Work Ute Test: Mahin­dra dual cab

If $80K+ seems a bit steep to get a LandCruiser 79 Se­ries dual-cab farm ute out the dealer’s door then per­haps it’s time to have a look at a Mahin­dra Pik-Up and save your­self $50K?

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What do you think of your Mahin­dra, mate?” came the ques­tion from the bloke on the other side of the pump when I was fu­elling the Pik-Up at a servo off the Hume.

“Not mine mate, but it’s as cheap as chips for what it is,” was my re­ply. To which my new friend added: “My mate has a Mahin­dra trac­tor and he reck­ons it’s the best thing he’s ever bought.”

Less than a week later, another bloke, this time in the main street of a small coun­try town near where I live, also asked me about the brightred Mahin­dra Pik-Up and, in much the same con­ver­sa­tion went on to say: “My mate has a Mahin­dra trac­tor and he reck­ons it’s the best thing he’s ever bought.”

Now, I’m not sure if this is just a co­in­ci­dence or these two blokes have a friend in com­mon (both con­ver­sa­tions took place in the NSW south­ern table­lands), but I do know that Mahin­dra makes more trac­tors than any­one else glob­ally, em­ploys more than 200,000 peo­ple in over 100 coun­tries, and has in­ter­ests in things as di­verse as aero­space and de­fence. And Mahin­dra makes four-wheel drives.

In fact, Mahin­dra has been mak­ing 4WDs since 1947 when it be­gan assem­bly of war-sur­plus Jeeps from knock­down parts sup­plied un­der li­cence from Willys-Overland in the USA. In a sign of just how far Mahin­dra has come since then, the roles are now re­versed with Mahin­dra ex­port­ing a Jeep looka­like (called the Roxor) back to the USA for assem­bly there. Mahin­dra Jeep looka­likes (sim­i­lar to the Jeep CJ) first ap­peared in Aus­tralia in 1990, while the Pik-Up ute, in both 4x4 and 4x2 vari­ants, ar­rived here in 2007.

Mahin­dra’s new Pik-Up 4x4, al­though us­ing the ba­sic chas­sis of the orig­i­nal, is ef­fec­tively a sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion ve­hi­cle and comes with a more-pow­er­ful en­gine, a six-speed man­ual gear­box (pre­vi­ously five-speed), fresh ex­te­rior styling, a new in­te­rior, more equip­ment and, for the first time in Aus­tralia, elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol (ESC), which since the end of 2017 has been manda­tory on all new light-com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles. ESC, es­sen­tially a safety up­grade, in­cor­po­rates elec­tronic trac­tion con­trol (ETC), which is a sig­nif­i­cant help any­where that’s slip­pery – such as a muddy pad­dock or build­ing site.

Here we are test­ing the bet­ter equipped of two dual-cab mod­els, the S10 (see ‘Equip­ment’). As you can tell from its looks, the Pik-Up is more in the style of a LandCruiser 79 than some­thing like a Hilux, though the Pik-Up does have in­de­pen­dent front sus­pen­sion rather than a front live axle, so more Hilux and less LC79 in that re­gard.

My mate has a Mahin­dra trac­tor and he reck­ons it’s the best thing he’s ever bought

CLIMB ABOARD

It’s a fair step up to the Pik-Up’s cabin, and while the side steps can be of help when climb­ing aboard, there’s no as­sist han­dle on the driver’s A-pil­lar. Once in­side the cabin it feels tall and up­right and more light truck than a pas­sen­ger ute.

There’s no steer­ing-wheel reach ad­just­ment (only tilt ad­just­ment), but the driver and front pas­sen­ger both get fold-down arm­rests while the driver’s seat also has height ad­just­ment – both part of the S10’s ex­tra equip­ment over the S6.

It also of­fers heaps of head­room, de­cent legroom and suf­fi­cient width for three adults in back seat too, even if the seat it­self is rel­a­tively up­right and some­what hard.

The cabin feels more mod­ern than be­fore but needs more small-item stor­age, bot­tle hold­ers in the front doors and more se­cure stowage for the jack han­dle and wheel brace, which are teth­ered loosely un­der the rear seat. This new Pik-Up hasn’t been ANCAP safety tested al­though the pre­vi­ous model achieved a three-star rat­ing with­out the elec­tronic sta­bil­ity and trac­tion con­trol, and rollover mit­i­ga­tion is now fit­ted, so it may do bet­ter if and when tested.

ON THE ROAD

The Pik-Up’s new en­gine claims a mod­est 103kW of power (up from 90kW) and 330Nm of torque (up from 290Nm). It’s no pow­er­house by to­day’s ute stan­dards but these num­bers don’t re­ally re­flect what is a will­ing en­gine that gets on with the job with lit­tle fuss, even if doesn’t have much left in re­serve for over­tak­ing at high­way speeds. Mod­est power and torque from a mod­ern

2.2-litre Euro 5-com­pli­ant diesel does, how­ever, bode well for longevity.

This new en­gine is also smooth and quiet, far more so than you’d ex­pect and even qui­eter than some diesel dual-cabs that cost twice as much. For its part, the new six-speed man­ual of­fers easy and pos­i­tive shifts, all helped by a light and short clutch ac­tion.

The over­all gear­ing is short enough so that open road and ex­press­way hills can be gen­er­ally con­quered in top, yet tall enough to not feel too busy at high­way speeds.

The Pik-Up also of­fers de­cent steer­ing feel and feed­back and doesn’t do any­thing un­to­ward han­dling-wise, even on bumpy coun­try roads and at open-road speeds. The un­laden ride is, how­ever, very much on the firm side, so you can be bounced around a bit, but the up­side is that it car­ries heavy loads well.

IN THE PAD­DOCK

The Pik-Up is more than handy in the pad­dock or any­where where you need a 4WD. There’s ex­cel­lent vis­i­bil­ity from the driver’s seat so you’re less likely to run over some­thing you shouldn’t, more ground clear­ance than the fac­tory claim of 210mm sug­gests, and a prac­ti­cal 16-inch wheel and tyre com­bi­na­tion.

Un­for­tu­nately, the stock tyres’ tread pat­tern is ‘high­way’ rather than ‘all-ter­rain’ but the mod­est speed rat­ing (‘S’ or 180km/h) sug­gests a rel­a­tively ro­bust con­struc­tion. The tyres are Gen­eral Grab­bers, made in the USA no less, so should be de­cent qual­ity.

The Pik-Up comes stan­dard with an Eaton brand self-lock­ing dif­fer­en­tial at the rear, which works even in two-wheel drive. A bet­ter idea than the lock­ers you have to switch on … of­ten too late when you are al­ready stuck. 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, so the gen­eral trac­tive abil­ity of the Pik-Up is good.

Part-time 4x4 with low range – op­er­ated via a ro­tary dial – of­fers plenty of re­duc­tion for slowspeed work.

LOAD CAR­RY­ING

With a GVM of 3,150kg, so 150kg less than the heav­ier LC79 but 100kg more than the sim­i­lar­weight Hilux, the Pik-Up has a very com­pet­i­tive pay­load – around 1,050kg with this steel tray and 1,070kg with the fac­tory tub.

To test its load-car­ry­ing abil­ity, we threw

800kg on a full-sized pal­let in the tub. With the longer cabin of the dual-cab this weight is all be­hind the rear axle, so a tough test. Add in driver and pas­sen­ger (another 150kg) and 50kg of mis­cel­la­neous gear, and you’re right on the 1,050kg max­i­mum pay­load, with the ma­jor­ity of that well be­hind the rear axle.

How did it han­dle it? Well, in a word or two, very nicely in­deed. On the road you could feel the weight on the back but the Pik-Up re­mained sta­ble and se­cure.

And while the en­gine also felt the weight in gen­eral ac­cel­er­a­tion and hill-climb­ing, it didn’t need to work ex­ces­sively hard to main­tain high­way speeds.

No tow test­ing this time but worth not­ing the Pik-Up has a 2,500kg tow rat­ing, which is 1,000kg be­hind the LC79 and utes like Ranger, Colorado, Mazda BT-50 and Amarok V6.

OWN­ER­SHIP

The Pik-Up has 15,000km or 12-month ser­vice in­ter­vals and 40 deal­ers nationally. The war­ranty is three years/100,000km with an ex­tra two years’ cov­er­age on the pow­er­train – pro­vided the ve­hi­cle hasn’t cov­ered 100,000km. Cur­rently the re­sale value of the Pik-Up af­ter three years is around 50 per cent.

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1. Mahin­dra’s new Pik-Up 4x4 is ef­fec­tively a sec­ond­gen­er­a­tion ve­hi­cle and comes with a more-pow­er­ful en­gine, six-speed man­ual gear­box, fresh ex­te­rior styling, a new in­te­rior, more equip­ment and, for the first time in Aus­tralia, elec­tronic sta­bil­ity...

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