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Which of these popular bakkies stood the test of time? We found out

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The leisure double cab colloquially know as a bakkie in our country is one of the most popular vehicles.

Practical enough to haul the whole family in comfort and able to load a sizeable load like construction material, it is also quite capable off-road, and in some circles it is bought it as a status symbol.

I have been a  fan of the hardworking cars mainly because I grew up in a village with less than savory dirt roads. My dad also owned several from some of the manufacturers in this piece so I had a privilege to sample the more archaic versions.

They always delivered what was expected of them, plowing through muddy roads and unforgiving gravel and pothole riddled dirt roads.

His firm favorite brand was the extremely popular Japanese brand, the ubiquitous Toyota Hi-Lux.

Recently I was fortunate enough to drive some of the most popular ones in South Africa; the Ford Ranger Fx4, Isuzu KB 250 D-Teq,  Nissan Navara 2.3 D LE 4x4 MT, Toyota Hilux Raider 2.8GD-6 4x4 AT and VW Amarok 3.0 V6 TDi Highline Plus.

They all have different personalities and here is my take:

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Ford Ranger FX4

According to NAAMSA the most popular pick-up in Mzansi is the Toyota Hi-Lux, but this is a closely fought battle with the Raanger.

Ford recently released limited edition Ford Ranger Fx4 that is based on the wildly popular 3.2 TDci Double Cab 4x4 model range.

This new Ranger attracts attention with its vis like the black radiator grille, black roof rails, 18-inch Stark Grey allow wheels.

What struck me the most about this vehicle is how sedan-like it is to drive. The steering wheel is light, making it quite a remarkable achievement for a vehicle its size.

The SNYC infotainment system that comes with GPS as standard is a dream. It basically becomes an extension of the iPhone with all its functionalities in one big screen.

This 8-inch touch screen in navigation mode came in quite handy while navigating the heavy Jozi traffic. I also liked the illuminated USB and auxiliary ports, which allowed easy access in the dark.

The Fx4 will solidify this 4x4s popularity as it vies for the top spot in the local market. The price tag starts at R593 900 for the Fx4 TDCi Double Cab 6MT 4x4 and R608 900 for the automatic variant, the one I got to drive. 

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Toyota Hilux Raider

When a Cosmic Blue, 2.8GD6 automatic Toyota Hilux pulled up in our driveway at work, all sorts of childhood memories streamed back.

This double cab bakkie was worlds away from what I grew up being driven in.

This one is more luxurious, more comfortable and most notably much more expensive, at a price of R595 700.

The exterior design for me trumps all the other bakkies I had to sample.

This comes with mod-cons like DLR LED running lights, reverse camera, electric windows, USB port for charging your smartphone or tablet.

There is a modern looking tablet like screen interface that houses all the entertainment functions but oddly enough this didn’t come with a navigation system which should have been standard in this high line spec. 

In terms of safety Toyota has made sure all the features like ABS, Brake Assist, Electronic Brake Force Assist, Hill Assist Control and other array of features come in as standard and this gave me confidence about my safety and those of my occupants.

The fuel consumption is a claimed 8.5L/100km but in my experience it felt much more than that maybe due to the horrible traffic on our freeways that lead to many stop and go and idling. Once the road opened up though the 130Kw, 450Nm of torque 2.8L engine easily gobbled up the freeway and the cruise control helped me stay on the right side of the law. The loadbox is 1525mm x 1540mm x 480mm allowed the double cab cabin to be marginally roomy compared to other bakkies but this was barely noticeable.

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Nissan Navara

I personally liked the design of the new Navara even before I climbed on board and drove the high spec LE model.

The clean and sleek aerodynamic design of the Navara gave it my vote of confidence. Of all the current bakkies in the South African market I feel strongly this is the most well rounded in terms of overall design, which contributed to Navara winning the 2016 International Pick-up of the year award in Europe. 

I didn’t have an opportunity to take this vehicle off the road to see how good it is but with electronic wizardry like the electronic rear differential that distributes power equally to the front and rear wheels giving a well-balanced traction. 

The inside finishes are also luxurious with leather trimmings all around and chrome accents abound but not tacky. The dual zone air condition system, vents for the rear passengers, the infotainment system connect via Bluetooth and navigation with 3D mapping and live traffic updates. I also liked the electronically operated sliding rear window became useful once temperatures became unbearable in the cabin and I wasn’t using aircon or opened the big windows.

The loadbox is 1503mm x 1560mm x 474mm also didn’t feel too squashed upfront as the cabin comfortably sat 5 adults and none complained about cramps. Overall the Navara is a good offering from Nissan but it doesn’t come in cheap with the base model starting at R518 900 but it is good value for money.

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Isuzu KB

My impression of the ISUZU were rather mixed. Of all the bakkies I got to sample this one was the more hardcore and felt like the bakkies of old that my dad used to drive.

To be fair to ISUZU though I got to drive their entry-level offering so I can’t really compare it to the high-end offerings from the other manufacturers.

The turbocharged diesel engine produced a paltry 100Kw @ 300Nm of torque. I could feel the weight when I put the pedal to the metal. It was also the only manual transmission I drove.

In terms of overall design and feel, ISUZU has fallen way behind the other manufacturers featured here. It has safety features like 2 airbags, ABS, EBD ( electronic brake distribution), BA (brake assist).

In terms of convenience features, the aircon comes as standard, the radio has an auxillary input, USB port and Bluetooth connectivity for your mobile devices and a cd player. The side view mirrors are electronically adjusted similarly to the other bakkies here. The cabin is also airy but Spartan. The KB starts at a quite competitive R414 800.

VW Amarok
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VW Amarok

Now when you talk about the high-end luxury bakkie this is what you are talking about.

VW has done a superb job with their suspension that made it very comfortable and able to absorb the bumpy dirt roads.

I was worried that the ride comfort would be heavily compromised as this is an all-out 4x4 bakkie but the VW engineering came to the fore. I was impressed by the pulling power of the 165Kw@550Nm diesel turbocharged engine.

Even though the vehicle weighs a hefty two tonnes, the V6 engine was able to haul it forward at alarming speeds. Exterior design for me is quite boring but then again this design hasn’t changed much since its introduction in 2010, which makes it the oldest in the bakkies I tested.

The interior is quite luxurious, clad in leather upholstery all around and also with impressive infotainment system that comes with the satnav, USB port, Bluetooth connectivity etc. I also liked the intuitive nature of the audio system that would pop up different menus as soon as your finger approaches the touchscreen interface.

The Amarok also has safety features that appear in other bakkies here like the airbags, LED DLR, PDC (park distance control for front and rear, came in handy when parking the big vehicle. It also came with the optional reverse camera.

The presence of the eternal power socket in the payload area is a good idea especially for the one is in the bush for portable lights or charging phones for the passengers at the back. The loadbox is 1555mm x 1620mm x 508mm so you can comfortably load quite a lot of bags of cement without worrying much about being squashed upfront. The VW Amarok 3.0 V6 TDi DC Highline 4motion starts at a mouthwatering R697, 400 not cheap by any measure but quite a capable “premium” bakkie in our country.


I was pleasantly surprised by the level of comfort in the 8 year old grand father of these bakkies, the Amarok. The vehicle has had facelifts like the ubiquitous DLR but the core of it, the suspension hasn’t changed since its launch. This was by far the most luxurious of all these bakkies. In my opinion this is how I would rate these workhorses; The VW Amarok would be a clear winner then Ford Ranger and Toyota would be tied in second, Navara, 3rd and the Isuzu KB comes in at 4th place. This vehicle has grown to be an all-terrain family luxury vehicle brought fond memories of the drives I used to have with my dad when I and my sons seemed quite enamored with these vehicles. 

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