Dual iden­ti­ties

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Cover Story -

DE­SIGN

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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