THE light-commercial vehicle market is now a force to be reckoned with in the Australian new vehicle market.
The latest available sales figures (to the end of September) show four of the top 20 nameplates come from the segment.
Combining two and four-wheel drive models, Toyota’s Hilux is the brand’s top-seller for the year so far — placing it more than 2000 ahead of ever-popular Corolla — but it is third overall in the year-to-date race. Nissan’s Navara and the Mitsubishi Triton are also regular fixtures in the top 20 sales list, with a heavy skew towards the 4WD variants from all the top-selling brands.
MULTI-TASKING is a buzz-word that now applies to vehicles. Once-masculine machines that towed tools have to cart kids amid passenger-car features and comforts. Toyota is the market leader and Hilux has just had some plastic surgery and a re-fit of features.
The host of newcomers taking a swipe at the market leader have failed to significantly erode its sales, particularly its bread-andbutter fleet sales, but the new Ranger/bt-50 cousins from Ford and Mazda are the most likely to challenge Hilux. This trio can go off the black-top, but customers also demand soft-roader manners — or better — from these utilitarian machines. These are the near-top-spec models — Ford will bring the Wildtrak above the XLT — and dwell in the $50,000 bracket.
The XLT Ranger in auto form is $55,390, the Mazda BT-50 XTR is priced from $50,810 and the Hilux SR5 dual-cab is $53,490. The Ford and Mazda have gone up in price (with an expanded features list) and the Toyota has come down $2200.
Standard fare on all includes climate control (Toyota singlezone, the others dual), MP3 audio with USB (the Ranger’s is the most conveniently placed, in the centre console) and Bluetooth for phone and music, wheel-mounted controls for cruise, phone and audio, 17-inch alloy wheels and trip computers.
The Hilux and Ranger get automatic headlights but none has reach-adjustable steering. The Ford misses out on satnav. The Hilux has a larger touchscreen set-up.
The Ford and Mazda share the 3.2-litre five-cyli diesel (147kw/4 six-speed auto c The Hilux holds cylinder 3.0-litre (126kw/343nm) speed auto.
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