2021 UTE MEGATEST: Ford Ranger XLT vs Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain vs Mitsubishi Triton GLS vs Nissan Navara ST-X vs Toyota Hilux SR5

By: Scott Newman, Byron Mathioudakis, Tom Fraser, Louis Cordony, Evan Spence, Photography by: Ellen Dewar, Alastair Brook and Cristian Brunelli

Presented by

In Wheels and 4x4 Australia's dual-cab ute megatest series, running from May 17 to May 21, we're comparing the premium options among Australia's best-selling pickups.

2021 ute mega test
The Ford Ranger, Isuzu D-Max, Mitsubishi Triton, Nissan Navara and Toyota Hilux, accounted for 13 per cent of the overall new car market

Welcome to the most important test we will conduct all year. In 2020 these five models, the Ford Ranger, Isuzu D-Max, Mitsubishi Triton, Nissan Navara and Toyota Hilux, accounted for 13 per cent of the overall new car market. 

And that’s just the 4x4 versions. Add the less popular 4x2 variants and they account for 15.8 per cent of the market; this means that basically one-in-six new cars sold in Australia is one of these five models. Like I said, important stuff.

As such, we want to get it right, so we’ve put each through the ringer, testing straight-line performance, load-carrying and towing capability, on- and off-road dynamics, infotainment and comfort and convenience, all at the ex-GM Lang Lang proving ground, a venue purpose-built to torture test vehicles.

CONTENDERS 

We’ve lined up our quintet as closely as possible within the realms of manufacturer press fleet availability, so in alphabetical order we’ll start with the Ford Ranger XLT fitted with the optional 2.0-litre bi-turbo engine and 10-speed automatic. 

While its regular RRP is $60,940, at the time of writing the current offer is a tempting $58,990 driveaway. This lines it up very nicely with our next contender, the Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain, which is currently on offer for $59,990 driveaway, a handy saving over its regular $62,900 RRP.

The Mitsubishi Triton GLS significantly undercuts both at a very sharp $48,290 driveaway. We requested a range-topping GSR for price parity but it was sadly unavailable, however the GLS is still very representative of the Triton offering.

The latest Nissan Navara ute priced at $58,270

Our newest contender is the freshly facelifted Navara, here in $58,270 (RRP) ST-X guise. Last but not least is the Toyota Hilux SR5, our most expensive entrant at $59,920 (RRP), though that figure is lifted by a further $3804.50 for the optional steel tray for a total of $63,724.50. All vehicles are fitted with automatic transmissions.

So the question is: if you have around $60,000 to spend on a dual-cab ute – and the sales figures suggest plenty of Australian do! – which one should you buy?

PERFORMANCE, TOWING & BRAKING 

The Ford Ranger towing our turbo taxi

If straight-line performance is important to you there is really only one option. The Ford Ranger XLT is definitely the sprinting star of our assembled group, taking just 8.93sec to hit 100km/h and 5.0sec to shoot from 60-100km/h. 

Its engine may offer just two litres but a pair of turbos help produce a healthy 157kW and 500Nm. It makes a reasonably sporty noise as far as diesels go and there’s an impressive spread of torque, but the star of the show has to be the 10-speed automatic, which always keeps the engine on song. The figures prove the efficacy of this approach and the transmission, in general, does a good job of figuring out which of its myriad ratios it wants at any given moment..

Sadly, the Ranger blots its copybook with sub-standard braking. It wears similar all-terrain tyres to its rivals – in this case Dunlop Grandtreks – but takes more than 42m to come to a stop from 100km/h. That figure blows out to almost 64m on a wet surface (averaged over three runs to account for any surface variation), a poor performance that prevents the Ranger XLT from being the clear performance leader.

Nevertheless, its grunt pays dividends when hauling a load, taking 3.6sec to accelerate from 20-60km/h with a 500kg pallet aboard and 6.0sec when towing Street Machine’s Turbo Taxi Falcon, both figures easily the class of the field.

The D-Max shoots off the line eagerly, even chirping its tyres. This enthusiasm doesn’t last, with acceleration tailing off as speeds increase, but the 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel offers respectable mid-range muscle taking 10.1sec from 0-100km/h and 6.0sec from 60-100km/h for second place..

The facelifted Isuzu D-Max on. the road

It would benefit from more gears than its current six to exploit the engine’s relatively narrow power band. The noise is also a definite reminder of the Isuzu’s workhorse roots, with plenty of diesel clatter at all revs. The impressive grunt helps it with a load aboard, though. Laden acceleration is a respectable 4.0sec from 20-60km/h and 6.9sec when towing.

Dry braking performance is impressive for a vehicle like this, with a consistent and confidence-inspiring sub-40m stop. Wet braking is quite poor at more than 57m and on the final stop, some steering correction is required to keep the D-Max straight despite all electronic stability programs being activated.

The Toyota Hilux’s upgraded engine serves it well. The 2.8-litre four-cylinder diesel now produces 150kW/500Nm (as an automatic; the manual is limited to 420Nm) and it feels every bit of it, pulling strongly through the rev range accompanied by an intense growl.

Not that this seat-of-the-pants sensation is backed up by the data, with a 0-100km/h time of 11.1sec and 60-100km/h effort of 6.0sec. This particular SR5’s accelerative efforts are hampered somewhat by the weight of the steel tray, which adds a whopping 290kg. 

Braking is an SR5 strong suit, with a sub-40m dry stop backed up by an impressive wet performance of just over 50m – the class of the field. It’s unfazed by heavy loads, too; it’s 20-60km/h times of 4.5sec and 7.2sec might not be too impressive but at no point does it feel strained.

The Toyota Hilux SR5 on the road

Nissan’s Navara feels better than the numbers suggest, which is a kind way of saying it’s very slow. Certainly, 0-100km/h in 11.32sec and 6.4sec from 60-100km/h are nothing to crow about. The 2.3-litre twin-turbo four-cylinder diesel isn’t overly powerful at 140kW/450Nm but the seven-speed automatic does make the most of it.

The engine revs keenly to almost 4500rpm, making the Navara feel really quite sprightly and its lacklustre figures all the more surprising. Still, it’s quite a pleasant experience, but is that preferable to a more rugged engine that’s more powerful?

Probably not if you’re lugging heavy stuff about, though the Navara shaved a tenth from the Hilux’s 20-60km/h effort (4.4sec) with a 500kg pallet in the back, but struggled when towing, taking 7.8sec to complete the same increment.

Braking is quite poor, taking well over 40m to stop in the dry, though its mid-50m effort in the wet is more competitive. An unusual case, the Navara: the data is quite damning but from behind the wheel it’s much more impressive.

Last and also least is the Mitsubishi. The Triton also struggled massively during wet braking, its first stop taking more than 76m, which goes to show that in very poor conditions even our tested wet figures can extend considerably. 

This run is an anomaly and ignored, but the Triton’s fortunes don’t improve much, taking an average of almost 63m to stop in the wet; it wears the same Dunlop Grandtrek tyres as the Ranger – coincidence? Its dry deceleration is much more respectable at less than 40m, but acceleration isn’t a Triton strong suit, taking 11.36sec to reach 100km/h from rest and 6.0sec to accelerate from 60-100km/h. 

Outputs 133kW/430Nm from its comparatively small 2.4-litre four-cylinder diesel result in leisurely straight-line performance. The engine doesn’t struggle to haul the Triton’s bulk but is happy to take its time doing so. 

The Triton also struggled massively during wet braking
The Triton also struggled massively during wet braking

Its roll-on acceleration is more competitive but it makes plenty of noise in the process, especially higher in the rev range. Laden acceleration is quite good at 4.2sec from 20-60km/h, but attaching the Turbo Taxi exposes its lack of power again with an 8.2sec result. This is a substantial 2.2sec (or 36.7 per cent!) slower than the Ranger.

It’s not all sunshine and roses for the Ford, though. Its poor braking is alarming, taking a massive 11.02m longer to stop in the wet than the benchmark Hilux. To put it another way, at the point the Hilux stops the Ranger is still travelling at 41.6km/h! 

That figure assumes constant deceleration so shouldn’t be taken as gospel, but even allowing for a significant margin of error it’s clear that the accident the Toyota avoids will be a fairly serious one in the Ford (and Mitsubishi).

It’s a shame, as the Ranger XLT is otherwise very impressive dynamically, clearly the most car-like of our assembled quintet. Like most trucks, the 2197kg XLT wears leaf springs rather than the coils of its Raptor big brother. 

Yet even with a seemingly primitive rear-end spec, the former’s sophistication is palpable, providing beautifully fluent handling, outstanding body control and a downright sumptuous and isolated ride backed up by an outstandingly subtle yet effective ESC calibration at speed over gravel.

Light and easy to manoeuvre, the XLT remains the dual-cab pick-up high-water mark for driver enjoyment and passenger comfort alike. A decade on, the Ranger still shows them all how it’s done and even in its final year can hold its head up high.

The Ranger is also a stand-out for laden composure; its steering does lighten with 500kg in the tray but the chassis remains responsive in tight corners and sails over undulations with encouraging poise. It’s a similar story when towing, with the vehicle retaining its stability through corners and corrugations – you can tell the Ranger was tuned for Australian conditions.

At the other end of the spectrum is the Hilux. It offers easy, eager and responsive steering and surprisingly sure-footed handling but a denture-rattling ride on roads that the others managed with measurably greater finesse. 

It has much more mechanical and tyre-noise intrusion and the stability control remains on high alert on bitumen or gravel. Happily, the situation doesn’t deteriorate when hauling, the Hilux offering stability and confidence-inspiring poise when towing or loaded.

Our other three contestants lie somewhere in the middle. The third-gen D-Max is a huge step over its predecessor and few drivers will complain about the effortless steering that’s nicely weighted for around-town commuting and agile enough for tight-spot parking manoeuvres.

The Ford Ranger XLT going through the mud

It can’t match the Ranger for bump absorption or isolation, but Isuzu’s engineers should be lauded for quelling road and tyre noise while offering a pleasingly soft ride on normal roads. The steering lightens when loaded, though that’s partially a consequence of our 500kg pallet not fitting squarely in the tub thanks to the tonneau’s storage cartridge. With the Turbo Taxi attached the ride if anything improves and the steering feels well balanced.

Ever since the D23-series Navara surfaced in 2014, it has struggled to fulfil the promise of its costly coil-sprung rear end, providing neither the expected agility nor comfort. Happily, the MY21 facelift makes progress, with a wide and planted feel. It’s quite easy to park, too.

The steering remains numb but is well-weighted for more positive handling and roadholding and there’s a newfound plushness to the suspension rather than the lumpy, thumpy ride of old. It doesn’t bother the Ranger, but the Navara is at last sorted. 

This softness counts against it when towing, though, with doughy steering feel and jelly-like suspension and significant sag when loaded. Aftermarket suspension upgrades would be well worth considering if you’re using your Navara for heavy-duty work.

Mitsubishi’s Triton is getting on in years compared to the latest metal but the basic recipe still works ok: consistent competence with just enough engineering nous to keep from falling too far behind.

A tight turning circle and light controls make it relatively agile at slow speeds and it almost seems to shrink around the driver at speed with confident steering and ample grip, though there is ample noise. 

The suspension is proficient enough at dealing with rougher roads and the ESC intervenes gently when required, but the ride can be quite bouncy. The Triton performs well when loaded and absorbs most bumps but the short wheelbase hampers it when towing, pitching into a see-saw motion that’s slightly off-putting. 

This shorter wheelbase is of benefit off-road making the Triton feel very nimble. It’s also packed with clever features, such as Super Select which allows you to run in high-range 4x4 on bitumen which the centre differential unlocked.

The third-gen D-Max is a huge step over its predecessor

It takes a few goes to get the 4x4 system to engage but once it does there are various terrain modes for rock, gravel, mud/snow and sand and the combination of a rear diff lock and traction control means the Triton is a fairly capable unit. 

Isuzu’s D-Max is similarly good but not great. The rear diff lock is a huge advantage compared to the previous generation but unfortunately engaging it cancels the traction control. Wheel travel is decent but the engine is great with plenty of low-down torque and 4x4 engagement is a piece of cake. 

Soft suspension might have hindered the Navara ST-X when lugging loads but it works a treat off-road. It’s nice and flexible and the gearing is also sensational, allowing the Nissan to crawl down steep slopes at a snail’s pace. The heavy steering is a letdown and 4x4 system required a few attempts to engage low range, but with a couple of tweaks the Navara would be a handy off-road performer.

The Navara with the taxi on the trailer

The Ranger is basically a set of tyres away from excellence. The 2.0-litre twin-turbo engine isn’t quite as good as the older 3.2 five-cylinder off-road, but there’s still plenty of torque and the 10-speed automatic has a gear for every occasion. Compliant suspension, excellent steering and impressive traction control allows the Ranger to tackle most off-road obstacles with ease, though the side steps do catch on obstacles. 

Just as the Ford dominates on-road, the Toyota is the king off-road. The Hilux has firmer suspension and heavier steering than the Ranger but its trump card is its traction control, which is nothing short of amazing. 

The second it feels a tyre slip it sends drive to a wheel that can use it. Combine this with sensational gearing, plenty of engine power, great engine braking and super slick 4x4 engagement and you have a brilliantly effective 4x4, even in stock trim.

SAFETY & EQUIPMENT 

The Toyota Hilux SR5 infotainment system

Inside, the Hilux cabin presents a neat and relatively fresh-looking workstation. Clearly designated areas for controls improve functionality while the front seats, which Toyota call high-grade bucket items, fare okay for comfort and support.

Legroom up front is a touch smaller than rivals. Meanwhile, outward visibility is on par with the class average – except smaller rear windows penalise your over-shoulder view on the left side.

The SR5 comes with single-zone climate control, power windows with an auto function on the driver side, keyless entry and start, side steps, heated side mirrors and auto LED headlights but misses out on auto wipers.           

ANCAP awarded the Hilux with a five-star crash safety rating in 2019. Equipped with seven airbags, it sports active safety features like adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist and AEB but forgoes blind-spot monitoring and rear-cross traffic alert.

Meanwhile, out back, occupants must deal with hard and flat seats. These can be hoisted up against the backrests for extra load space and split 60/40. Legroom is on the shorter side compared to rivals. Cup holders in the centre armrest and doors accommodate large bottles.

Both the USB-A and dual 12-volt outlets are situated in the front, leaving rear occupants with air vents, plastic floor mats and 4kg luggage hooks, though there is also a handy 220v outlet. There are also ISOFIX anchorages on both outboard seats. Infotainment in the mid-spec Hilux SR5 is provided through an 8.0-inch central touchscreen display and a 4.2-inch driver info screen within the instrument cluster.

Unlike the higher grade Hiluxes, the SR5 misses out on digital radio and doesn’t equip native satellite navigation, though smartphone mirroring somewhat makes up for that. Functionally, the Hilux’s infotainment is a breeze to use and it is easy to switch between separate screens, while there’s also a home screen that displays key information. The four-speaker stereo is very basic in its ability but the Bluetooth is a quick system to set up and subsequently reconnect to. 

Isuzu DMax new interior

The Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain cabin is dominated by piano black inserts and features more plastic in general. Leather accenting adorns the steering wheel, gear lever, seats and centre console armrest.

Its centre stack layout is clean and functional, while the cluster and steering wheel controls are concise and easy to read. Ultimately, though, the interior looks utilitarian and short on comfort. The seats, both front and back, feel flat.

Outward visibility is average. ANCAP rated the D-Max five stars for crash safety in 2020, explaining why the X-Terrain ticks off every active safety feature under the sun, from adaptive cruise control to rear cross-traffic alert and a rearview camera.

Other equipment is plentiful and includes keyless entry, remote start, auto locking, an eight-way adjustable electric driver’s seat, auto wipers, auto LED headlights with auto high beam, auto driver’s window and dual-zone climate control.

In the back there are two vents and a single USB port to complement the one up front. Rear occupants also score two large cupholders in the doors, two coat hooks and a 4kg bag hook behind the front seat.

X-Terrain on test stocks a 9.0-inch infotainment screen which runs Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and features a smaller digital read-out nestled within the instrument cluster to provide key vehicle information.

Front-seat passengers can connect using one USB-A port or charge up using a single 12-volt outlet, though,, the omission of wireless charging while allowing for wireless smartphone mirroring is a bit of a miss. 

Switching between the native Bluetooth connection and Apple CarPlay is at least straightforward, and the stock eight-speaker sound system is surprisingly decent with crisp and clear audio. The centre screen is prone to some glare but it’s otherwise a simple unit to use thanks to shortcuts along the bottom of the screen.

Nissan Nvara touchscreen display

Although the Navara cabin is starting to look old, the ST-X steps it up for luxury over lower-grade variants with part-leather seats. They are comfy but lack under-thigh support and the footwell is spacious but omits a dead pedal.

The ST-X has keyless entry and keyless start, dual-zone climate control, rear parking sensors, heated door mirrors, auto wipers, leather accents on the steering and gear lever, quad-LED headlights and a tyre pressure monitoring system.

ANCAP rated the Navara five stars for crash safety back in 2015. This updated version includes a full suite of active safety gear that should satisfy the test’s stringent requirements on such technology today. The Navara also packs seven airbags.

The rear bench sits unusually high on firm cushioning and legroom is seriously compromised, important considerations if you’re planning on ferrying around full-size adults. Meanwhile, four cup holders feature, split between the doors and centre armrest. None, however, fit a large bottle.

Convenience wise, rear occupants are treated to two air vents and a single USB port. There are floor mats complemented by an opening flap in the rear windscreen and ISOFIX child seat anchors on the outboard positions.

A large 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment and 7.0-inch digital display between the instrument dials help lift the interior for a more contemporary feel. The Navara’s native infotainment software is fairly simple in functionality and design, though wired smartphone mirroring is available for both Apple and Android users who want more options.

Charge ports are very well catered for; front-row occupants get a choice between two USB-A ports, one USB-C port and two separate 12-volt outlets for charging.

The Bluetooth functionality is simple to tee up initially, and the car will reconnect to your phone within seconds of re-entering the Navara. The touchscreen is also very responsive and FM, AM and digital radio bands are all available.

Off-road information is available through the central display and repurposes the 360-degree surround-view cameras to show various views of the vehicle when off-roading, at up to 10km/h. It’s a useful feature and clever use of existing hardware.

The Triton’s utilitarian character is underlined by its basic cabin. Cloth on the front and rear seats feels cheap to the touch and looks drab, but they’re well cushioned and surprisingly supportive.

With GLS trim comes keyless entry and start, an automatic driver’s side window, parking sensors front and rear with a rear-view camera, dual-zone climate control, automatic headlights and rain-sensing wipers.

Visibility out of the Triton is better than most of its rivals, especially over the right shoulder. However, the upswept glasshouse can pinch vision on the left side.

ANCAP rated the Mitsubishi Triton five stars for safety back in 2015 and the GLS carries seven airbags. Its active safety list includes everything from AEB to rear-cross traffic alert, but it cannot be equipped with adaptive cruise control.

Rear occupant comfort suffers from the short thigh supports and firm back cushioning. There’s good lumbar support, though. Floor mats feature in the rear along with two sets of ISOFIX and top tether anchors.

Practicality wise, the rear doors feature cup holders that hold a large bottle, while the centre armrest has two smaller cup holders that are complemented by two USB ports and ceiling-mounted air vents.

Mitsubishi Triton interior

Mitsubishi’s 7.0-inch infotainment screen does service in the Triton GLS and features both wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability. Interestingly, it doesn’t have its own satellite navigation system but will serve up GPS coordinates if you do ever get stuck in the middle of nowhere.

It has FM, AM and digital radio bands, and features two 12-volt outlets and two USB-A inputs. It also has an HDMI port. While the driver can change audio volume on the steering wheel, touch-sensitive controls on the screen itself will no doubt annoy passengers.

The six-speaker stereo system doesn’t impress, sounding tinny and unrefined. On the plus side, there’s a dedicated ‘Apps’ button that effectively acts as a smartphone mirroring switch, and there are features like keyless entry and dual-zone climate control to keep occupants happy.

Overall, the Ranger XLT presents a functional workstation that’s ergonomically sound. The seats are more comfortable than some other Ford commercial vehicles, such as the Transit, but they are still average. It’s worse up back, though, where the rear seats lack contouring and support on firm cushions.

Legroom is class-leading for rear occupants. The front footwells are also generously sized. Features-wise, the XLT makes do with manual seat adjustment but has cloth seats, carpet floor coverings, auto headlights and wipers, a leather steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, one-touch power window on the driver’s side and keyless entry.

The Ranger scored five stars in ANCAP crash testing back in 2015, but its equipment list in this area is far from comprehensive. The XLT misses out on blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and adaptive cruise control. It features six airbags. Meanwhile, forward visibility is okay and even bettered by over-shoulder visibility on both sides.

The Ford Ranger XLT is a beast

Practicality is improved for rear occupants by large cup holders in the doors. But the absence of USB ports or ventilation back there is redeemed by a 12-volt power supply, 230-volt inverter and a centre armrest with two small cup holders. For child seats there are also two sets of ISOFIX and upper anchorage points.

Ford’s SYNC3 infotainment system is viewed through the same 8.0-inch touchscreen. That means all the app integration goodness including Spotify and AccuWeather, but also a swathe of FordPass features that control items like remote air-conditioning priming, remote unlock and a vehicle locator function.

Slow-to-respond SYNC3 systems are a known problem, but it seems to be luck of the draw whether an individual car is affected and this test car has no issues. Users report the problem is easily fixed by rebooting the system.

 

In addition to the 8.0-inch main screen, the Ranger also features two multi-function TFT displays within the instrument cluster that can provide handy access to information from various systems such as navigation or phone. 

This level of customisation is a unique feature that few dual-cab ute rivals can match. Also unique to the Ranger is a USB port near the rearview mirror that’s designed for dashcam connectivity.

SERVICING COSTS

The best-selling Ford Ranger being tested in Australia

Servicing for the Ranger XLT is capped at $299 for the first four services before getting more expensive for the remaining eight 15,000km intervals. In order to receive seven years of roadside assistance benefits, Rangers must be maintained at participating Ford service centres where each consecutive visit will award a further 12-month membership to the brand’s program.

The Ford Ranger XLT is covered by a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty and according to Glass’s Guide data, after three years a Ranger XLT will retain 56 per cent of its purchase price. 

If there’s one thing we know about the Toyota Hilux, it’s that you’ll fare comparatively well when it comes time to sell. Like the Ranger, the Hilux SR5 is said to retain 56 per cent of its value after three years. 

Every part, panel and factory-fitted accessory of the Toyota Hilux SR is warranted for five years/unlimited kilometres. Servicing can be arranged through the myToyota smartphone application.

Each of the first four visits to Toyota’s service centres will set you back $250. As a bonus, if you stick to Toyota’s 10,000km/six-month service intervals, Toyota will include an extra two years of driveline warranty. Pricing for Toyota’s roadside assistance program begins at $89 per year.

The Toyotoa Hilux is still a major seller in Aus

The Navara ST-X is covered for five years/unlimited kilometres under Nissan’s warranty program and roadside assistance is also provided for the first five years of ownership. Nissan caps the cost of the first six services which occur at 20,000km intervals. After three years from the date of first delivery, the Nissan Navara is expected to retain 53 per cent of its initial value. 

Isuzu’s after-sales offering is impressive, with a six-year/150,000km warranty, seven years of roadside assistance and seven years of capped price servicing, which includes a complimentary three-month or 3000km inspection

Each subsequent service will occur at 12-month or 15,000km intervals – whichever comes first. Both the capped price servicing and warranty are transferrable to subsequent owners and X-Terrain is expected to retain 49 per cent of its value after the first three years. 

No other manufacturer can beat Mitsubishi when it comes to warranty cover, though. Its generous 10-year/200,000km warranty applies to its Triton GLS, though you must service through the Mitsubishi-approved service network throughout the vehicle’s life.

That’s not such a bad thing, as Mitsubishi offers 10-year/150,000km capped price servicing to match, but note that servicing schedule falls 50,000km short of its 200,000km warranty, meaning owners will have to front-up to full price for the final 50,000km worth of servicing to maintain their warranty.

For owners who go elsewhere for their Triton servicing during the first decade of ownership, the warranty will halve to a five-year/100,000km warranty. Roadside assistance is included as a courtesy for the first four years as long as the Triton is serviced through Mitsubishi’s network. While the Triton is by far the cheapest ute here, its resale is also the worst, with an expected retained value of 47 per cent after the first three years.

The Mitsubishi Triton has a five-year/100,000km warranty

MOST POPULAR DUAL-CAB UTES RANKED

In the final reckoning it’s the Mitsubishi Triton that brings up the rear in this comparison, but it’s not quite that simple. As many dual-cab utes have increased in price and specification, it’s allowed the Triton to carve out a value-for-money niche, sitting above challenger brands like the Ssangyong Musso and GWM ute but below more expensive rivals like those here.

With that in mind we’d forget about the upper reaches of the Triton range and stick to a GLX ADAS or GLX+, which will leave you with a capable and affordable no-frills dual-cab with the peace of mind of Mitsubishi’s industry-leading warranty. If you’re on a more modest budget, it’s easy to recommend.

Next in line is the Navara ST-X. Kudos to Nissan for undergoing a constant process of improvement in an effort to rectify the shortcomings of the most recent generation, particularly in the area of suspension. It’s a solid performer in all areas, bar perhaps its ability to carry loads, without being a standout in any specific category. It’s not a bad ute by any means, but there are better offerings.

The Navara next to its competitors

Happy news for the tens of thousands of Aussies that bought a Hilux last year: it’s a good ’un. The upgraded powertrain is impressive and while it still trails the best in terms of on-road dynamics, it’s brilliant off-road, unfazed by towing or heavy loads, is competitive in terms of running costs and drives well enough. 

Then there’s the kicker. Not only does a Hilux offer top-notch resale, there’s still the Toyota factor, that wherever you go in this wide, brown land you’re likely to find parts and support. It’s a tough thing to measure in a comparison, but it matters to buyers.

Well done, Isuzu, it’s the most improved award for you. From stone motherless-last in our last dual-cab megatest the D-Max is now a real player. It’s now the industry leader in terms of safety equipment, continues its reputation of offering a grunty, dependable drivetrain along with vastly enhanced dynamics and a much nicer interior.

There’s still room to improve off-road and we’re not sure the range-topping X-Terrain is the sweet spot of the range, but it’s an excellent dual-cab offering.

All hail the king, the Ford Ranger XLT Bi-Turbo. The only real blot on its copybook is its terrible braking performance, which is unacceptable for a vehicle that’s increasingly being used as family transportation.

The New Isuzu Dmax has sold well since its release
 

Nevertheless, Ford’s evergreen ute still leads the pack in terms of performance and on-road dynamics (and it’s not particularly close), it’s excellent off-road and when carrying loads, has cutting-edge (for this segment) infotainment, great resale and decent aftersales support.

The interior is feeling its age but then the Ranger has been around a long time now. And that should be the scary thing for its competitors, for the all-new Ranger is less than a year away. 

 

Verdict

 

1st – Ford Ranger XLT Bi-Turbo

 

Likes: benchmark driving experience; impressive in all areas

 

Dislikes: dreadful braking performance; ageing interior

 

8/10

 

2nd – Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain

 

Likes: safety kit; grunty engine; much improved dynamics

 

Dislikes: low-range performance; enough of a leap forward?

 

7.5/10

 

3rd – Toyota Hilux SR5

 

Likes: strong engine; brilliant off-road; towing performance

 

Dislikes: could be better dynamically; lacks some equipment

 

7.5/10

 

4th – Nissan Navara ST-X

 

Likes: Smooth engine; improved suspension; capable off-road

 

Dislikes: needs more grunt; suspension still struggles with loads

 

7/10

 

5th – Mitsubishi Triton GLS

 

Likes: good value; benchmark warranty; solid in all areas

 

Dislikes: no standout talents; lacks engine performance

 

7/10

 

Specifications

 

Ford Ranger XLT 2.0 Bi-Turbo

Body: 4-door, 5-seat ute

Drive: rear-/all-wheel

Engine: 1996cc inline-4cyl diesel, DOHC, 16v, turbo

Bore/stroke: 84 x 90mm

Compression: 16:1

Power: 157kW @ 3750rpm

Torque: 500Nm @ 1750-2000prm

Fuel economy: 7.4L/100km (combined/claimed)

0-100km/h: 8.93sec (tested)

Weight: 2197kg

Power/weight: 72kW/tonne

Transmission: 10-speed automatic

Towing: 750kg (unbraked); 3500kg (braked)

Payload: 954kg

Suspension: struts, A-arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar (f); leaf springs, anti-roll bar (r)

L/W/H: 5446/1867/1821mm

Wheelbase: 3220mm

Tracks: 1560mm (f/r)

Steering: electrically assisted rack-and-pinion

Brakes: 310mm ventilated discs, single-piston calipers (f); 295mm drums ® 

Wheels: 17 x 7.5-inch (f/r)

Tyres: 265/65R17 112T (f/r) Dunlop Grandtrek AT 

Price: $58,990 driveaway ($60,490 RRP)

 

Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain

Body: 4-door, 5-seat ute

Drive: rear-/all-wheel

Engine: 2999cc inline-4cyl diesel, DOHC, 16v, turbo

Power: 140kW @ 3600rpm

Torque: 450Nm @ 1600-2600rpm

Fuel economy: 8.0L/100km (combined/claimed)

0-100km/h: 10.1sec (tested)

Weight: 2130kg

Power/weight: 66kW/tonne

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Towing: 750kg (unbraked), 3500kg (braked)

Payload: 970kg

L/W/H: 5280/1880/1811mm

Wheelbase: 3125mm

Tracks: 1570mm (f/r)

Fuel tank: 76 litres

Fuel economy: 9.7L/100km (as tested)

Suspension: struts, A-arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar (f); leaf springs, dampers, anti-roll bar (r)

Steering: electrically assisted rack-and-pinion

Turning circle: 12.5m (3.8 turns lock-to-lock)

Brakes: 320mm ventilated discs (f); 295mm rear drums ®

Wheels: 18 x 8.0-inch (f/r)

Tyres: 265/60 R18 110T (f/r) Bridgestone Dueler H/T 684II

Price: $59,990 driveaway ($62,900 RRP)

 

Mitsubishi Triton GLS

Body: 4-door 5-seat

Drive: rear-/all-wheel

Engine: 2442cc inline-4cyl diesel, 16v, DOHC, turbo

Bore/stroke: 86.0 x 105.1mm

Compression: 15.5:1

Power:133kW @ 3500rpm

Torque: 430Nm @ 2500rpm

Fuel economy: 8.6L/100km (claimed/combined)

0-100km/h: 11.36sec

Weight: 1990kg

Power/weight: 69kW/tonne

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Towing: 750kg (unbraked) 3100kg (Braked)

Payload: 910kg

Suspension: double-wishbones, coil springs, anti-roll bar (f), leaf spring (r)

L/W/H: 5305/1815/1795mm

Wheelbase: 3000mm

Tracks: N/A

Steering: electrically assisted rack-and-pinion

Brakes: 320mm ventilated discs, single-piston calipers (f), 295mm drums (r)

Wheels: 18 x 7.5-inch (f/r)

Tyres: 265/60 R18 110H Dunlop Grandtrek

Price: $47,640

 

Nissan Navara ST-X

Body: 4-door, 5-seat 

Drive: rear-/all-wheel

Engine: 2298cc inline-4cyl diesel, DOHC, 16v, twin-turbo

Bore/stroke: 85.0 x 101.3mm

Compression: 15.4:1

Power: 140kW @ 3750rpm

Torque: 450Nm @ 1500-2500rpm 

Fuel economy: 7.9L/100km (claimed/combined)

0-100km/h: 11.32sec

Weight: 2134kg

Power/weight: 66kW/tonne

Transmission: 7-speed automatic 

Towing: 750kg (unbraked) 3500kg (with brakes)

Payload: 1000kg

Suspension: double wishbones, coil springs, anti-roll bar (f), multilinks, coil springs (r)

L/W/H: 5311/1850/1830mm

Wheelbase: 3150mm

Tracks: 1570mm (f/r)

Steering: electrically assisted rack-and-pinion

Brakes: ventilated discs (f), drums (r)

Wheels: 18 x 7.0-inch (f/r)

Tyres: 255/60 R18 108H Toyo Open Country

Price: $58,270

 

Toyota Hilux SR5

Body: 4-door, 5-seat ute

Drive: rear/all-wheel

Engine: 2755cc inline-4cyl diesel, DOHC, 16v, turbo

Bore/stroke: 95.0 x 95.0mm

Compression:15.6:1

Power:150kW @ 3400rpm

Torque: 500Nm@ 1600-2800rpm

Fuel economy: 7.8L/100km (Claimed/combined)

0-100km/h: 11.1sec (tested)

Weight: 2383kg

Power/weight: 63kW/tonne

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Towing: 750kg (unbraked) 3500kg (braked)

Payload: 995kg

Suspension: double wishbones, coil springs, anti-roll bar (f); leaf springs (r)

L/W/H: 5330/1800/1815mm

Wheelbase: 3085mm

Tracks:1510mm (f/r)

Steering:  hydraulically assisted rack-and-pinion

Brakes: 319mm ventilated discs, single-piston calipers (f); 295mm drums (r)

Wheels: 18 x 7.5-inch (f/r)

Tyres: 265/60 R18 110H (f/r) Bridgestone Dueler H/T 684

Price: $59,920 (as tested $63,724.50)

 

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