Best Dual Cab Utes on the Market - Performance, Interior, and FeaturesPublished Saturday, October 29, 2022
The ute segment is fierce in Australia, breaking annual sales records each year for one reason: versatility. The latest utes are quiet and comfortable, which is why you see Aussie mums driving their kids to school in one, and they're powerful and practical for work and off-road purposes.
2022 is coming to an end, and we've seen many auto manufacturers dominate this segment. Some utes prioritize carrying heavy loads and off-road abilities, some focus on road dynamics, while others offer a fantastic price to remain competitive. With so many options available, here is our list of the best dual cab utes in the market.
Nissan Navara ST-X
The Nissan Navara dual cab has a polished sports bar, side steps, stunning ice-cube style quad LED headlights, and striking LED tail lights, making the Navara a handsome vehicle. It is the brand's best-selling model in Australia, offering a good mix of practicality, capability, and modern technology.
Engine and Performance
The mid-spec Nissan Navara has a twin-turbocharged 2.3-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel engine under the hood and comes with either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed automatic transmission. The four-wheel drive is expected to take the lion's share of the Navara sales, but a two-wheel drive is also available.
Engine-wise, this Nissan borrows it from its previous models offering no extra power or torque. When launched in 2015, the Navara boasted a strong engine combined with its unique transmission. However, the competition has since overtaken it.
Despite the outdated engine, it still has enough power compared to the D-Max. Driving the Navara feels excellent, and the diesel engine is surprisingly quiet, with no turbo lag. The transmission is smooth, and the steering is light enough for off-road use. Navara's off-road ability includes features such as hill descent control, an off-road monitor, and a lockable rear differential.
Its coil sprung rear end suspension gives the Navara improved on-road handling. Navara is not as firm as the Hilux SR, but it's not as comfortable as the Ford Ranger XLT. It sits somewhere in between and comes at a great price. Depending on the driving conditions, fuel consumption on the Navara can range between 7.2L and 8.1L/100km, and the towing capacity is up to 3,500 kgs.
The refined exterior of the Navara ST-X does not match its interior. Although the console's design is somewhat similar to what others offer, it feels outdated compared to the D-Max or the Ford Ranger. However, the layout is functional.
These materials, even the faux leather door inserts, feel hard and scratchy. It does come with large cup holders, deep door pockets, and a dual-level glovebox. The space under the dash feels too small to accommodate a big smartphone.
Front passengers have sufficient legroom and headspace, and the rear can enjoy cool or warm air through the rear vents. It isn't quite roomy as the utes on this list for tall rear passengers.
At the cabin's centre, you'll find the 8.0-inch touchscreen display with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, sat nav, radio, USB-C, and USB-A port, giving the ute much-needed modernity. Surprisingly, the speaker system sounds punchy with good dept.
Newer dual cab utes have better and more advanced safety tech than the Nissan Navara, which only comes with airbags, blind spot warning, lane keeping assistance, reversing camera, and other standard features. Navara does have parking sensors, but it's only for the rear.
Ford Ranger XLT
The Ford Ranger is available in 23 variants, but the XLT is a mid-range model in the Ford Ranger line-up that sits above the XLS, making it an entry-level ute for most buyers.
Engine and Performance
Hiding under the bonnet is a 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel capable of producing 184kW and 600Nm of torque. The dual cab ute feels more relaxed than its previous models equipped with the 2.0-litre Bi-turbo engine. The V6 diesel engine and an automatic all-wheel-drive system make the ute feel well-balanced and comfortable on rough surfaces. Even the two-wheel drive variant doesn't feel sluggish off-terrain.
Ford Ranger XLT is capable of accurate steering on loose surfaces, and the rear follows perfectly, making it a great dual cab ute for those driving long distances on dirt roads. It also performs well on normal roads, but the unladen jiggle is still present.
The XLT does the previous-generation Rangers proud with fantastic steering and handling, responding quickly to the driver's inputs.
Overall, the engine performance is fantastic, but it doesn't feel like a significant jump over its predecessors, unlike the Isuzu D-max, which is massively better than its previous models. It is a power-hungry ute with average fuel consumption of 7.6L/100km.
The Ranger sets the standard for comfort for modern utes with its comfortably-padded seats. It feels open and airy, with sufficient legroom and headspace for second-row passengers. There are air vents just above the power outlet to help maintain the temperature throughout the cabin.
It offers ample storage space in the front and the back. Ranger XLT's central bin is deep, door pockets have plenty of space, and the slot beneath the dashboard is massive.
The vertical 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system is fantastic and miles ahead of the competition. Its details are crisp and excellent, and the operating system feels highly responsive. The system offers wired and wireless connections for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
When it comes to safety, the Ford Ranger XLT has nine airbags and comes with a wide variety of safety and driving convenience equipment. Besides the basic technology such as automatic headlights and rain-sensing wipers, the Ford Ranger XLT has trailer sway control, radar cruise control, front and rear parking sensors plus a rear-view camera, blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition, intelligent speed assistance, and many more features.
Toyota Hilux SR5
Toyota Hilux SR5 is Australia's favourite dual-cab. With so many rivals, such as the Mitsubishi Triton and the Isuzu D-Max, the Toyota dual cab utes remain the best-selling vehicle in the nation.
With a fierce-looking rig, striking LED headlights, chrome grille, and 18-inch alloys, the Toyota Hilux SR5 is a gorgeous ute.
Engine and Performance
The 2.8-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine punches out 150kW of power and 500Nm of torque. Driving the Toyota Hilux SR5 is smooth and relatively quiet until you press your foot down, and it starts to gruff. When cruising, the engine behaves even at 100 km/h, with you barely noticing it.
SR5's six-speed torque converter automatic isn't the greatest, but it works well with the diesel engine and shifts smoothly. Shifting into high and low ranges is relatively easy, and there is no excessive harshness. In low-range settings, the SR5 becomes a beast and has an impressive towing capacity of up to 3,500 kgs.
With the previous Toyota utes, it suffered from a pogo-ing rear end, but this time around, Toyota promised an improved ride. It's a significant improvement over the previous Toyota Hilux models, and the off-road capability is much better than the Ford Ranger.
The fuel economy is pretty good, and depending on the condition you're driving the SR5, it averages about 8.4L/100km.
The interior doesn't shout luxury, but it's more practical and built to last. Toyota Hilux SR5's Dashboard and centre console uses hard plastic, which feels a bit cheap. You'll find plastic just about everywhere inside the SR5. If you're looking for the plushiest ute interior, Ford Ranger should be on your list.
Hilux SR5 does offer leather seats with the $2,500 premium upgrade. The controls are laid out well, and the door bins have decent storage space.
There is decent rear space and even rear air vents in the back to ensure the passengers are comfortable. Unfortunately, the rear passengers have no USB ports, and the seats don't recline.
The SR5 has an 8-inch infotainment screen in the dashboard's centre. It is placed nicely and doesn't feel too sharp, but it lacks brightness compared to the Ford Ranger.
SR5's infotainment system offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The centre console has a single 220-volt three-pin plug and a USB port. However, you won't find any USB-C ports.
Toyota is renowned for its safety features, and the Toyota Hilux SR5 does not disappoint in that department. It has seven airbags, emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition, and many other safety features.
Pricing for the Toyota Hilux SR5 opens at $64,430 plus on-road costs.
The macho nature of the Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain and the double-fanged grille makes it a handsome dual-cab vehicle. It blends the rugged appeal with fashionable design elements, rear underbody spoilers, flares, and an aero sports bar, making the new D-Max look fantastic in any colour.
Engine and Performance
The Isuzu D-Max has a 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel under the bonnet, similar to the 2021 model, capable of producing 140kW of power and 450Nm. D-Max's engine isn't the biggest or baddest on the market, but it feels relaxed. It comes with a standard six-speed automatic transmission and a part-time 4×4 system.
When it comes to noise, it isn't quiet and rattles even on idle. However, while cruising at 100km/h, the Navara ST-X becomes more refined and chilled out. The power output equals the underpowered Nissan Navara, but the transmission's six forward gears are fantastic since they are spaced out well.
D-Max's electric power steering makes it light to steer the ute at urban speeds, and with supple bump absorption, the ride quality is overall good. The rear suspension offers decent body control even when not carrying anything in the back. Engine braking and traction are fantastic, easily dominating over most mid-level trails.
Tires on the Isuzu D-Max struggle off-terrain since they are road-biased highway-terrain tires. However, with the rear locking differential, it will manage to get out of the most challenging situations. If you wish to switch out the tires, it would cost you extra.
The Isuzu D-Max has a towing capacity of 3,500 kgs and is fuel-hungry, averaging 8.0L/100km.
The interior has red stitching on the black leather and hard plastic interior trim, giving it a sporty look. D-Max's inside is completely blacked out with X-Terrain branding all over, letting you know that it's the top dog.
With electric adjustability, the leather seat feels comfortable and offers impressive lumbar support. Most plastics in the car are padded, making it a great dual cab by ute standards.
Isuzu D-Max is brimming with many clever storage areas, such as two stacked glove boxes, cup holder drawers near the outer vents, 1.5-litre bottle-friendly door bins, a sunglasses holder on the roof, and many more.
The back seats offer sufficient legroom and headspace, a USB port, and rear air vents.
Isuzu D-Max comes equipped with a 9.0-inch touchscreen, larger than what you would find in the Toyota Hilux SR5. The dual cab infotainment system has Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and integrated navigation. D-Max's eight-speaker audio system feels good even at high volumes.
The Isuzu D-Max offers modern car-like safety with airbags, lane-assist functionality, adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, and lane-keeping tools for a stress-free drive.
D-Max used to have a significant price advantage over other dual cab utes until they raised their prices three times in 12 months. However, the new Isuzu has a strong resale value, excellent servicing and on-road costs, roadside assistance, and warranty periods.
Mazda BT-50 SP
Mazda updated its ute line with the BT-50 SP to match the likes of Isuzu and other utes in the same category. It maintains rugged capabilities and adds a bit of luxury while addressing concerns with the driver assistance technology in the previous variants.
Engine and Performance
Loaded with a 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine similar to the D-Max, it is more than sufficient for around-town use. The six-speed automatic transmission feels highly responsive and reaches freeway speeds quickly. Over the standard BT-50, where the ride feels jittery, the Mazda BT-50 SP ride quality is comfortable and offers great refinement on the open road.
The steering is light, and off-road performance is where the Mazda BT-50 SP truly shines. It remains composed, and the intelligent transmission knows exactly when to change gears.
Mazda's hill descent control takes care of the braking and traction, allowing drivers to go down large hills easily. It even switches to a switchable 4x4 system combined with a rear differential lock, capable of weathering rutted dirt roads and hills with SUV-like finesse.
The Japanese auto manufacturer claims average fuel consumption of 8.0L/100km. Depending on the driving conditions, you may get more.
With the Mazda BT-50 SP, you get a new-upholstered interior featuring black and tan or "driftwood" leather combined with synthetic suede. The material feels pleasant to touch and covers the seating, door cars, and parts of the dashboard. It even has a soft-leather steering wheel giving you comfort upon gripping it.
The interior comes fitted with heated front seats, and the driver's seat comes with all sorts of electrical adjustments. Mazda BT-50 SP rocks out a dual-zone climate control, ensuring the perfect temperature throughout the cabin.
There is enough legroom and headspace for all passengers, and it comes with ample storage. The cabin has an oversized glovebox, a secondary hidden glovebox, and cup holders. However, the hard plastic tops may be a letdown for some, but overall this variant positions itself as a 'lifestyle' variant.
You can find a USB-A port in the second row with a foldable armrest, air vents, and many pockets and hooks.
The Mazda BT-50 SP comes fitted with a 9.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, sat nav, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. BT-50 SP's infotainment system is the same one that the Isuzu D-Max runs; it feels a bit basic. There is a single USB-A port and a 12-volt outlet in the front.
The ute offers rear cross-traffic alert, autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, a reversing camera, and many other features in the safety department.
The two honourable mentions that didn't make it on our list are the Mitsubishi Triton GSR and the Volkswagen Amarok. Mitsubishi Triton GSR comes at a great price but lacks the capabilities and features of the other utes mentioned here.
On the other hand, the Volkswagen Amarok has brutal strength and excellent dynamics but lacks advanced safety and modern conveniences. The new model of the Volkswagen Amarok is due to arrive in early 2023 and may give the other utes a run for their money.
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