Spec-wise the lat­est top-of-the-line utes from Mazda, Mit­subishi and Toy­ota are very sim­i­lar. So what are they like on and off the road? We spent a long day find­ing out…

New Zealand Company Vehicle - - CONTENTS - Story by Ross Mackay. Pho­tos by Gra­ham Hughes.

In which we take three top-spec turbo-diesel dou­ble cab utes and spend a day on seal, gravel and mud to re­port on what we liked and what we, er, didn’t.

Time was when the words ‘ute’ and ‘Hilux’ were vir­tu­ally in­ter­change­able. New Zealand was a sim­pler place back then of course. These days con­sumers have vir­tu­ally un­lim­ited choice and a ‘one size’ Toy­ota ‘no longer fits all.’ To that end all the key play­ers in the lo­cal ute mar­ket have cre­ated com­pre­hen­sive ranges which – in the­ory any­way – cater for ev­ery pos­si­ble use. One ‘sub-set’ which, no doubt, would have Toy­ota’s orig­i­nal ‘brand am­bas­sador’ Barry Crump lift­ing his bat­tle-worn slouch hat and scratch­ing his head, is the lux­ury-trimmed, large di­am­e­ter al­loy wheel-equipped top-of-the-lin­ers. It’s these that are sell­ing though so we re­solved to test both on and off the road and come up with our own con­clu­sions.

2018 Sam­ple

For want of as level a play­ing field as pos­si­ble we set­tled on a stan­dard con­fig­u­ra­tion – 4WD au­to­matic trans­mis­sion turbo-diesel dou­ble cab, ‘prefer­ably the ‘Boss’s model’ (rather than the ‘boys’ one)’ we said in our email to the (by now, many and var­ied) dis­trib­u­tors. Be­cause we test out of the usual cy­cle of new ve­hi­cle launches it is get­ting harder and harder to find like-for-like ve­hi­cles to com­pare and con­trast. What we ended up with could hardly been bet­ter though, Toy­ota’s new SR5 Cruiser, Mazda’s BT-50 ‘Spe­cial Edi­tion’ and Mit­subishi’s premier

Vrx-spec Tri­ton, all fin­ished in a vari­a­tion of what you could call ‘chic graphite grey.’ Price-wise there was a bit of a range with the BT-50 SE 4WD auto kick­ing things off at $53,995, the Toy­ota chim­ing in at a mid­dle-of-the-road $55,990 and the Tri­ton VRX round­ing things out with an RRP of $62,990.

The route

Orig­i­nally I was go­ing to use a mix of city and coun­try tarseal and a gravel loop in Auck­land’s ru­ral north­west linked by one of those elu­sive ‘pa­per roads’ our colum­nist Peter Vahry of­ten talks about. How­ever, con­trib­u­tor Ash­ley Lu­cas did a quick recce and came back with good and bad news. The bad was that the pa­per road had been hacked into a se­ries of deep wa­ter­filled ruts and diff-snar­ing ridges which he felt could end up un­nec­es­sar­ily dam­ag­ing our ‘dealer demos.’ The good, how­ever, was that he knew ‘a farmer up that way’ with a prop­erty he might let us bor­row.

The testers

With just three utes in our 2018 sam­ple the driver choice was sim­ple. There’d be me ( NZ4WD mag Ed­i­tor and chief truck cleaner/de­tailer) Ross Mackay, col­league and off-road rac­ing me­dia man Mark Baker, and long-time con­trib­u­tor Ash­ley Lu­cas.

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