Two of the top three sellers in July were utes. How do these affordable versions rate?
Joshua Dowling adjudicates.
TOYOTA HILUX WORKMATE VALUE
The HiLux Workmate double cab 4WD is $43,990 plus on-road costs but it has limboed to $41,990 drive-away in recent months, about $4000 off full price. It comes with a 2.4-litre turbo diesel (rather than the 2.8 in the higher grades) but still gets rear camera, cruise control, aircon, power windows and remote central locking.
It’s designed for functionality, which is why the bumpers are grey and the floor covering is vinyl. Ample underbody protection is standard. The ute tub with external tie-down hooks means you can’t have a genuine tub liner and a hard lid — it’s one or the other. Not everyone is a fan of the black rims but they won’t be this
shiny for long.
The 2.4-litre turbo diesel is a gem. It has a little more induction noise than the 2.8 in the HiLux SR and SR5. But it has more torque (400Nm) than the previous HiLux 3.0-litre (343Nm), and not much less than the new 2.8 (450Nm). It’s super efficient, too. We logged 8.0L/100km unladen cruising at about 80km/h or more. Works well with six-speed manual or auto.
Seven airbags (including one for the driver’s knee) are standard, as is a rear view camera (its guiding lines don’t turn with the steering). Rear sensors are optional. The low and high-beams are strong (good for country roads), and the instruments are clearer to read in the HiLux than they are in the HiLux-based Fortuner SUV.
The wheels might not be pretty but the tyres they come with are more cushioned on bumpy roads than the top-of-the-range HiLux SR5. This means the blokes in the Workmate are in fact travelling in more comfort than the foreman in the SR5. It feels stable (for a ute) though the Ford Ranger and VW Amarok are still the benchmarks for on-road composure. The HiLux is hardier off-road.
MITSUBISHI TRITON GLX+ VALUE
The GLX+ has been at a permanent price of $36,990 drive-away since launch. The savings vary depending on whether Mitsubishi includes auto in the price (as it did in June). For now, this is the price of a manual, so about $2000 off full price and still much cheaper than most rivals. Standard fare matches the HiLux — rear camera, cruise control, aircon, power windows and remote central locking.
The base model gets a tougher-looking matt black grille and adds a rear bumper and alloy wheels to broaden its appeal. Covered in dust, the new Triton looks like an off-road racer but detractors say its unusual design resembles a preying mantis. It has a shorter wheelbase than rivals, as much of the chassis is carried over. As a plus, it has a tighter turning circle.
The 2.4-litre turbo diesel (133kW/430Nm) is a highlight. It is quiet and refined and we really hope Nissan doesn’t rob the Triton of this asset once it starts to figure out what to do with Mitsubishi after its recent takeover. It is super-efficient and works superbly with the six-speed manual. Thanks to the lighter body, it is quicker and slightly more frugal.
As with the Workmate, the GLX+ comes with seven airbags (including one for the driver’s knee) and rear-view camera (with guiding lines that also don’t turn with the steering). The low-beam is OK but it could do with better high-beam coverage, extremely important on dark country roads.
Another base model that’s more pleasant to drive than the flagship. You feel that the Triton has a narrower and smaller footprint on the road but in most conditions it’s sublime (for a ute) over bumps and this improves with 200kg or so in the back. Only in tight turns or slippery intersections does the Triton start to get a bit unwieldy.
Verdict The HiLux has the bigger cabin, better roadholding and tougher off-road ability. Budget buyers will find the Triton suits most needs, is cheaper to run and has a five-year warranty.