Pickup pointers

Choices of the week: Toyota Hilux, Mitsubishi Strada, Nissan Navara, Ford Ranger, and Isuzu D-Max
Jun 8, 2010

Hello and good day!

I have long been a fan. You're the best, Top Gear Philippines!

My dad and I are planning to buy a pickup truck next year and we're hoping to get a new model. My father gave me the blessing to choose what we will buy and I don't want to turn him down. I've been busy choosing and searching for the best pickup available in the market. We live in Tagum City, Davao del Norte and we love to travel. We occasionally drive from our place to my lola's home in Tiaong, Quezon.

I am very particular with power, convenience and price-in that order of priority. I would also prefer a techie and roomy interior. Here's how I've ranked my choices based on my research:

1. Toyota Hilux 3.0 MT - Sufficient power, good looks, very macho
2. Mitsubishi Strada 3.2 MT - Good power and nice interior but I'm not a fan of the exterior looks because of its undersized head, fog and rear lamps
3. Nissan Navara 2.5 MT - Six-speed, good looks, big space for cargo
4. Ford Ranger 3.0 MT - Good looks, big cargo space
5. Isuzu D-Max 3.0 MT - Reliable but noisy engine

I don't have models with automatic transmission on the list because we're not a fan of that. Traffic is very minimal at our place and I think one can only take advantage of the automatic transmission in areas with heavy traffic (correct me if I'm wrong). 

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I would be very glad if you can help me since we don't have a chance to test drive these trucks.

Yours truly,

Zeus

Hi, Zeus!

Thanks for dropping us a line. We really appreciate you writing in! Nice line-up you got there--you picked all the contenders in the market!

Here's my take on your pickup options:

Toyota Hilux - We own a 3.0 D-4D AT, and we're very happy with it. Power is good--comes on strong but the AT is a bit retarded. It's slow to downshift and it always wants to upshift to the highest gear possible, making progress slow unless you're flooring it. Still, it is very stable at high-speed on the highway. I've cruised in our Hilux on the NLEX, SLEX, SCTEX averaging mostly at 120kph to 140kph while weaving through traffic. It's very good on the twisty bits. I had a blast driving up Kennon Road in the Toyota Hilux and it is simply almost unstoppable. The only downside I can see about the Hilux is its sensitivity to poor diesel fuel. And because of that, servicing at Toyota is very expensive. Otherwise, it is a great pickup with solid, stellar performance and it has a really good build quality inside and out. After five years and just under 100,000 clicks on ours, it hasn't missed a beat.

Mitsubishi Strada - This is much like the Hilux, but its build quality is very slightly lower than that of Toyota's. It doesn't feel as solid. The suspension is firmer but not as bouncy, and it is more capable as a true highway cruiser. The Mitsubishi Strada offers great value for money though. It has the tightest turning radius of 5.9 meters. I love the rear windows that roll down, unique in its class for sure. The stereo's a cheesy 1DIN CD-tuner, but the iPod/USB/MP3 connectivity is an added bonus for audiophiles on the go. In terms of power, the bigger 3.2 liter engine offers more mid-range grunt, but the Toyota has slightly better low-end pull from idle. The Mitsubishi does have a much better automatic transmission though but again, you don't want 'matics.

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Nissan Navara - I have yet to drive the Navara extensively but the 2.5 liter engine, despite delivering the best horsepower in its class, delivers most of it at the top-end, unlike the others that offer a broader range of power. The Navara's bed is big, but the rear seats are really tight.

Ford Ranger -  This feels the most aggressive to drive, and is really one capable off-roader but its build quality isn't as good and refinement is nowhere near Toyota's or Mitsubishi's. It is better suited out on the open road than on the high street/traffic. It looks macho so think of it as a single man's pickup truck. We've had two of the previous-generation Ford Rangers, which have powerful engines and good manuals. They are fun to thrash but, ultimately, I found it very uncomfortable, especially if you have passengers inside.

Isuzu D-Max - This is roomy, just like the Toyota Hilux and Mitsubishi Strada. Its CRDi engine is reliable but noisy and it lacks refinement. This was the original new generation pickup to hit our shores. Sadly, Isuzu has yet to significantly upgrade or replace the aging D-Max. It's a good pickup truck but I feel that in a more youthful market, they (Isuzu and the D-Max) have been left behind by the competition. Off-road, however, according to Beeboy Bargas, our avid 4x4 associate editor, and the D-Max is peerless, stock-to-stock. That is, perhaps, its saving grace.

So personally, I'd pick the Toyota Hilux or the Mitsubishi Strada among the bunch because they deliver good power and decent fuel efficiency. They both have loads of room and refinement inside, and they have decent good looks (I love the Storm Trooper looks of the Strada). Both are decently fast and enjoyable fun daily drivers.

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The Hilux has a more sedate, old-person vibe due to the beige interior, which is so harmlessly agreeable to everyone, whereas the Strada has a love-it-or-loathe-it modern techno interior due to lots of industrial-looking gray, blue and silver with black accent. It's no wonder the Hilux's sport-utility twin, the Toyota Fortuner, appeals to older people as they have a similar design theme inside and out, while the Montero Sport on the Strada's side appeals to a younger, more youthful crowd.

Update us as soon as you decide what to get. Take care, God bless and keep it safe out there.

Botchi Santos
Consumer editor

Lost in a sea of cars and not quite sure which one to get? Click here to email your car query so Botchi can help you pick the right vehicle! 

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