Text: Danie Botha
Photography: Jannie Herbst
What is it with a…badge?
Really, what is it with a Toyota, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Isuzu, Ford or Mazda badge?
On face value it seems these badges instantly mean that its makers and sellers can ask a whole lot of money for the bakkie wearing one of these emblems. Excessive amounts of money, if one takes a closer look at how pricing has spiralled to new heights ever since Toyota’s double cab Hilux became the next big at the end of the Eighties.
Selling for R30 265 in 1987, the Hilux double cab boasted 70 kW of power and 177 Nm of torque at 3000r/min from its 2,2-litre petrol engine, and combined truck-like dynamics and a ride famously requiring the proverbial kidney belt – yet Toyota couldn’t import enough vehicles to satisfy demand, and the company reverted to building the bakkie here, in an effort to deliver bakkies to impatient customers.
For interest sake, back in 1987 and for sum of R30 000, one could also park one of the follwing vehicles in your driveway: A BMW 320i; A Ford Sierra 3.0 GLX; A Mazda 626 2.0i SLX; A Volkswagen Passat CLi; And a Toyota Cressida 2.0 GLi-6.
Fast forward 13 years, to the year 2000. Joining Toyota in the booming double cab market were Nissan’s Hardbody, Isuzu’s KB, Mitsubishi’s Colt, Ford’s Ranger, Mazda’s Drifter, and even Land Rover’s 130 Td5.
Indeed, the double cab feeding frenzy was well and truly on by then.
But somewhere in between all the euphora surrounding the 4×4 double cab bakkie, and its amazing versatility, practicality and go-anywhere ability, something was pretty clear: The double cab bakkie’s pricing was increasing along with its popularity.
Instead it became a rather expensive option as its popularity soared, and the marketing machines of the big companies all told us that the double cab was the lifestyle accessory to own.
In 2000 a Toyota Hilux 2.7i Raider 4×4 double cab cost R235 000. For the same amount of money your sedan options looked slightly more upmarket than in 1987: An Alfa Spider 2.0TS; an Audi A6 2.4; A Subaru Impreza 2.0 GT AWD; A BMW 523i; And a Mercedes C230 Kompressor.
It didn’t stop there. Now, another 10 years down the line, you can’t get a 4×4 double cab Hilux with the “entry-level” 2.7 VVT-i petrol engine, so you have to the turbodiesel route – and the power-hungry 2.5D-4D SRX double cab 4×4 is now the cheapest option, retailing for R324 700.
If you want petrol, Raider specification level and 4×4, you’d have to go the four-litre V6 route, selling for? R421 000.
What we are trying to say here is that the modern double cab, especially those with the “special badges” on, have become rather expensive. Yet the popularity of the double cab has hardly diminished over the years.
On the contrary, it seems that they are now more popular than ever before, as more and more motorists swap their upmarket sedans for a bit of versatile double cab lifestyle, or in some cases as a more robust counter measure againt the increasing number of potholes on our national roads.
And this is exactly where some eagle-eyed local business execs spotted an opening: With industrial China being hailed by some as the “new Japan”, and with China looking to invest its riches all over the world, the country’s financial influences have become increasingly more prolific the world over.
India has also turned into a global finanical power house in recent times, with industrial giant Tata a particularly prominent player, and India’s biggest car company.
Some international reports now even predict that India will boast the world’s fastest growing economy by the year 2013. And they will take over this honour from China, which has, undoubtedly, been setting the international economic pace in recent times.
Both these countries churn out hundreds of thousands of budget vehicles per year. These range from scooters to large trucks, and everything in between. Mass production with low, low operating costs ensure low, low prices – and possibly some low, low quality standards too.
Enter the five-some of Oriental 4×4 double cabs you seen on these pages. From China the two Great Wall Motor (GWM) bakkies, and the upcoming Jiangling-Isuzu Boarding Series double cab. And from India the Tata Xenon and the Mahindra Scorpio double cabs.
Four doors, four-wheel drive, loads of standard kit and an enticing sticker price are the common threads here. But which one is best?
We gathered a diverse panel of judges to help us answer this question. From a retired estate agent, to young business owners. From a special forces police captain, to a 4×4 legend. From a managing director of a major 4×4 accessories and fitment company, to marketing gurus. Yup, we covered quite a few bases with this one.
But before we hit the road, first some background information on each Oriental contender – in alphabetical order, of course.