New utes on a $40K budget? Here's what our car journos would buy
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DRIVEN's headquarters is, generally, one rolling ongoing argument after another about all things four-wheeled. Whether it's cars currently on test or rose-tinted memories from years gone by, the next passionate vehicular debate is never far away.
It made sense to take this excitable energy and turn it into something (hopefully) useful. As such, welcome to DRIVEN's new online content series (published each Monday), where we pick out the cars that we would actually buy with our cold hard cash.
After going through which high-performance SUV we'd pick last week, we're reeling in the aspirations and choosing a ute that can be bought new for under $40,000. While this might not seem like a lot for a double-cab ute, there's a lot to choose from, and a lot to consider.
Editor, Dean Evans: Mitsubishi Triton 2WD GLX-R
Sub-$40k is a real crossover territory for double-cab utes, because there’s the appeal of top-spec Chinese/Korean utes with less brand credentials and resale but more equipment, or going with a known brand – Toyota, Ford, Mitsubishi – but at a lower-spec level. So on the surface, there are a lot of options in different ways.
We covered off our choice of double-cab utes (without a budget cap) a while back, leaning towards the Nissan Navara ST-X, but at $54k, it’s out of this week’s budget. And while the SsangYong Rhino made a lasting impression, I’ve been scooped again by David, claiming it as his choice. But maybe that’s a good thing? I’m tempted by the LDV T60 Luxury auto, at $35,990 for the top-spec, plus it also gets $3000 of extras until the end of August.
By coincidence,that same $3k extra also buys what is my choice this week, a Mitsubishi Triton GLX-R auto. I only need the 2WD model, and at $38,990 (Mitsubishi’s ‘On Special’ price), it also includes climate control and a six-speed auto.
It doesn’t get radar cruise control, but standard cruise is fine for the odd motorway trip for supplies, and there’s a great offering of power, torque, equipment, ride, looks and comfort. We should know, we spent time with our Triton long-termer earlier this year.
The 2.4-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder looks small on paper, but serves up 135kW/437Nm, and just 8.4l/100km, from a large 75-litre tank, for a theoretical range of just under 900km per tank, and a realistic one of 800km.
The 2WD model offers three-tonne towing, which is plenty for my needs, and a seven-inch touchscreen with Apple Car Play to tick another of my boxes.
The Triton potentially combines the best of both worlds, combining resale value in the league of the Hilux, the appeal of being well-equipped and the price of the Chinese equivalents.
Deputy Editor, David Linklater: Ssangyong Rhino XL
One of the big problems in choosing a ute is that there’s a huge danger you’ll end up being like everybody else. Driving a Ford Ranger or Toyota Hilux, in other words. I don’t want that, no matter how good they are.
My favourite ute is actually one that delivers a lot for a $40k budget… but that’s not the primary reason it’s my favourite ute.
Just $38,990 gets you a SsangYong Rhino XL with the 2.2-litre turbo diesel engine and 4WD. It’s not even like you have to be content with poverty specification. That money gets you the Sport model (a petrol 2WD is even cheaper, from $27,990).
There are two things I especially love about the Rhino. First, SsangYong reverse-engineered the ute from the Rexton SUV and it shows. It’s good to drive (still tough with a ladder chassis though) and pretty swish inside.
Second, most double-cab utes are useless at the thing I would really want one for: mountain biking. The trays are just too short to fit a 29in MTB in the back unless you remove the front wheel (even then it’s a squeeze if there’s more than one) or hang them over the tailgate (as seems to be the current fashion).
That’s where a Rhino XL comes in. It has an extra 300mm on the tray over the standard ($36,990) Sport 4WD, which not only makes it look outlandish, it also provides easy parking for a large MTB. It’s the longest tray in the double-cab one-tonne segment and even more useful because the wellside is tall: 570mm compared with 500mm for a Ranger. Sold.
Digital Writer, Andrew Sluys: Toyota Hilux PreRunner SR
It’s almost impossible to talk about utes in New Zealand without mentioning the humble Toyota Hilux.
As Dean stated, $40,000 is an awkward amount on the ute market, and in the Hilux line-up, you’re going to have to settle for a 2WD model, as the 4WDs start from $44,490. Once you realize that living with a 2WD is perfectly fine, there are a few Hilux models to choose from, including my pick; the $38,990 PreRunner SR.
Under the hood sits the familiar 2.8-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder that’s low on power (130kW), but big on torque (420Nm). Exclusively available with a six-speed manual transmission, this aspect may not appeal on the daily commute, but wins points in the driving enjoyment standings.
An array of safety systems such as AEB and lane departure assist is included at the sub-$40K price alongside dynamic radar cruise control. On the inside, you’ll find a 7-inch touchscreen display with Bluetooth connectivity, and a CD player, which is quite a novelty in 2020.
While it isn’t really a consideration for most when buying new, but the resale value on these utes is extraordinary, only trumped by Toyota’s iconic Land Cruiser.
On top of all this, you’re buying Toyota’s reputation as one of the most reliable brands around, and the Drive Happy scheme means five years capped servicing, roadside assistance, and WOF coverage (if scheduled servicing is met) is also thrown in for that $38,990 price.