Workhorse and show pony
Versatility is the dual-cab ute’s stock in trade
TOWING the tools during the week and the toys at the weekend has never been easier or more comfortable.
Where once the tradie ute was a two-door three-on-abench cabin with a columnshift gearbox and anAMradio that made an alarm clock/radio sound good, 21st century machines are far closer to passenger cars.
The venerable Toyota HiLux has come under fire from all sides, copping blows from Japanese, German and even locally developed Thai-built Ford products in recent years.
Yet the Toyota workhorse finished 2012 as the second biggest-selling vehicle on the local market, as well as the most popular ute and bestselling four-wheel-drive within a segment that’s grown substantially.
By the end of 2003, there were 50,670 4WDpick-up/cabchassis vehicles sold in a market that totalled 909,811 sales. Fast-forward five years and the4WD ute segment totalled 83,308 with 12 models from nine brands on sale in a total market of 1.01 million.
Last year, in a total market of 1.11 million, it speared well past the six-figure mark, recording 124,536 sales for 14 models from 11 brands. The reason: versatility. The more recently released dual-cabs now warrant some design focus to make the rear seat useful for more than short trips to the shop at smoko.
Right-angled seat cushions have made way for more comfortable benches, lap-sash seat belts and child anchors. Road manners are far less rudimentary.
The features lists have improved— FMradio, seat adjustment and aircon are no longer considered nambypamby— as has the level of safety gear, with airbags, antilock brakes and even stability control fitted in recent times. The fleet market was largely responsible for putting the HiLux into the top 10 vehicles list but plenty of user-chooser customers need a more versatile machine.
The result of expanded choice in the segment and increased competition has led to a wide range of makes and models, each with plenty of kit.
HiLux still rules the roost but the others are gaining, adding features and sharpening prices to get a bigger chunk. (Note: Images, prices and odo readings are representative. See carsguide.com.au for hundreds more choices)