Jul 21, 2023

Top Gear Bakkie Wars

Bakkie or van — these colloquial names are used to describe an LCV (Light Commercial Vehicle) with a load bin, depending on which neck of the woods you come from. Us South Africans are not only creative with our names; we also happen to love these types of vehicles for their versatility.

The word bakkie can trace its roots back to a Northern Dutch and Afrikaans word bak — loosely translated as a “load-carrying container”, which in this instance, refers to a load bin. It is now a word universally used, by even some of my European colleagues who often pose questions about our vehicle market, such as, which model is selling best?

It’s frequently a bakkie — predominantly the Toyota Hilux, and occasionally the Ford Ranger — and they find this a fascinating phenomenon. It does, of course, indicate how bakkie-crazy South Africans are, indicated by the frenzied engagement we receive when we publish any bakkie-related content.

LCVs account for a huge chunk of the SA vehicle market, where bakkies play a pivotal role. To put that into perspective, in March 2023, 15 529 units were sold, and in April 2023 9 562 units sold — an 11% increase compared to April 2022. At this consistent trajectory, we can expect the numbers to increase throughout the rest of the year. While these figures include minibus taxis and panel vans, bakkies constitute a sizable portion of the overall sales figures.

We finally managed to devise a plan to bring together a gaggle of leisure double-cab bakkies currently on sale in Mzansi. It’s been quite a long time coming, and we have had to push out the feature dates due to the unavailability of certain key models in the segment, but we were adamant about making this review a resounding success.

Our main objective here was to find the best Leisure Double Cab 4×4, capable of carrying passengers in the utmost possible comfort, lugging heavy loads and with good towing capability.

We managed to amass 10 of these bakkies, all of which you’re about to see further on in this feature. If you were wondering why the GWM P-Series and JAC T8 are not featured, we extended invitations to both manufacturers, but neither could supply. The former was keen; however, its updated P-Series was still undergoing ratification at the time, which meant we had to discount it from participating. The latter indicated that a more advanced T9 bakkie variant will be launching in the second half of 2023 and thus decided to sit this one out, sadly. Mazda simply excused itself, and we have a sneaky feeling that it was due to the BT-50’s unyielding suspension, which hasn’t yet struck a chord with Mzansi bakkie buyers.

The Leisure Double Cab models in our inaugural Bakkie Wars feature are currently being sold at dealerships, and we reckon they are representative of the market. Some of these models are debuting for the first time here, and we’ll be bringing you exclusive and extensive test drives of them, in one of the best settings and proving grounds: the picturesque 3 Provinces 4X4 Adventure trail. — Lerato Matebese


What makes a great bakkie? Is it the gasping adoration from its owner, or is it the power and Newtons that are regurgitated around the braai? The look, the sound, or how its wheel articulation conforms when the 4-low system crawls the hunk of metal over jagged rocks and through treacherous, axle-shearing dongas?

Some say it’s about the price, resale value and insurance premium trifecta. Others reckon it should be more versatile than a Swiss Army Knife, while a few think it should have a turning circle tighter than an end-of-month budget.

Some champion fuel efficiency. Some purists contend that a bakkie’s worth is measured by its ability to conquer the most challenging off-road obstacles. In contrast, others place a premium on comfort and cutting-edge technology, transforming the once humble workhorse into a luxurious city runabout. Despite what forum-based keyboard warriors express as the holy grail of bakkie-ness, there’s no one be-all and end-all argument for what makes a bakkie truly great.

Naturally, we’ve assembled a formidable lineup of contenders to duke it out for the title of South Africa’s best bakkie. Of the 10 competitors that have stepped into the arena, the following six are the bread-and-butter bakkie contenders, the ones that stay truest to the essence of bakkie-ness with trusty diesel engines, few frills and little fuss.

The popularity champion – Toyota Hilux GR-Sport

The Toyota Hilux in the bakkie world is like the lion to South Africa. It’s in the streets, bush and gravel roads near you. It dominates its territory on the monthly sales charts. A firm favourite among buyers, the Toyota Hilux has built its reputation on the road, off the road and everywhere in between, and the GR-S model is no different, with a waiting list longer than a teenager’s Tik Tok binge.

Powered by a 2.8-litre turbo diesel engine, the Hilux 2.8 GD-6 4×4 GR-Sport churns out a wholesome 165kW and 550Nm of torque, enough to make overtaking a breeze and certainly enough to have made some testers (Papi) reluctant to hand over the keys.

Its off-road prowess is equally impressive; it navigates obstacles with grace. Its ground clearance of 286mm, even without high-end off-road gear, is among the best, with crucial components and mechanical outcroppings tucked up high into the chassis.

Look, it’s not perfect. Even in 4-high, gravel travel isn’t its strongest suit, and then there’s the price. At R918 100, it’s not what one would call affordable, but even that doesn’t deter its suitors. And despite regular updates and welcome sporty touches to the cabin, it shows its age.

Still, it’s the unofficial reigning champion on the road and gravel, and definitely the one to beat for the other nine champions that have stepped into the beautiful ring of the 3 Provinces 4×4 arena.

The Tech-Savvy Challenger – Ford Ranger 3.0 V6 Wildtrak

In the world of bakkie battles, every hero needs an arch-nemesis. The Ford Ranger Wildtrak V6 is that American-with-a-South-African-accent challenger to the Hilux’s throne.

With good reason: The new Ranger is big, it’s bold, and the unapologetic styling brings a sense of hesitance in simply calling it a “bakkie” in such a diminutive, cutesy way — this is a compact truck with more on-board tech than a science fiction novel.

At its heart beats a 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel delivering 184kW and 600Nm of torque, making the Ranger a victor in the power race, though this does make it thirstier.

Its off-road credentials are equally impressive, with front wheels adjusted for a 30-degree approach angle and drive modes – 2H, 4H, standard 4L, and 4A – adjusting traction for gravel driving. For added traction, the rear diff can be called into action from the dedicated off-road screen that also shows different camera angles during trail driving.

In tests, the front-view camera was vital, given the large size and obstructed front view, making manoeuvring the Wildtrak akin to wrestling a crocodile into a straitjacket.

Yet, with finesse, guidance and assistive tech, the Ford Ranger Wildtrak easily overcame anything resembling an obstacle. It may be the newest contender in this category, but it’s already asserting its position as a formidable opponent in the never-ending battle for bakkie supremacy.

The underdog worth rooting for – Isuzu D-Max V-Cross

In the lively conversations surrounding everything bakkie-related, where the battle for supremacy is usually fought on the sales charts, the Isuzu D-Max has that enviable reputation as the “Mr Dependable” of sorts that’s unapologetically unpretentious.

It might not be breaking any records soon with its trusty 3.0-litre turbo diesel unit that delivers a still-weighty 140kW punch and 450Nm of torque nostalgically clattering like an agricultural implement.

Off-road, the V-Cross exhibits nimble-footedness, navigating even the most challenging terrain we presented it with in a no-nonsense approach. Despite lacking the high-tech aids of pricier rivals, it achieves the same results.

While the new D-Max V-Cross brings a lot of familiarity to the table, it feels dated. This is particularly evident when it comes to the interior. It has a touchscreen infotainment system and leather seats, but the plastic PLP trims’ hardwearing nature will likely not favour city sleekers who’ve never had to deal with a tenacious mud stain. Then again, the Isuzu D-Max has never tried to be something it isn’t.

At R857 700 it’s more budget-friendly than its main rivals, making it a strong alternative for those prioritising value and pragmatism.

So, while it might not be setting spec sheets and tech conventions alight, the Isuzu D-Max V-Cross is a quiet contender that certainly deserves a second look. It’s the grounded, honest and reliable alternative amid bakkie battles — an underdog sticking to its roots and worth rooting for.

The purist’s pick – Nissan Navara PRO-4X

From the makers of Godzilla, albeit in a more utilitarian form, with fewer cylinders and wearing a sticker job that undoubtedly adds 20kW, the Nissan Navara PRO-4X flies under the radar of most. It’s been around for years in some form, but one thing’s for sure; this contender for the throne as the ultimate bakkie knows how to work a crowd.

Its unique charm has steadily won over buyers, and it doesn’t need to shout its presence from the rooftops.

Under the bonnet, the Navara PRO-4X is powered by a 2.5-litre turbo diesel engine, churning out a steady 140kW and 450Nm. It may not knock your vellies off your socks, but it’s reliable and gets the job done.

Off the beaten path and on the trails, the Navara PRO-4X showcases its off-road prowess with improved suspension over the previous model and good levels of wheel articulation for maintaining grip in tricky conditions. Add to that a 33-degree approach angle and 27 degrees worth of departure, and it resides in the upper echelons of the company it keeps.

It has updates, but the Navara retains the qualities that always made it an excellent bakkie. During the Bakkie Wars showdown, the Navara PRO-4X quickly became a firm favourite. Its rock-climbing abilities and agility around tight sections left an impression on several members getting behind the wheel, who were reluctant to relinquish the key. The charm here is strong … really strong.

The interior might not match the latest bakkies, but its blend of analogue and digital maintains the Navara PRO-4X’s authentic workhorse appeal.

It’s a bakkie for those who value the simple things in life like good music, great company, a good fire-side story and a solid, dependable vehicle that can take them anywhere -– maybe not in a blur-inducing hurry, but it’ll get there eventually.

The seasoned veteran – Mitsubishi Triton 2.4DI-D Double Cab 4×4 Heritage

With roots in the Dakar Rally, the trail-hardened veteran Mitsubishi has 12 wins in 26 entries, including seven straight victories.

It’s had a bit of a hiatus on the development front, though, with the only real talking point being the somewhat controversial styling of the facelift, with the front end looking ready to sneeze — but then again, despite Mitsubishi’s newfound sharp-pencilled lines not finding favour with everyone, it’s not a commentary on this bakkie’s legendary mechanical capabilities.

As the veteran in the Bakkie Wars contest, the Triton, in its current form, is one of the oldest participants, but it’s eager to prove that it can still stand toe-to-toe with the more modern, better-selling players in the market.

The Triton’s sturdy 2.4-litre turbo diesel engine, generating 133kW and 430Nm of torque, may not be the most powerful, but it gets the job done.

In the heated bakkie showdown, the Mitsubishi Triton 2.4DI-D Double Cab 4×4 Heritage shone as the master, demonstrating that time-tested strategies remain valuable amid ongoing tech advancements.

While less popular or fiercely debated than other bakkies, the Triton remains a solid contender, displaying heart, grit, and ongoing off-road mastery.

The stylish newcomer – Peugeot Landtrek 4Action 4×4

When the news broke that Peugeot was launching a double cab bakkie in South Africa, the broad spectrum of reaction from the sofa-inclined commentators ranged from shock to horror, surprise to confusion. Some checked their calendars for April Fool’s, while others championed its arrival, citing Peugeot’s robust motorsport record — Dakar victories, 48 WRC wins. Even with these credentials, Peugeot’s newcomer has much to prove.

At least it has lots going for it, with its striking design, comfortable, well-appointed cabin and aesthetically pleasing switchgear — it definitely adds a touch of European flair and sophistication to the competition.

It’s powered by a 1.9-litre turbo diesel engine that produces 110kW and 350Nm of torque. Though outgunned and the least powerful, it kept pace with most competitors, only struggling with more formidable challenges.

Despite subpar NVH levels, its trendy café-like appeal versus rugged workhorse characteristics, all under the R1m mark, it adds value to a segment where prices verge on exuberant.

As a fresh face in SA’s bakkie market, the stylish Landtrek 4Action 4×4 could make a significant impact if Peugeot aligns it closer with existing contenders without sacrificing panache.

Here’s to a unique bakkie that offers a blend of elegance and capability. — Deon van der Walt


If you take a close look, it’s easy to see that the bakkie landscape has become notably more complex than just double or single cab. This segment is hotly contested, and whether as a lifestyle addition or a workhorse, there’s a bakkie out there ideally suited for the task at hand.

While the tried-and-true, mainstream models often remain the preferred choice, there’s been a recent surge in interest in the more individualised, out-there, left-field options. Ford Ranger Raptor, Jeep Rubicon Gladiator, Mahindra Pik Up, and VW’s Amarok PanAmericana are recent entrants to the market, all of which means serious business.

Plug them into our 2023 Bakkie Wars feature, and saying there’s been hype around it would be understating it. They can haul anything, plough through anything — and look cool while doing it.

The muscled guy – Ford Ranger 3.0 V6 Raptor

The Ford Ranger Raptor is a standout contender in the Bakkie Wars, vying for the crown with impressive specs and unique appeal. More a passion purchase than a practical decision, the Raptor is the most powerful production bakkie in SA. It’s thrillingly fast, sounds as mad as a hatter, and can conquer any terrain with ease, thanks to an array of features including diff locks, all-terrain tyres, Fox adjustable shocks, low-range, hill descent assist, and a variety of on- and off-road driving modes such as Normal, Sport, Slippery, Rock Crawl, Sand, Mud and Baja.

Honed by the folks at Ford Performance, the Raptor packs a serious punch. Under the bonnet beats a 3.0-litre V6 EcoBoost engine that delivers 292kW and a neck-twisting 583Nm of torque while shifting through a 10-speed automatic transmission. That alone is enough to cause chaos at Bakkie Wars.

Practicality might not be front-of-mind with the Raptor, but that doesn’t mean it can’t get the job done with a load bin that can accommodate anything up to 667kg, such as a standard-sized Euro pallet loaded with something sensible, perhaps? Regarding towing, the Raptor shows no signs of struggle, offering a maximum braked towing capacity of 2 500kg and a 750kg unbraked limit.

Inside you are greeted with an interior that screams sporty from the get-go, courtesy of sports seats with Code Orange accents lurking on the instrument panel, trim and seats, cast magnesium paddle shifters and a large 12” infotainment system with a Bang & Olufsen sound system. What more could you want?

While it makes for a superb bakkie off and on the road, there are limitations when tackling the latter. Dialled into its 4×2 setting, the mighty V6 can sometimes overpower the rear tyres if caution is not exercised. And also, it’s thirsty. Add a price tag of R1 094 900, and your bean-counter-on retainer might not be overly pleased. Look beyond the quirks, though, and you have a superb product that signifies a dune-sized departure from its predecessor.

The sleek entrant – Jeep Gladiator 3.6 Rubicon

The Jeep Rubicon Gladiator enters the Bakkie Wars arena as a formidable opponent, vying for the crown with its rich heritage and unique offerings. It presents a direct challenge to the Ford Ranger Raptor, packing the off-road credentials that Jeeps of old are renowned for. While it might not be as potent or as imposingly loud as the Raptor, it’s a notable newcomer in the bakkie landscape that certainly leaves tongues wagging.

Built for a lifestyle-forward market thanks to its removable doors and roof, the Gladiator leans more toward being fun than really a workhorse. Underestimate its off-road abilities at your own peril, though. There’s a lot to love here. Although its torque figure is a notch below the Raptor, the Gladiator’s payload capacity of 693kg, braked towing capacity of 2 721kg, and unbraked maximum limit of 750kg prove that sometimes less is actually more.

Powering it is a 3.6-litre V6 turbocharged petrol engine that pushes out 209 and 347Nm of torque paired with a smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission. Though we feel like the engine could do with more torque, it carries the weight of the Gladiator with relative ease, even when pushing through the challenges that 3 Provinces brought, thanks in large part to its crawl ratios, wheel articulation and indomitable Fox suspension that also gives it supple compliance over rocks and poorly maintained road surfaces. Downside? The removable roof leads to considerable wind noise penetrating the cabin, and its fuel consumption can be on the thirsty side. Furthermore, with a price tag of R1 307 029, it’s the most expensive bakkie in this lineup. Despite this, the Gladiator put up a good fight for the crown with its distinctive appeal and the nostalgia of its iconic badge.

The khaki and vellies contender – Mahindra Pik Up 2.2CRDe Karoo Dawn

The Mahindra Pik-Up Dawn enters the ring outfitted in khaki, bringing an old-school aesthetic and feel to the competition. Unlike other contenders on this list, it doesn’t bring big numbers, impressive soundtracks and a control room-worth of tech. It’s not meant to. It’s an honest interpretation of what an old, rugged bakkie is all about.

Beneath the bonnet, the Pik-Up Dawn houses a modest 2.2-litre 4-cylinder turbodiesel engine that produces 103kW and 320Nm of torque, coupled with a 6-speed automatic transmission. Exhilarating on-road cruising was hardly on the list of deliverables for this bakkie, nor really was outright comfort with its firm ride and noticeable wind noise. But, off the road, the Pik-Up Dawn truly comes into its own. In fact, it feels unstoppable.

It’s a formidable off-road warrior, boasting impressive approach, departure angles, and excellent articulation. Its off-road systems may seem a bit dated, requiring a touch of patience, but they get the job done. Then there’s the utilitarian aesthetic of the cabin, with a dashboard made entirely from hard plastics and seats wrapped in stain-resistant cloth to ensure longevity. The cabin’s lack of adequate storage remains disappointing, but it makes up for it with plenty of head- and leg-room.

As the most affordable left-field option at R634 999, it may not stand out in the pack in terms of innovation and technology, yet its strengths lie in its robustness, dependability and honesty. There are also loads of cool factors, should you be in the market for that.

The Well-Groomed Entry – Volkswagen Amarok 2.0BiTDI PanAmericana 4Motion

The VW Amarok recently entered its second generation and leads a double life as the Ford Ranger following the joint venture between the two entities. Though the Amarok has only been around for the past decade, it has carved its own legend in the world of bakkies as a product that blends luxury and off-road capability into one great product.

The Amarok and Ranger might share many components, but they’re more than badge-engineered twins. Each targets a distinct customer base.

Making its grand entrance into the off-road colosseum of Bakkie Wars is the Amarok in the off-road focused PanAmericana guise, but don’t let its refined looks fool you — off-road, there’s not much it can’t do. It easily handles off-road challenges, effortlessly navigating obstacles and serving as a testament to its traditional suspension setup, which features conventional springs and dampers up front and leaf springs at the back. Add a sophisticated 4×4 system with selectable four-wheel-drive for selecting between 2H, 4A and 4H and a low-range transfer case for crawling over challenging terrain.

Powered by the same 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel unit that powers the Ranger Wildtrak with 184 kW and 600 Nm of torque, the Amarok has decent off- and on-road manners with adequate shove in all 10 gears. And towing? The Amarok has a braked and unbraked maximum capacity of 3 500 and 750kg, respectively.

Inside, it’s practical, spacious, and comfortable. Volkswagen has made specific refinements to the Amarok’s interior, presenting a well-specced, classy environment. — Ntsako Nthethwa


At the heart of the Bakkie Wars, where rivalries and reputations collide, one true champion of champions must rise above the rest. We sought to crown the ultimate bakkie, one that encompasses a harmonious blend of power, versatility, style and plenty of that can’t-put-your-finger-on-it factor. We’ve gathered ten worthy contenders to battle for supremacy, each with its unique blend of ingredients defining bakkie greatness.

The challenge was gruelling, pushing these mechanical beasts to the limit at the first arena, the 3 Provinces 4×4 adventure trail. Winners and not-so-winningest contenders emerged from the dust of the battle. But, one crucial test remained: towing. Be it a hay bale, caravan, or your mom-in-law’s clutter, it’s here where on-board technology, gadgets and something as simple as visibility determines which bakkie shines through in reverse manoeuvrability and set-speed stability when slaloming with a double-axle trailer.

Trailer Reverse Manoeuvrability: The Art of Control

Reversing and alley-docking a 5-metre-long dual-axle trailer is a challenging feat, even under the best of circumstances. Add to that a gathering crowd of onlookers, planes starting up in the vicinity (oh, look, is that a Piper?), and a sentimentally-priceless Datsun SSS Deluxe strapped to the trailer, and it gets a whole lot trickier.

10: Nissan Navara

When the reverse camera resolution is barely better than a cassette-based video game, it adds a whole lot of difficulty to an already nerve-wracking equation. Add to that the rear-view mirrors’ field of view, especially during a 90-degree turn, and these factors severely hindered the Navara’s ease of manoeuvrability, forcing take after painstaking backwards take.

Visibility: 2/10

Rear-view camera assistance: 1/10

Steering: 5/10

Total: 8/30

8: Mahindra Scorpio Karoo

Look, there are two sides to the Mahindra’s visibility. Its side mirrors are big; its raised driving position makes visibility better, too, but its sheer size plays devilish mind games of perspective when reversing. The trailer looks to be well away from a parked bakkie, only for us to hear a panicked “stop, stop” over the radio. Its 30-degree off-centre-aligned steering wheel also didn’t help the zen.

Visibility: 4/10

Rear-view camera assistance: 3/10

Steering: 2/10

Total: 9/30

8: Toyota Hilux

You’d think that after all the updates to the GD-6 generation Hilux, Toyota would have made some updates to the quality of life when reversing a trailer the size of a tiny home. The Hilux is getting a bit long in the tooth, costing it serious brownie points during the reversing test.

Visibility: 2/10

Rear-view camera assistance: 3/10

Steering: 5/10

Total: 10/30

7: Jeep Gladiator

Nothing fundamentally wrong here, but the already-tough-to-park length of the Gladiator didn’t exactly make for a backwards breeze. Fitting two equally-long components into a very tiny space is tricky; there are no two ways about it.

Visibility: 5/10

Rear-view camera assistance: 5/10

Steering: 3/10

Total: 13/30

6: Mitsubishi Triton

It’s older than the Hilux, and for some reason we couldn’t quite fathom, easier to manoeuvre when going backwards with a load. Its camera tech is equally outdated, yet it wasn’t a too-and-fro situation to park the veteran.

Visibility: 5/10

Rear-view camera assistance: 4/10

Steering: 5/10

Total: 14/30

5: Ford Ranger Raptor

Apparently, you can’t win drag races and parking contests. While the Ranger Raptor has all the best tech and features, getting over the size and stampede of overeager horses when reverse parking a dual-axle did hinder its point-scoring ability.

Visibility: 6/10

Rear-view camera assistance: 8/10

Steering: 3/10

Total: 17/30

4: Peugeot Landtrek

Undoubtedly the biggest surprise here, we didn’t expect the Peugeot to fare all that well in this category. With good visibility, a good resolution camera and fast, nimble steering, the Landtrek has it all.

Visibility: 7/10

Rear-view camera assistance: 6/10

Steering: 6/10

Total: 19/30

2/3: Ford Ranger Wildtrak / Volkswagen Amarok

Slice this one however you’d like, but the twins separated at birth had very little in the way of actual features setting them apart. Identical 360-degree cameras,

similar dimensions – if we were to pick knits, more reflective sunlight on the Ranger’s black paint job wasn’t as ideal as the soft glow on the Amarok’s golden locks… The point is, both have the chops to easily get a big trailer into a small space without sending onlookers into cardiac arrest.

Visibility: 8/10

Rear-view camera assistance: 7/10

Steering: 7/10

Total: 22/30

1: Isuzu D-Max V-Cross

Look, it’s far from the best-equipped bakkie here, but the Isuzu D-Max had the magic sauce to thread the trailer needle accurately, with repeatable results. Great side-mirror visibility? Check. A rear-view camera that didn’t look like a 90s video game? Sure. And a steering ratio quick enough that you might mistake it for a caffeine addiction.

Visibility: 8/10

Rear-view camera assistance: 7/10

Steering: 8/10

Total: 23/30

The Power Pull Showdown

Lugging a gargantuan, nearly two-tonne trailer isn’t for the faint-hearted or the power-shy. But hey, who doesn’t love a challenge? Especially when you have a line-up of bakkies itching to flex their towing muscles.

10: Peugeot Landtrek

Poor Landtrek, while it surprised us in the reverse test, in the towing arena, it felt like it had the world’s weight on its shoulders. It huffed, and puffed but couldn’t blow us away with its smallish power figures and incessant hunting for the right gear.

Power delivery: 2/10

Control: 4/10

Total: 5/20

9: Mahindra Scorpio

Its imposing size and general cool factor had it scoring big in the emotional category but cost it severely on the snaking, slaloming section of the towing test. It really likes to throw its weight around but ultimately it trails in the dust when it can’t find its wheels and the driver battles in a desperate attempt to regain control.

Power delivery: 4/10

Control: 2/10

Total: 6/20

8: Jeep Gladiator

The Gladiator put up a good fight, but the extra length added a weight wobble, making towing feel more like a wrestling match.

Power delivery: 5/10

Control: 4/10

Total: 9/20

7: Mitsubishi Triton

The old warhorse Triton may not have the bells and whistles, but it’s a steady hand on the wheel. The veteran in the line-up didn’t sweat much, proving age is just a number, despite being on the lower end of rated capacities.

Power delivery: 6/10

Control: 6/10

Total: 12/20

6: Ford Ranger Raptor

The Raptor roared, but it was more suited to the drag strip than the trailer park. Despite the best tech, its stampeding horses pulled too aggressively in the patient game of towing. Less is more, apparently.

Power delivery: 6/10

Control: 7/10

Total: 13/20

5: Isuzu D-Max

Far from the techiest on the list, the D-Max wasn’t afraid to flex its muscles, lending a gentle hand in trailer composure. F

Power delivery: 7/10

Control: 7/10

Total: 14/20

4: Nissan Navara

The Navara redeemed itself from its poor showing in the reverse category, making towing feel more manageable and more composed than we expected. Despite the so-so tech, it got the job done with a measure of grace.

Power: 7/10

Control: 8/10

Total: 15/20

3: Toyota Hilux

The ever-reliable Hilux proved why it’s a crowd favourite. Solid as a rock in this category, it was easy to see why it’s such a popular choice for weekend warriors.

Power: 8/10

Control: 8/10

Total: 16/20

2: Ford Ranger

The Ranger pulled out all the stops in the power department with its mighty 3.0-litre V6 diesel. Only second on the list, though? Whether intentional or not, the suspected trailer-sway feature programming insistently interrupted cornering, creating a subtle but somewhat unnerving shudder on the rear axle. Still, it’s a mighty pony.

Power: 9/10

Control: 8/10

Total: 17/20

1: VW Amarok

The Amarok stole the show, making it easy to forget it had two tonnes strapped to the back. Powerful, well-composed and laden with tech… what’s not to love? Also, no shudders. Bravo, Amarok!

Power: 9/10

Control: 9/10

Total: 18/20

Towing Derby Leaderboard

Volkswagen Amarok: 40/50

Ford Ranger: 39/50

Isuzu D-Max: 37/50

Ford Ranger Raptor: 30/50

Toyota Hilux: 26/50

Mitsubishi Triton: 26/50

Peugeot Landtrek: 24/50

Nissan Navara: 23/50

Jeep Gladiator: 22/50

Mahindra Scorpio: 15/50

— Deon van der Walt


Three Rangers walk into a bar … could you see this one coming? The Ford Ranger Wildtrak, Volkswagen Amarok and Ford Ranger Raptor take the podium positions in our Bakkie Wars special. They were qualified by their scorecards for sure, but also by the indelible mark that the trio left on the team.

We joke about the Volkswagen Amarok being a Ranger because it is, and though Volkswagen purists may not be happy about the relationship, under the bold PanAmericana façade the Amarok is every bit the Ranger Wildtrak sitting next to it, and then some.

Specifically, the Ranger Wildtrak and Amarok sit here because they shift the goalposts of what lifestyle double cabs can be. Nothing in the segment rides with as much comfort, refinement and poise, making these two so versatile and appealing.

The Amarok sports the best refinement of all three, but it’s menial compared to the slightly cheaper blue-ovalled Ranger. The essence of vehicle improvement is that it must be unmistakably visible compared to the previous version. With these two contenders, no one can argue that what they have brought to the table in the way of refinement, technology, and real-world practicality is significant for the segment.

The new Ford Ranger Raptor is the headline that has created a stir since news of a 292kW bakkie surfaced on the internet. We couldn’t believe that Ford was doing something so bold and so rulebook-defiant. But they did, and the new Ranger Raptor makes it into the Top 3 podium because it is the very thing that we didn’t know we wanted in our minds and hearts … but when we drove it, that all changed. The Ranger Raptor barks like a sports car, launches like a banshee quad and then jumps and dances with trailblazing alacrity at the push of a few buttons. All this, while still offering the feature-rich cabin appointments and luxury tech of the other two on this podium.


The winner has to be the Ford Ranger Raptor. If you guffaw and protest at the ridiculousness of it all, just think about it. It is the antithesis and yet the conclusion of what a bakkie should be. It isn’t frugal. It isn’t the towing king. It isn’t the most refined nor the most capable load-bearer. It is a bakkie that will do all of the above with some level of commendation, sure, but it isn’t the benchmark in these areas.

What it is, though, is completely mad … no, make that ludicrously, nonsensically barking mad! It’s the most lunatic bakkie here, with a performance envelope that stretches further and wider than you can imagine. It will titillate your senses by the way it drives and handles, and the battle cry of its engine note. But more importantly…ding ding … is how it makes you feel behind the wheel. When has anyone ever spoken of a double cab bakkie with this level of emotion? Um, yes, precisely!

The new Ranger Raptor is the Ranger that always should have been. Ford teased us with the 2.0-litre bi-turbodiesel, fox-dampened version, but this is the cum laude thesis. It’s a result of doing things with bold intention, and no matter what corner of the bar you sit in, you cannot and must not discount the Raptor on any grounds.

With a price tag north of R1-million and with dealers hiking those prices due to unmitigated demand, the Raptor is and will continue to be the most sought-after bakkie in Mzansi. We are thrilled that, as South Africans, we got to choose from such a smorgasbord of talented and desirable bakkies, from the frugal and conscious Peugeot Landtrek to the trusty old Japanese offerings to the ever-so-smooth Ranger Wildtrak and VW Amarok. But this Ranger Raptor — eish, it has genuinely flipped the bakkie segment firmly on its head. — Avon Middleton

Drawing the Bakkie battle linesThe Battle of the BakkiesThe popularity champion – Toyota Hilux GR-SportThe Tech-Savvy Challenger – Ford Ranger 3.0 V6 WildtrakThe underdog worth rooting for – Isuzu D-Max V-CrossThe purist’s pick – Nissan Navara PRO-4XThe seasoned veteran – Mitsubishi Triton 2.4DI-D Double Cab 4×4 HeritageThe stylish newcomer – Peugeot Landtrek 4Action 4×4The Left FieldersThe muscled guy – Ford Ranger 3.0 V6 Raptor The sleek entrant – Jeep Gladiator 3.6 RubiconThe khaki and vellies contender – Mahindra Pik Up 2.2CRDe Karoo Dawn The Well-Groomed Entry – Volkswagen Amarok 2.0BiTDI PanAmericana 4Motion Towing DerbyTrailer Reverse Manoeuvrability: The Art of Control10: Nissan Navara8: Mahindra Scorpio Karoo8: Toyota Hilux7: Jeep Gladiator6: Mitsubishi Triton5: Ford Ranger Raptor4: Peugeot Landtrek2/3: Ford Ranger Wildtrak / Volkswagen Amarok1: Isuzu D-Max V-CrossThe Power Pull Showdown10: Peugeot Landtrek9: Mahindra Scorpio8: Jeep Gladiator7: Mitsubishi Triton6: Ford Ranger Raptor5: Isuzu D-Max4: Nissan Navara3: Toyota Hilux2: Ford Ranger1: VW AmarokTowing Derby LeaderboardTop 3 Tier WINNER