6 Performance bakkies you can buy for cheap

So, you’re interested in a Ranger Raptor, Amarok V6 or the upcoming X-Class 350d but you can’t stretch the budget to R800 000. Did you know that you can get something even faster for a 10th of the price?

Fast bakkies are all the rage these days but they aren’t exactly a brand-new concept. Back in the days when petrol was still considered cheap, almost every double cab line-up in South Africa came with a petrol option. These days, only the Hilux 4.0-litre V6 is left. Luckily, prices on older petrol models have dropped significantly, so much so that you might argue that they’re worth investing in even though they get through a tank of petrol faster than Eskom goes through its public funding. While these bakkies might not be able to keep up with one of the modern machines mentioned above on a gravel road, they’re certainly fast enough to give them a headache when you dice from robot to robot. While we’re at it, let’s not forget about the V6 petrol’s positive attributes, of which there are many. First, there’s the noise: a 1999 Isuzu KB320 makes a proper racket, as does the 4.0-litre previous-generation Ranger. Effective though they may be, a modern turbodiesel will never be able to emulate the charming exhaust notes of a high-revving V6 petrol bakkie. That high-revving nature is also a joy in certain off-road situations. When driving on dunes, for example, the ability to keep a car in gear for longer definitely helps. In any case, here are some fine examples of brisk bakkies you can buy on a budget.

Isuzu KB350 V6

The ’90s KB was equipped with a 3.2-litre V6, while the model after that made use of a 3.5-litre V6 engine. In 2007, Isuzu gave the KB a decent facelift, which proved to be a prime opportunity to introduce an all-aluminium 3.6-litre V6 with multi-point fuel injection and a claimed drop in fuel consumption. It sounded lovely, accelerated briskly off the line but was introduced at a time went the economy was on the brink of turning upside down. As a result, customers rather spent their cash on the KB300 diesel. Not many of these models are available. We found three at the time of going to print, retailing from R85 000 to R113 000. The price depends on the service history. The engines are generally bulletproof but we’d still opt for the 3.6-litre version.

The Good: Epic soundtrack and the KB has aged rather well, hasn’t it?

The Bad: The interior wasn’t up to scratch.

Can it 4×4: Yes.

Ford Ranger 4.0-litre V6 Supercab

Back in 2006, Ford decided to give South Africans a taste of what American bakkies are like. It equipped the Ranger with a 4.0-litre V6 petrol engine with 154kW and 323Nm of torque. The V6 wasn’t limited to the double cab model. Looking at the second-hand market these days, it seems most people opted for the petrol engine mounted in the Supercab body. With a few minor changes, you could end up with a pukka overland 4×4. According to consumer reports, this particular Ranger was bolted together properly. There aren’t any major issues with regard to the engine but there were a few cases where the air-conditioning stopped working. We found a 2006 Supercab with 180 000km on the clock with a full service history. Retailing at just under R90 000, it’s a steal.

The Good: We know for a fact that you could get it up to 200km/h. At least according to the speedometer.

The Bad: The blocky Ranger has aged rather badly.

Can it 4×4: Yes.

Nissan Hardbody 3.3 V6

Back when the NP300 was known as the Hardbody, you had the option of buying a 3.3-litre V6 in either 4×4 or 4×2. It was a strange move from Nissan because even though it was a large capacity motor, it never produced that much power. Rated at 125kW/265Nm of torque, it was underpowered compared to other models here. Still, it made a great noise and remains the most interesting looking double cab of its time. It was built in a time when traction control was considered fancy so if you’re in the market for a sideways experience… The engine seems to be reliable, too. Most of the used examples have over 250 000km on the clock and we haven’t heard of any serious issues. Oddly, the Hardbody 3.3 seems to retain its value quite well. These high mileage examples – starting at R80 000 for a bakkie with no service history – seem pricey compared to the other cars on this list.

The Good: Nice sounding engine and a hoot to drive.

The Bad: Expensive compared to the others.

Can it 4×4: Yes.

Nissan Navara V6

This model blew everyone’s mind when it was introduced. While Isuzu and Ford were messing around with 150kW bakkies, Nissan came and stole the show with 198kW and 385Nm of torque. The V6 never sounded as raspy as its competitors but the 4.0-litre was extremely brisk for what it was. This was the first double cab to annoy hot hatches, as it could easily keep up for the first 200m or so before its blocky shape started slowing it down. Back in 2006, the Navara was a size above most of the bakkies on this list and the price reflected that. It was a cut above in terms of standard specification and overall refinement levels, too. This doesn’t reflect on the second-hand market, however. We found a number of examples priced in line with the other cars on this list. We found a top-spec 4×4 automatic with 175 000km on the clock and a full service history for R90 000. Not a bad deal at all.

The Good: No exterior indications that it’s a V6.

The Bad: Not much. It was a decent bakkie.

Can it 4×4: Yes.

Hilux 4.0-litre V6

If ever you needed proof of the Hilux’s resale value, look no further than this list. While most of the models on this list retail below R100 000, a V6 Hilux from a similar vintage starts at R150 000. Out of all the cars here, these examples have the most mileage but it’s the engine that has proven itself the most. It’s still being used to power the Hilux to this day, which makes the steep purchase price a lot easier to justify. In terms of power, it sits somewhere in the middle between the Ranger 4.0-litre and the Navara 4.0-litre, offering 175kW and 376Nm of torque. As always, any Toyota comes with that amazing badge, a large dealer footprint and rugged dependability. The fact that it sounds absolutely delightful is just an added bonus.

The Good: It’s a Hilux so it will last forever.

The Bad: The four-speed auto is a bit old-school.

Can it 4×4: Yes

Nissan Champ 1400

As any red-blooded South African will tell you, there isn’t a faster bakkie in South Africa (including Giniel’s bakkie) than a Nissan 1400 Champ. A decent used model should go for around R60 000 but you can find a ratty model for R20k. All you need do then is swap the engine for something more powerful, fit a turbocharger the size of a dustbin and you’re good to go. It’s the combination of rearwheel drive and a tare weight of just 750kg that makes the little Nissan such a hit amongst the tuners. It can’t do 4×4, but with a 500kW engine under the bonnet, it sure goes like stink! Go look on YouTube, where you’ll find Champs humiliating Lambos, Ferraris and even a superbike or two.

The Good: You’ll live life a quarter mile at a time.

The Bad: That much power in a small bakkie is not a good idea.

Can it 4×4: No.