Ute Comparison NZ – What Ute is best to buy?

AutoTrader NZ
Author
Published 9 March 2021

Kiwi’s top selling vehicle category, the humble ute. What is the best ute to buy? We review and compare the Ford Ranger, Toyota Hilux, Mitsubishi Triton, Nissan Navara, Volkswagen Amarok, Mazda BT-50, Isuzu D-Max, GWM Cannon, LDV T60 and the Ssangyong Rhino. We’ll review the double cab ute format today.

Also see: Powerful and Versatile: Top-Selling Utes in New Zealand as of July 2023

The Ute has grown in popularity over recent memory to eclipse all other vehicles in overall sales. They’ve done this through a combination of practicality, increased comfort and becoming a ‘lifestyle’ choice to drive. They are facing some scrutiny as legislation is introduced to reduce NZ’s fleet emissions, however, these impending changes are so far only serving to drive demand even further. When will we see an EV ute in NZ?

With origins as a classic Kiwi workhorse, the new models are more often than not sold in double-cab ute format. There is often a large gulf in price between the entry spec and top of the range models, so we’ll include pricing for each end of the spectrum.

So here are key ute options available in NZ today:

Volkswagen Amarok 

Pricing: 

$63,000 for the entry level Comfortline
$90,000 for the top spec Adventura

Engine/Drivetrain:
Comfortline: 2.0L 4 cylinder turbo diesel, 132kW, 420Nm, 8 speed auto
Adventura: 3.0L V6 turbo diesel, 200kW, 580Nm, 8 speed auto

Towing:
Comfortline: 3200kg braked towing
Adventura: 3500kg braked towing

Fuel economy:
Comfortline: 8.5L/100kms
Adventura: 8.6L/100kms

ANCAP Safety:
5 Stars

Verdict:

The Amarok is Europe’s only entry into our list today but has been a mainstay at the top end of the market for 10 years. Providing a more refined driving experience, the Amarok is well suited to those who focus more on on-road driving dynamics and smoothness. Since Mercedes pulled out of the market with their X-Class, the Amarok is the only double-cab to offer a V6 option and in doing so the Amaroks on-road performance is unmatched. While there have been several facelifts over its lifespan, the Amarok is starting to show its age compared with it’s latest contemporaries and is due for a new model to be announced at the end of 2021 with the new model arriving in 2022. The new model is going to be on a shared platform with the new Ford Ranger but VW has stated that it will retain its own identity.

Mazda BT-50

Pricing: 

$47,490 for the GSX 2WD

$60,990 for the Limited 4×4

Engine/Drivetrain: 

All models: 3.0L 4 cylinder turbo diesel, 140kW, 450Nm, 6 speed auto

Towing:

3500kg braked towing

Fuel economy: 

2WD: 7.7L/100kms

4WD: 8.0L/100kms

ANCAP Safety:

5 Stars

Verdict:

Mazda launched its striking new BT-50 in mid 2020. As a joint venture with Isuzu, this new model is basically a re-skinned D-Max but what a skin it is! The Kodo design language carried through Mazda’s entire range looks fantastic and refined as a ute – clearly aiming more towards the city-lifestyle and departing from its agricultural roots. The last BT-50 was also a joint venture but with the Ford Ranger and as such, it was always seen as the runner up ute on the often combined dealership floor of Ford and Mazda dealerships across New Zealand. Now teamed up with Isuzu, the BT-50 will provide a truly competitive offering with Isuzu’s tried and tested drivetrain and Mazda’s passenger-friendly finesse. It will be interesting to see if Mazda’s stellar performance in the crossover sector will continue into NZ’s largest growing body-type market.

Isuzu D-Max 

Pricing: 

$49,990 for the LX 2WD

$75,490 for the X-Terrain 4WD

Engine/Drivetrain: 

3.0L 4 cylinder turbo diesel, 140kW, 450Nm, 6 speed auto (6 speed manual option available for LX)

Towing:

3500kg braked towing

Fuel economy: 

Auto: 8.0L/100kms

Manual: 7.7L/100kms

ANCAP Safety:

5 Stars

Verdict:

The current D-Max launched in 2019 is marketed strongly towards ‘good buggers’ and ‘top blokes’ which not only defines which buyers Isuzu is looking to target but also helps to separate it from its BT-50 sibling. Inside and out the D-Max is about looking, feeling and being tough. Typically ‘toughness’ would entail things such as tough plastics for easy cleaning, robust towing abilities for pulling out stumps – and it does, but in this case it also means having an exhaustive list of safety features on every trim level available to protect its occupants. It’s not all about being a brute though, featuring adaptive cruise on auto models and a 9” touch screen with Apple Carplay and Android Auto, the D-Max has it’s tech-boxes ticked too.

Toyota Hilux

Pricing: 

$30,290 for the WorkMate 2WD Petrol

$41,290 for the SR PreRunner 2WD Diesel

$61,290 for the SR5 Cruiser 4WD Diesel

Engine/Drivetrain: 

2.7L 4 cylinder petrol, 122kW, 245Nm, 6 speed auto

2.8L 4 cylinder turbo diesel, 150kW, 420Nm, 6 speed manual

2.8L 4 cylinder turbo diesel, 150kW, 500Nm, 6 speed auto 

Towing:

2500kg braked towing for Petrol models

3500kg braked towing for Diesel models

Fuel economy: 

WorkMate: 10.4L/100kms

2WD Diesel: 7.9L/100kms

4WD Diesel: 7.7L/100kms

ANCAP Safety:

5 Stars

Verdict:

The iconic Hilux has been a part of NZ’s culture since it arrived on our shores around 50 years ago and since then its popularity has only grown – battling for the top selling vehicle more often than not. Marketed as your good old mate, the Hilux name imbues trust and reliability and for good reason. Previous models seem to have an infinite lifespan (see Top Gear or Whistlin’ Diesel on YouTube) regardless of the abuse thrown at them. Toyota’s generally hold their value well and no model makes that clearer than that of the Hilux where 400,000km+ examples still attract hungry buyers on Autotrader.co.nz. Running the same 2.8L diesel unit from the previous version, the 2021 model is now 15% up on power yet 11% more fuel efficient providing a refined on-road experience with more grunt when needed.

GWM Cannon 

Pricing: 

$31,490 for the 2WD Premium Manual

$40,990 for the 4WD Luxury Auto

Engine/Drivetrain: 

2.0L 4 cylinder turbo diesel, 120kW, 400Nm, 8 speed auto (6 speed manual only available in Premium)

Towing:

3000kg braked towing

Fuel economy: 

9.4L/100kms

ANCAP Safety:

Untested

Verdict:

The Cannon ute is China’s best foot-forward into the lucrative double-cab market and ticks a lot of boxes – not the least of which is the extremely sharp pricing. Particularly at the top end of the trim levels are a 360 degree camera, heated seats, Apple Carplay, adaptive cruise and more. While GWM isn’t the household name that others on this list are, they were clever not to reinvent the wheel and purchased key components from tried and true producers such as ZF for the gearbox. It’s also good to note how far they have come in such a short space of time since the underwhelming Steed of a few years ago. Already an impressive bit of kit, GWM are proving to be a brand to keep an eye on. 

Ford Ranger 

Pricing: 

$50,190 for the XL 2WD

$52,490 for the XLT 2WD

$85,490 for the 4WD Raptor

Engine/Drivetrain: 

XL: 2.2L 4 cylinder turbo diesel, 118kW, 385Nm, 6 speed auto 

XLT: 3.2L 5 cylinder turbo diesel, 147kW, 470Nm, 6 speed auto

Raptor: 2.0L bi-turbo diesel, 157kW, 500Nm, 10 speed auto

Towing:

3500kg braked towing for the XL and XLT

2500kg braked towing for the Raptor

Fuel economy: 

7.8L/100kms for the XL

8.2L/100kms for the XLT and Raptor

ANCAP Safety:

5 Stars

Verdict:

Battling it out with the Hilux for the top spot of NZ’s favourite ute, the Ranger offers a specification to suit almost any application from the cab-chassis 2WD right up to the Wildtrak luxury and Raptor performance models. Until recently offering a 2L bi-turbo option, most models other than entry level have come powered by a 3.2L 5 cylinder. While not the most sonically pleasing power plant, the 3.2 has proven itself reliable and been near the top of the pack when it comes to performance for nearly a decade. Financially, resale values are strong for the Ranger which can be factored into the purchase price but in the Covid-effected market, prices are up across the board. A new model is due to be released in 2022 which would usually mean run-out specials on the outgoing model but with increased demand and lowered supply it’s likely the remaining stock will all be snapped up.

Nissan Navara 

Pricing: 

$45,490 for the SL 2WD

$67,990 for the PRO-4X 4X4

Engine/Drivetrain: 

2.3L 4 cylinder turbo diesel, 140kW, 450Nm, 6 speed auto or 6 speed manual 

Towing:

3500kg braked towing

Fuel economy: 

4X4: 7.9L/100kms

2WD: 7.2L/100kms

ANCAP Safety:

5 Stars

Verdict:

Originally launched back in 2014, the facelifted version of the Navara was released in 2020 with a heavily revised front fascia as well as improved safety features. On the lower end of engine capacity at 2.3L, the Navara still manages to tick the 3.5t towing box that is the benchmark of double cabs here in NZ. Sipping as little as 7.2L per 100kms is impressive too and likely going to become more important as efficiency legislation steps up. While the Navara can feel more carlike on the road than some of its counterparts, features such as hill descent control mean that it’s still a capable off-roader too.

LDV T60 

Pricing: 

$31,990 for the Double Cab +GST +ORC

$35,990 for the Double Cab Luxury +GST +ORC

Engine/Drivetrain: 

2.8L 4 cylinder turbo diesel, 110kW, 360Nm, 6 speed auto or 6 speed manual

Towing:

3000kg braked towing

Fuel economy: 

Auto: 9.6L/100kms

Manual: 8.8L/100kms

ANCAP Safety:

5 Stars

Verdict:

The current T60 model from 2017 was somewhat of a watershed moment for Chinese vehicles in NZ. Previously seen as cheap and unsafe, the T60 not only achieved a 5 star ANCAP rating but also achieved a higher score than nearly all of the other utes on the market. Offering an impressive spec list at a discount price, LDV is certainly looking to put the proverbial cat amongst the pigeons. Much like GWM, the pace of improvement is quite staggering and when the next update is released with 159kW, 480Nm and aggressive new styling it could really shake up the ute market.

Ssangyong Rhino 

Pricing: 

$36,990 for the Double Cab 4WD Manual

$38,990 for the Double Cab 4WD Auto

Engine/Drivetrain: 

2.2L 4 cylinder turbo diesel, 133kW, 420Nm, 6 speed auto or 6 speed manual

Towing:

3000kg braked towing

Fuel economy: 

8.6L/100kms

ANCAP Safety:

5 Stars

Verdict:

The Rhino came onto the scene with gusto from its marketing message of donating to help save endangered species – a great cause and a great way to garner some attention. The only ute hailing from South Korea in this list, the Rhino aims squarely for the budget-conscious end of the market who don’t want to miss out on features usually reserved only on the top spec models. Ssangyong have been steadily increasing their presence in the market and by moving away from their more polarising looks such as the previous Musso’s pointy nose design, their appeal too has grown massively. Like some of the other smaller players in the market, there is some difficulty in changing Kiwi’s marque-prejudice but by looking at other recent breakouts such as Hyundai and more recently Kia, we’re likely to see a lot more Ssangyongs on the road soon.

Mitsubishi Triton 

Pricing: 

$38,990 for the 2WD GLX

$53,990 for the 4WD VRX

Engine/Drivetrain: 

2.4L 4 cylinder turbo diesel, 135kW, 437Nm, 6 speed auto (6 speed manual)

Towing:

3000kg braked towing 2WD

3500kg braked towing 4WD

Fuel economy: 

8.4L/100kms 2WD

8.6L/100kms 4WD

ANCAP Safety:

5 Stars

Verdict:

The Mitsubishi ute has been a staple in NZ for decades. Previously known as the L200, the new Triton has gone from something with as many features as a pushbike back in the 80’s to the new VRX having every feature you could imagine. While the pre-facelifted version was a little soft in the nose, the new square-jawed update is about as aggressive of a bumper design as is available today. The 2.4L feels spritely and is supported by a smooth changing gearbox. One thing Mitsubishi have been known for in recent years is aggressive pricing and that still stands today with the Triton being one of the best value packages out there. 

OVERALL

The NZ ute market is probably the most competitive segment in auto sales due to the huge popularity for both passenger and commercial purposes. For consumers, it means you are getting the manufacturer’s best foot-forward and a polished well-thought out product. Designed to stand up to a tough life that the average buyer will probably never subject it to, means they are over-engineered in a good way.

Whether you go for a leather-clad $60k+ option or a 2WD manual the generally high reliability, tax exemptions for work vehicles, high practicality and desirability all mean that utes have high resale values. And that’s just in regular times, but now that we are suffering from depleted supply, with less opportunity cost for people to spend on other things and looming taxes for diesel vehicles towards the end of the year, prices have gone berserk. 

On top of deciding between which of the utes above suits your lifestyle and preferences best, you now also have to consider when you need it. Most manufacturers are stating 6 month waiting periods on any new orders but with semi-conductor issues persisting, it could be longer. If you’re thinking about buying a ute, my best recommendation would be to get behind the wheel for some test drives and put your deposit down ASAP.