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Car Buyers' Guide: Family workhorse
By Jack Biddle • 26/01/2014
High-spec utes mix workhorse with family ride
The motto for Sue's husband when it comes to vehicle purchase is "the more extras the better" and at the moment his attention is focused on replacing the family station wagon for a high-spec ute.
The favourite is Ford's Ranger closely followed by the Toyota Hilux and the Volkswagen Amarok - with diesel winning over petrol and seating positions a factor.
"We use our car a lot for both around-town driving and regular trips up and down the country to catch up with family and friends. We also love to go away camping and travel the odd metal road occasionally but nothing too extreme," says Sue.
"I suspect the look of the Ranger is the reason he is getting so excited."
Well Sue, you can blame Ford for your husband's sudden obsession with what was once a rugged workhorse but is now one of the country's top selling vehicles.
While the Ranger looks good, it is still a big vehicle and while it has had the rough edges knocked off it, deep down it is still based around a truck chassis and built to handle the rough stuff.
After your station wagon any ute is going to take a lot of stopping when cornering, for example, and on twisting terrain it will not be as nimble.
The seating position is a definite advantage looking forward, but parking at the supermarket or driving around town could be another story - you definitely need to check that out before committing to buy.
Diesel power you will love on the open road, around town be prepared to put up with the deep clatter that all diesel engines exhibit. If you're travelling over 25,000km a year then the cheaper fuel starts to pay dividends but be prepared for higher service costs (or try and negotiate a service plan) during ownership.
The Ranger makes a good job of striking the balance between a tough workhorse and a refined family vehicle but don't expect exactly the same driving experience as a standard sedan, station wagon or SUV. Sales figures don't lie, however, and the Ranger has obviously taken sales off all three in recent times as well as its direct competition in the commercial class.
The budget $50,000
Let's not forget the Toyota Hilux did actually win the race for top commercial vehicle in 2013 albeit by the narrowest of margins. It grabbed the top spot early on in the year and desperately hung on, despite a blistering finish from the Ranger. Toyota has already come out swinging this year, saying the new edition 2014 model has undergone many upgrades including achieving a five-star safety rating for the 4WD models. Be assured, Toyota will not lie down and let their 32-year domination in this class come to a sudden end. It's going to be an interesting battle for sure.
In comparison to the Ford and Toyota, the Amarok is a lightweight in sales numbers. Its big point of difference is the European badge and if there is one brand making inroads into the New Zealand market at the moment it's VW. More than one buyer has chosen the Amarok because they wanted a ute but were also looking for the individuality and prestige the badge provides.