Why are utes so popular?
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Utes used to be a popular choice of vehicle for farmers and tradespeople because of their payload, size and reliability. However, these features alone no longer cut the mustard with today’s consumers demanding a multi-functional vehicle.
As is the case with most vehicles, utes are arriving fully equipped with the same level of features as passenger cars and the latest safety technologies, making them a far more versatile vehicle and popular choice for families and drivers with towing requirements.
Utes in today’s market are much more than a humble work horse.
Many utes still use a traditional ladder chassis, however manufacturers have improved soundproofing and suspension systems, which can adapt to changing loads. That means no more bouncing around in your seat like a beach ball when driving your ute without a load.
Some models incorporate electronic power steering, making parking easier and offering firmer steering when on the open road.
Adaptive cruise control is also widely available, perfect for when you’re stuck in traffic on your way home from a family getaway.
Lean-burning turbo diesel units are popular and, considering the size and weight of these vehicles, offer a surprising amount of power and impressive fuel economy. Some manufacturers also offer refined, quiet V6 diesel engines.
Though some may find driving these larger vehicles daunting, technology such as parking sensors and cameras help to make the driver’s life a little easier.
Driving a ute now feels just like driving a car thanks to automatic transmissions and better ride quality in most model ranges.
Utes feature plenty of the latest safety technologies. In order to compete against the increasingly popular SUV market, utes had to adapt and be comfortable and safe for occupants.
This has resulted in better occupant protection through side and knee airbags and collision avoidance systems, which allow them to achieve competitive safety ratings.
It’s not just the safety features that are helping utes maintain their strong position in the new car market. All the visual trimmings from SUVs are creeping in,too.
Utes now commonly have electric seats, leather upholstery, stitched dashboards, cooling compartments and other options. The interior attention to detail, increased passenger space in double-cab models, elaborate infotainment systems and USB charging plugs have great appeal for drivers with families.
In 2016, a year that saw a 9.5 per cent increase in new vehicle registrations, the popular Ford Ranger maintained its position as New Zealand’s top-selling vehicle for the second year running, having bumped the Toyota Corolla down to second place in 2015.
Not only that but utes made up half of the vehicles in the top 10. In other words, the dominance of utes in the market shows no sign of waning. In fact, if you’ve previously considered a ute to be an addition or alternative to the household’s passenger vehicle, it may be time to think again and revisit the market.
There may well be better equipped and more practical models out there compared to the last time you looked, and you could potentially end up saving money normally spent maintaining and running two vehicles.