Creditable ride and handling sophistication distinguish it also, as do dimensions that allow it to narrowly escape feeling elephantine on tighter roads. The Toyota now comes with a choice of 148bhp 2.4-litre- and 201bhp 2.8-litre four-cylinder diesel engines, which don’t make it sound exciting next to some multi-cylinder options even if the latter has plenty of real-world performance and decent refinement.
Volkswagen was ahead of the pack when it moved into the light pick-up market in 2010, and attempted to use the pseudo-premium allure of the VW badge to make a flatbed truck that would be more palatable to an audience of customers who hadn’t considered one before. It was a moderately successful bid, producing a vehicle with at least a recognizable semblance of the perceived quality and onboard technology for which VW’s passenger cars are known, but also genuine utility and ‘4Motion’ 4×4 capability for those that wanted it.
While you certainly wouldn’t mistake an Amar ok’s cabin or ride for that of a modern Tuareg or Tiguan SUV, both will be good enough to lift the VW’s ownership appeal above that of most of its competitors even now. And when VW elected to replace the slightly overworked 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engines that motivated early cars with a 3.0-litre TDI V6 in 2017, they added refinement, performance and disability.
It was launched in its current form in 2010; engineered in one of Ford’s bigger pickup markets outside the USA, in Australia; and is built in six locations around the world, with European-market vehicles sourced from South Africa. The Ranger doesn’t offer the material cabin appeal of some alternatives, but it has a comfortable driving position, decent mechanical refinement, and a relatively settled and compliant on-road ride, with harmoniously weighted and well-tuned controls that make for impressively intuitive disability.
It has a cabin only sparsely populated by the necessary secondary controls, with oversized knobs, switches and levers that are easy to grab if you’re wearing work gloves, and a roomy foot well. That the D-Max can be bought for less than £17,000-plus-VAT in bottom-rung, single-cab, commercial-derivative form, however, must also help endear it to those who like to look after the pennies while they’re looking after their particular flock of Welsh mountain sheep or many hectares of Cambrian hill forest.
A slightly weedy-feeling 1.9-litre diesel engine insists on being worked hard to move the D-Max along with any gusto, and it’s one of several factors that make this option one of the least refined and habitable in the pick-up class. It’s a far cry from the vaguely sporty, Ken Greenley-designed SUV of the same name that came to the UK in the mid-1990s, but it delivers respectable performance and handling, and strong towing capacity and utility, to value-savvy buyers who need such things on a budget.
The Russo’s 179bhp, 2.2-litre diesel engine offers more grunt than some in the class, and that it’s rating to tow 3.5 tonnes on a braked trailer also trumps certain rivals. A skittish and noisy ride is easily the car’s dynamic Achilles heel, though, and is what prevents it from featuring anymore highly on this list.
The Mitsubishi L200 was one of the first vehicles to benefit from the company car tax loophole that has allowed the pick-up truck market to grow in the UK. It’s now available in its sixth full model generation, with a 148bhp 2.2-litre turbo diesel engine and as a ‘club cab’ or double-cab body design, although various trim levels can be hard to mix equipment, 4×4 capability, ruggedized looks and value to your particular preference.
It attracted criticism for its curiously configured driving position; for its slightly cramped-feeling cabin; for particularly slow and vague steering; for its noisy diesel engine; and for its ability to maintain traction easily over tougher terrain. For modern styling appeal, cabin space and both towing and carrying capacity, the L200 is more competitive with its peers, and likewise for outright performance and fuel economy.
The angular, and allegedly bulletproof, Cybertruck will have up to three electric motors and more than 500 miles of range in its top-level trim, with a claimed towing capacity of more than six tonnes and a loading bay the same size as that of a Ford F-150. Tesla boss Elon Musk claimed that some 200,000 customers placed cash deposits for the Cybertruck within a week of the vehicle’s unveiling.
Pick-up trucks are a popular buy for business users that need a practical vehicle that doubles as family transport at the weekends. They can also be cost-effective thanks to attractive tax rates for company car users and the ‘commercial vehicle’ classification.
Here we round up the runners and riders in an expanding class that is closely fought by a variety of accomplished opponents. The Toyota Hi lux and Mitsubishi L200 are two trucks that have been solid performers in this category for years, while the Ford Ranger, Nissan Naval are also popular choices among commercial fleets and private buyers.
Cheaper options like the Isuzu D-Max and Swansong Russo offer utilitarian functionality along with an SUV image. Double cab pick-ups that can carry more than one tonne of payload in the bed are classified as commercial vehicles, and as a result they qualify for a fixed rate of Benefit-In-Kind tax.
Ford Ranger Toyota Hi lux Mitsubishi L200 Nissan Naval Isuzu D-Max Swansong Russo Volkswagen Amar ok In a bid to keep rivals at bay, Ford has modernized the styling inside and out, adding a clutch of the latest technology and safety features.
The Ranger's 2.0-litre Blue engine comes in three power outputs: 128bhp, 168bhp and 210bhp, with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard for all versions, except the high-spec Thunder and Raptor variants, which use a ten-speed auto transmission. The Ranger is also extremely capable in heavy-duty use on the road with the Double Cab offering a 1,199 kg payload and a class-leading 3,500 kg maximum towing weight.
Gone is the flimsy plastics and dated switchgear, replaced by a dashboard which looks and feels like it’s from one of Toyota’s passenger cars. There’s lots of tyres squeal, but the ride is comfortable, the steering is accurate and body control isn’t too bad considering the elevated stance.
Nissan reckons the Naval pushes the boundaries closer to a ‘crossover’ SUV driving experience than anything else in its sector. Constant evolution means the Isuzu D-Max is still a top pick-up choice on the market, even though there are plenty of newer rivals out there.
The top-spec Utah model also comes with electronic climate control, leather seats with electric adjustment, courtesy light delay, parking sensors and roof bars. The Arctic Trucks AT35 is also based on this spec, with few changes inside, but a dramatic external makeover, with 35-inch Nokia off-road tires, flared whee larches and a lofty ride height.
Swansong offers EX, Rebel, Saracen and Rhino trims, and all models are well-equipped, featuring plenty of kit taken straight from the Sexton SUV. The most powerful 254bhp version has plenty of punch for overtaking and a stump-pulling 580Nm of torque from 1,400rpm for towing or tackling serious 45-degree off-road inclines.
On the road it’s easy to forget that the Amar ok isn’t an easy-driving SUV, although a hint of rear-end bounce that typifies the pick-up genre is evident. The hefty ladder-framed Amar ok can’t truly match the poise, dynamism or comfort of contemporary road-focused SUVs, but with V6 muscle many more drivers should find the vehicle rewarding enough for that not to matter.
The interior fit and finish is excellent, including a handsome new fascia design that looks and feels well screwed together. The front seats offer loads of support, and with full steering wheel adjustment, the driving position is more car-like and comfortable than you might expect from a pick-up.
Their go-anywhere ability, wash-down loading bay and cabins that (often) have space for five are just three reasons, but a favorable tax loophole is another crucial one. Because pickup trucks are classified as commercial vehicles, they qualify for much lower benefit-in-kind tax bills, which means that they have been popular with company car drivers that want a working vehicle for the week and family transport for the weekend in one package. It isn’t as posh as the latest VW SUVs, but the soft-touch materials, clear buttons and comfortable seats are all welcome.
The infotainment screen isn’t the latest version, but it still offers the likes of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It’s expensive, but it does a good job of blending work and play, so for some it will be able to take the place of two vehicles.
In the Double Cab model you get a generous amount of space for five adults and a rear bench that is set higher than those in the front, which makes it easy for kids to see out. The driving experience is still on the agricultural side, as you feel the bumps at lower speeds and the engine is noisy, but it is a strong performer on surfaces that aren’t covered in tarmac.
The problem is, all this extra weight means that the payload is only 620kg, so it doesn’t qualify for the van tax system. The rest of the Ranger line up does qualify as a commercial vehicle, though, and models like the Wild track give a little of the outlandish look but with the necessary payload to get the low tax status.
Go for the top spec, and you get supremely comfortable seats, a wide range of safety kit, a heated steering wheel and lots of stylistic flourishes. Add in that the longer and shorter models both have a payload of over a tonne, can take a Euro pallet and can tow up to 3500 kg and the numbers look good for the Russo.
Even though the cabin is smart and has good space for five, the poor on-road manners and comfort will put off some buyers.