Best utes

Australians love dual-cab utes. The Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger are the best-selling cars in the country, and the Isuzu D-Max is rarely far behind it. 

Once upon a time, dual-cab utes were for tradies. They were pared-back commercial vehicles with hardly any creature comforts or safety features, and chugging diesel engines that wouldn’t have felt out of place in a tractor. Those days are gone. 

Most of the utes on our list have full lists of active safety equipment, and at the top end of the range have luxurious interiors that borrow features from similarly-priced SUVs. 

Don’t be fooled into thinking they’re just family four-wheel drives with a tray on the back, though. Even the best dual-cab utes can’t match an SUV or passenger car for ride comfort, and they’re better suited to life on the open road than tight city streets and carparks. 

It's also worth noting most of these utes can only use four-wheel drive on gravel roads or trails.

If you want to carry your family and do some off-roading, but don’t need the versatility of a tray, it’s worth looking at a ute-based SUV like the Ford Everest or Isuzu MU-X. 

They share their off-road hardware with the utes on which they’re based, but have more comfort-focused suspension setups and more space inside. It's also possible to go bigger than these utes if you have space (and money) to burn on a truck like the Ram 1500.

Ford Ranger

Rating
7.9/10
Price
$29,190 to $79,390 before on-roads
Ford Ranger

Pros: Comfortable on-road ride, interior technology has held up well, broad range

Cons: Replacement coming soon, missing some safety tech, uninspiring 2.0-litre engine

Towing capacity: Up to 3500kg braked

The Ford Ranger is usually one of Australia's two best-selling cars, and is comfortably the best-selling Ford Down Under. It's also one of the best utes money can buy, even if there's a new one coming in 2022.

There's plenty of choice in the range, with a total of 45 options split across three body styles, three engines, and either cab-chassis or ute bodies.

Standard in the Ranger XL and XL Sport is a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder producing 118kW of power and 385Nm of torque and mated to either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.

Optional in the Ranger XL and standard in the rest of the range, excluding the FX4 Max and Raptor X, is a 3.2-litre turbo-diesel five-cylinder engine producing 147kW and 470Nm. It’s also mated to either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.

Available in most models is a 2.0-litre twin-turbocharged diesel four-cylinder engine producing 157kW and 500Nm. It’s mated exclusively to a 10-speed automatic transmission.

The Ranger is backed by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. A new model is due in the middle of 2022 with a high-tech interior and V6 engine option.

More on the Ford Ranger

Toyota HiLux

Rating
7.6/10
Price
$24,255 to $70,750 before on-road costs
Toyota HiLux

Pros: Upgraded suspension balances comfort with load-lugging, torquey engine, improved interior technology

Cons: Slow and heavy steering, dated interior, six-month service intervals

Towing capacity: Up to 3500kg

The Toyota HiLux has long been the number one ute in Australia, which means it's under attack from all angles.

It was most recently updated in 2020 with a more powerful 2.8-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine, as well as HiLux retuned spring rates, shock absorbers and suspension bushes, and revised cabin mounts.

A total of 33 models are available, with a choice of three cabin styles and three engines, along with cab-chassis or ute bodies.

The most powerful engine in the 2022 Toyota HiLux range is a 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel, which has 150kW of power and 500Nm of torque when fitted with a six-speed automatic. Manual models develop 420Nm.

Lower grades offer a 110kW/400Nm 2.4-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel, while the entry-level versions are fitted as standard with a 122kW/245Nm 2.7-litre four-cylinder petrol engine.

The HiLux is backed by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.

More on the Toyota HiLux

Isuzu D-Max

Rating
8.2/10
Price
$31,200 to $65,900 drive-away
Isuzu D-Max

Pros: Smooth engine, excellent safety suite, easy steering

Cons: Pricier than some rivals, narrow driver's footrest, waiting lists

Towing capacity: Up to 3500kg braked

The last Isuzu D-Max was a reliable, hard-working ute that was light on luxury. The latest model, released in 2020, is far more polished.

With a new look, an updated engine, and a full suite of active safety systems, the D-Max is up there with the class leaders.

Most of the 2022 Isuzu D-Max range is powered by a 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine producing 140kW of power and 450Nm of torque.

A 1.9-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine making 110kW of power and 350Nm of torque is also available at the bottom end of the range.

The D-Max is backed by a six-year, 150,000km warranty, and comes with seven years of roadside assist.

More on the Isuzu D-Max

Mazda BT-50

Rating
8.1/10
Price
$38,490 to $68,990 before on-roads
Mazda BT-50

Pros: Handsome exterior, smooth engine, refined interior

Cons: Interior screen feels aftermarket, softer look, warranty less than Isuzu

Towing capacity: Up to 3500kg braked

The Mazda BT-50 shares all the important mechanical bits with the Isuzu D-Max, but has a unique look and slightly different interior. Both cars are built at the same factory in Thailand, and both launched in 2020.

Like the Isuzu, the Mazda packs a full suite of active driver assists, and is a comfortable towing a heavy load thanks to its smooth, torquey engine.

Most Mazda BT-50 models are powered by a 3.0-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine with 140kW and 450Nm, although the entry XS comes with a 1.9-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine with 110kW of power and 350Nm of torque.

The Mazda BT-50 is backed by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.

More on the Mazda BT-50

Mitsubishi Triton

Rating
8.1/10
Price
$23,740 to $53,240 before on-road costs
Mitsubishi Triton

Pros: Sharp prices, clever 4WD system, tight turning circle

Cons: Low towing capacity, low payload, no digital speedo

Towing capacity: Up to 3100kg braked

The Mitsubishi Triton is a bit smaller than utes like the Ranger and HiLux, and doesn't have the same headline-grabbing towing capacity or power numbers. What it does have is a sharp price.

The top-end Triton GSR 4x4 is priced at $53,240 before on-road costs, but has a well-stocked feature list and a comfortable, handsome interior. It also has a clever four-wheel drive system that works on sealed roads, meaning drivers have more grip in wet conditions.

The base GLX Single Cab cab chassis is powered by a naturally-aspirated 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine producing 94kW of power and 194Nm of torque.

All other models use a 2.4-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine producing 133kW of power and 430Nm of torque.

Mitsubishi’s standard warranty covers five years or 100,000km, but so long as you return to one of its dealerships at each service this extends to 10 years or 200,000km.

More on the Mitsubishi Triton