Part 2 of our double-cab bakkie shootout. Which pickup will take the crown? (Missed part 1? Read it here)
Isuzu KB 300 D-Teq LX 4×4 Auto – Lightly facelifted last year, the KB is the oldest member of this club and, although the spec list of this top-of-the-range 300 D-TEQ LX model matches the modern features found in its newer rivals, it’s difficult, especially when stepping out of the likes of the Navara and Triton, not to notice the firmness of the plastics used, nor the simplicity of the switchgear. While some will argue for the sense of ruggedness and proven reliability such a stalwart brings to the party, a quick comparison of NVH levels at start-up alone shows the ageing KB to be the least refined.
Power (kW/r/min): 130/3 600
Torque (N.m/r/min): 380/1 800-2 800
What Hannes said: “The Isuzu KB is the workhorse of this group. It’s the old faithful and still very capable and proven in terms of reliability, but just a bit noisy by comparison these days.”
Toyota Hilux 2,8 GD-6 Raider 4×4 Auto – If there is an overtly South African bakkie in this mix, it’s the Hilux. For so long a favourite among farmers and families, the Hilux’s reputation for reliability and build quality alone adds so much weight behind its cause. The Toyota hasn’t had things its own way of late, though, and the pesky presence of the Ranger has added a healthy level of spice to both the summit of the overall monthly sales charts and the braai chatter.
For long the default choice, in this leisure-based comparison, the Hilux will need more than a strong reputation to impress. That said, it’s difficult not to be bowled over by the solid perceived build quality, simplicity of design, comprehensive standard specification and hard-but-not-too-hard plastics used throughout the newest Hilux’s cabin. For good measure, but not to overcomplicate matters, the back window still offers an old-fashioned, manually operated sliding panel.
Power (kW/r/min): 130/3 400
Torque (N.m/r/min): 450/1 600
What Hannes said: “In terms of off-road ability, I’d say the Hilux tied For best performance with the Ranger. Together with the Amarok, they’re my three favourites.”
Click the image below to zoom in…
Volkswagen Amarok 2,0 Bi-TDI 4Motion Highline AT – If the Hilux is proven in terms of rugged reliability, it must surely frustrate Volkswagen South Africa that the hardcore jury appears to still be out on whether the Amarok makes the grade. While the V6-powered version (which had yet to be launched locally when this comparative was performed) may help this cause, it’s difficult to fault the way the 2,0-litre BiTDI-operated models conduct themselves, especially from a leisure point of view. Although this Amarok is the outgoing Ultimate variant, we assessed the Highline model in the context of the test. Only the former’s standard 19-inch alloy wheels (compared with 17-inch items on the latter) on lower-profile tyres could potentially influence the outcome of this comparative.
As with previous tests involving the Amarok, it’s notable just how much more space, particularly up front, the VW boasts compared with the others. Add this to enviable levels of perceived interior build quality and overall comfort (enhanced further on the facelifted model) and it’s the Amarok that immediately feels the most closely related to an SUV compared with its rivals here. While all of the double-cabs featured offer Isofix anchorage points on their outer-rear passenger seats, it remains disappointing, particularly considering its leisure-vehicle slant, that the Amarok does not offer curtain airbags that stretch through to the rear bench.
Power (kW/r/min): 132/4 000
Torque (N.m/r/min): 420/1 750
What Hannes said: “In terms of comfort, the Amarok is like an SUV, but it can also go anywhere despite the lack of low-range.”
If public demand has played a role in Volkswagen launching a V6-powered Amarok, it certainly hasn’t been a result of any notable shortcomings from its feisty 2,0-litre BiTDI offering. In fact, many of the other brands would have been paying careful attention to public sentiment surrounding this smaller-capacity engine option before deciding on their own way forward. For the time being, Nissan will not bring in a V6-powered version of its Navara to South Africa. Instead, a new twin-turbocharged 2,3-litre diesel engine mated with either a six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic transmission does duty. Boasting 140 kW and 450 N.m of torque, it’s an impressively refined unit that showed no signs of strain throughout our test procedure, proving one of the strongest performers while towing (see part 3 of this test).
The most impressive powertrain when it came to towing and, likewise, one of the best in terms of everyday use, was the 2,4 Di-D turbodiesel fitted to the Triton. While this 133 kW/430 N.m engine offers welcome levels of refinement and efficiency (8,4 L/100 km on our fuel route), its relationship with the slick and accurate five-speed automatic transmission really adds a compelling element to the general appeal of the new Triton. Where the Mitsubishi’s ‘box impressed, the Hilux’s unit showed surprising signs of slip under load. This sensation was highlighted during our acceleration runs, where the auto model was nearly a second slower to 100 km/h from standstill than the manual Hilux we tested last year, despite an additional 30 N.m over the 420 N.m six-speed manual option.
This transmission’s shortcoming was again highlighted during our towing test. While there were no real surprises dished up by the proven workhorse that is the KB’s 130 kW/380 N.m 3,0-litre turbodiesel (and relatively slick five-speed ‘box), we were once again flummoxed by the notable differences between the versions of the 3,2-litre five-cylinder engine fitted to the BT-50 and Ranger. Although equally refined in both applications (with matching performance and efficiency figures), an optimal gearing setup in the Ford helps the Ranger’s transmission to be more decisive on the open road, also improving its towing capabilities accordingly.