Four of the best dual-cab utes, a comparison guide

Moving Well | Tim Nicholson | Posted on 02 October 2019

Battle of the dual-cab utes: a comparison guide to four of Australia’s top selling models.

Buyer preferences in the automotive sector have shifted dramatically in the past 20 years. Back in 1999, the two top-selling models were the Australian-built Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon sedan and wagon ranges. 

Fast forward to 2019 and the most popular vehicle in Australia is Toyota’s HiLux ute, closely followed by Ford’s Ranger pickup. Mitsubishi’s Triton is also a top-10 player, while Holden’s Colorado ute is the brand’s best-selling model by some margin. And it is not just tradies buying these vehicles. Along with SUVs, dual-cab utes are fast becoming the family car of choice. They have the high ride height of an SUV but offer the versatility of a massive tray and the flexibility of five seats, while four-wheel drive adds off-road ability.

The increase in popularity of these weekend warriors means manufacturers have had to lift their game in terms of cabin comfort and safety features. We take a look at four of the top picks in the segment.

Front view of a blue Ford Ranger dual-cab ute

Ford Ranger


Front view of a white Holden Colorado dual-cab ute

Holden Colorado


Four of Australia’s top-selling utes, compared


 
Ford Ranger ($28,340 to $75,990)

Thumbs up: Rugged design and excellent powertrains help elevate the Ranger above many of its rivals.
Thumbs down: Can get pricey depending on the variant and it’s showing its age in some areas.

Ford’s Ranger may be getting on in years, but it remains one of the best drives in the segment, with plenty of grunt and space. Designed and engineered in Australia, the Ranger is so popular that it makes up a whopping 63 per cent of all Ford’s Australian sales. 

Rugged looks, a big tray and a particularly high ride height add to the appeal. The addition last year of the hardcore Ranger Raptor flagship variant has also given the brand a halo model, increasing the Ranger’s appeal even more. Even in lower grades, it is a touch pricier than some of its rivals, but that has not turned buyers away. 

It comes with a hardy interior, comfy seats in all grades, a spacious cabin and a trio of powertrains. We would skip the 2.2-litre diesel unit for either the meaty 147kW/470Nm 3.2-litre five-cylinder unit or the newer 2.0-litre EcoBoost four-cylinder biturbo diesel lifted from the Raptor that outputs 157kW/500Nm. The latter two can tow up to 3500 kilograms.

The Ranger has a five-star ANCAP crash safety rating, while even the entry-level XL and XLT grades have the SYNC3 infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.

Holden Colorado ($31,690 to $57,190)

Thumbs up: Excellent towing capacity and unquestionable value for money.
Thumbs down: Some old technology in the ageing cabin.

It might not sell as many units as the Ranger or HiLux, but Holden’s Colorado punches above its weight and is one of the best overall packages in the segment.

When the current-generation Colorado launched in mid-2012 it met lukewarm reviews. It didn’t do anything particularly wrong, but was a fair distance behind the class-leading Ranger at the time. Holden addressed some of the issues around driveability, refinement, comfort and practicality with the heavily revised version that arrived in 2016.

The exterior design got a big pull through with a more appealing front end and the cabin benefited from a complete overhaul that included new materials and greater functionality. The mechanical changes brought the Colorado much closer to the Ranger in terms of dynamic ability and it benefited from greater insulation in the cabin, making for a quieter ride. The Colorado has a reputation as an excellent tow vehicle as well with a 3500-kilogram towing capacity.

Holden introduced a model year 2020 Colorado in June that added more standard equipment and a choice of five accessory packs. It remains one of the best value-for-money offerings in the segment. Like the Ranger and the HiLux, the Colorado is imported from Thailand and comes with a five-star ANCAP rating.

Front view of a blue Toyota HiLux dual-cab ute

Toyota HiLux


Front view of a blue Volkswagen Amarok dual-cab ute

Volkswagen Amarok



Toyota HiLux ($21,865 to $64,490)

Thumbs up: Well-engineered and excellent resale value.
Thumbs down: Unsettled ride quality on some variants.

The HiLux is the best-selling vehicle in Australia and with good reason. Solid Toyota reliability, an unbeatable reputation and a willing engine put it among the top offerings.

And now it is one of the safest utes on offer in Australia. In July ANCAP re-tested the HiLux after Toyota added some new safety gear and it achieved a range-wide five-star rating. The Japanese giant has been progressively rolling out a revised ‘Toyota Safety Sense’ package that includes autonomous emergency braking that can detect vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists, as well as active lane-keep assist and advanced-speed assist.

In 2018 Toyota added a trio of flagship variants to the range, including the luxurious Rogue and the go-anywhere Rugged and Rugged X. The HiLux range is one of the biggest in the ute segment, with variants ranging from a $21,865 single-cab chassis petrol manual, all the way up to the $62,490 Rugged X. Offered with a choice of four powertrains, depending on the body style and choice of two- or four-wheel drive, the most popular engine pick is the beefy 130kW/420Nm or 450Nm 2.8-litre turbo diesel.

Volkswagen Amarok ($38,490 to $72,790)

Thumbs up: Superb V6 powertrain and well-executed cabin.
Thumbs down: More expensive than many rivals, except Benz’s X-Class.

The Amarok and the Ranger are widely regarded as the two best drives in the ute segment. But they are very different offerings. The Amarok feels the most car-like to drive of all the models in the segment. It doesn’t feel as heavy or cumbersome around town as others, but is still tough and can carry a full-size pallet on the tray between the wheel arches.

VW offers the Amarok with a decent four-cylinder diesel, but it is the excellent V6 turbo-diesel powertrain that is the star of the range. The class-leading engine can be found in other VW Group models including the previous-generation Porsche Cayenne and the Audi Q7.

The cabin is also a winner, offering passenger car-like comfort levels and quality materials throughout. It doesn’t feel like a commercial vehicle, particularly in the higher grades, and it doesn’t feel its age – the Amarok went on sale in 2011. Safety-wise it, too, has a five-star ANCAP rating.
 

DON’T FORGET

Dual-cab utes can make great family cars, but be sure to check the standard safety features list as some of the models that have been on sale for a while lack the safety gear of the latest releases.