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Australia’s Most Popular Pickups (Only They Call Them “Utes”)

Utility vehicles – aka utes, aka pickup trucks – are very popular in Australia. Much like in the United States, “utes” have changed over the years, evolving from, inexpensive, utilitarian work vehicles to semi-luxurious “lifestyle” vehicles that are just as at home on the construction site as they are at the golf course.

Australia's most popular pickup trucks

Australia’s most popular pickup trucks, aka “utes”

As a result of this increased demand for fancy and capable utes, an increasing number of manufacturers are getting into the ute business. Here are the most popular ute models in Australia as of October 2012.

Mazda BT50 4x4

The Mazda BT50 4×4

Mazda BT-50 4×4

With a price around $48,000 AUD, which is a few thousand less than a new Toyota Kluger, this dual cab ute has a 3.2-litre 5 cylinder DOHC diesel engine with a 6-speed manual transmission. It delivers 147 kW @ 3,000 rpm (197 horsepower) and 470 Nm @1,750rpm (347 lb-ft of torque). The BT50 features a great price point, a car-like ride, and commercial truck features, yet a recent comparison on MyNRMA.com.au found the BT50 to be less capable than it’s near twin (the Ranger), the Hilux, and the Amarok.

2012 Ford Ranger XLT 4x4

2012 Ford Ranger XLT 4×4, Ford’s so-called “global” Ranger that isn’t available in the United States.

Ford Ranger XLT 3.2

With an RRP of $55,390 AUD, this well-equipped dual cab ute has the same 3.2-litre 5 cylinder diesel found on the Mazda BT50 above. However, unlike the Mazda (which it shares most components with), the Ranger offers more features and options than the BT-50, so it’s a good up-market alternative to the BT-50.

Volkswagen Amarok TDI400 Highline

Volkswagen Amarok TDI400 Highline

Volkswagen Amarok TDI400 Highline

With an RRP of $52,990 UD, this dual cab ute has a 2.0-litre diesel turbo and an 8-speed automatic transmission. It delivers 120 kW @ 4,200 rpm (161 horsepower) and 400Nm @1500rpm (295 lb-ft of torque). Because of it’s smaller displacement, the Amarok is more fuel efficient than the other trucks listed here, with an official fuel consumption rating of 7.9 L/100 km (about 18.5 mpg).

The Amarok’s claim to fame is it’s excellent combination of off-road ability, interior space, and a commanding ride height. Being that the Amarok is one of the newest utes in Australia, it’s done very well in most comparisons and is generally very well liked by reviewers.

Nissan Navara ST-X 550

It just looks like a Frontier – it’s called a Nissan Navara ST-X 550 in Australia. OK, it’s basically a Nissan Frontier with a different name…and a diesel.

Nissan Navara ST-X 550

With an RRP of $60,990 AUD, this ute has a 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel engine that delivers a solid 170 kW (228 peak horsepower) and 550 Nm (405 lb-ft) of peak torque. With a substantial 3,000 kg towing capacity (about 6600 lbs) and a 7-speed automatic transmission, the Navara is as close to a Nissan Frontier as you can get in Australia, only unlike the Frontier, the Navara offers more powertrain options (including a diesel).

Those Aussies sure are lucky to have diesel mid-size trucks, aren’t they?

Ssangyong Actyon Sports 4x4

Ssangyong Actyon Sports 4×4

Ssangyong Actyon Sports 4×4

With an RRP of $34,990 AUD, the Ssangyong Actyon Sports is an up-and-comming ute that offers inexpensive pricing, adequate power, and a great value. The standard 2.0L 4 cylinder diesel delivers 114 kW @ 4,000 rpm (153 horsepower) and 360 Nm @ 1,500 rpm (265 lb-ft of torque), and when combined with the standard 6-speed manual transmission, the Ssangyong Actyon Ute boasts a best-in-class  fuel consumption rating of 8 L/100 km (18.8 mpg).

The knock on the Actyon Sports is that it’s not nearly as well-mannered as the rest of the utes in the class. It’s very truck-like in terms of handling, doesn’t handle rough roads very well, and is generally less refined. However, it’s also a tremendous value as it offers a great mix of standard features for a low price.

Toyota Hilux SR5

Toyota Hilux SR5, Australia’s most popular ute of all time.

Toyota Hilux SR5

Last but certainly not least, we have the Hilux. Recently updated, the Hilux has re-established it’s primacy over newer utes like the Ford Ranger and VW Amarok. Recent critical reviews have found that the combination of value, reliability, and durability make the Hilux one of the best options for Aussie consumers.

Featuring a 4.0L gasoline motor or a 3.0L diesel, the Hilux offers adequate power and performance, but newer motors from Ford and VW are more efficient. Still, when you buy a Hilux, you’re buying an established and reliable vehicle with a legendary reputation. Perhaps it’s no wonder then that the Hilux is Australia’s best-selling ute by a large margin.