The current King of ute sales, the Ranger is all kinds of impressive wrapped up in a big, handsome package. The 147kW/470Nm 5-cylinder diesel engine is an absolute hauler and all models come with a choice of manual or automatic six-speed transmissions. Fantastic to drive and well built, it is easy to see why the Ranger won over kiwi ute buyers last year. A facelift model is due shortly.
Price range - $41,140 to $67,140
Once popular, but now very old and out of favour, the venerable Falcon now doesn’t even rate a mention on the Ford NZ website. Still technically available in sporty XR6 (195kW/391Nm) form if you REALLY want one, the Falcon ute breathes its last at the same time as the sedan when production finishes next year.
Price range - $46,340
Using licensed big-name technology (such as Bosch, Cummins, Getrag and Dana) the Foton Tunland packs a 120kW/360Nm four-cylinder Cummins diesel engine that is punchy and strong. Easily topping the pack of Chinese product, the Tunland also tops the price range, but still considerably undercuts the Japanese and European competition. Well specced and great value for money, all Tunlands now come equipped with stability control.
Price range - $24,989 to $34,989
Incredibly cheap and surprisingly handsome (in a dated way), the Great Wall V Series ute is more of a challenger to a second hand Hilux or Ranger than a new one. That still gets you a brand new Chinese ute that packs either a 100kW/200Nm petrol four-cylinder engine or a 105kW/310Nm diesel. Quality is far from the best, but then they are ridiculously cheap, so you get what you pay for. Pricing below is for current models as the local distributor is still negotiating the price of ESC-equipped models.
Price range - $19,990 to $29,990
The Colorado was very much on the back foot at its initial launch and struggled in the face of the excellence of the Ford Ranger, Mazda BT-50 and VW Amarok. But Holden has lifted its game dramatically in the past few years, bring the Colorado back into contention. The 147kW/440Nm (500Nm in class-leading automatic form) is still noisy, but incredibly strong. While the colorado lacks sophistication on the road, off it it is almost unstoppable. Quality has improved drastically in recent models and while still not up to class-leading levels, it does make the Colorado a far more compelling choice.
Price range - $39,990 to $61,990
The dear old Commodore is set to suffer the same fate as the Ford Falcon ute when it ends production in 2017. Like the Falcon, it too is an out-dated design that people really don’t want or need anymore. Unlike the Falcon, however, it has remained up to date and modern, albeit not as modern as its sedan sibling. Still, the 210kW/350Nm V6 is smooth and strong, while the 260kW/517Nm V8 is refined and unnecessarily powerful for a ute... that doesn’t mean we don’t love it though!
Price range - $48,990 to $62,990
The cousin of the Colorado has actually long offered a better choice than the Holden in the ute segment, with a better interior and a more handsome nose on the same body. The smaller, less powerful (3.0-litre 130kW/380Nm 4-cylinder diesel) engine might hurt it on paper, but in reality the difference is nowhere near as vast as it might seem, with the Isuzu being quieter and more refined than the Colorado as well.
Price range - $36,890 to $60,990
Land Rover Defender
Defining the term “venerable” the Defender has been around seemingly forever. Unrepentantly ancient, the Defender is still incredibly capable off road and the pick up version is available in 110 (single cab/chassis) and 130 (double cab wellside) wheelbase options, both with a 2.2-litre 90kW/360Nm diesel engine.
Price range - $60,500 to $70,500
Often overlooked because of its more “challenging” looks, the BT-50 actually offers a better value-for-money option than the all-conquering Ford Ranger, while still packing the same fantastic abilities and refinement. Packing the same 147kW/470Nm 5-cylinder diesel engine and transmissions as the Ranger, the Mazda adds a diff lock as standard on all 4WD BT-50s. The BT-50 even boasts a better interior to the Ranger.
Price range - $35,295 to $62,395
The new Triton deftly manages to tread the line between retaining a similarity to the old model and actually looking good! The all new 135kW/437Nm 2.4-litre four-cylinder diesel engine is strong and impressively flexible, while the six-speed manual transmission is a pleasant unit. The lack of ratios in the 5-speed auto is a mystery though. Coming complete with the best warranty in the ute game (Mitsubishi's 10 year warranty), the new Triton is a compelling package.
Price range - $34,790 to $59,490
Like the new Mitsubishi Triton, the new Navara makes use of a heavily revised version of the last vehicle's chassis, but neither are the worse for that. In fact, the fact that wellside versions of the new Navara now come with coil-spring rear suspension (but retain the leaf-sprung version’s towing and cargo capacity) means that its ride is better than ever, not to mention handling. The Navara also gets an impressive new Renault-developed 140kW/450Nm 4-cylinder diesel engine that is both smooth and powerful, while the new six-speed automatic and manual transmissions are massive improvements.
Price range - Prices announced shortly
The SsangYong has gone from the uglly duckling of the ute segment to, if not the Disney princess, then at least the handsome, but slightly awkward sidekick. Massively improved looks that came from the last update finally offered a look to match the Actyon's excellent on-road dynamics. The Mercedes-derived four-cylinder diesel engine is far from the most powerful in the segment, and it does require a fair bit of stirring along, but it is refined and econiomical. It is starting to show its age now, however, but sharp pricing keeps it competitive.
Price range - $27,025 to $41,990
The fact that the Hilux ran the Ranger so close in the race for the lead of the ute market last year - and even beat it in the 4WD segment - is particularly impressive when you consider just how old it is. Now in its 11th year, the current Hilux has run four years past Toyota's usual seven year model cycle, but finally a replacement is imminent. On paper (and in the metal) the all-new Hilux is simply a massive improvement over the old one. A new 130kW/420Nm (450Nm with an auto trans) 2.8-litre diesel four cylinder (that will debut locally in the facelifted Prado first) promises massive improvements in refinement and, if it delivers, will match a sleek, modern body and what could likely be the best interior in the ute segment. The prices below are for the current model - the new one is expected to be launched before the end of the year.
Price range - $38,290 to $65,290
Toyota Land Cruiser 70
Almost as long-running as the Land Rover Defender, the 70 Series is equally unstoppable off the road, but it is actually reasonably good to drive on it as well. It's absolute trump card, however, is the mighty 4.5-litre 151kW/430Nm turbo diesel V8. Purposely powerful on the road and almost literally unstoppable in low range off it, the engine alone overcomes the Land Cruiser's lack of other creature comforts and refinement.
Price range - $68,380 to $74,580
The ute that shook up the entire segment when it launch is still a compellingly good option. While it lacks the competition's big, lazy torque, the comparatively small 2.0-litre 132kW/400Nm (103kW/340Nm in the base 2WD model) four-cylinder diesel is superbly smooth, powerful and economical. While it is at the pricier end of the segment, the sheer car-like refinement and handling, as well as the fantastic interior also have it ranking highly in the segment as well.