And the awards go to…
All-round excellence: Toyota Hilux SR5 Cruiser
Stepping up to the toplevel SR5 Cruiser spec just makes the Hilux ‘more Hilux’. It has long been a favourite on and off road and its popularity with tradies, families, business owners and public utilities is well known and well founded. On the road, the Hilux shone through as the most capable of the three, though the BT-50 gave it a close run. Hilux brakes consistently even when unsettled – by mistake – over a brow. It is the only one in the trio with fourpot front calipers, giving it superb brake feel and even braking performance in almost every situation. Big rear drums are well matched, though of course in water crossings they do tend to retain water. For me, too, the six-speed transmission is a highlight. I rate it best of the group – silky smooth, almost predictive in its nature. Rear drive, four-wheeldrive, locking systems are all easily accessed and effective. Finally, the Hilux SR5 Cruiser’s start-point of under $56,000 makes it a very competitive package, and a truck that is going to meet the needs of a massive range of users, both private and commercial.
Luxury Sports: Mazda BT-50 Special Edition
The key ‘plus-point’ across Mazda’s BT-50 range is – in my opinion anyway – the engine. There’s something about the five-cylinder engine in the BT-50, which it currently shares with the Ranger. Whether it’s the classic five-cylinder soundtrack, or the grunt the soundtrack implies it is certainly easy to quantify, at the brochure (where the BT-50 trumps the Hilux with 20 more Nm of torque) or in everyday use where it makes a measurable difference on and off the road. The Special Edition stands out with a unique Aluminium Metallic colour and graphic package and rolls on 17-inch black metallic alloy wheels.
Loaded and ready: Mitsubishi Triton VRX
Feature for feature, Mitsubishi’s Triton regularly outperforms other diesel double-cab utes in value for money. It is as capable off-road as on-road, though the front end doesn’t seem to have quite as much suspension travel as either of the other trucks, and consequently we went bashplatesurfing halfway through a rutted bog. The 2.4-litre MIVEC turbodiesel engine is a real eager-beaver, though in this company torque was slightly in the shade (at 437 Nm at 2,000 rpm) with an occasional feeling like lag when pulling away from a stop. Inside the cab, door and dash areas feature resilient hard plastics where needed for reducing wear and tear, with softer textures elsewhere. With a shorter wheelbase than its rivals in this test, the Triton has an almost car-like 11.8 m turning circle, though the same short(er) wheelbase means ride and suspension action lacks the ultimate composure both the BT-50 and Hilux displayed.
The envelope, please
This time around it is Toyota’s new SR5 ‘Cruiser which is the winner (literallly by a nose) from Mazda’s Special Edition BT-50 and Mitsubishi’s Triton VRX.