Pick-up trucks tested: New Isuzu D-Max vs Ford Ranger vs Ssangyong Musso vs Toyota Hilux
Pick-ups aren’t just workhorses for farmers and tradesmen; they can also serve as family vehicles. Let’s see which of the latest crop gets the job done best...
New Isuzu D-Max 1.9 V-Cross auto
List price inc VAT £39,245
List price ex VAT £32,759
Isuzu is another brand with a long history of making rugged work vehicles, the latest of which is this all-new D-Max. Its modernity should give it some advantages when it comes to tech
Ford Ranger 2.0 Ecoblue 213 Wildtrak auto
List price inc VAT £41,576
List price ex VAT £34,651
Our reigning Pick-up of the Year packs the most power and offers many of the comforts and features of regular passenger cars
Ssangyong Musso 2.2 e-XDi Saracen auto
List price inc VAT £36,528
List price ex VAT £30,495
The Musso is not only the cheapest of our pick-ups to buy but also comes lavishly equipped. Can it compete as a workhorse, though?
Toyota Hilux 2.8 D-4D 204 Invincible X auto
List price inc VAT £42,145
List price ex VAT £35,175
Legendary for its off-road prowess and toughness, the Hilux now has a big, 2.8-litre diesel engine, but it’s the priciest of our quartet
Blimey: the cull in the pick-up class has been so bloody that it could feature in a Quentin Tarantino movie, with more than half of the models on sale a couple of years ago having gone the way of Vincent Vega. So, why is this?
Well, ever-tightening emissions regulations have led to many brands discontinuing their highest-polluting vehicles to avoid being hit with big EU fines, with pick-ups chief among those in the firing line. However, the ones that remain can still make a lot of sense as company ‘cars’, because they qualify for a flat benefit-in-kind tax rate that’s much lower than those based on list price and CO2 emissions, assuming you’re using them only for incidental personal purposes.
Our reigning champion, the Ford Ranger, is among the survivors. Despite having the most powerful engine in this test, it has the lowest CO2 output, helped by a trick 10-speed automatic gearbox that maximises efficiency.
The Ranger is closely matched for muscle by the Toyota Hilux, one of its main rivals. Toyota’s venerable pick-up now comes with an enlarged, 2.8-litre diesel engine.
There are no changes under the bonnet of the Ssangyong Musso, which is one of the most affordable pick-ups you can buy yet comes with loads of kit, especially in the top-spec Saracen trim we’re testing here.
But can any of these pick-ups beat the all-new Isuzu D-Max, which offers a level of safety technology more worthy of a high-end passenger car than a rugged working vehicle? On paper, it looks like a blockbuster new entry, but how does it stack up in reality?
New Isuzu D-Max
The Isuzu D-Max may not have the brand image of the Toyota Hilux or be as instantly recognisable as the Ford Ranger, but it has long been a solid choice for people who need a work tool.
The new one moves things upmarket, though, thanks to a smarter interior, with soft-touch plastic used across the dashboard, neat toggle switches for the air-con, and a 9.0in touchscreen. Unfortunately, that screen is nowhere near as intuitive as the Ranger’s, and it’s the only one here that doesn’t have built-in sat-nav; you’ll have to utilise a navigation app via Android Auto or wireless Apple CarPlay instead.
More positively, finding a comfortable driving position isn’t difficult, because there’s a greater range of adjustment than you get in the Ranger; specifically, the steering wheel moves in and out as well as up and down.
You’re also surrounded by useful storage cubbies, including space for a 1.5-litre bottle of water in each door – ideal for hot days on the building site. And rear seat passengers get air vents and a USB socket between them.
Because the D-Max weighs less than 2040kg, you can drive it at regular car speed limits, whereas its three heavier rivals are restricted to 50mph on all national speed limit roads except motorways. However, the D-Max accelerates the slowest, and its engine often needs to be revved hard just to keep pace with traffic, highlighting how coarse it is.
That’s a pity, because the suspension actually keeps clunks to a minimum. The ride over bigger bumps isn’t as bouncy as the Hilux’s, and the D-Max deals with scruffy surfaces better than the stiffer Ssangyong Musso.
The steering is surprisingly light at low speeds, too, helping when making tight manoeuvres. And you won’t find yourself wrestling with the wheel going over rutted terrain. In fact, the D-Max feels right at home off road, where it coped with everything we could throw at it.
The D-Max is alone in passing the most up-to-date Euro NCAP crash test with five stars; the Hilux also got five, but in less stringent tests. Still, that’s better than the Musso, which has never been tested, while the Ranger’s rating is so old that it has expired.
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