Pickup comparo: Nissan Navara, Ford Ranger and Mitsubishi Strada

What truck would you choose for your precious cargo?
by Botchi Santos | Feb 4, 2010

Hi, Botchi!

First let me congratulate you and the rest of the guys and gals there at Top Gear Philippines for your excellent work. You're the best!

I'm from Mindanao (Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur) and in the market for a new 4x4 pickup truck.  I'm actually having this dilemma over which pickup to get. I'm a family man and THE pickup would be carrying my precious "cargo" around. We love to travel in the countryside and most of our roads are, to be honest, bad. I need a strong, safe, reliable ride that can tackle not only our highways but the rough roads also.

In the July 2009 issue, you featured pickups going head to head, but Mitsubishi sent in the underpowered (of the bunch) 2.5Li variant and the Nissan Navara was not available for testing. Is a rematch with the complete lineup in the works?

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I'm no longer inclined to get the Isuzu D-max nor the Toyota Hilux. So far, I've narrowed down my choices to the Ford Ranger XLT 4x4, Mitsubishi Strada 3.2 GLS, and Nissan Navara. Among the three, my top pick would be the Nissan Navara but I've read some comments on the Internet about its poor Euro NCAP rating.  A close second would be the Mitsubishi Strada which I've read got the best rating.

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I need your input about the pickup trucks' handling, safety features, ride quality, maintenance cost and fuel consumption. Please help me choose wisely. More power to you all.

Dr. Glenn

Hi, Dr. Glenn!

It's great to know our magazine gives great pleasure to readers from as far as Mindanao.

Regarding pickups, here's the lowdown:

1.) Nissan Navarra - As I write this, I'm actually waiting for Top Gear's Wrong Car, Right Car shoot to begin. We're looking at the Nissan Navara, too! Honestly, I've yet to drive it and I'm going with our associate off-road editor Beeboy Bargas' comments. He says the Nissan Navara is a great on-road pick-up with decent ground clearance but not enough for hard-core off-road use. It makes the most power--170hp but it is quite peaky since the engine is a smaller 2.5-liter CRDi. Again better suited for highway drive and the top-end is tremendous but lacks the mid-range grunt--the sort of power you'd expect from a bigger capacity engine. That's where the Mitsubishi Strada and Ford Ranger trounce it. The rear is quite roomy but the bench is too upright--not very comfortable and supportive during long drives. It does have a six-speed manual so if you love to redline your truck, this is the one for you.

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2.) Ford Ranger - It's the only one with a five-speed automatic option available and a powerful, powerful mid-range and top-end grunt. The Ford Ranger is a bit on the thirsty side even for a diesel though thanks to all the prodigious power it makes. The driving feel of this one is perhaps the most exhilarating and manic. It also looks very cool and modern as the recent facelift did it wonders. Probably the most macho in the bunch. The Ford Ranger is quite tight, however, especially at the back. If you'll be carrying your precious cargo a lot, they will definitely feel uncomfortable with the bench seats. From what I remember, the rear is also on the firm side. More suited to being a workhorse than a family transporter. In a drag race though, this baby might be the fastest and quickest off the line.
3.) Mitsubishi Strada - I love this pickup the most. It has very good power, very highly-adaptive automatic transmission, the roomiest interior and the tightest turning radius (5.9 meters as opposed to over six meters for the rest of the pickup trucks). It also looks the most modern and most futuristic. The Mitsubishi Strada's engine is a highly fuel-efficient 3.2 CRDi that delivers good mid-range power--where you'll be spending most of your time driving instead of the top-end. Small touches like the rear-window that goes down to let fresh air come in more, a fancy audio system with iPOD/MP3 integration, dual airbags and an LSD make this the winner of the bunch. That it's the top-selling pickup in the market tells you something. Having driven this in an intense 4X4 off-road trail in Chanburri, Thailand, the SCTEx prior to its completion, and in and around Metro Manila, I've tested this Mitsubishi Strada in as many typical conditions as I can.
I own the current generation Hilux (3.0 D4-D AT) so it's also a pretty good choice otherwise I wouldn't have bought one but Mitsubishi presents better value since it is cheaper. The D-Max is one pick-up I'm not a big fan of, partly because the interior isn't up to the standards set by other trucks; the engine is noisy and down on power despite being a 3.0-liter CRDi.
Good luck in your choice. Keep it safe out there and best regards to your precious cargo.
Botchi Santos
Consumer editor

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