Even a van- man like AL­WYN VILJOEN can get ex­cited about the six new dou­ble cabs com­ing to SA

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE - Heidi Col­lyer, pal­lia­tive care man­ager at the Msun­duzi Hospice, is one of the many care givers grate­ful for the re­li­able Nis­san NP300 spon­sored by CMH Nis­san in Pi­eter­mar­itzburg. Cur­rent dealer of­fers make this 2- litre lwb bakkie one of the best- value w

I MUST con­fess to not un­der­stand­ing the why­fors be­hind dou­ble cab bakkies.

I get that they look so beau­ti­fully butch and can see a need for a 4x4 drop­side for very slip­pery ter­rains just be­cause a 4x4 van is that much more ex­pen­sive.

But as a trans­port writer, when I get asked which is the best bakkie be­tween, for ex­am­ple, the new Hilux and Ranger, I hon­estly have to an­swer nei­ther one.

For the best bakkie is al­ways a van — any van.

The askers are al­ways own­ers of one of th­ese dou­ble cabs ( no dis­re­spect in­tended on call­ing them “askers”) and they al­ways look non­plussed at my an­swer.

I then ex­plain the best bakkie is al­ways go­ing to be a van be­cause I like my wheels to earn their keep by car­ry­ing loads with the low­est out­lay for the most se­cu­rity. Vans meet th­ese cri­te­ria. Bakkies do not. This im­me­di­ately leads to sev- eral “ja buts” around the fire from all dou­ble cab own­ers.

“I can load our bikes and go cy­cle in the moun­tain,” an oke with legs like Her­cules tells me.

“So can a Hyundai H1, Merc Sprinter, Ford Tran­sit, VW Trans­porter and even a Maxus, with a lot more se­cu­rity for your pricey moun­tain bikes,” I re­tort.

“I en­joy the high seat po­si­tion,” pipes up a pe­tite fe­male driver.

I tell her I can look down and ad­mire her shapely legs from my even more com­mand­ing height in the pan­el­van’s seat.

“I must have big wheels for the pot­holes,” says an oke in khaki.

I tell him bud­get cars like the Toy­ota Etios, Tata Bolt and Dat­sun Go were all de­signed for the many, many more peo­ple buy­ing cars for much rougher roads in Thai­land, In­dia and South Amer­ica.

“I farm cat­tle on a hilly farm, can’t do with­out a 4x4,” coun­ters an­other oke, as he sips his lager with nar­rowed stare.

I sip my stout right back at him with an even nar­rower stare and tell how I farmed sheep on a flat farm that was black muddy bog all the way down, and a Mahin­dra 4x2 with a set of snow chains on the rear wheels went any­where.

May as well talk to char­coal

I may as well be talk­ing to the dead char­coal for all the im­pact my prag­matic views on work­ing wheels have at th­ese braais.

For the bot­tom line is there will al­ways be driv­ers — many of them pe­tite and fe­male — who love the look of a big bakkie and just have to have one, the ex­tra out­lay be damned.

For them there is good news and bet­ter news, for not one, but a slew of to­tally new bakkie brands are head­ing to South Africa to en­liven the pot.

Top of this list is the new ver­sion of the orig­i­nal butch bakkie, the Nis­san Navara, which is com­ing back bulkier than ever, and it now has a Mercedes- Benz bolton clone.

In the sleek cor­ner the new Mit­subishi Tri­ton has sadly toned down its dar­ing tear drop shape, but it is of­fer­ing a Fiat Full­back one- ton­ner sib­ling on the same plat­form.

And from way out­side the box both Re­nault and Hyundai have now rewrit­ten the style book for butch bakkies with lines so sleek they made even this van man look twice.

Half a dirty dozen com­ing

Th­ese six new bakkies are ready to com­pete with Toy­ota’s Hilux for mi­nor­ity share of the grow­ing dou­ble cab mar­ket, all of­fer­ing “car- like com­forts” and rides of vary­ing soft­ness and abil­ity.

Ex­pect the Navara, which now boasts a multi- link rear sus­pen­sion in­stead of leaf springs, to again set the stan­dard for a smooth ride over rough roads.

There is no news yet when Merc’s ver­sion of the Navara will ar­rive in SA, but Mercedes- Benz com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle spokesper­son Sibu­siso Mk­wanaze did con­firm to Wheels the bakkie is on its way.

In the Re­nault- Nis­san al­liance cor­ner there are two bakkies aimed against Toy­ota’s global bakkie dom­i­nance. In a coun­try where Hilux is of­ten the best sell­ing ve­hi­cle over­all, it comes as a sur­prise that Re­nault is the top light com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle brand in Europe, thanks to the likes of the no- non­sense Kan­goo.

Re­nault’s main Hilux- fighter is called the Alaskan and this con­cept bakkie is as far re­moved from its sparse Kan­goo sib­ling as it is pos­si­ble to get, with a de­sign and sleek ex­tras that prom­ise to warm the cock­les of dou­ble cab ad­mir­ers around any fire.

The new global model, a larger one- ton pickup pre­viewed by the Alaskan con­cept, will ex­tend Re­nault’s pickup pres­ence out of South Amer­ica, help­ing it grab a piece of a world­wide pickup seg- ment it iden­ti­fies as one- third of the light com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle mar­ket

At the re­cent São Paulo Mo­tor Show, Re­nault also ex­per­i­mented with a sporty pickup ver­sion of the Da­cia Duster SUV, show­ing how the plat­form could haul five peo­ple and of­fer a small load bed.

From Korea, Hyundai is fi­nally fill­ing its gap be­tween sport utes and small de­liv­ery trucks with a lux­ury bakkie with the Santa Cruz Cross­over.

This truck con­cept was un­veiled at the North Amer­i­can In­ter­na­tional Mo­tor Show in Detroit last year and is re­port­edly de­signed small enough to be move through city streets and cramped park­ing lots dur­ing the week, but big and ver­sa­tile enough to ferry cargo on the week­ends.

Hyundai aims this con­cept at those askers around the braai. Only, the com­pany calls them the “ur­ban ad­ven­tur­ers”.

Spot the dif­fer­ence: The new Nis­san Navara prom­ises a soft ride on a multi- link rear sus­pen­sion, as will its bolt- on clone, the new Mercedes- Benz bakkie. The main dif­fer­ence be­tween the two will be the cladding in­side — and the price for the badge.


From the Re­nault- Nis­san sta­ble comes this French bakkie.


The short Duster bakkie, which Da­cia de­vel­oped for Ro­ma­nia’s OMV Petrom oil and gas group, will be pop­u­lar in SA and Brazil IF Re­nault ex­ports it.

The Fiat Full­back ( left) was launched at the 2015 Dubai Mo­tor Show and will be built on the bones of the cur­rent Mit­subishi Tri­ton, the lat­est of which ( above) no longer has that dar­ing tear- drop cabin.

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