Work and play

Tested: dual-pur­pose utes that bal­ance busi­ness with plea­sure

Herald Sun - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE - JOSHUA DOWL­ING NA­TIONAL MO­TOR­ING ED­I­TOR joshua.dowl­ing@news.com.au

YOU see it in the traf­fic. Utes ac­count for four of the Top 10 sell­ers and are the third biggest seg­ment in the new car mar­ket be­hind small cars and SUVs.

The Toy­ota HiLux had a stran­gle­hold on the work­horse mar­ket for three decades but is los­ing its grip. The Ford Ranger in par­tic­u­lar has closed the sales gap.

In their most pop­u­lar con­fig­u­ra­tion — four-door 4WDs — the Ranger has out­sold the HiLux in four of the past seven months.

Now Holden has re­turned to the fray with a re­vi­talised Colorado that brings big changes un­der the skin and a sharp price.

With the heavy­weights on a more even foot­ing, wel­come to the tough­est three-way test we’ve done so far this year.

FORD RANGER XLT

It’s easy to see why buy­ers are queu­ing for the Ranger. Its tough looks get them into the show­room, then its strong­sound­ing five-cylin­der turbo diesel and plush car-like com­fort in­tox­i­cates them. It feels like a Range Rover com­pared to the other two tested here.

The Ranger XLT — the most pop­u­lar vari­ant — comes bet­ter equipped than its peers.

Stan­dard fare in­cludes a tow bar, ute tub liner, rear-view cam­era, 12V power socket in the tray, am­ple USB ports and 12V sock­ets in the cabin plus a house­hold power point to charge a lap­top.

The touch­screen will be up­dated by the end of this year to add Ap­ple Car Play and em­bed­ded nav­i­ga­tion.

The dig­i­tal speed dis­play in the in­stru­ment clus­ter is a rar­ity among work­horse utes.

Radar cruise con­trol and au­to­matic lane-keep­ing are an $800 op­tion and, to date, re­main exclusive to the Ranger in this class.

The ma­te­ri­als might feel cheap but the cabin is well pre­sented and prac­ti­cal, with mas­sive door pock­ets and a glove­box so huge you’ll never find spare change again.

The Ranger’s steer­ing is not reach ad­justable but it has the equal most com­fort­able driver’s seat (shared with the HiLux).

Down­sides? Brake feel could

be im­proved; the front discs are equal smallest among this trio yet the Ranger is sig­nif­i­cantly heav­ier than the oth­ers.

And a ques­tion mark is emerg­ing over the Ranger’s long-term dura­bil­ity. For now the ev­i­dence is anec­do­tal but there is enough feed­back to arouse our sus­pi­cions.

HOLDEN COLORADO LTZ

We are among the first to test the new Colorado LTZ along­side its peers — and it largely lives up to our ini­tial im­pres­sions. The Colorado’s cabin looks good and is prac­ti­cal but the ma­te­ri­als are “hard wear­ing” rather than lux­u­ri­ous, even if there is car­pet in the door pock­ets.

Wel­come ad­di­tions: four “auto up” power win­dows, dig­i­tal speed dis­play, Ap­ple Car Play and em­bed­ded nav­i­ga­tion, rear view cam­era with guid­ing lines that turn with the steer­ing, and elec­tric ad­just­ment for the driver’s seat.

How­ever, it could do with bet­ter un­der thigh sup­port.

The up­date also brings “for­ward crash alert” (although not auto brak­ing) and lane wan­der warn­ing (although not lane-keep­ing), the only one among its peers with these safety aids stan­dard.

On the road, the turbo diesel in the Colorado was the loud­est and least re­fined among this trio but it also has the most mumbo.

These are not per­for­mance ve­hi­cles but we did 0-100km/h ac­cel­er­a­tion tests and the re­sults sur­prised. The Ranger was slower (10.5 sec­onds) than the Colorado (9.8) while the HiLux trailed the pack (12.2).

Apart from the ex­tra en­gine noise, the list of crit­i­cisms of the Colorado is rel­a­tively short. Be­low 60km/h on city and sub­ur­ban roads the Colorado sus­pen­sion is not as plush as the Ranger but, once at cruis­ing speeds. comes close to match­ing the Ford for com­fort.

The Colorado LTZ doesn’t get a tub liner, tow bar, or 240V power socket as stan­dard and there is only one USB port. But the Colorado has an ace up its sleeve: price.

TOY­OTA HILUX SR5

Sit in the HiLux and you im­me­di­ately feel the step up in qual­ity.

The steer­ing wheel could be from a VW Golf GTI, with its bulging grips and leather stitch­ing.

Uniquely among this trio, the steer­ing wheel has height and reach ad­just­ment and the driver’s seat is su­perbly com­fort­able, with am­ple ad­just­ment and un­der thigh sup­port.

All four win­dows have an “auto-up” func­tion and there is a house­hold power socket to charge a lap­top.

The SR5 is the only one among this trio with a chilled con­sole above the glove­box, a sen­sor key with push-but­ton start and tinted rear glass.

In­te­rior pre­sen­ta­tion is best in class, although not ev­ery­one is a fan of the tablet-style touch­screen, which lacks an au­dio dial and Ap­ple CarPlay but comes with em­bed­ded nav­i­ga­tion.

The screen in the in­stru­ment clus­ter lacks a dig­i­tal speed dis­play.

From this month on­wards, the SR5’s price has risen by $400 to cover the cost of a stan­dard tow bar.

A tub liner is still an ex­tra­cost op­tion and there’s no plan to add a power socket to the tray.

On the road the HiLux is qui­eter and more re­fined than the oth­ers here when the en­gine is at cruis­ing revs but there’s no mis­tak­ing it for a diesel once you put your foot down.

As the only one here with hy­draulic power steer­ing (rather than elec­tric), the HiLux has the best steer­ing feel, which in­spires con­fi­dence in cor­ners. It also has the best brak­ing per­for­mance and feel.

On smooth sur­faces the sus­pen­sion is fine but once the road gets choppy it feels too firm.

In an un­usual twist, the SR5 flag­ship is not as com­fort­able as the more af­ford­able HiLux mod­els on smaller rims and more cush­ioned tyres.

VER­DICT

We wouldn’t talk any­one out of buy­ing any of these three utes.

If you want su­pe­rior off-road abil­ity, the most re­fine­ment and the best qual­ity, re­li­a­bil­ity and fuel econ­omy, look no fur­ther than the HiLux.

If you want the most com­fort­able and best equipped work­horse for the daily grind, the Ranger is the pick.

How­ever, the Holden wins. The Toy­ota and Ford utes come with hefty prices — and the Colorado’s drive-away price is at least $8000 cheaper. It drives al­most as well as a Ranger, has a stronger (if nois­ier) en­gine and is rel­a­tively well-equipped.

Holden has just flung a hand-grenade into the boom­ing ute mar­ket.

Pic­tures: Thomas Wi­elecki

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