BUD­GET BEAUT

$30K WILL GET YOU INTO A PIK-UP DU­AL­CAB 4X4, BUT IS IT GOOD VALUE?

4 x 4 Australia - - Driven - WORDS FRASER STRONACH PHO­TOS MARK BEAN

MAHIN­DRA’S new Pik-up 4x4 has ar­rived in Aus­tralia and brings sig­nif­i­cant changes, head­lined by a more pow­er­ful en­gine, a six-speed man­ual gear­box, fresh styling, a new in­te­rior, more equip­ment, and, for the first time, elec­tronic chas­sis con­trol sys­tems (as its fit­ment on all­new light com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles be­came manda­tory at the end of 2017). This top-to-bot­tom re­birth comes some 10 years af­ter the Pik-up first ar­rived in Aus­tralia, and it fol­lows the 2011 up­date that saw a new, more-pow­er­ful Euro-5 com­pli­ant 2.2-litre diesel re­place the orig­i­nal 2.5-litre diesel. What we are driv­ing here is the top-spec (S10) dual-cab 4x4 and, as you can tell from its looks, the Pik-up is more in the style of a Land Cruiser 79 than some­thing like a Hilux or Ranger, given it is more ‘light-truck’ than ‘pas­sen­ger ute’ in its gen­eral body style and de­sign in­tent.

The Pik-up’s trump card is pric­ing, with the S6 dual-cab (with fac­tory tub) less than $29,990 drive-away and the up-spec S10, also with a fac­tory tub, just $2K more. Our test ve­hi­cle is an S10 but with the tub re­placed with a deluxe heavy-duty colour-coded steel tray, mak­ing it a $34,990 drive-away propo­si­tion. Com­pare that to the $80K+ you pay to get an LC79 dou­ble-cab (with a tray and air-con).

In the April 2018 is­sue of 4X4 Aus­tralia we tested the new Pik-up 4x4 sin­gle-cab and came away very im­pressed, so we were keen to see how the more ver­sa­tile dual-cab shapes up, es­pe­cially as a re­cre­ational 4x4.

POW­ER­TRAIN AND PER­FOR­MANCE

DE­SPITE its up­graded 2.2-litre four-cylin­der diesel, the Pik-up is still no pow­er­house on pa­per and claims a mod­est 103kw (up from 90kw) and 330Nm (up from 290Nm). But these num­bers don’t re­ally re­flect what is a will­ing and en­er­getic en­gine that gets on with the job with lit­tle fuss. Per­haps the se­cret is that the 330Nm is avail­able from just 1600rpm and doesn’t di­min­ish un­til 2800rpm, which pro­vides a nicely lin­ear power de­liv­ery over a wide rpm band. That said, the Pik-up doesn’t have much left in re­serve for over­tak­ing at high­way speeds, and this is one of the few sit­u­a­tions where more power would be wel­come.

The new en­gine also im­presses with its re­fine­ment and noise con­trol, and cer­tainly sounds and feels more like a qual­ity pas­sen­ger-car diesel than some­thing you would find in a com­mer­cial work and farm ve­hi­cle.

For its part, the six-speed man­ual of­fers short and crisp shifts, with over­all gear­ing short enough so that open road and ex­press­way hills can be con­quered in top, yet tall enough to not feel busy at high­way speeds. At 100km/h in sixth, the en­gine spins at a rel­a­tively mod­est 2000rpm and feels very re­laxed and happy.

ON-ROAD

THE Pik-up is a rel­a­tively high-rid­ing work and farm ute, so don’t ex­pect it to han­dle like a go-kart on-road. That said, the Pik-up of­fers de­cent steer­ing feel and feed­back and doesn’t do any­thing par­tic­u­larly un­to­ward on bumpy coun­try roads. How­ever, un­laden ride qual­ity is on the firm side and you can be bounced around a bit, but this is the down­side of its abil­ity to carry its max­i­mum pay­load (1000kg+) with­out be­com­ing too soft or soggy (see Pay­load Test break­out on page 72).

OFF-ROAD

THERE’S noth­ing too shabby about the Pik-up when off-road, with ex­cel­lent vis­i­bil­ity from the upright driv­ing po­si­tion, more

ground clear­ance than the fac­tory claim of 210mm sug­gests, and off-road friendly 16-inch wheel and tyre spec­i­fi­ca­tion. The Pik-up also comes stan­dard with an Eaton (me­chan­i­cal) self-locker at the rear, which works even in two-wheel drive. In ad­di­tion, the Pik-up has elec­tronic trac­tion con­trol that stays ac­tive on the front axle in four-wheel drive even when the Eaton locker en­gages, all of which makes the Pik-up more so­phis­ti­cated in this re­gard than the ma­jor­ity of the pop­u­lar main­stream utes.

More wheel travel from the in­de­pen­dent tor­sion-bar front-end would be wel­come. The rear leaf-sprung live axle does bet­ter for travel, and what trouble you may have when the Pik-up starts to lift wheels is coun­tered by the locker and the trac­tion con­trol. It’s still no LC79 in gnarly off-road con­di­tions, but it’s still more than handy. Part-time 4x4, op­er­ated via a ro­tary dial, comes cour­tesy of a Borg­warner trans­fer case, and the en­gage­ment and disen­gage­ment of both High4 and Low4 proved seam­less and rel­a­tively quick, which is not al­ways the case with elec­tro­mag­netic trans­fer boxes. Plenty of re­duc­tion in low range, too, for steep coun­try.

CABIN AND SAFETY

THE Pik-up’s upright cabin is spa­cious both back and front. There’s no steer­ing-wheel reach ad­just­ment (only tilt ad­just­ment), but the driver’s seat has height ad­just­ment, and both driver and front pas­sen­ger get fold-down arm­rests, both part of the S10’s ex­tra kit (see Equip­ment break­out). There’s heaps of head­room, de­cent legroom and suf­fi­cient width for three adults in the back seat, too, even if the seat is rel­a­tively upright and some­what hard.

The cabin is much bet­ter fin­ished than be­fore and gen­er­ally feels more modern, but could be bet­ter in de­tail. It needs more cen­tre-con­sole stor­age, bot­tle hold­ers in the front doors, and more se­cure stowage for the jack han­dle and wheel brace, which are both ‘Velcro-ed’ un­der the rear seat and soon ‘float’ around.

This new Pik-up hasn’t been ANCAP safety tested; although, the pre­vi­ous model achieved a three-star rat­ing with­out elec­tronic sta­bil­ity, trac­tion con­trol and rollover mit­i­ga­tion, now fit­ted.

PRAC­TI­CAL­I­TIES

AT A TIME when most utes boast 3500kg tow rat­ings the Pik-up of­fers 2500kg, which is still handy enough de­pend­ing on what you wish to tow. The Pik-up is more than com­pet­i­tive with its 1000kg+ pay­load claim, though.

The stan­dard 80-litre fuel tank pro­vides a rea­son­able fuel range given the en­gine is rel­a­tively thrifty, and there’s room un­der­neath to fit a long-range tank if needs be. Lots of op­tions, too, in terms of all-ter­rain and mud-ter­rain tyres (some in Light Truck con­struc­tion) to re­place the stan­dard 245/75R16 (111 S) Gen­eral Grab­ber HTS (made in the USA, no less), which are still more than handy off-road away from deep mud.

Fac­tory ac­ces­sories in­clude a winch-com­pat­i­ble steel bull­bar, a snorkel, var­i­ous trays and a tow­bar. A sus­pen­sion up­grade and lift kit, a stain­less-steel nudge­bar and a bash­plate are all in Mahin­dra’s ac­ces­sory pipe­line.

Nice de­tail touches around the Pik-up in­clude gas bon­net-struts and a man­ual fuel-pump prime; although, the lack of a lock for the fuel cap isn’t ideal.

The Pik-up has 15,000km or 12-month ser­vice in­ter­vals with ser­vice pro­vided by 40 deal­ers na­tion­ally, while the war­ranty is the in­dus­try stan­dard three years/100,000km.

SUM UP

GIVEN its price point, the Pik-up is bet­ter to drive than it should be. It’s sur­pris­ingly pleas­ant on-road (bet­ter than an LC79 in many ways), can carry a de­cent load and is more than use­ful off-road. It also looks to be solidly built and, in the 10 years the Pik-up has been in Aus­tralia, it has earned a rep­u­ta­tion for de­cent re­li­a­bil­ity. As a farm and work ve­hi­cle it de­serves to sell much bet­ter than it does … every farm should have one, in fact.

Is it a good propo­si­tion as a re­cre­ational fam­ily 4x4? Well, it cer­tainly of­fers a lot of func­tion­al­ity for the money, and if you don’t need the power and per­for­mance of other main­stream utes – or more than a 2500kg tow rat­ing – it’s well worth a look.

The up­graded diesel is no pow­er­house, but it’s a no-non­sense donk that gets the job done.

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