In the United States, pick-up trucks are big business and account for a greater slice of sales than regular cars. Over here in Britain, they’re more of a niche purchase. But buyers in need of a practical workhorse that can also carry five people in comfort could do a lot worse than the latest breed of UK-spec pick-ups.
As well as being as versatile as SUVs, they deliver tax benefits for business users, thanks to the fact they’re classed as commercial vehicles and fall outside the usual company car tax structure.
And there are plenty of models to choose from, too, with the latest addition to the class being the new Nissan NP300 Navara. It’s bigger, faster and more efficient than its predecessor, but it’ll need to be at the top of its game to beat its two rivals here.
First up is the Mitsubishi L200. It was crowned Best Pick-up at our 2015 New Car Awards, and the flagship Barbarian is loaded with kit. Our final contender is the Isuzu D-Max, which is equally well equipped and will be a stern test for the Navara’s practicality. Can the Nissan come out on top in this test?
All three cars are perfect for towing, but the Navara and D-Max have a slight advantage, as they can haul 3.5 tonnes, compared to 3.1 tonnes in the L200.
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Still, our trio will be able to tow the biggest horse boxes without trouble. There is a variety of tow bars on offer, but Isuzu’s options offer the best value, starting at £194.
Our Nissan and Isuzu featured hard-tops that convert the bed into a boot. However, neither had wash/wipe, and the back screens got filthy quickly. The D-Max had a heated screen, but the double tint of the cab’s back window plus hard-top glass meant it was almost impossible to see out of.
Pick-ups are taxed at a flat rate, so you can save a lot in Benefit in Kind tax over a regular SUV. These three will cost lower and higher-rate taxpayers £630 and £1,260 a year respectively, while a Nissan Juke 1.5 dCi in Tekna trim will be taxed at £706 or £1,413.
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Our reigning pick-up champ has seen off possibly the closest rival it’s likely to meet for now. The Navara is bigger and offers a greater payload, but the L200 edges ahead as it has more than enough carrying capacity, plus it looks sharper, features a roomier cabin and delivered better performance at the pumps. The bouncy ride is no worse than the Nissan’s, and it’s good value, too.
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There’s no doubt that the new Navara is an improvement over its predecessor, but it just falls short here. It’s well equipped – and the 360-degree cameras are a great addition – yet it feels big and cumbersome to drive when compared to the L200. It’s not as spacious as the Mitsubishi inside, while it’s not as refined and the multi-link suspension isn’t as comfortable as you’d expect.
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The Isuzu D-Max has a rough, tough, no-nonsense charm about it, and its functional cabin and practical add-ons will appeal to many buyers. However, the engine is gruff and underpowered in this company, and the low-rent cabin means it can’t really cut it as an alternative to an SUV. Add
in the steep price tag, and the D-Max takes third place in this test.
Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 178bhp
If you want a pick-up that’s even more geared towards family life, the Amarok is worth a look. The twin-turbodiesel isn’t as efficient as the engines in these cars, and it doesn’t have as big a payload, but the cabin is upmarket and there’s plenty of kit.
Engine: 2.2-litre 4cyl, 197bhp
The facelifted Ranger has a 3.5-tonne payload, while it gets Ford’s latest touchscreen and SYNC voice recognition. Sat-nav is a £420 option, and Ford also offers the Driver Assistance Pack, with adaptive cruise and auto main beam, at £1,350.
|Mitsubishi L200 2.4 DI-D Barbarian||Nissan NP300 Navara 2.3 dCi Tekna||Isuzu D-Max 2.5 TD Blade|
|On the road price/total as tested||£28,559/£29,288||£29,095/£33,349||£31,143/£33,754|
|Annual tax liability std/higher rate||£630/£1,260||£630/£1,260||£630/£1,260|
|Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)||£1,659/£2,766||£1,905/£3,174||£1,938/£3,230|
|Ins. group/quote/road tax cost||13/£809/£225||38/£872/£225||12/£710/£225|
|Servicing costs||£720 (3yrs/37,500)||TBC||£599 (6yrs/36,000)|
|Engine||4cyl in-line/2,442cc||4cyl in-line/2,298cc||4cyl in-line/2,499cc|
|Peak power/revs||178/3,500 bhp/rpm||187/3,750 bhp/rpm||161/3,600 bhp/rpm|
|Peak torque/revs||430/2,500 Nm/rpm||450/1,500 Nm/rpm||400/1,400 Nm/rpm|
|Transmission||6-spd manual/4WD||6-spd manual/4WD||6-spd manual/4WD|
|Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel||75 litres/full size||80 litres/full size||69 litres/full size|
|Kerbweight/max towing weight||1,860/3,100kg||1,958/3,500kg||1,970/3,500kg|
|Turning circle||11.8 metres||12.4 metres||12.6 metres|
|Basic warranty (miles)/recovery||5yrs (62,500)/3yrs||5yrs (100,000)/5yrs||5yrs (125,000)/3yrs|
|Service intervals/UK dealers||12,500 miles (1yr)/113||18k miles (2yrs)/225||12k miles (2yrs)/97|
|Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.||27th/18th||28th/29th||N/A|
|0-60/30-70mph||10.1/10.5 secs||11.6/11.1 secs||13.6/14.1 secs|
|30-50mph in 3rd/4th||4.0/6.2 secs||4.1/5.1 secs||5.2/7.1 secs|
|50-70mph in 5th/6th||8.7/11.8 secs||7.0/9.7 secs||10.3/19.2 secs|
|Top speed/rpm at 70mph||111mph/1,900rpm||114mph/2,250rpm||112mph/1,750rpm|
|Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range||33.4/7.3/551 miles||29.1/6.4/512 miles||28.6/6.3/434 miles|
|Actual/claimed CO2 emissions||227/173g/km||260/169g/km||265/192g/km|
|Auto gearbox/stability/cruise control||£1,680/yes/yes||£1,700/yes/yes||£1,200/yes/yes|
|Climate control/leather/heated seats||Yes/yes/yes||Yes/yes/yes||Yes/yes/yes|
|Metallic paint/headlights/keyless go||£516/xenon/yes||£495/LED/yes||£250/halogen/no|
|Tow bar (7-pin)/bed liner protection||£298/£213||£275/£360||£194/£255|