlimited km warranty.

This decent dual-cab ute is refined, capable and it has a stack of positives going for it: an unstressed engine, impressive practicality and a no-fuss driveability about it.

Its less-than-ideal suite of driver-assist safety tech is a let-down, but the Musso represents good value for money.

LDV T60 Max Luxe

The LDV T60 Max has led the new wave of Chinese-built utes, with better build quality and ride and handling than in previous versions, as well as improved comfort levels, and plenty of standard features for what is competitive pricing in an increasingly expensive ute market.

The top-spec LDV T60 Max Luxe auto has a driveaway pricetag of $47,884.

It has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder bi-turbo diesel engine, which produces 160kW at 4000rpm and 500Nm from 1500-2400rpm, and an eight-speed auto.

The LDV T60 Max Luxe auto has a drive away price tag of ,884. (Image: Mark Oastler)

Standard features in the Luxe include a 10.25-inch multimedia touchscreen (with Apple CarPlay or Bluetooth smart phone connectivity), six-way electronically adjustable leather trim seats (in the Luxe), LED daytime running lights, rear parking sensors, 360-degree Panoramic Camera, Lane Departure Warning, and a rear differential lock.

On-road, it’s okay – gruff with some engine noise – but the T60 Max’s market is more about function than finesse so I’m sure its agricultural qualities won't bother you.

The tray in the LDV T60 Max (MY22) is 1485mm long, 1510mm wide and 1131mm wide between the wheelarches.

Standard features in the Luxe include a 10.25-inch multimedia touchscreen. (Image: Mark Oastler)

Unbraked towing capacity is 750kg; braked towing capacity is 3000kg for bi-turbo models when fitted with a tow bar.

A lengthy seven-year/200,000km warranty applies to this ute. In the cheaper section of the dual-cab ute market, the LDV T60 Max is a rather appealing potential buy.

It’s a good ute, brimming with standard features, and represents a marked improvement in build quality, fit and finish and all-round drivability over previous versions of Chinese-built utes.

The T60 Max has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder bi-turbo diesel engine. (Image: Mark Oastler)

What I reckon

There are rich pickings in the new ute market if you’re willing to go with lesser-known, low-key vehicles rather than sniffing around the big name and increasingly expensive examples, such as the Ford Ranger and Toyota HiLux.

But, be aware, you may have to forgo some niceties and features, including driver-assist tech, if you opt for a cheaper, less popular ute.

Also, be mindful of your potential ute’s aftersales customer service and support, which may be sorely lacking if you opt for a less-less-established vehicle brand.

Those factors may be deal-breakers for you, but for others the value-for-money case may be too strong for them.

Marcus Craft
Contributing Journalist
Raised by dingoes and, later, nuns, Marcus (aka ‘Crafty’) had his first taste of adventure as a cheeky toddler on family 4WD trips to secret fishing spots near Bundaberg, Queensland....
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