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Hilux vs The Rest

31 March 2016

Bakkie battle!
In February, the dreams of thousands of Toyota fans in South Africa came true: the all-new Hilux finally landed. We travelled Down Under in January to find out if the 10-year wait has been worth it, and we pit the new ’Lux against three of its current and upcoming rivals.

The Yarra State Forest, Victoria. Australia.
We’ve just driven about 30km from Melbourne, past the town of Yarra Glen, and into this beautiful forest. There are four accessorised bakkies in our custody, courtesy of Australian 4×4 accessory giant, ARB: the all-new Toyota Hilux 2.8D-4D, the latest Ford Ranger, and the upcoming Mitsubishi Triton and Nissan Navara models.

I had been driving the new Hilux from ARB’s headquarters. Crikey, it’s good. The cabin is way more comfortable, plush and car-like. This is the six-speed automatic version, and it is mated to the new 2.8-litre four-cylinder diesel that churns out 130kW and 450Nm of torque.

But before we get into the details, a brief overview on the other bakkies in this test. The Ford Ranger is the Hilux’s fiercest rival in Australia, and was the second best 4×4 seller last year. Recently face-lifted and gifted with an array of new in-cabin gadgets, the latest version is a good-looking and imposing double cab. We have the 3.2-litre five-cylinder version, with 147kW and 470Nm of torque, and the six-speed auto shifter.

The latest Nissan Navara will only be launched in SA around June but in Australia it has already managed to turn a few former Toyota and Ford fans Nissan’s way. In a first for its class, the Navara features a coil-sprung rear suspension and, while its engine capacity has been downgraded to 2.3-litres it now breathes through twin turbochargers to deliver 140kW and 450Nm of torque, which in this case is combined with a seven-speed automatic gearbox.

The latest Mitsubishi Triton will also only land in SA around June. In Australia the Triton sells a lot better than it does here, combining a reputation for reliability and excellent value for money. It is powered by a 2.4-litre turbodiesel with 130kW and 430Nm, and our test model is equipped with a five-speed automatic gearbox.

We drove all the vehicles over the same routes, which included some off-roading, gravel and tar, and then compared notes. The four bakkies all feature upgrades courtesy of ARB Australia, which include Old Man Emu suspension upgrades with 50mm lifts, bull bars and the latest in driving light technology, rear bumper replacements, canopies, roof racks, off-road oriented tyres, items such as two-way radios, and so on.

Mitsubishi Triton 2.4Di-D 4×4 AT
The winding gravel track in the Yarra State Forest sports an endless supply of tight hairpins. And here the Triton is in a class of its own.

Turn-in is immediate and direct, the ride on this track decisively sportier than in the other bakkies. It just feels planted and inspires confidence, like it wants you to go fast on gravel. There’s definitely a bit of Mitsubishi’s illustrious rally heritage in there.

The traction control and Mitsubishi’s Super Select four-wheel drive set-up also do their part. The Super Select 4WD system is unique in this company as it offers a high- range 4WD option with an open centre differential. So you can drive it in 4WD both on tar and gravel, enhancing traction and safety. In the other bakkies the drive is split 50/50 between the front and rear axles in high range 4WD, so you can only use it on gravel.

Off-road, the Triton, with uprated Old Man Emu suspension upgrade and grippy Cooper AT tyres, no doubt stood its ground against the other bakkies. The 2.4-litre engine has plenty of low-down grunt and there is also a rear differential lock to call off the reserve bench for tougher tests.

Size-wise, the Triton is slightly smaller than the competition, which may not be a subject you’ll want to raise at the braai with your buddies. It certainly is advantageous on a tight 4×4 track, though.

The cabin is an improvement over the current model, and although it isn’t as spacious as its rivals, it’s still big enough and has all the creature comforts and gadgets you’d expect.

In fact, specification-wise this Triton was loaded with gear (compared to the rivals), further entrenching its focus on high value for money. However, we’ll have to wait and see if Mitsubishi SA can match this level of kit-versus-rands – with our monetary unit taking a beating in recent times, the local subsidiary will be under some pressure, we’re sure.

On the tar roads leading to and from the Yarra Forest the Triton’s slight deficit in power and torque, compared to these rivals, was obvious, and we had to wring its neck a couple of times to keep up with the other bakkies. But owners will hardly notice, it still has plenty of get-up-and-go.

The five-speed automatic gearbox, even though it has the least amount of cogs here, also forms a good partnership with the turbodiesel mill. The Triton is the only unit here to feature rally-car like paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. Truth be told, these paddles are rather superficial, and the Mitsubishi would have been no worse off if they were not fitted.

Aesthetics have been a moot point for the Triton in recent years, with many punters hating the swoopy cut line between the ‘bak’ and the cabin. This Triton looks better, but that controversial styling ‘expression’ is still there, albeit in a slightly toned-down form. And with the addition of some ARB accessories adding some testosterone to the mix, the latest Triton makes for a good-looking double cab picture.

The Mitsubishi Triton (and Colt) is a bit like that nice, average-looking girl in school. The one who you looked past because you wanted to date the really pretty girls – the pretty girls who were too cool for you and who gave you so much grief.

The Triton is not the prettiest, biggest, most suave, modern, macho or the most powerful bakkie in this test. But it handles very well, the Super Select 4WD system is a real beaut, it is powerful and refined enough, and it will hopefully offer great value for money when it lands in SA (depending on the exchange rate).

It’s a solid all-rounder that should also be on your test-drive list.

“The Triton provides a true alternative in the 4×4 ute segment. It’s different and it’s a great value option. The short-travel suspension makes the Triton feel almost rally-inspired and more dynamic than most others.” – 4×4 Australia magazine, commenting on a standard Mitsubishi Triton 2.4Di-D Exceed 4×4.

Mitsubishi Triton 2.4Di-D D/C 4×4 vital stats
Engine & gearbox
Type: Four-cylinder, turbocharged diesel
Displacement: 2442 cc
Max power: [email protected] 500 r/min
Max torque: [email protected] 500 r/min
Gearbox: Five-speed automatic
Chassis & body
Layout: Front engine, Super Select 4WD system
Brakes front: Disc brakes
Brakes rear: Drums
ABS/EBD: Yes/Yes
Front: Independent wishbone, coil springs and stabiliser bar
Rear: Rigid, elliptical leaf spring
Ground clearance (claimed, standard): 205mm
Traction/stability control: Yes/Yes
Differential lock (rear): Yes
Part-time four-wheel drive: Super Select 4WD (with 4H open centre diff option)
Wading depth (standard): 500mm
Approach angle (standard): 30 degrees
Departure angle (standard): 22 degrees
Break-over angle (standard): 24 degrees
Accessories fitted
Old Man Emu suspension upgrade with 50mm lift, ARB Summit bull bar, colour coded with antenna mounted and integrated side rails that are linked to rock sliders, WARN winch, ARB Intensity LED driving lights, ARB underbody skid plates, ARB rear replacement bumper, ARB canopy, ARB roof rack and Cooper Discoverer S/T all-terrain tyres (on stock rims). More information @

Ford Ranger 3.2TDCi 4×4 AT
The latest Ranger has been resounding success for Ford. Good-looking, big and powerful, it is the only double cab to have given the best-selling Hilux a wallop in recent times.

Our test Ranger takes the big and brawny of the stock vehicle to an even higher, bigger level thanks to the suspension upgrade, off-road tyres and accessories. This Ranger is, quite simply, big and lumpy.

It’s also not quite as fond of the tight turns as the other bakkies in this test. Comfort on the open road is outstanding, yes, but in the tight stuff it has more body roll, and it just feels, well, more lumpy. And more laborious.

On paper, the Ford is the most powerful bakkie in this line-up, and it certainly feels it on the road. However, the Navara and Hilux just about matched it in performance at speeds below 100km/h. At faster speeds, the Ford’s bigger capacity engine certainly did feel the most powerful of the lot when it came to overtaking acceleration.

Less impressive in our test unit was the six-speed automatic gearbox. There were occasional slight delays before the gearbox made up its mind on gear selection, and during some slow-speed manoeuvres there were a few unexpected ‘clunks’ from the drivetrain.

Off-road the Ranger is impressive. With all those horses on tap – as well as plenty of clearance and a rear differential lock – the Ranger’s only limitation is its bulk. But even though the Ranger is not the best-sized weapon to tackle a tight and technical 4×4 track, it fits the role of a long-distance 4×4 overlander quite capably.

The cabin is vast, with plenty of space in the front and back. The latest Ranger is fitted with a raft of ‘safety’ features and gadgets, including TFT screen for the instrument panel and a ‘lane keep assist’ system.

The latter uses an advanced radar system to detect any directional changes, for example when the Ford is about to leave its lane between solid lines. It then ‘corrects’ the situation by adjusting the steering. Although we appreciate the safety benefit of this system, it is quite an invasion of the driving experience. Thankfully it can be shut off.

Interestingly, the Ford is the only vehicle here with a traditional key and ignition system – the three other bakkies all feature keyless stop-start systems.

The Ford Ranger ticks a lot of ‘right’ boxes. It looks right, it’s got the right amount of power, its cabin is the right size – and overall it just feels generally well… right. It’s really easy to understand why so many Rangers are finding new owners these days.

The newly face-lifted Ranger takes all this ‘right’ to an even higher level. The macho looks are on the money, and as many South Africans will tell you, there is no replacement for cubic displacement – and 3 200cc of displacement seems to be just what many local buyers want in their leisure lifestyle bakkie.

The Ford Ranger remains a top contender in its class.

“The 3.2-litre five-cylinder remains a strong offering. The radar cruise control worked well, maintaining a reasonable gap to the car in front and holding speed down hills nicely, too. The lane-keeping assistance function is a bit more hit and miss.” Aussie website, commenting on a standard Ford Ranger 3.2TDCi XLT 4×4.

Ford Ranger 3.2TDCi D/C 4×4 vital stats
Engine & gearbox:
Type: Five-cylinder, turbocharged diesel
Displacement: 3 198 cc
Max power: [email protected] 000 r/min
Max torque: [email protected] 500 r/min
Gearbox: Six-speed automatic
Chassis & body
Layout: Front engine, part-time four-wheel drive
Brakes front: Disc brakes
Brakes rear: Drums
ABS/EBD: Yes/Yes
Steering: Power assisted
Front: Independent, double-wishbone
Rear: Leaf springs
Ground clearance (standard, claimed): 237mm
Traction/stability control: Yes/Yes
Differential lock (rear): Yes
Part-time four-wheel drive: Yes
Wading depth (standard): 600mm
Approach angle (standard): 25.5 degrees
Departure angle (standard): 21.8 degrees
Break-over angle (standard): 18.5 degrees
Accessories fitted
Old Man Emu suspension upgrade with 50mm lift, ARB alloy bull bar with antenna mounted, WARN winch, ARB Intensity LED driving lights, ARB underbody skid plates, Safari snorkel, ARB rock sliders, ARB rear replacement bumper, ARB canopy, ARB roof rack with awning, two-way radio system, and Cooper Discoverer S/T all-terrain tyres (on stock rims). More information at

Nissan Navara 2.3TD 4×4

There goes Nissan again, breaking the rules. Yep, the same company that decided that racing the Le Mans 24 Hour race with a three-wheeled contraption is a good idea have also had an unconventional go at its Navara bakkie. And so far this non-conformist new Navara seems to be changing Nissan’s fortunes for the better in Australia.

The biggest factor here is Nissan’s decision to replace the traditional rear leaf-sprung bakkie suspension with a coil-spring version (king cab and single cab models retain the leaf-sprung set-up though). According to Nissan, the bakkie retains its one-ton load-carrying ability.

The result is a bakkie that rides like a comfortable SUV. In combination with the upgraded OME shocks and coils, the Navara’s tail seems less prone to get the stability control system excited powering out of a tight corner, as is normally the case with hard-sprung commercial-type vehicles.

The car-like cabin is also impressive. Spacious, luxurious and with a quality feel to it, the cabin will be quite at home in a high-end luxury sedan.

But the bakkie needed to look the part too, so Nissan created a modern look, with bold and mostly beautiful lines (although the ‘wing’ on the tailgate is a bit of an anomaly). Overall then, it seems Nissan has done an amazing job with the new Navara.

And yes, it is unquestionably the most comfortable bakkie in this line-up. The engine certainly has some juice too – at lower speeds it as every bit as responsive as the Ranger, thanks to the twin turbochargers. Off-road it is capable, with low range and a rear differential lock adding to its capabilities.

However, it’s not all sunshine and roses. Our biggest gripe is the racket the engine makes. The excessive noise and whining from up front detract from the otherwise excellent driving experience. Not that this has any bearing or influence on the Nissan’s power and speed. It still has both – it just sounds horrible in the process of delivering them.

In stock trim, the Navara’s off-road numbers also don’t look great. Ground clearance and a wading depth of 450mm limits it considerably in stock trim, so if you plan on off-roading your Navara, some upgrades will be required.

The new Nissan Navara is expected to land in SA around June. Nissan fans will love it, no doubt, and we reckon this good-looking machine can sway a few loyalists from other brands. It’s not perfect, no – a number of pundits made mention of the noisy (but strong) engine. Hopefully Nissan will sort that out.

It does represent a new way of thinking in the popular double cab segment though. Aimed at an ever-increasing number of customers who use their vehicles as lifestyle accessories and not hardcore 4×4 workhorses, the Navara straddles the bakkie and luxury sedan segments like no other double cab before it.

That said, with a few accessories added, this Navara is still a capable off-roader. And it looks rather splendid all dressed up in kit.

“The little 2.3-litre mill powers along thanks to 450Nm, which is enough to compete with the bigger engines in its class. The four-cylinder engine is a bit harsh and noisy when you ask it to deliver its best performance, but this is a light truck after all… Full marks to Nissan for thinking outside the square; unfortunately, the execution is not quite what it should and could be.” – 4×4 Australia magazine, commenting on a standard Nissan Navara N300 ST.

Nissan Navara 2.3TD ST
Engine & gearbox
Type: Four-cylinder, twin-turbocharged diesel
Displacement: 2298 cc
Max power: [email protected] 750 r/min
Max torque: [email protected] 500 r/min
Gearbox: Seven-speed automatic
Chassis & body
Layout: Front engine, part-time four-wheel drive
Brakes front: disc brakes
Brakes rear: drums
ABS/EBD: Yes/Yes
Front: Independent, double-wishbone with front stabiliser bar
Rear: Five-link with coils and shock absorbers
Ground clearance (claimed, standard): 228mm
Traction/stability control: Yes/Yes
Differential lock (rear): Yes
Part-time four-wheel drive: Yes
Wading depth (standard): 450mm
Approach angle (standard): 29.5 degrees
Departure angle (standard): 24 degrees
Break-over angle (standard): 22 degrees
Accessories fitted
Old Man Emu suspension upgrade with 50mm lift, ARB Summit bull bar, colour coded with antenna mounted and integrated side rails that are linked to rock sliders, WARN winch, ARB Intensity LED driving lights, ARB underbody skid plates, ARB rear replacement bumper, ARB canopy and BF Goodrich all-terrain tyres (on stock rims). More information at

Toyota Hilux double cab 2.8D-4D 4×4 AT
It’s been 10 years since Toyota introduced the fifth generation of its best-selling Hilux, changing SA’s bakkie segment forever.

In recent years though, the popular Hilux came under increased pressure as the opposition introduced newer, more modern rivals. The Ford Ranger, most notably, has given the ’Lux a hard time on the sales charts. So the introduction of the new Hilux is a watershed moment for the SA bakkie market when it arrives at the end of February.

Seeing it in the flesh for the first time, the new Hilux sports some familiar design elements. The tail, in particular, is very similar to the outgoing model. The front is completely new and looks, well, bulky – with some extra ‘testosterone’ in the flanks, courtesy of some wider wheel arches. Overall it’s bigger in size than the older model, and about 200kg heavier too.

The cabin is a major departure from the commercial-based model it replaces. Neat and modern, it is, dare we say, flash. It looks grand and feels it too, but we’re not entirely convinced about the tablet-style screen that seems to have been stuck on the centre console. The Hilux’s cousin, the Fortuner, which is also brand new, features a more integrated centre console design that seems more appropriate.

Hilux fanatics will also mourn the lack of a second gear lever (or kort stokkie) in the cabin – the Toyota now features a dial selector for its part-time 4×4 system. Our unit is the 2.8D-4D model that has 130kW and 450Nm of torque, linked to a new-six-speed automatic gearbox.

The new gearbox is a major improvement and on the road the engine and ’box form a good partnership. Don’t expect fireworks in the performance department – but it’s certainly adequate. On the road the ride is good, and the new stability control and traction system is another big improvement.

Off-road it is every bit as good as you’d expect. In fact, with the ARB accessories and meaty Cooper ST tyres, the Hilux proved to be the consummate off-road performer, with good articulation and grip. On gravel – and that winding Yarra track – the ride was solid and composed, while the new stability control unit was much less intrusive and is more discreet about saving the driver’s bacon without him or her knowing about it.

On the road, if you drive in a relaxed mode, the Hilux’s drivetrain is probably the most refined of this lot. Push on some, especially at higher speeds, and the auto gearbox, as smooth as the shifts may be, does tend to hunt for the most appropriate gear. And if you drive with a heavy right foot, the ‘Lux just doesn’t feel as brisk as some of the other bakkies in this test.

We reckon the majority of Hilux fanatics will absolutely love the new bakkie. Conservative and inoffensive as its exterior styling may be, and as accomplished as the new interior is (despite the tablet stick-on business), the new Toyota is on par with the best offerings in the double cab segment. While it doesn’t do any one thing brilliantly, it does everything very well.

Maybe most importantly, it’s a Toyota – and for many punters that’s reason enough to park it in their garage. Resale value should also be right up there, as has traditionally been the case.

All things considered we have little doubt that the Hilux will remain the top-selling bakkie in SA.

“The 1GR-FTV (2.8D-4D) engine is adequate but no rocket ship, and the six-speed auto can get busy over undulating highways as it hunts for the most efficient cog… While the new Hilux is a leap ahead of the previous model in most ways, it still hasn’t taken the segment by the horns, let alone advanced it.” – 4×4 Australia, commenting on a standard Toyota Hilux 2.8D-4D 4×4 AT.

Toyota Hilux 2.8D4-D D/C 4×4
Engine & gearbox
Type: Four-cylinder, turbocharged diesel
Displacement: 2 755 cc
Max power: [email protected] 400 r/min
Max torque: [email protected] 400 r/min
Gearbox: Six-speed automatic
Chassis & body
Layout: Front engine, part time four-wheel drive
Brakes front: Disc brakes
Brakes rear: Drums
ABS/EBD: Yes/Yes
Front: Independent, double wishbone type, coil springs, gas dampers and jointed mount anti-roll bar
Rear: Rigid live axle, leaf spring and double-acting gas damper units.
Ground clearance (claimed, standard): 279mm
Traction/stability control: Yes/Yes
Differential lock (rear): Yes
Part-time four-wheel drive: Yes
Wading depth (standard): 700mm
Approach angle (standard): 31 degrees
Departure angle (standard): 26 degrees
Breakover angle: n/a
Accessories fitted
Old Man Emu suspension upgrade with 50mm lift, ARB Summit bull bar, colour coded with integrated side rails that are linked to rock sliders, WARN winch, ARB Intensity LED driving lights, ARB underbody skid plates, ARB rear replacement bumper, ARB canopy and Cooper Discoverer S/T all-terrain tyres (on stock rims). More information at

And the verdict is…
There is an old saying: ‘if the shoe fits wear it’. And in this line-up there are the proverbial Nike, Puma, Adidas and DC Shoes – so something for everyone.

Let’s kick off with the Mitsubishi Triton. We’ll have to wait to see if Mitsubishi SA will be able to offer the same level of value for money as the company does in Australia, but it has traditionally been one of the brand’s strong selling points locally.

We reckon the new Triton certainly looks better than the current model, and even though that curve between the cabin and the ‘bak’ is still there, it’s now softer on the eye. Or maybe we’ve just grown accustomed to it. Either way, it doesn’t seem so ‘out there’ anymore.

As is always the case with Mitsubishi products, quality is great, and you can bet your bottom dollar this Triton will be as tough as nails and good for many hundreds of thousands of kilometres. It’s not the most powerful bakkie here, but it’s got plenty of grunt. The five-speed auto ‘box also does its job manfully.

Two Triton qualities stood out for us. The handling, especially on gravel, is extremely sharp and responsive. And the second is the Super Select 4WD system, which offers the 4WD High setting with an open centre differential, so you can drive it like a permanently four-wheel driven vehicle, including on tar.

The Ford Ranger remains near the sharpest end of this battle, even though it’s now the oldest of this lot (the design is about five years old, not counting the recent facelift). The bold and macho look, the powerful engine, the spacious and luxurious cabin – it’s all very appealing in the leisure vehicle market.

However, we do think Ford may have gotten its product specification sheet for the Ranger mixed up with something like a Focus, or Fusion. The Ranger would have fared perfectly well without gadgets such as the lane keep assist, which comes with a fancy radar system, and the TFT screens in the instrument panel. The omission of these systems would also have slashed a few rands off the asking price, bolstering its value for money rating.

And interestingly, despite the radar and other fancy electronic trickery, the Ford is the only bakkie in this test that still uses an old fashioned ignition key, instead of a keyless system.

The Nissan Navara was the big surprise of this test. After reading up on the coil-spring rear suspension and the twin-turbo diesel mill, we knew it would be good – but how good became apparent the moment we slipped behind the wheel.

The Navara’s cabin in the most car-like by far, and combined with the softer rear suspension, you have to remind yourself every now and again that you are riding in a bakkie by checking out the canopy in the rear-view mirror. It really is comfortable and plush.

It looks pretty darn good too. But there is that engine. Yes, it has enough horses to really pick up them ARB sidebars and run, but the noise… oh, the noise. It really does sound as if the engine is strained. If it weren’t for this, the Navara would have been – hands down – our pick of the bunch.

Which brings us to the Toyota Hilux. It’s not the prettiest. It’s not the most powerful. It doesn’t have as many electronic tricks as the Ford Ranger. But it does everything very well. Everything. So it’s the sum of the Hilux that is so impressive – the same ethos of so many successful Toyota models in days gone past.

What should be slightly worrying for Toyota fans, though, is the fact that the Hilux has not significantly moved the goalposts in the bakkie segment – it’s now just on par with the best in the class.

We reckon Toyota will do well to reduce the life cycle of this model to five years instead of the older model’s 10, otherwise the ‘new’ Hilux may be left out in the dark by 2020, not to mention 2025.

Oh, just pick one already!
Right, so the moment of truth: if we had to put our own cash down on one of these four bakkies, which one would it be?

In position four: The Triton fared much better than we thought it would. Super-reliable, super-capable and high on value, the bakkie also rides on an excellent 4×4 drivetrain and boasts excellent dynamics on a gravel track.

The Ford Ranger fills position three in our line-up. The most powerful, it is an imposing machine. But it is also bulky and slightly unwieldy on a tight 4×4 track. As mentioned, we’re also not the biggest fans of the Ford’s electronic gadgets.

And you wouldn’t think it, but the Ford cabin, spacious as it may be, now does feel a tiny bit grey around the ears.

This Nissan Navara would have won this shoot-out, were it not for the noisy diesel engine. Maybe the engine’s impact would have been less had the bakkie been agricultural in its design and execution, but the new Navara is anything but.

And so we arrive at the Toyota Hilux. As we’ve said, it may not be the absolute best in any particular segment, but it is strong in all areas. It certainly is a vast improvement over the previous model, with especially in-cabin comfort and the refinement of the six-speed automatic and 2.8D-4D combination impressive.

One also has to consider the bigger picture. In SA, Toyota vehicles maintain their value better than most, so from a financial point of view, it probably makes more sense. And there’s the Toyota dealer in every dorpie in Africa thing too.

The new Toyota Hilux it is then.

The (old Hilux) king is dead. Long live the (new Hilux) king.

Thank you! Thank you very much!

This feature was made possible courtesy of 4×4 Mega World, as well as the ARB headoffice in Australia. Check out and for more information on all the accessories featured on the four bakkies. Good news for Hilux fans is that most of the accessories for the new bakkie are already in stock at Mega World stores.

In April’s issue we feature a unique behind-the-scenes look at the ARB manufacturing plants in Australia, and tell you more about the intricacies of creating a world-class bull bar.

Text and photos: Danie Botha