Ford Ranger (winner)
For decades, every other bakkie played second fiddle to the all-conquering Hilux, which somehow always seemed a generation ahead of the opposition. Until now that is. Enter the new Ford Ranger. Forget what you know about the old middling Ranger, this new one is a clean sheet design, all new from the ground up. Former F150 designer Craig Metros has crafted a powerful, potentially iconic new visage for Ranger that is high on desirability. Though packed with real substance, this is one bakkie you’d buy for its looks alone. Beneath the ‘tough’ yet handsome exterior lies a ladder frame chassis that’s twice as stiff as the one it replaces. A new engine line-up consisting of a 2.5-litre petrol and 2.2-litre four-cylinder and 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbodiesel engines shows the Amarok just how things are done here in SA. VW’s small capacity four-cylinder-only Amarok claws a little ground back by having the most stylish and best built bakkie cabin ever, but the Ranger-owner’s new workstation isn’t far behind and it trounces everything else in the segment. Superbly cushioned seats, excellent legroom and the most comfortable driving position around await new owners. They’ll also encounter steering feel, ride quality, towing ability and mechanical refinement that are all class-leading. Plus it’s the first pickup truck to gain a five-star Euro NCAP crash safety rating. Now that’s progress.
Collins describes a stalwart as strong and sturdy, solid and dependable. The Hilux is still and has been all these things and more for four decades. A recent update in the face of fierce all-new rivals brings a welcome boost to the cabin in terms of connectivity, convenience and even aesthetics, though externally, the chromed nose job is arguably less successful and will certainly not be bought for its looks as it may have been before. However, it’s in the tactile areas of steering, pedal and gearbox feel where the Hilux really shows its age. It’s still better than most, but as a leisure companion it’s no longer the de rigueur option.
The only sub-one tonner in our line-up, this new Brazilian-designed, Chevy Agile-based Utility might look to some like it’s already in desperate need of a facelift, but then others love its bold and distinctive front end. Everyone agrees it’s better to drive and more capable than ever being longer, wider and boasting a 758kg load-carrying capacity. A neat, modern and spacious interior, keen pricing, 5-year/120 000km warranty and ever-dwindling opposition mean it owns this sub-segment.
Another clean sheet design, and an excellent debut effort from the Germans. Sharp style, typically excellent interior build and properly spacious inside, the Amarok has surprised many. It rides well and boasts an impressively large load bed. Where the ‘Rokkie’ begins to unravel is on the engine front. VW’s dogged determination to enforce European downsizing philosophy means two litres is all you get. Yes, they’re strong modern and theoretically frugal, but simply put, smaller engines have to work harder to achieve the same results. That apart, the Amarok fully deserves its nomination.