BAKKIE SHOOTOUT 2021 – Test summary

By: CAR magazine

We’re sure you’ll agree, this has been a massive Bakkie Shootout; one of the biggest CAR has undertaken … and potentially the most divisive. South Africans don’t just take sides when it comes to bakkies. The majority own one and they’re nothing if not loyal to their chosen bakkie brand. This is why we didn’t merely drive the double cabs around the block to choose a winner. You as the consumer deserve the most thorough evaluation possible. We wanted subjective team votes combined with objective challenges and no stone left unturned in considering all the critical criteria that play a role in the purchasing equation (such as resale value, parts pricing and dealer network). And before you write in – and we know you will (you can send your comment to [email protected]) – there was no meeting or collusion to decide a winner. All votes were done in secret and, like you, this is the first time the team will see the final results. To the final reckoning, then …

The JAC T8 was a definite outsider coming into this Shootout and its low placing didn’t do justice to how well it performed at Klipbokkop. With a new 2,0-litre engine, it upstaged many of the fancied brands on the drag strip and had no issues in the off-road department either. Our only misgiving was the high fuel consumption and some less-savoury elements to the pre-launch test mule’s interior. All of which, we’re sure, will be sorted by the time it goes on sale to the public.

Owners love them for the ruggedness and our findings on Shootout have only reinforced that fact, but there’s no denying the Mahindra Pik Up can be a chore to pilot as a daily driver. As a result, you back off, take a low-stress approach, and this perhaps accounts for its surprise win in the fuel-consumption test. Looking at the resale value, it would appear a Pik Up is one you’ll want to hold on to for life.

Next to bow out is “old faithful”, the Isuzu D-Max. We know Isuzu won’t mind us calling it that because, despite the D250’s sedate performance, it still has a charm that endears it to many. It is exemplary off-road and we have high hopes its replacement, due early next year, will close the gap to its more lifestyle-orientated rivals.

If the GWM P-Series’ rise to prominence proves anything, it’s that South Africans want more tech and amenities in their bakkies and they’re willing to seriously consider alternatives to the long-established players to get it. With excellent standard specification at a competitive price and pleasing NVH suppression, it’s on the way to becoming a strong contender in our market.

Free of its Ford-shared mechanicals, we didn’t quite know what to expect from the new Mazda BT-50. There certainly are positives, including a fresh interior, generous standard specification and strong performance, but ultimately the firm ride quality falls shy of striking an optimal balance between on-road feedback, off-road comfort and load-bearing ability. It’s interesting to ponder what Isuzu will do with these same underpinnings on the D-Max. A more cosseting ride quality would be at the top of our wish list.

Where the Mazda struggled to find duality, the Nissan Navara played a deft hand in balancing on- and off-road proficiency. It boasts an interior crammed with car-like amenities and in Pro-4X trim, it’s a real looker, too. It was only the performance of the drivetrain in the drag test and drag race that saw its charge wane slightly. However, a few more miles of running in and a remap of the gearbox electronics should resolve those issues.

Our positive past experiences with Mitsubishi Tritons did set the bar high for Shootout but we remain thoroughly impressed by its all-round capability, placing it at the top of a fierce mid-pack tussle. Only parts pricing, dealer footprint and resale value saw it lose ground to the podium finishers.

Grabbing the bronze medal at the upper end of the double-cab spectrum is the Amarok V6 TDI. Eye-watering asking price aside – which, interestingly, we now know holds its value very well – the wolf of Wolfsburg remains a firm CAR favourite thanks to its potent performance, comfort, high-quality cabin and get-in-and-go off-road aptitude.

Which leaves just two …

Consistently South Africa’s top two sales performers – shifting thousands upon thousands of units each month – it’s the mighty Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger. The thoroughness of this Shootout will hopefully clarify the different skills sets of each bakkie and the philosophies of the companies that build them.

In the Toyota Hilux’s favour, you have a vast dealer network, astonishing parts pricing (on the Raider model we evaluated), unsurpassed toughness in the drag and axle-twist test and unanimous approval of its off-road prowess. It is undoubtedly the king of the rough stuff and the bakkie we’d confidently point north of the border for an overlanding adventure. As Gerhard so succinctly put it, “The Hilux is the one you know will get you home no matter what.”

By virtue of more consistent scores across the board, though, it’s the Ford Ranger that claims Bakkie Shootout 2021 by a slender margin; just 9,5 points over 16 categories. Ever the nemesis of the Hilux, if you refer to our final scoreboard, the interior fit and finish, gadgetry, on-road refinement, performance, fuel economy (thanks to an excellent 10-speed automatic transmission) and superior NVH suppression earns the Ford its victory. A 10-time winner of CAR’s Top 12 Best Buys awards, as well, the Blue Oval is victorious once again … and with the arrival of the all-new Silverton-built P703 Ranger imminent, dare we say it, it’s got big shoes to fill.

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