Which $60k ute should I buy?
I'M IN the market for a dual-cab four-wheel-drive ute for up to $60,000, to commute to work, do the school run, take rubbish to the tip and go off-road once or twice a year.
I want something comfortable and safe for all occupants, including the rear.
Top preference is the Ford Ranger - reviews have been positive but is it really that good?
The Toyota HiLux has a solid reputation but I heard it has harsh suspension. Does the coil spring rear end make the Nissan Navara better to drive?
The VW Amarok seems to be the most car-like but lacks rear airbags - are they coming soon? Which of the above has rear air vents?
You have a good shortlist and you're right to be confused. For all their advances no one ute does everything right. Here's how they compare.
Toyota HiLux SR5 $54,990 drive-away
It just got a new nose - and Toyota has fitted a button to purge the diesel particulate filter to prevent clogging. Suspension was initially a bit firm but this has since been addressed, with subtle changes to improve comfort. Ask the dealer for an SR5 equipped with Michelin rubber (one of three factory fitted tyre brands on the HiLux), which is the pick in my opinion. The SR5 has rear air vents and is one of the few utes with height and reach adjustable steering. At about $8000 off full price, it's a steal. No wonder it's the top seller.
Nissan Navara ST-X $59,000 drive-away
Depending on where you click on Nissan's website, the flagship Navara ST-X auto can also be had for $53,990 drive-away if you're an ABN holder. Be sure to haggle, it was $52,490 drive-away retail last month and with a five-year warranty. It's now back to three years coverage. Despite two suspension upgrades in recent years, the coil rear end doesn't make up for other shortcomings. It's powerful, refined and has rear air vents but it's in the bottom half of the segment in terms of driving comfort. A more basic ST variant - as a 'Black Edition' that adds $8000 of extra gear - is not-so-cheap at $51,190 drive-away with auto but looks tough.
VW Amarok Highline $58,990 drive-away
This is the best dual-cab ute to drive in the $50K-$60K price range. The TDV6, even if you're not looking for power, feels almost car-like to drive and has the best brakes. However, there are no plans to add rear airbags to the current generation Amarok, which rules it out of contention given your criteria. A completely new model is at least three years away.
Ford Ranger Wildtrak $66,000-plus drive-away
The updated Wildtrak busts your budget but there are deals on run-out models nearer $60,000. The updates are worthwhile on the 2019 model-year so haggle hard on the latest Wildrak or step down to the XLT and option the new 2.0-litre twin-turbo diesel with 10-speed auto. It's refined and efficient and won't be working too hard given you don't plan to tow. An XLT with 2.0-litre is about $63,000 drive-away; if you can wait a few months for the hype to subside, aim for $60,000 neat. The Ranger drives well and five-year warranty adds peace of mind but we've had complaints about mechanical faults on 2012 to 2017 models.
The HiLux's sharp price, rock-solid reliability, low running costs and excellent resale value make it a no-brainer. Be sure to get the updated model with the DPF button.