Badge snob: How to save $5000 on a ute
Toyota HiLux or Ford Ranger? That seems to be the decision most ute buyers are grappling with these days. The pair accounts for more than 40 per cent of new ute sales.
Buyers don't make their choice based on price, either. The popular HiLux SR5 and Ranger XLT are roughly $5000 more than most of their equivalent rivals.
We check some options for those buyers looking to forgo the badge for an extra five grand in the back pocket. For this comparison, we've bypassed the favourites and headed for our third, fourth and fifth most popular 4WD utes - the Mitsubishi Triton, Holden Colorado and Isuzu D-Max in that order.
Holden Colorado LTZ
Since the demise of the locally made Commodore, the Colorado has been doing all the heavy lifting for Holden, accounting for four out of 10 Holden sales in the first half of this year.
The Colorado delivers the regular Holden traits - above average grunt and good value for money.
With 147kW on tap, it's the most powerful of this trio but, more importantly, it has a sizeable advantage in pulling power, claiming 500Nm of torque compared to 430Nm for the other two.
The advantage was particularly noticeable on an uphill run during our comparison test, where the Holden felt stronger both off the mark and on the run.
That translates to more towing ability than the Triton, at 3500kg to 3100kg, although the D-Max matches it on that score. The intuitive six-speed transmission adds to the Colorado's performance, picking the right gear for the most drive out of corners.
The engine isn't the quietest or most refined. There's vibration under acceleration at city speeds and, when pressed, the telltale diesel rattle is more noticeable than in the Mitsubishi.
The suspension is fidgety without a load on board and the big Holden feels cumbersome through the corners.
Inside, the Colorado isn't as well presented as a Ranger or HiLux, with hard, shiny plastics never far from the touch. On the plus side, the eight-inch centre screen is easy to navigate, there's Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, while satnav and digital radio are standard. It's also the only one of this trio with a digital speedo.
Heated front seats are a welcome comfort on a cold winter morning and the Holden can also be started remotely, allowing you to preheat the cabin. Apart from the towing capacity advantage, the Colorado has a higher payload than the Mitsubishi.
A tub liner and soft tonneau cover are standard at this level, as are adjustable leather-faced seats, front and rear parking sensors and climate control, although there are no rear air vents.
If you can forgo the leather seats and tub liner, Holden is doing deals on the previous model (MY19) LTZ for $49,990 drive-away with three years' free service.
Isuzu D-Max LS-T
Isuzu is punching well above its weight in Australia. With just two models in its line-up - one a derivative of the other - it has outsold heavyweights such as BMW.
There's nothing flash about the D-Max - it's just a no-frills workhorse that is developing a reputation for reliability and durability on worksites and farms.
The current model is effectively eight years old and there have been only cosmetic updates in that time, the most recent earlier this year when the LS-T we're testing got new matt black 18-inch alloys with a matching sports bar that's a welcome change from the customary chrome.
Inside, there are some new piano black surfaces and the LS-T is comfortable enough, with leather seats and padded elbow rests on the doors.
The dash layout is simple and utilitarian, while the centre screen and driving information readouts are old-fashioned compared with the Triton. Absent are digital speedo, heated seats and smartphone mirroring, while the rear camera lacks clarity. There is a USB port in the back for the kids and audio with eight speakers (some in the roof lining) but no rear air vents.
Driver aids are also lacking on the D-Max. Rivals are increasingly fitting autonomous emergency braking on top-spec models but the tech isn't available here at any price.
Buyers can option a blind-spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert for $955. Front parking sensors are $545.
A hard, lockable tonneau cover will give tradies extra peace of mind for storing expensive tools, while family buyers will appreciate decent head and legroom in the rear.
On the road, the D-Max shows its age. The engine is coarse under throttle and takes a while to get into its sweet spot, while the transmission delivers the odd shunt at low speeds.
The steering is heavier than its rivals, which makes it a little less city-friendly, although it's a comfortable cruiser on the open road.
What it lacks in mod cons, the Isuzu makes up for with a compelling ownership story. It has a six-year/150,000km warranty and six years of free roadside assistance.
Mitsubishi Triton GLS Premium
The new, more masculine looking Triton lobbed towards the end of last year loaded with safety tech not available on most of the opposition. Apart from AEB, the GLS Premium has lane-keeping and blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and headlights that automatically dim for oncoming traffic.
With more and more ute buyers putting them to use as family freighters, this level of driving assistance is a powerful selling tool.
The technology story doesn't end there. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, as is digital radio, while there are two USB outlets each in the front and back, plus two 12V outlets.
Creature comforts include leather seats - heated in the front and electrically adjustable for the driver - and roof mounted vents for pumping cool air into the rear seats.
There are omissions, though. The Triton lacks the Colorado's digital speedo and satnav isn't standard.
The cabin looks the most modern and upmarket of this trio and there are more soft-touch surfaces. The handbrake and gear lever, for example, are wrapped in leather.
On the road, the Mitsubishi is the quietest and most car-like of the three. Its steering is more direct and it is more eager to turn into corners than the others.
It lacks the outright grunt of the Colorado but the smooth six-speed is well matched to the 2.4-litre diesel, delivering lively enough acceleration for its intended purpose.
The only blot is a tendency to skip over corrugations when unladen. As well as the lower tow rating, its payload is considerably less than the others'.
The Triton has been $50,990 drive-away since its launch, a sharp price given the level of technology on board. The value equation improves further with the current seven years/150,000km warranty, $1000 worth of accessories and two years' fixed price servicing, comfortably undercutting the Holden and Isuzu.
The Isuzu is as honest as the day is long but it is the most expensive here and lacks polish and technology. The Colorado is well equipped, sharply priced and the one to choose for lugging big loads but the Triton is the best all-rounder here, thanks to its impressive technology, a more modern cabin and low running costs.
Mitsubishi Triton vitals
Price: $50,990 drive-away
Warranty/servicing: 7 years/150,000km, $299 for 3 years
Safety: 5 stars, 7 airbags, AEB, lane departure and blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert
Engine: 2.4-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 133kW/430Nm
Isuzu D-Max vitals
Price: $51,990 drive-away
Warranty/servicing: 6 years/150,000km, $1300 for 3 years
Safety: 5 stars, 6 airbags, rear camera
Engine: 3.0-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 130kW/430Nm
Holden Colorado vitals
Price: $51,990 drive-away
Warranty/servicing: 5 years/unlimited km, $1217 for 3 years
Safety: 5 stars, 7 airbags, forward collision alert, lane departure warning
Engine: 2.8-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 147kW/500Nm