Utes have never been more popular in Australia with new models of the workhorses evolving into comfortable, family-friendly rides equipped with the latest gadgets.
Formerly the domain of tradies and farmers, utes are now hugely popular with a wider market and now account for more than one in five new car sales in Australia.
Competition between manufacturers is also heating up with the top-selling Toyota Hilux being upgraded and new challengers such as the Isuzu D-Max taking on old favourites like Ford’s Ranger.
Formerly the domain of tradies, utes are gaining traction with a wider market and now account for more than one in five new car sales in Australia (pictured: the Ford Ranger XLT interior)
Utes have never been more popular in Australia with new models of the workhorses evolving into comfortable, family-friendly rides equipped with the latest gadgets (pictured: the Toyota Hilux entertainment screen)
ISUZU D-MAX X-TERRAIN
The new D-Max has seen a huge leap forward in design with the impressive looking four-seater featuring leather, a nine-inch touchscreen, and smart key entry.
Along with these the $58,990 model, one of the cheapest among the competitors, also has wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Servicing is also great value at under $2,000 for five years and an extra year of warranty is also included in the purchase price taking the coverage to six years or 150,000km.
The $58,990 D-Max model, one of the cheapest among the competitors, also has wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (pictured)
Safety features include blind-spot warning, active cruise control, auto-braking, rear cross traffic alert and a centre front airbag – a roller cover also comes standard to keep the tray contents secure.
These features combined with the powerful 3.0 litre turbo diesel engine under the hood should see the new Isuzu giving the established players in the market a run for their money.
Down sides include the six-speed auto transmission, which has been known to jolt when switching from sixth to fifth, suspension which can feel a little unstable at lower city speeds, and less than snappy steering.
TOYOTA HILUX SR5
The Hilux is the top-selling ute in the country – a favourite for tradies focused on getting the job done, but the new model features some welcome luxuries.
The four-seater also has the Apple and Android connectivity but leather seats with electric adjustment will cost an extra as part of a $2,500 add-on pack.
Cost is around the $65,000 mark for the auto SR5 with servicing costing an $500 a year for the first three years and increasing after that.
The Hilux (pictured) is the top-selling ute in the country – a favourite for tradies focused on getting the job done, but the new model features some welcome luxuries
While the SR5 has emergency braking, speed sign recognition, and active cruise control, it lacks rear cross traffic and blind spot alert.
The cabin is functional if unimpressive while the engine has been boosted to 150kW of power and 500Nm of torque.
The is also some road noise that leaks into the cabin, however, a major plus is the resale value with the model popular for second hand purchasers.
FORD RANGER XLT
The Ranger has been around the longest but consistently sells in high volumes with the new model featuring some futuristic touches.
FordPass allows the driver to use an app to unlock the car and start the engine while active noise-cancelling which emits frequencies through the speakers that minimise cabin noise.
The Ranger (pictured) has been around the longest but consistently sells in high volumes with the new model featuring some futuristic touches
The four-seater also has the best steering of the bunch, a powerful 3.2 litre engine that can be upgraded to a twin-turbo, and includes a 10-speed auto transmission that glides smoothly between gears.
There is no electric seat adjustment, leather trim or active cruise control but it does features stop-start functionality to save on petrol.
The price is around the $65,700 mark with upgraded 18-inch wheels and the 2.0 twin-turbo engine.
RAM 1500 EXPRESS
American based RAM is a new player in Australia, and while not edging out other best-sellers like the Mitsubishi Triton, it has found a niche with sales in Australia steadily rising.
The ute is bigger than the other 4x4s – owing to it’s American muscle heritage – with a price tag to match at around $89,000.
The 2020 Express model features a Hemi V8 engine and a superior 4.5 tonne tow rating compared with others in the market.
Other features include 20-inch alloy wheels and an eight-speed torque converter automatic transmission for snappy driving despite it’s hulking frame.
American based RAM (pictured) is a new player in Australia, and while not edging out other best-sellers like the Mitsubishi Triton, it has found a niche with sales in Australia steadily rising
Gadgets include keyless entry, dual-zone climate control, Apple and Andriod connectivity, USB ports , and a six-speaker entertainment system.
One of the biggest advantages is the spacious four-seater cabin and huge tray suitable for tradies and recreational activities such as trailbiking or jetskiing.
The engine, the crown-jewel of the 1500, features cylinder deactivation which shuts off four of the eight cylinders when not in use to save petrol.
City driving is suprisingly smooth with the V8 barely ticking over while out on the open highway it grows to a deep roar with the accelerator down.
Safety features include active cruise control, front and side curtain airbags, traction control, hill-start assist, and rear parking sensors.
The tech-friendly interior of the RAM 1500 (pictured) offers comfort along with a powerful V8 Hemi engine