Pick-up truck mega test comparison

Do you think pick-ups are just farm or building site workhorses? Think again. Here, we choose the best of them from the UK’s eight main contenders...

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What Car? team
15 December 2017

Nissan Navara rear
Nissan Navara rear

Nissan Navara Tekna 190 dCi

List price inc VAT £33,095

List price ex VAT £28,075

The phenomenon that is the pick-up truck might have started off in the good ol’ US of A, but it didn’t take long for the Japanese to realise that it might be lucrative to build some of their own, with Nissan being one of the first Japanese manufacturers to take on the Americans at their own game with its tiny yet sophisticated Datsun 120 pick-up in 1955. 

More than 60 years later, Nissan is still producing one of the most technically advanced pick-ups on sale in the form of the Navara. Benefiting from a twin-turbocharged 2.3-litre diesel engine, it pumps out a thumping 187bhp and 332lb ft  – the highest power output and equal-highest torque figure of the group – and yet somehow also manages to be the cleanest and most frugal. 

Nissan Navara interior

While the majority of pick-ups have to make do with old-school leaf springs at the rear, the Navara, like the related Mercedes X-Class, gets a more sophisticated five-link set-up with coil springs that should theoretically offer more car-like ride comfort and handling. However, as we’ve seen with the X-Class, that doesn’t necessarily lead to a great driving experience. The relatively soft rear suspension struggles to deal with sudden abrasions and battered roads, sending various shimmies and shudders into the interior. Factor in significant body roll and steering that’s slower to respond and more vague than the X-Class’s and the Navara is actually the least confidence-inspiring of all to thread along narrow B-roads. 

We’d also recommend avoiding the six-speed manual gearbox; its long throw and notchy action make it frustrating to use. Thankfully, the engine itself is strong and pulls well from low down – a major plus point, because the Navara is able to haul quite big loads, having the longest load bed in the class.

The interior isn’t flashy or upmarket, but it’s well screwed together and offers plenty of room for both front and rear seat passengers, while all models come with a decent amount of standard equipment.

Specifications

Engine 4cyl, 2298cc, diesel

List price inc VAT £33,095

List price ex VAT £28,075

Power 187bhp @ 3750rpm

Torque 332lb ft @ 1500-2500rpm 

Gearbox 6-spd manual

0-62mph 10.8sec

Top speed 114mph

Economy 44.9mpg

CO2 emissions 167g/km


Ssangyong Musso rear

Ssangyong Musso Rebel

List price inc VAT £28,433

List price ex VAT £23,745

Even if you’ve heard of Ssangyong, you probably know the South Korean manufacturer for building cheap and cheerful models that look a bit, well, different. But like the animal the Musso is named after (it’s Korean for ‘rhino’, if you’re wondering), you’ll underestimate the company’s new pick-up at your peril, because in many ways it’s really quite good.

Because it’s based on the Rexton SUV, the Musso benefits from a number of features that are usually limited to more luxurious mainstream cars. For example, its interior is a cut above those of almost all of its rivals, featuring plenty of soft-touch plastics and switches that are well damped and even quite satisfying to use. There’s also loads of space in the front and back, a bright and responsive infotainment system and no shortage of standard equipment, including heated and cooled leather seats.

It’s a hushed environment, too. Pick-ups, by their very nature, are usually loud and agricultural, but the Musso is almost serene in comparison with most. Its 2.2-litre diesel engine remains smooth and subdued even under hard acceleration, while it simply fades into the background at a cruise. And because the front end has been borrowed from the Rexton, it also benefits from steering that feels more like a regular SUV’s than a traditional pick-up’s; in other words, it’s accurate, light and pleasingly direct.

Ssangyong Musso interior

However, the Musso is not immune from faults – far from it. Firstly, to maximise space inside, Ssangyong has compromised on the size of the load bed, resulting in by far the shortest one here – something you might find restrictive. 

Second, the Musso has the least comfortable ride of all our pick-ups. The extra-stiff rear suspension needed to give the Musso its impressive load-hauling ability causes it to shimmy and shudder over the smallest of imperfections. A heavy load in the bed calms things down somewhat, but the shuddering through the body never really goes away

Specifications

Engine 4cyl, 2157cc, diesel

List price inc VAT £28,433

List price ex VAT £23,745

Power 179bhp @ 4000rpm

Torque 295lb ft @ 1400-2800rpm 

Gearbox 6-spd automatic

0-62mph na

Top speed 115mph

Economy 32.8mpg

CO2 emissions 226g/km

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