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Matt Campbell
Reviewed & driven by
CarsGuide

27 Sep 2019

The ute segment is huge, and this test is going to be big, too.

We've got the six most popular dual-cab four-wheel drive pick-up trucks in Australia to compare against each other. The aim? To help you make the right choice when you buy your new double-cab ute.

These six diesel auto utes are built for work and play, but this time around we're focused more on the play side of things. So, no towing, no lugging loads around in the tray. Just on road testing, and and off road review, which was Adventure editor Marcus Craft's job on this test.

Now, allow us to introduce you to our contenders.

It wouldn't be a dual-cab ute test without our carryover champion, the Ford Ranger. This XLT Bi-turbo model is the same spec as the one that won our previous ute test, but it has been updated with additional safety gear.

There are some other familiar faces from our recent test, too: the range-topping Mitsubishi Triton GLS Premium is back, and so is the Toyota HiLux - this time we went for the SR5 auto, which is the biggest seller in the HiLux range.

These three will also have to get to grips with the likes of the range-topping Isuzu D-Max LS-T, as well as the flagship Holden Colorado Z71, and the newly added top of the pops Nissan Navara N-Trek.

Which will win? Read on to find out!

Value

There's more to value for money than just being the cheapest ute. That's why we're going to take a look at the list price (before on-road costs) of each of these models, and then we'll break down the standard equipment specifications for each of them.

First, the prices. Now, take note: we aimed for equivalency of price, as close as we could, rather than aiming for the top specs of each of these variants (a flagship Ranger is $75k - and that wouldn't be a fair contest).

 Ford Ranger XLT Bi-turboHolden Colorado Z71Isuzu D-Max LS-TMitsubishi Triton GLS PremiumNissan Navara N-TrekToyota HiLux SR5
MLP (before on-road costs)$60,040$57,190$54,800$51,990$58,950$57,240

It's clear the Triton is a bargain - especially considering that at the time of publishing, it's the most expensive model you can get. At the other end of the scale is the pricy Ranger XLT Bi-turbo, which is the fourth-highest model in the Ranger line-up, and yet costs more than sixty grand. Ouch.

  • The Ranger XLT is the most expensive of the bunch at $60,040 before on road costs. The Ranger XLT is the most expensive of the bunch at $60,040 before on road costs.
  • The Colorado Z71 is priced at $57,190 before on road costs. The Colorado Z71 is priced at $57,190 before on road costs.
  • Despite the lack of equipment compared to the other utes here, the D-Max LS-T costs $54,800 BOC. Despite the lack of equipment compared to the other utes here, the D-Max LS-T costs $54,800 BOC.
  • The cheapest in this group is the Triton GLS Premium, which is priced at $51,990 BOC. The cheapest in this group is the Triton GLS Premium, which is priced at $51,990 BOC.
  • The Navara N-Trek comes in at $58,950 before on road costs. The Navara N-Trek comes in at $58,950 before on road costs.
  • The HiLux SR5 kicks off at $57,240 before on road costs. The HiLux SR5 kicks off at $57,240 before on road costs.

But it does make up for its high price with some equipment levels the others miss out on. Though XLT models are a bit more work focused than the other models here, all of which represent the mainstream flagship variants of their ranges (you can get a Z71 Xtreme, or a SR5-based Rugged X, but we've discounted them for this test.

Here's a breakdown of the equipment for each of these models.

 Ford Ranger XLT Bi-TurboHolden Colorado Z71Isuzu D-Max LS-TMitsubishi Triton GLS PremiumNissan Navara N-TrekToyota HiLux SR5
LED headlightsYesNoNoYesYesYes
LED daytime running lightsYesYesYesYesYesYes
Auto headlightsYesYesNoYesYesYes
Auto wipersYesYesNoYesYesYes
Climate control air conditioningDual-zoneSingle-zoneSingle-zoneDual-zoneDual-zoneSingle-zone
Heated SeatsNoYesYesYes - two-stageYesYes - single-stage
Electric seat adjustmentNoDriver's sideDriver's sideDriver's sideDriver's sideDriver's side
Leather seatsOptionalStandardStandardStandardStandardStandard
Push button startYesNoNoYesYesYes
Keyless entry / smart keyYesNoNoYesYesYes
Leather steering wheelYesYesYesYesYesYes
Cruise controlYes - adaptive (optional)YesYesYesYesYes - adaptive
Media screen8.0-inch8.0-inch8.0-inch7.0-inch8.0-inch7.0-inch
Sat navYesYesYesNo, but has GPS locationYesYes
Apple CarPlay and Android AutoYesYesNoYesYesNo
DAB radioYesYesNoYesNoYes
Sound system speakers678666
Power windowsYesYesYesYesYesYes
Power mirrorsYesYesYesYesYesYes
Tow barYesNoNoNoNoYes
Alloy wheels17-inch18-inch18-inch18-inch18-icnh18-inch
Tyre pressure monitoring systemYesYesNoNoNoNo
Spare tyreFull sizeFull sizeFull sizeFull sizeFull sizeFull size
Roof railsNoYesYesNoYesNo
Side stepsYesYesYesYesYesYes
Sports barYesYesOptionalYesYesYes
Tonneau coverOptionalYesOptionalOptionalOptionalOptional
Tub linerOptionalYesOptionalYesYesOptional

On balance, there are some surprises here. The Mitsubishi is value packed, and so its the Holden in a bunch of ways. Our scores reflect the general equipment-for-cash ratio of these six utes. The D-Max may be second cheapest, but lacks a lot of gear in relative terms.

ModelScore
Ford Ranger XLT Bi-turbo7
Holden Colorado Z718
Isuzu D-Max LS-T6
Mitsubishi Triton GLS Premium9
Nissan Navara N-Trek8
Toyota HiLux SR57

Interior

No tables for this section of the test - this is based on storage, comfort and convenience, not to mention design and materials.

Our entire team offered their thoughts and feedback across these six utes, from the front seats to the back, and there was a standout for comfort and convenience - the Ford.

The Ranger's back seat comfort was judged best of all, with a comfortable, broad feeling seat. The storage is good in the back and up front, with the only criticism being a lack of rear air vents. Up front the design and usability of the space was a highlight, with big door pockets, good cup holders and loose item storage, and the digital elements to the instrument cluster all garnering positive praise.

The Triton and Navara were next best.

The Navara's almost SUV-like dash design was welcome, and its clever storage options were applauded too - though the driver's seat position isn't as good as it could be. The back seat was comfy and well cushioned, and accommodating for back seat occupants. In fact, after getting out of one of the other utes, the Navara was described as "being like getting from a Mazda2 into a Mazda6".

  • From front to back, the Ranger was a standout for comfort and convenience. From front to back, the Ranger was a standout for comfort and convenience.
  • The Colorado attracted some comments for its rugged presentation. The Colorado attracted some comments for its rugged presentation.
  • The Isuzu was found to be the cheapest looking and cheapest feeling inside. The Isuzu was found to be the cheapest looking and cheapest feeling inside.
  • The Triton's front feels a little cramped for taller occupants due to its more raked window line. The Triton's front feels a little cramped for taller occupants due to its more raked window line.
  • The Navara's almost SUV-like dash design was welcome, and its clever storage options were applauded too. The Navara's almost SUV-like dash design was welcome, and its clever storage options were applauded too.
  • The HiLux's cabin looks okay, but the way its designed actually eats into the usable space a lot up front. The HiLux's cabin looks okay, but the way its designed actually eats into the usable space a lot up front.

The Triton also had welcoming rear seat accommodation, and was found to be comfy, if a little narrow - though the roof-mounted air recirculation in this model was a big plus. The front also feels a little cramped for taller occupants due to its more raked window line, but the seats were judged to be the most comfortable and supportive of all of these utes. The controls and features are all easy to navigate and simple to use.

Next was the Colorado, which attracted some comments for its rugged presentation - but the materials used are on the nasty side when it comes to how they feel. But the front seat experience was pretty good aside from very hard seats, and in the back the Colorado felt "more like an SUV than a ute" for one of our passengers.

It was a draw at the back of the pack, with the Isuzu and Toyota both copping some criticism.

The Isuzu was found to be the cheapest looking and cheapest feeling inside, with one judge suggesting it feels like "it hasn't changed for nearly a decade, where the rest of the ute segment has moved on by light years". But basic and budget as it may have been, the D-Max was judge to offer "100 per cent the most comfortable rear seat" by one of our experts.

The HiLux's cabin looks okay, but the way its designed actually eats into the usable space a lot up front. The dash intrudes, the screen looks tacked on, and it feels really small compared to the other utes here. There are good storage options up front, though. In the back the Lux's hard, jutting grab handles were deemed a "possible danger" for taller occupants, while the seat comfort was mid-pack.

ModelScore
Ford Ranger XLT Bi-turbo9
Holden Colorado Z717
Isuzu D-Max LS-T6
Mitsubishi Triton GLS Premium8
Nissan Navara N-Trek8
Toyota HiLux SR56

Dimensions and payload

Now, for this test we didn't do a loaded up run. It wasn't the intention. Instead, we wanted to see what each of these utes was like to live with, both on-road and off-road.

  • The Ranger's tub measures in at 1549mm long, 1560mm wide and 511mm deep. The Ranger's tub measures in at 1549mm long, 1560mm wide and 511mm deep.
  • The Colorado's tub measures in at 1484mm long, 11534mm wide and 466mm deep. The Colorado's tub measures in at 1484mm long, 11534mm wide and 466mm deep.
  • The D-Max's tub measures in at 1552mm long, 1530mm wide and 465mm deep. The D-Max's tub measures in at 1552mm long, 1530mm wide and 465mm deep.
  • The Ranger's tub measures in at 1520mm long, 1470mm wide and 475mm deep. The Ranger's tub measures in at 1520mm long, 1470mm wide and 475mm deep.
  • The Ranger's tub measures in at 1503mm long, 1560mm wide and 474mm deep. The Ranger's tub measures in at 1503mm long, 1560mm wide and 474mm deep.
  • The HiLux's tub measures in at 1569mm long, 1645mm wide and 470mm deep. The HiLux's tub measures in at 1569mm long, 1645mm wide and 470mm deep.

But that doesn't mean we can't break down the facts and figures to show you what you're getting for your money. If size matters to you, the Ranger's big footprint is impressive, while the Navara is hardly a midget, it's the shortest - and therefore, arguably, the most city-friendly ute here.

 Ford Ranger XLT Bi-turboHolden Colorado Z71Isuzu D-Max LS-TMitsubishi Triton GLS PremiumNissan Navara N-TrekToyota HiLux SR5
Length5446mm5361mm5295mm5409mm5255mm5330mm
Wheelbase3220mm3096mm3095mm3000mm3150mm3085mm
Width1977mm1872mm1860mm1815mm1850mm1855mm
Height1821mm1800mm1855mm1795mm1855mm1815mm

Now, the tub dimensions are all very close between these utes - but the Ranger stands above with its more usably wide and long tub. The D-Max also fares well here, especially considering its payload. At the other end is the Triton, which has a low payload for this competitive set.

 Ford Ranger XLT Bi-TurboHolden Colorado Z71Isuzu D-Max LS-TMitsubishi Triton GLS PremiumNissan Navara N-TrekToyota HiLux SR5
Tub length1549mm1484mm1552mm1520mm1503mm1569mm
Tub width1560mm1534mm1530mm1470mm1560mm1645mm
Between arches1139mm1122mm1105mm1085mm1130mm1109mm
Tub depth511mm466mm465mm475mm474mm470mm
Payload1003kg987kg1024kg858kg917kg955kg

 

 

ModelScore
Ford Ranger XLT Bi-turbo8
Holden Colorado Z717
Isuzu D-Max LS-T8
Mitsubishi Triton GLS Premium6
Nissan Navara N-Trek7
Toyota HiLux SR57

Engine specs and towing

The smallest is seemingly the mightiest of this bunch, with the Ford Ranger XLT Bi-turbo fitted with the smallest capacity engine yet offering the most power and equal-most torque of this mix of utes - that's what sensible engineering and a couple of turbos will do for you!

  • The Ranger is motivated by a 2.0-litre twin-turbo diesel engine with 157kW/500Nm. The Ranger is motivated by a 2.0-litre twin-turbo diesel engine with 157kW/500Nm.
  • Under the bonnet of the Colorado is a 2.8-litre turbo-diesel making 147kW/500Nm. Under the bonnet of the Colorado is a 2.8-litre turbo-diesel making 147kW/500Nm.
  • The D-Max is powered by a 3.0-litre unit with 130kW/430Nm on tap. The D-Max is powered by a 3.0-litre unit with 130kW/430Nm on tap.
  • The Triton's 2.4-litre turbo-diesel makes 133kW/430Nm. The Triton's 2.4-litre turbo-diesel makes 133kW/430Nm.
  • The twin-turbo 2.3-litre engine in the Navara produces 140kW/450Nm. The twin-turbo 2.3-litre engine in the Navara produces 140kW/450Nm.
  • The HiLux's 2.8-litre diesel produces 130kW/450Nm. The HiLux's 2.8-litre diesel produces 130kW/450Nm.

The only other twin-turbo ute here is the Navara, though it's not as strong for pulling power as the Colorado.

All told there's a 27kW and 70Nm spread across these models.

 Ford Ranger XLT Bi-turboHolden Colorado Z71Isuzu D-Max LS-TMitsubishi Triton GLS PremiumNissan Navara N-TrekToyota HiLux SR5
Engine size2.0-litre2.8-litre3.0-litre2.4-litre2.3-litre2.8-litre
TurboTwinSingleSingleSingleTwinSingle
CylindersFourFourFourFourFourFour
Power157kW147kW130kW133kW140kW130kW
Torque500Nm500Nm430Nm430Nm450Nm450Nm
Gearbox10-spd auto6-spd auto6-spd auto6-spd auto7-spd auto6-spd auto

The Ford isn't just the benchmark for these engines, it also has the most gears to make use of. Trust us, that makes a big difference when it comes to the drive experience - we'll get to that soon.

The Ford is also the heaviest of these six utes - almost 200kg more than the Navara! But it has the best gross vehicle mass (GVM) of these six utes, and equal-best gross combined mass (GCM) - meaning it can take a load and tow one, too.

 Ford Ranger XLT Bi-turboHolden Colorado Z71Isuzu D-Max LS-TMitsubishi Triton GLS PremiumNissan Navara N-TrekToyota HiLux SR5
Kerb weight2197kg2163kg2026kg2042kg1993kg2045kg
Gross vehicle mass3200kg3150kg3050kg2900kg2910kg3000kg
Gross combined mass6000kg6000kg5950kg5885kg5910kg5650kg
Un-braked towing capacity750kg750kg750kg750kg750kg750kg
Braked towing capacity3500kg3500kg3500kg3100kg3500kg3200kg

The scores for this section take power, torque, and towing potential into account. It's the Ford that tops the class, with the Colorado close by. In the middle are the D-Max and Navara, and at the back of the pack are the HiLux and Triton.

ModelScore
Ford Ranger XLT Bi-turbo9
Holden Colorado Z719
Isuzu D-Max LS-T8
Mitsubishi Triton GLS Premium6
Nissan Navara N-Trek8
Toyota HiLux SR57

Fuel use

Fuel use is one of those constantly variable costs that you need to consider when you buy any vehicle. As prices fluctuate, so does the cost of filling up.

But efficiency is another matter - as we found on this test. The table below shows you the claimed fuel use - that's what the manufacturer reckons you should be able to achieve - and the actual fuel use we saw when taking measurements at the bowser over our testing period.

We've even included a percentage over the claim that our real-world results accounted for. Some pretty startling figures, here!

 Ford Ranger XLT Bi-turboHolden Colorado Z71Isuzu D-Max LS-TMitsubishi Triton GLS PremiumNissan Navara N-TrekToyota HiLux SR5
Official combined consumption7.4L/100km8.7L/100km7.9L/100km8.6L/100km7.0L/100km8.4L/100km
Actual fuel use on test10.1L/100km12.9L/100km10.7L/100km10.7L/100km11.6L/100km12.0L/100km
Disparity over claim37%48%35%24%66%43%
Fuel tank capacity80L76L76L75L80L80L

We're basing the scores for this section on their real-world efficiency and their proximity to claimed consumption. None of them were amazing.

ModelScore
Ford Ranger XLT Bi-turbo7
Holden Colorado Z716
Isuzu D-Max LS-T7
Mitsubishi Triton GLS Premium7
Nissan Navara N-Trek5
Toyota HiLux SR56

On road review

These utes are all ladder-frame trucks, and five out of six have leaf springs at the rear (the Nissan has a sophisticated five-link coil rear suspension). All have disc brakes up front and drums at the rear, and all are diesel, automatic, four-wheel drive and around the 2.0- to 2.2-tonne mark.

It should be pretty close. But there were some that were really impressive, and others that left us longing for a lot more.

We'll go through each ute, one by one, in order of best to worst.

No real surprise, it's the Ford that comes first. We've know it as the benchmark in the segment for driver and passenger comfort for years now, and this test showed up the same strengths against its competitors.

  • The way the Ranger it controls its size and weight is the most impressive element. The way the Ranger it controls its size and weight is the most impressive element.
  • The Ranger offers excellent steering. The Ranger offers excellent steering.
  • The ride is comfortable in almost all situations. The ride is comfortable in almost all situations.

It feels lighter, more agile, more predictable and more comfortable than anything else in this test. The way it controls its size and weight is the most impressive element, because it's the biggest ute here, but never, ever feels like its out of its comfort zone.

The steering is excellent - light and easy to turn at lower speeds for parking moves, and nicely weighted and predictable at higher pace. The ride is comfortable in almost all situations - it is firm, but it's controlled and the most SUV-like of this mix to drive and be a passenger in.

Plus its drivetrain is excellent - there's supreme refinement and flexibility from the 2.0-litre bi-turbo and 10-speed auto, and it never feels breathless at speed, nor is it noisy like some of its rivals. There's a moment of turbo-lag at take-off, but that's a common factor in all of these utes. Plus its brake pedal response is the most positive and predictable of these utes, adding to the confidence you have as a driver. It is, simply, the best of this bunch.

Second for on-road impressiveness was a bit of a surprise - the Nissan Navara N-Trek.

A lot of this came down to the fact the ride was really well sorted - no doubt down to the re-re-retuned rear suspension for the Series 4 Navara. It deal really well with bumpy sections of road, offering a similar sort of experience to the Ford: firm, but controlled. Anyone who drove the early iterations of this generation Navara will know it was previously wobbly and shaky, but not any more. It also sits surprisingly flat through corners, making for more comfortable progress for the driver and the passengers.

  • The Navara still has issues with the twin-turbo engine being very noisy at lower speeds. The Navara still has issues with the twin-turbo engine being very noisy at lower speeds.
  • The Navara dealt really well with bumpy sections of road. The Navara dealt really well with bumpy sections of road.
  • The Navara's twin-turbo engine felt willing, and the fact it's the lightest ute here helps with that. The Navara's twin-turbo engine felt willing, and the fact it's the lightest ute here helps with that.

There are still issues with the twin-turbo engine being very noisy at lower speeds, and the steering still takes a bit of effort (and we still bump the horn when twirling the wheel) because it has a slower rack with heavier weighting.

The Navara's twin-turbo engine felt willing, and the fact it's the lightest ute here helps with that. The seven-speed auto is mostly unobtrusive, aside from being a little busy up steep hills.

Next best was the Colorado, which has benefitted from Australian input when it comes to the suspension and steering. And in those 'country back road' situations, it felt - again - firm but controlled, which was put down to the "Holden mentality".

Indeed the suspension felt tight and controlled at lower speeds, and it had the best low-speed ride in general.

  • The Colorado has benefitted from Australian input when it comes to the suspension and steering. The Colorado has benefitted from Australian input when it comes to the suspension and steering.
  • The suspension felt tight and controlled at lower speeds, and it had the best low-speed ride in general. The suspension felt tight and controlled at lower speeds, and it had the best low-speed ride in general.
  • The engine of the Colorado was good, but it was a bit gruff. The engine of the Colorado was good, but it was a bit gruff.

Its steering was well sorted, too, but the brake feel was wooden, with no real feel or progression to the pedal. We liked that it would offer up engine braking on descents, and even blipped the throttle, but it didn't cover up the fact that the actual braking was substandard.

The engine - with second-most power and equal-most torque - was good, too, if a bit gruff. The transmission was hard to catch out, and did a good job at high speeds and around town.

Fourth best (but still very close to the Colorado) was the Triton.

The Triton was the quietest of our six utes, and that helped it feel quite nice on the road. Its engine offered decent pulling power, the transmission was well sorted, and its steering was accurate and easy to judge, despite being a bit chatty - the steering wheel constantly felt like it was jiggling in the driver's hands.

  • The Triton's engine offered decent pulling power, while the transmission was well sorted. The Triton's engine offered decent pulling power, while the transmission was well sorted.
  • The Triton was the quietest of our six utes. The Triton was the quietest of our six utes.
  • The ride was sharper over crisp edges, and also offered up more dip and dive over bigger bumps and under braking. The ride was sharper over crisp edges, and also offered up more dip and dive over bigger bumps and under braking.

The ride was sharper over crisp edges, and also offered up more dip and dive over bigger bumps and under braking. Generally, there was a fair bit more movement noticeable from the chassis inside the cabin.

In fifth spot was the HiLux. Its steering was a highlight, offering precise feel and good feedback, and it was one of the quieter utes, too.

But the ride is fierce, enough to make one of our backseat testers feel car sick. It simply feels like its set up to cope with weight in the back, and the unladen ride suffers hugely as a result. It bucks over sharp edges, fumbles over lumpy country roads, and never feels like it settles down, even if the road surface below is smooth.

  • The steering in the HiLux was its highlight. The steering in the HiLux was its highlight.
  • The HiLux's engine felt a bit lethargic, but the six-speed auto didn't do a bad job in most instances. The HiLux's engine felt a bit lethargic, but the six-speed auto didn't do a bad job in most instances.
  • The ride is fierce, enough to make one of our backseat testers feel car sick. The ride is fierce, enough to make one of our backseat testers feel car sick.

Its engine also felt a bit lethargic comparatively, and while the six-speed auto didn't do a bad job in most instances, it wasn't quite as clever or composed up our steep hill climb.

Last place was the D-Max.

It was described as being the "gruffest of the lot", with a "more truck-like experience" than any of the others. Its engine was lazy, noisy and lacking refinement. Admittedly it pulled fairly well in its sweet spot (we found it most acceptable between 50-80km/h), but that wasn't enough to excuse some of its other issues.

  • The D-Max was described as being the "gruffest of the lot", with a "more truck-like experience" than any of the others. The D-Max was described as being the "gruffest of the lot", with a "more truck-like experience" than any of the others.
  • We struggled to find much to like about the D-Max from the driver's seat. We struggled to find much to like about the D-Max from the driver's seat.
  • The D-Max's steering was heavy and dull, while the ride was choppy at low speeds and unsettled at higher pace. The D-Max's steering was heavy and dull, while the ride was choppy at low speeds and unsettled at higher pace.

For instance, the transmission was overly busy when climbing hills, while at speeds between 80km/h and 110km/h it really struggles to make up its mind, no matter the gradient. And a lower speeds it has pronounced turbo-lag, too.

Its steering was heavy and dull, the ride was choppy at low speeds and unsettled at higher pace, and while the HiLux was harsh in its ride, it at least had some positive attributes - we struggled to find much to like about the D-Max from the driver's seat, or any of the other seats inside. Oh, its brakes were okay, and so was its gradient brake control system. But that's about it.

ModelScore
Ford Ranger XLT Bi-turbo9
Holden Colorado Z717
Isuzu D-Max LS-T5
Mitsubishi Triton GLS Premium7
Nissan Navara N-Trek8
Toyota HiLux SR56

Off road review - written by Adventure editor, Marcus Craft

They're all decent off-roaders in their own right so we took them on a mix of terrain to give us a clear indication of how well they'd go in the rough stuff.

Our tracks included gravel, deep ruts, mud holes, rocky climbs and more. Every ute here is a four-wheel drive with a low-range transfer case.

The Colorado Z71 has a limited-slip diff, and the rest have diff locks – except the D-Max. We avoided using the diff locks in order to keep the playing field as level as possible.

They all seem reasonably close to each other in terms of off-road capability – well, on paper at least – but, as is often the case, the real world can shake up expectations. Here are the specs you need to know:

 Ford Ranger XLT Bi-turboHolden Colorado Z71Isuzu D-Max LS-TMitsubishi Triton GLS PremiumNissan Navara N-TrekToyota HiLux SR5
Approach angle (desgrees)2928.33027.533.230
Departure angle (degrees)21 (to towbar)23.122.72328.220
Ramp-over angle (degrees)2522.122.32524.725
Ground clearance (mm)237215235220228216
Wading depth (mm)800600Not stated500Not stated700
Four wheel drive systemSelectable four-wheel driveSelectable four-wheel driveSelectable four-wheel driveSelectable four-wheel driveSelectable four-wheel driveSelectable four-wheel drive
Rear diff lockElectronic differential lockElectronic differential lockNoYesYesYes
Limited slip differentialNoYesNoNoYesNo
Power steeringElectricHydraulicHydraulicHydraulicHydraulicHydraulic
Turning circle (m)12.712.712.011.812.411.8
Off road drive modesNoNoNoSnow/mud, gravel, sand, rockNoNo

It must be noted though that all of these vehicles were on standard road-biased tyres and standard suspension, a less-than-ideal combination on tough terrain.

Each ute is listed below from best to worst.

It may be a surprise to some that the HiLux SR5 tops this mob as the most capable off-roader.

The HiLux has many fans and lots of haters, but its tough-terrain capability is simply very impressive. Its levels of refinement and comfort never come anywhere close to matching those of the Ranger's while driving rough terrain but it always feels the most capable.

It's never been the most refined ute around but the HiLux makes up for that by being an all-round reliable and capable ute. And while it doesn't have the highest torque figure here at 450Nm – the Ranger and Z71 both have more at 500Nm – the HiLux feels like it always gets every bit of its torque to the dirt at the right time.

  • With bush-ready low-range gearing, a tractable turbo-diesel engine and a brutally effective 4WD set-up, the HiLux once again proved its superiority off-road. With bush-ready low-range gearing, a tractable turbo-diesel engine and a brutally effective 4WD set-up, the HiLux once again proved its superiority off-road.
  • It's never been the most refined ute around but the HiLux makes up for that by being an all-round reliable and capable ute. It's never been the most refined ute around but the HiLux makes up for that by being an all-round reliable and capable ute.
  • On our set-piece rocky hill-climb there was minimal wheel-spin and the SR5 generally always exhibits a nice linear throttle progression. On our set-piece rocky hill-climb there was minimal wheel-spin and the SR5 generally always exhibits a nice linear throttle progression.

On our set-piece rocky hill-climb there was minimal wheel-spin and the SR5 generally always exhibits a nice linear throttle progression.

Hill descent control and engine braking combine to maintain a steady and safe momentum on sharp, steep declines.

There are serious issues around Toyota's Diesel Particulate Filter, and the HiLux's suspension consistently yields a harsh ride – never grotesque though – but with bush-ready low-range gearing, a tractable turbo-diesel engine and a brutally effective 4WD set-up, this ute once again proved its superiority off-road.

The Ranger, a good mix of comfort and capability, was next best.

Its tyres regularly let it down, failing to grab ground at crucial points on short steep uphills sections, but its suspension is always supple and its quietly efficient terrain-tackling electronics always do a great job of being highly effective and not at all intrusive.

Hill descent control engages at a nice regulated sustained speed and when driving the Ranger you always feel in control.

It tackled everything with regulated and sustained speed – its 2.0-litre twin-turbo engine never feels stressed – and it also had the best steering: consistently well weighted, even at low speeds.

  • The tyres regularly let the Ranger down, failing to grab ground at crucial points on short steep uphills sections. The tyres regularly let the Ranger down, failing to grab ground at crucial points on short steep uphills sections.
  • The Ranger tackled everything with regulated and sustained speed. The Ranger tackled everything with regulated and sustained speed.
  • The Ranger with a good mix of comfort and capability was second behind the HiLux. The Ranger with a good mix of comfort and capability was second behind the HiLux.

For such a big unit, the biggest here at 2197kg, the Ranger always feels so easy to manoeuvre on the tracks.

Negatives: The Ranger is much better than its tyres – they're the first things you'd sort out – and it was a bit fidgety to get out of 4WD Low.

But while it had a lot of positives going for it, the Ranger often feels one or two steps removed from the actual driving experience – and it wasn't the most capable 4WD here.

The third most capable ute here, the Navara N-Trek, is solid and reliable without ever being truly special.

It's light (the lightest here at 1993kg) and gutsy, and the N-Trek did the climbs and downhills well – with controlled sustained momentum as well as group-best approach and departure angles (33.3 and 28.2 degrees respectively) aiding its cause.

Also, its suspension was pretty impressive at low and high speeds, smoothing out any sharper irregularities in the terrain – even if we did pitch into them on purpose with a fair bit of gusto.

  • The suspension was pretty impressive at low and high speeds, smoothing out any sharper irregularities in the terrain. The suspension was pretty impressive at low and high speeds, smoothing out any sharper irregularities in the terrain.
  • The Navara N-Trek, is solid and reliable without ever being truly special. The Navara N-Trek, is solid and reliable without ever being truly special.
  • The N-Trek did the climbs and downhills well – with controlled sustained momentum as well as group-best approach and departure angles aiding its cause. The N-Trek did the climbs and downhills well – with controlled sustained momentum as well as group-best approach and departure angles aiding its cause.

In terms of steering, it never felt as lively as the Ranger, but it's not as ponderously heavy as the D-Max. It does take a bit more effort to keep it on track than it does to keep some of the utes here pointed in the right direction.

Yep, it's a bit noisy – that twin-turbo four-cylinder engine is on the wrong side of raucous at low speeds – and, sure, you had to work a bit harder to steer the N-Trek than some of the other utes, but it's certainly capable.

Next up is the Triton which remains one of the quiet achievers in the workhorse realm.

I'm a big fan of Mitsubishi's Super Select II 4X4 system and it didn't disappoint, being so effective and easy to operate.

Even when driven intentionally along the wrong line up and down rocky hills, the Triton managed to tackle everything with minimal fuss. Mostly. (I say "mostly" because hill descent control did at one stage disengage and 'run away' a bit. My boot may have slipped and blipped the throttle, thus kicking it out of its set speed, but I'll never admit to that.)

  • All round, the Triton is pretty dialled in, but it had to work a fraction harder than some of the others here. All round, the Triton is pretty dialled in, but it had to work a fraction harder than some of the others here.
  • I'm a big fan of Mitsubishi's Super Select II 4X4 system and it didn't disappoint, being so effective and easy to operate. I'm a big fan of Mitsubishi's Super Select II 4X4 system and it didn't disappoint, being so effective and easy to operate.
  • Even when driven intentionally along the wrong line up and down rocky hills, the Triton managed to tackle everything with minimal fuss. Even when driven intentionally along the wrong line up and down rocky hills, the Triton managed to tackle everything with minimal fuss.

All round, it's pretty dialled in, but it had to work a fraction harder than some of the others here – only a fraction – and it just didn't feel as composed as the Navara and Ranger, or as capable as the HiLux.

Close behind is the Colorado Z71, which was "about 50 times easier than D-Max on the climb", which is what I said, according to a colleague's notes.

"It's heaps better when crossed up," that same colleague said

We spun tyres a bit at the top of one climb, but overall the Z71's engine and electronics were better than the D-Max's.

  • We spun tyres a bit at the top of one climb, but overall the Z71's engine and electronics were better than the D-Max's. We spun tyres a bit at the top of one climb, but overall the Z71's engine and electronics were better than the D-Max's.
  • The Colorado Z71 was "about 50 times easier than D-Max on the climb" The Colorado Z71 was "about 50 times easier than D-Max on the climb"
  • Steering was also a big improvement over the D-Max's with a more direct feel to it. Steering was also a big improvement over the D-Max's with a more direct feel to it.

Steering was also a big improvement over the D-Max's with a more direct feel to it.

On our first downhill run, we had some issues with hill descent control – it wouldn't engage – but it was much more controlled the second time around – holding our speed at around 3km/h on a short steep section.

The Z71's suspension didn't soak up bumps as well as some of the others in this mob, tending to really thump in and out of some of the more severe wheel ruts and potholes.

Last but not least is the D-Max. I don't mind the D-Max; there's a lot to like about its straight-forward approach to getting the job done but the fact is: it sometimes doesn't get the job done – especially if that job is tackling hard-core off-road terrain – and if it does get the job done, it has a tougher time than its rivals doing so.

  • There's a lot to like about the D-Max's straight-forward approach to getting the job done. There's a lot to like about the D-Max's straight-forward approach to getting the job done.
  • The D-Max's steering was heavy, it felt ponderous, it feels every gram of its weight. The D-Max's steering was heavy, it felt ponderous, it feels every gram of its weight.
  • While the D-Max's 3.0-litre engine is a bit trucking noisy and not the torquiest unit here, it is still a decent goer. While the D-Max's 3.0-litre engine is a bit trucking noisy and not the torquiest unit here, it is still a decent goer.

It worked the hardest of this line-up on what I reckon were easy-to-moderate hill-climbs and downhills, and so it's not a comfortable thing to pilot.

Its steering was heavy – it felt ponderous, it feels every gram of its weight – the engine was noisy, it sometimes scrambled for traction on uphills and lacked controlled momentum on the downhills.

On the plus side, while the D-Max's 3.0-litre engine is a bit trucking noisy and not the torquiest unit here, it is still a decent goer, and this ute's suspension was pretty good, soaking up serious potholes and wheel ruts, even at low speeds.

All of these utes could be swiftly transformed into much more effective off-road trucks with better tyres, aftermarket suspension and diff locks (if they don't already have them).

ModelScore
Ford Ranger XLT Bi-turbo8
Holden Colorado Z717
Isuzu D-Max LS-T6
Mitsubishi Triton GLS Premium7
Nissan Navara N-Trek8
Toyota HiLux SR59

Safety

It's important to note the first row in this table, because you can see all of these utes have a five-star ANCAP rating... but not all of them got it under today's strict criteria. The HiLux is the only one tested under 2019 criteria, though the Triton and Ranger would both theoretically achieve the maximum score. The Colorado, Navara and D-Max all fall well behind the class standard for safety technology, despite having maximum crash test safety scores.

 Ford Ranger XLT Bi-turboHolden Colorado Z71Isuzu D-Max LS-TMitsubishi Triton GLS PremiumNissan Navara N-TrekToyota HiLux SR5
ANCAP score (year)5 star (2015)5 star (2016)5 star (2013)5 star (2015)5 star (2015)5 star (2019)
AEBYesNoNoYesNoYes
Forward collision warningYesYesNoYesNoYes
Lane departure warningYesYesNoYesNoYes
Lane keep assistYesNoNoNoNoYes
Adaptive cruise controlOptionalNoNoNoNoYes
Blind spot monitoringNoNoNoYesNoNo
Rear cross traffic alertNoNoNoYesNoNo
Reversing cameraYesYesYesYesYesYes
Surround view cameraNoNoNoYesYesNo
Parking sensorsFront and rearFront and rearOptionalFront and rearRearOptional
Auto high beam lightsYesNoNoYesNoYes
Digital speedo readoutYesYesNoNoYesNo

As for the technology inclusions, there's a clear last place here - the Isuzu. It's behind the times. The Holden and Nissan are better, but not great.

It's Mitsubishi, Ford and Toyota now duking it out on safety spec - there are some omissions in each of their columns, but the fact that you can finally get advanced safety tech in these utes is welcome. You might prefer blind spot monitoring over lane keeping assistance, or a surround camera over auto high-beam lights - but we're scoring these three equal.

All six utes have ISOFIX child seat anchors, though some miss out on top tether points for all three spots across the back row (Ranger has two for the outboard seats, HiLux has one centrally mounted). Make sure you check the ease of use and fitment if you plan to fit a baby seat - there are some issues you will need to contend with if you do.

ModelScore
Ford Ranger XLT Bi-turbo9
Holden Colorado Z718
Isuzu D-Max LS-T5
Mitsubishi Triton GLS Premium9
Nissan Navara N-Trek7
Toyota HiLux SR59

Ownership

You'll note there's an asterisk alongside two of the warranty periods below - that's because there's some fine print.

The Toyota has a five-year warranty, but it can extend to seven years for the powertrain if you have logbook service history (and it doesn't need to be through Toyota dealers, either). The Mitsubishi has had a promotional seven-year warranty since launch, but it could still be rolled back to a five-year plan at any moment.

 Ford Ranger XLT Bi-turboHolden Colorado Z71Isuzu D-Max LS-TMitsubishi Triton GLS PremiumNissan Navara N-TrekToyota HiLux SR5
WarrantyFive-year/unlimited kmFive-year/unlimited kmSix-year/150,000kmSeven-year/150,000km*Five-year/unlimited kmFive-year/unlimited km*
Capped price servicingLife of carSeven-year/84,000kmSeven-year/105,000kmThree-year/45,000kmSix-year/120,000kmThree-year/60,000km
Service interval12 month/15,000km12 month/12,000km12 month/15,000km12 month/15,000km12 month/20,000km6 month/10,000km
Average annual cost (3 years)$467$405$433$299$629$480
Roadside assistSeven yearsFive yearsSix yearsFour yearsFive yearsNot included

If you want long-term assuredness over service costs, the Ford argues a strong case, even if it does work out to be rather expensive to maintain. The Mitsubishi's short capped price service campaign could be a concern for some, if they can get past the fact it's so cheap to maintain. And the Toyota's short service intervals may be annoying, but it could have something to do with ensuring reliability...

On balance, this section is pretty close. You might prefer longer warranty, longer roadside, cheaper servicing or longer service intervals. But there's not much separating these six utes in broad terms.

ModelScore
Ford Ranger XLT Bi-turbo8
Holden Colorado Z717
Isuzu D-Max LS-T8
Mitsubishi Triton GLS Premium8
Nissan Navara N-Trek7
Toyota HiLux SR57

Verdict

It took us days to complete this test, but coming to a decision over which was the best ute out of these six was a much quicker process.

Our winner is the Ford Ranger XLT Bi-turbo, which feels like the best engineered of these six models, not to mention offering the greatest levels of comfort, control and driving manners across a mix of terrains. It's not as affordable as it arguably should be, but you're paying more because you're getting a better vehicle.

Second was the Mitsubishi Triton GLS Premium, which – across the criteria – offered up some surprises. It offers amazing value for money, and while it could be more polished, the current model is a superb ute for the cash.

Which ute would you have out of this bunch? Which ute would you have out of this bunch?

Third was another surprise – the Nissan Navara N-Trek and Holden Colorado Z71 – these two were tied at the end of our scoring procedure. They both offer a lot of presence for the money, and each has its strengths that makes them both worthy of consideration.

Further behind was the Toyota HiLux SR5, which now thankfully gets the safety gear it should have had for a while, and though it is more accomplished off-road than all of its rivals, it falls short in a number of other ways that lead it to run second-last here.

And in bottom place was the Isuzu D-Max LS-T, which couldn't stack up for refinement, comfort, convenience or value against its rivals. This is still a good ute if you need a workhorse truck, but the top-spec model just can't match its competitors in terms of what you get for your money.

ModelScore
Ford Ranger XLT Bi-turbo8.2
Holden Colorado Z717.3
Isuzu D-Max LS-T6.6
Mitsubishi Triton GLS Premium7.4
Nissan Navara N-Trek7.3
Toyota HiLux SR57.1


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