Best pick-up trucks: high in power, low in tax

Carry vast loads on- or off-road, with plenty of creature comforts: these are the best pick-up trucks on sale now

Leon Poultney
Oct 29, 2019

Need a big, powerful vehicle that's tough and can put up with you chucking dirty stuff in the back and crossing rough terrain from time to time? Perhaps you also need it to carry especially large and heavy loads, but you absolutely do not want to drive a van. There's only one thing for the job - a pick-up truck.

The best pick-up trucks are strong and built to last, with the ability to tackle challenging terrain, tow weighty trailers and haul hefty loads. It’s made them a must-have for farmers and building site managers. Even if you don't have such tough treatment in mind, they still make an appealing and strong value alternative to an SUV.

Like the Land Rover Defender, these rugged workhorses have also become something of a lifestyle statement. Owners are using pick-up power to lug jet-skis to the beach, transport motocross bikes to the dirt track or simply to throw prams and shopping in the back with carefree abandon.

As a result, popular pick-up manufacturers have started to offer modern luxuries, extra style and more practicality. A double-cab model, for example, offers four doors and a second row of seats. Models from mainstream makers like Mercedes and Volkswagen are designed to be as simple to operate as their cars.

 

Despite this, the pick-up remains an excellent and reliable off-road tool, as well as a nifty tax break for business users. Plus, if your mates seem to be getting bigger and bigger SUVs, a pick-up is surefire way to dwarf all but the priciest 4x4s - for a much lower cost.

As for the tax savings, while company car tax for cars is based on a proportion of a vehicle's value, as well as CO2 emissions, tax is set at a fixed rate for double-cab, four-wheel drive pick-up trucks, no matter how much they cost. As a result, a 20% taxpayer would hand over £56 a month to HMRC for using their company pick-up as personal transport, while a 40% taxpayer will have to cough up £112 a month. 

An Audi Q7 3.0-litre Quattro SE, for example, would cost a 20% taxpayer £297 a month, or a 40% tax payer £594 a month. And while an Audi Q7 is certainly smoother, more comfortable, and better equipped than any pick-up, there’s no denying that a pick-up offers a similarly rufty-tufty lifestyle image.

Best pick-up trucks

1. Mercedes X-Class

Latest Mercedes-Benz X-Class deals from £22,750
Monthly finance from £553
Length 5,340mm
Max. payload 1,092kg
Load length 1,587mm

There are pick-up trucks that can carry longer and heavier loads but none that are as striking as the Mercedes X-Class.

The dazzling chrome grille, LED lights, slick dashboard screen and crosshair-shaped vents will all be familiar to owners of Mercedes cars. But underneath the glitz are the same mechanical parts from a Nissan Navara. Which isn’t a bad thing: that car is rugged and capable off-road.

Mercedes has tuned the X-Class to be quieter and more comfortable than the Nissan. But this does come at a far higher price, so if you want to be smart go for the Nissan and you get much of the same car underneath.

Mercedes X-Class buyers' guide

2. VW Amarok

Latest Volkswagen Amarok deals from £15,995
Monthly finance from £390
Length 5,254mm
Max. payload 1,126kg
Load length 1,555mm

The Volkswagen Amarok is big and tough, with a big and powerful 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine under its bonnet. This means that acceleration is pretty swift for a heavy pick-up and it’s capable off road too.

It's also a rather pleasant thing to climb into. There are plush optional leather seats, powerful seat warmers and a VW touch-screen media system with digital radio and sat-nav.

Only available in a double cab version, it offers plenty of room inside for five adults, while the driving experience has been made to feel as close to VW's passenger vehicles as possible. This means the steering is light and manageable and the suspension fairly smooth and stable on the road. Driver assistance features, like parking sensors and a reversing camera, are available too.

Volkswagen Amarok buyers' guide

3. Ford Ranger

Latest Ford Ranger deals from £11,795
Monthly finance from £289
Length Up to 5,362mm
Max. payload 1,296kg
Load length Up to 2,317mm

With its imposing looks and 'built tough' slogan, the Ford Ranger is another pick-up that has been vastly improved with the recent addition of various lifestyle flourishes.

The Ford Ranger is available with plenty of creature comforts, including the new SYNC 3 media system and a glossy high-resolution dashboard screen, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for the ultimate in smartphone connectivity. Other optional tech includes adaptive cruise control, which adjusts your speed to maintain a safe distance from the car in front.

Despite its luxuries, the Ford Ranger remains an absolute workhorse, with the ability to tow up to 3,500kg and wade through water up to 800mm deep. Unlike the VW Amarok, it comes in a variety of cab styles, from the cheaper and very reasonable two-door 'Regular Cab', to a 'Super Cab', which grants easy access to occasional back seats, and the largest Double Cab option with seating for five.

There's also a good range of engines, including an efficient 2.2-litre TDCi diesel and a more powerful 3.2-litre five-cylinder TDCi unit. The larger engine is only available in Double Cab models and only these models can be matched with the six-speed automatic gearbox.

Ford Ranger buyers' guide

4. Toyota Hilux

Latest Toyota Hilux deals from £17,995
Monthly finance from £439
Length Up to 5,330mm
Max. payload 1,025kg
Load length Up to 2,315mm

One of the most famous names in the pick-up game, the Toyota Hilux has been in production for nearly 50 years and over 18 million models have been sold globally in that time, which says a lot about its durability in harsh conditions.

Now in its eighth generation, it has undergone an impressive technical overhaul inside but the tried-and-tested suspension system hasn't been touched. As a result, the Hilux is a more appealing proposition inside but it isn't the best to drive on this list - it tends to be quite bouncy, lean a lot through corners and can feel a bit agricultural on the road.

Prices are competitive, starting at £22,756 (ex-VAT) for the entry level Active models, which come fitted with steel wheels and Bluetooth connectivity inside, but those wishing to use their truck as a passenger vehicle should look towards Icon models and above. These come with smart 17-inch alloy wheels, a seven-inch touchscreen, six speakers, digital radio and Bluetooth.

Just one engine is available across the range and that's a 2.4-litre diesel with 150hp. It's not as frugal as others on this list, while a six-speed automatic gearbox (only available on Icon trim models and above) brings the combined fuel economy figure down to 36.2mpg.

Toyota Hilux buyers' guide

 5. Nissan Navara

Latest Nissan Navara deals from £11,495
Monthly finance from £276
Length Up to 5,300mm
Max payload Up to 1,074kg
Load length Up to 1,758mm

Nissan has attempted to combine off-road toughness with on-road comfort and an interior that's as easy to use as its popular Qashqai car-based family crossover.

As a result, it feels very much like a car from the driver's seat, with a familiar dashboard screen, comfortable seats and stylish materials. Underneath, Nissan has introduced some sophisticated suspension, which means that you get a much more comfortable ride on the road, with less bouncing and crashing when the truck picks up speed.

But it still retains its ability to tackle muddy surfaces with aplomb. The new Navara uses a 2.3-litre diesel engine across the range. It comes in entry-level 163hp guise or with 190hp in more expensive variants. A six-speed manual is the standard gearbox, but you can get a seven-speed automatic on the range-topping 190hp Double Cab.

Nissan Navara buyers' guide

6. Mitsubishi L200

Latest Mitsubishi L200 deals from £11,073
Monthly finance from £272
Length
 Up to 5,285mm
Max payload 1,050kg
Load length up to 2,265mm

The Mitsubishi L200 isn't a vehicle for the shy or retiring type and with the most appealing five-seater double cab variants offered in trim levels with names like Titan, Barbarian and Warrior, it's clear who the target audience is here.

Now in its fifth generation, the latest L200 boasts a high-tech 2.4-litre diesel engine, which has an official fuel economy figure of 40.9mpg in the smaller entry-level models. It's available with a large touchscreen media system and upmarket fabrics too. However, some buttons and fittings still look and feel a bit industrial, while there seems to be a lack of storage for big bottles and other items in the door bins and dashboard, which is surprising for a work vehicle like this.

Look beneath the overtly masculine exterior styling and trim titles and there's a comfortable pick-up truck underneath. It rides well, with little crashing or bouncing on the road, while the steering has a good weight to it, which aids more precise cornering.

Mitsubishi L200 buyers' guide

7. Fiat Fullback

Latest Fiat Fulback deals from £10,995
Monthly finance from £270
Length 5285mm
Max. payload 1,045kg
Load length 1,520mm

Borrowing most of its working parts from the Mitsubishi L200, the new Fiat Fullback aims to inject some Italian style and flair into the pick-up truck market.

But where Mitsubishi offers plenty of cab styles, engine choices and load volumes, the Fullback is designed at those who might be tempted by a Volkswagen Amarok and Mercedes-Benz X-Class but don't quite have the budget to stretch. As a result, the Fullback is only offered in a double-cab body style, with just one 2.4-litre diesel available in two power outputs.

It is still a capable machine, with a large pick-up bed that can handle 1,045kg worth of kit in a load space that measures 1.9m2 - that's roomy enough for a Euro Pallet.

The Fullback is well equipped regardless of trim level and it's easy to specify luxuries like sat-nav and leather seats without spending too much extra cash. Unfortunately, the Italian marque hasn't tweaked Mitsubishi's rugged suspension system, so on-road manners aren't as good as its more expensive rivals. Its 3,100kg towing limit of unbraked load also compares poorly to the 3.5 tons offered by the Isuzu D-Max, Volkswagen Amarok and Ford Ranger, too.

Fiat Fullback buyers' guide

8. Isuzu D-Max

Latest Isuzu D-Max deals from £10,995
Monthly finance from £270
Length 5285mm
Max. payload 1,045kg
Load length 1,520mm

The extensive D-Max range covers everything from single-cab, two-wheel drive workhorses, which boast one of the longest rear beds in the business and a hose-clean interior, to more premium all-wheel-drive double-cab Blade variants with leather seats and touchscreen media systems.

Engine choice isn't quite as interesting, with just one 1.9-litre diesel unit. Fuel consumption and emissions figures are among some of the best on the list but the engine is noisier than those offered by Nissan, Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz, while the six-speed manual gearbox can be vague and cumbersome to use.

But for the price, top-spec Blade versions represent great value for money, with lashings of upmarket kit thrown into the mix.

Isuzu D-Max buyers' guide

9. SsangYong Musso

Length 4990mm
Max. payload 1,050kg
Load length 1,275mm

What the lesser-known SsangYong Musso lacks in comfort, interior quality, load space and payload capacity, it more than makes up for with a very reasonable price tag.

The Musso, which means 'rhinoceros' in Korean, starts at just £20,995 and even base-spec EX models come with hill descent control, rain sensing wipers, and a touchscreen media display.

The Musso’s new 2.2-litre diesel engine is quiet during regular driving conditions and has enough power to tow a load of 3,500kg and haul 1,050kg of goods with ease at the same time. But you’ll need to put up with a cheaper feeling interior and more wind noise than most of the (more expensive) competition.

SsangYong Musso buying guide

 

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