BAKKIE SHOOTOUT 2021 – Interior fit and finish, build quality

It’s the inside that counts – After a thorough evaluation on the road to Klipbokkop, like a game of dusty musical chairs, the team began to circulate through each bakkie on the gravel ride and drive. The best way to form an impression of each vehicle’s packaging, fit-and-finish and build quality was by driving them back to back.

Starting with the cheapest offerings; the Mahindra, JAC and Isuzu felt like they hail from another decade. They are unwaveringly solid and undoubtedly the most workmanlike, but when driven among more upmarket and refined offerings – some not that much more expensive it must be said – they were left in the dust. From this lower tier, it’s the Pik Up that does well to elevate its standing with comfortable armrests and a spacious cabin. Both the Chinese bakkies exhibited a few worrisome creeks and squeaks – the T8’s driver’s seat and the P-Series’s dashboard – although the latter is hugely spacious and finished with plenty of soft-touch points and leather.

It was the Mazda that showed the biggest variance in scores and ranked lower than many anticipated. Some loved its minimalist cabin, slick tablet-like infotainment system and climate control toggles, while others questioned the flimsy door cards, the assortment of shiny, hard plastics and hard-to-read digital display in the instrument binnacle. Dust intrusion into the cabin was also a factor.

This is a criticism that could not be levelled at the basic but solid Toyota Hilux Raider and Mitsubishi Triton in the mid-pack. They may have fewer toys than their rivals but they are ergonomically sound and built to last. The well-endowed Nissan Navara goes the whole hog with an interior layout to rival any of its latest passenger cars; and the VW Amarok, despite lacking some surprise and delight and making do with one of the smaller infotainment screens, shone through in the back-to-back drives with the familiarity and ease of use of its controls and its neat, high-quality interior.

It was the Ranger in XLT FX4 guise, however, that delivered the best interior ambience when all the votes were tallied. This late-model offering is a far cry from the rough-and-tough Ranger cabins of yore. In 2021, the Blue Oval is all about superb noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) suppression, plush seats, an excellent range of adjustment for that instantly right driving position, and plenty of attention given to the cabin architecture. The only criticism we can level at it is we’d prefer dials rather than buttons for climate control.

Test Summary

Article written by

Nikesh Kooverjee

Journalist for CAR Magazine since 2015. Doing my best to navigate the ever-changing landscape of the automotive sphere while keeping you up-to-date of any noteworthy stories.