To prepare for the arrival of the new Toyota Hilux, a worthy adversary must be found.
Pick-up truck popularity is a strange thing.
They’ve always been cheap thanks to favourable taxation, generally undercutting C-segment cars, and yet they were never paid a second look by those looking for a daily driver anytime before the turn of the millennium.
Year 2000 is long gone, and suddenly the uncomfortable and bare workhorse of yore is an exception and not a norm among today’s offerings which are more car-like than ever before.
The D-Max doesn’t feature here because we already know what it’s good for: pure and relentless utility. Contractors love it, not only for its incredible fuel consumption — Bangkok to Singapore on a single tank across all variants — but also for its durability.
And so what we have here are three new or updated pick-up trucks in a picturesque jungle clearing complete with waterfall near Sungai Sendat, looking fresh and clean as if they’ve never seen a dirty day in their lives.
This fight will change that in a hurry.
Nissan Navara NP300
Under the metal lies the feature Nissan is proudest of: coil-sprung rear suspension. The Navara is the only pick-up truck on the market to equip this, and on rough surfaces there is a marginal advantage in ride comfort. Push the Navara though long sweeping bends however and the rear end starts to become skittish; possibly too soft a setup.
The automatic transmission has seven forward ratios to the Ranger’s six and the Triton’s five, we weren’t able to conduct a proper fuel efficiency test but while cruising the smooth Navara seemed to drone the least. Essentially, it is the most civilised one here.
Another Navara USP — besides an impressive list of safety features just below that of the Ranger WildTrak— as pointed out by our managing editor Yamin Vong is the Aapico-sourced infotainment unit. Developed for the region, it even accepts inputs in Bahasa Malaysia or Bahasa Indonesia.
A quick poke about also showed that Tan Chong locations had been pre-programmed for ease of service and ownership, while the detailed map should come in handy when the Navara finds itself in areas without mobile data coverage where Waze is rendered useless.
Mitsubishi Triton VGT Adventure
The Triton has always been an interesting pick-up truck, never any one of the sales front runners but with adequate following — especially from the diehard Triton Tuners Club Malaysia.
Unfortunately, it joins us in Malaysia with the same engines as the Triton that came before, the new 2.4-litre diesel being left out because of then poor availability of Euro 5 diesel. Mitsubishi, wisely, soldiered on with the old engine to avoid technical issues but in doing so comes to the arena slightly handicapped.
Performance is one thing, refinement is another. That old mill rattles the loudest, which you might be fine with until you step into the other two. The Triton unfortunately also has the lowest ride quality, but we must stress that it’s not bad, the other two are just better over the bumps and holes.
On the safety front the Triton loses out too, it goes without stability control which both the Navara and Ranger come with as standard at these specifications. Having just been updated and seen here in range-topping spec, the Triton isn’t about to receive these features in a hurry.
Ford Ranger XLT
Ah yes, the fan favourite. But we couldn’t crown it and call it a day without pitting it against the Triton and the Navara, the former heavily updated for 2015 and the latter all-new to the market.
What we know from testing is that despite sharing the title of smallest pickup truck engine in Malaysia with the Tata Xenon with a displacement of only 2.2-litres and with six gears, the Ranger isn’t as economical as a D-Max but you at least save on road tax.
Small engine notwithstanding, the torque deficit to the 2.5-litre duo here is a fairly insignificant 18Nm or less.
Through the days of our test we found ourselves fighting over the keys of the Ranger for a variety of reasons: its NVH insulation, the early kick of torque, the feather-lightness of the steering at low speeds, and the simple intuitiveness of the SYNC infotainment system despite fewer features than the Navara’s unit.
We wonder, however, whether the Ranger is truly built to be abused. Its popularity seems limited to urban buyers, and when you take a look across to the East Malaysian market the Ranger does not feature as heavily as it does in the capital city.
As only time will tell of the Ranger’s durability, what we can say now with certainty is that buyers might be slightly put off by the its higher maintenance costs over its Asian peers.
We went into this with an idea as to how it would end, and our instincts were right. It’s difficult to wrap your head around the brilliance of the Ford Ranger, especially since none of the others here are significantly lacking in any aspect.
As a package, we would chose it over the others in most situations; its also arguably the most aesthetically pleasing in the masculine sense on the outside and classy on the inside.
The Triton could have been a completely different animal with the 2.4-litre, but here it rattles in a manner unacceptable in pick-up trucks after 2010 not to mention the absence of active safety features that really should have been part of its update.
As for the mother trucker, individual elements that stand out did not manage to make the Navara more than the sum of its parts the way the Ranger is. If urban driving comfort really is everything you are looking for, then go for it but bear in mind the truck bed will probably have to be loaded to improve high-speed body control.
With steely-eyed determination, the Ranger beckons to bring on Hilux the Undefeated.
Specifications of the Mitsubishi Triton VGT Adventure
Engine: 2.5-litre DI-D turbodiesel commonrail VGT Intercooler
Max Power: 175hp @ 4,000rpm
Max Torque: 400Nm @ 2,000rpm
Transmission: Five-speed automatic
Safety features: ABS with EBD, reverse sensor, anti-pinch power windows, ISOFIX child seat mounts, dual front airbags
Price: RM116,053.20 OTR without insurance, three-year/100,000km warranty
Specifications of the Ford Ranger 2.2L XLT
Engine: 2.2-litre TDCi turbodiesel commonrail
Max Power: 158hp @ 3,200rpm
Max Torque: 385Nm @ 1,600rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Safety features: ABS with EBD and emergency brake assist, stability control, hill launch assist with hill descent control, roll over mitigation, dual front airbags, ISOFIX child seat mounts
Price: RM108,788 OTR without insurance, three-year/100,000km warranty
Specifications of the Nissan Navara V
Engine: 2.5-litre DDTi turbodiesel commonrail VGS Turbo Intercooler
Max Power: 161hp @ 3,600rpm
Max Torque: 403Nm at 2,000rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed auto
Safety features: ABD with EBA and BA, rear view camera, ISOFIX child seat mounts, dual front airbags, hill start assist and hill descent control, vehicle dynamic control and traction control, active brake limited slip
Price: RM109,800.00 OTR without insurance, three-year/100,000km warranty