For Cap­tains of In­dus­try

SA’s top-sell­ing bakkie has two lesser spot­ted cousins, Al­wyn Viljoen took them into the for­est

The Witness - Wheels - - BAKKIES - AL­WYN VILJOEN

IT used to be that South Africa only had two types of bakkie driv­ers — those in a Toy­ota Hilux and those in other bakkies.

But with the Ford Ranger be­ing SA’s top-sell­ing bakkie since Jan­uary, we must now up­date this list to three types of bakkie driv­ers — the oke in the Ranger, fol­lowed by the bloke in the Hilux, fol­lowed by those in an Isuzu or Nis­san NP300; and then came the lesser-sell­ing bakkies, which range from the Amarok to the Tun­land.

Of note among th­ese other bakkies are the Mazda BT-50 and the JMC Vi­gus, be­cause they are, of course, cousins to the Ranger. The ques­tion is, do they of­fer vi­able op­tions to the Ranger?

I have now taken them all into the moun­tains that make Pi­eter­mar­itzburg such a play­ground for moun­tain­bik­ers, us­ing an Isuzu KB300 au­to­matic as the bench­mark.

The re­sults up The Slope and around the gravel cor­ners was six of one and half a dozen of the other. Even with 180 Nm less power than the Ranger, the 2,4 Vi­gus car­ried its load, well, vig­or­ously while the 90 Nm lesser power Isuzu was built to hun­ker down with a load. But the BT50 is the bar­gain among th­ese bakkies, de­spite older tech in the dash­board.

Mazda BT-50: (147 kW, 470 Nm) The BT-50 shares ev­ery­thing ex­cept the badge and those curves with the Ranger. But where Ford merges seam­lessly with any smart­phone, the BT-50’s older Blue­tooth ar­chi­tec­ture doesn’t. To scroll the menus on the tiny screen of the on-board com­put­ers re­quires press­ing a tiny plas­tic nub be­hind the steer­ing wheel. But the 3.2 dou­ble cab 4x4 SLE auto sells for just over R555 000, which means the canny cap­tain of in­dus­try can get last year’s Ford tech­nol­ogy at a dis­count. Last month, only 33 peo­ple were this canny.

Isuzu KB 300 DTEQ (130 kW, 380 Nm). The Isuzu is not a cousin of Ford, but as SA’s thirdbest-sell­ing bakkie it makes a good com­par­i­son. Its price of about R563 000 seems high, but as many farm­ers know, there is a steep dis­count for the ask­ing, which makes Isuzu SA’s un­sung bakkie hero on dirt roads.

PHO­TOS: FILE

Ford Ranger (147 kW, 470 Nm) There are many rea­sons why this is now South Africa’s best-sell­ing bakkie, with 3 333 new own­ers in SA dur­ing June and 5 631 more units ex­ported. The smooth engines, the 4x4 abil­ity and the er­gonomic cabin are just some of them. A low price is not. The 3.2 dou­ble cab 4x4 XLT auto goes for about R594 000.

JMC Vi­gus (88 kW, 290 Nm) JMC builds Fords in China which ex­plains why the Vi­gus looks so fa­mil­iar. The 2.4 turbo diesel 4WD SLX sells for about R376 000. This is as low as it gets for a well-ap­pointed work­horse, with proper tie-hooks on the out­side load bin and Bosch and Ford tech un­der the hood.

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