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
Jan 3, 2019

The best pick-up trucks are powerful and tough, 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.

But like the Land Rover Defender and Barbour jackets, this rugged workhorse has also become 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 big pick-up remains an excellent and reliable off-road tool, as well as a nifty tax break for business users. That's because company car tax for cars is based on a proportion of a vehicle's value, as well as CO2 emissions.

But 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 per cent taxpayer would hand over £56 a month to HMRC for using their company pick-up as personal transport, while a 40 per cent taxpayer will have to cough up £112 a month. An Audi Q7 3.0-litre Quattro SE, for example, would cost a 20 per cent taxpayer £297 a month, or a 40 per cent 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

Manufacturer price from £29,365 exc. VAT

Latest Mercedes X-Class deals from £24,995
Finance from £457 per month

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

The dazzling chrome grille, LED lights, slick dashboard screen and crosshair 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 - and the interior luxuries do come at a higher price, so its appeal is limited to anyone looking for a cut-price workhorse.
Mercedes X-Class buying guide

Length 5,340mm  Max. payload 1,092kg  Load length 1,587mm

 

2. VW Amarok

Manufacturer price from £25,800 exc. VAT

Latest Mercedes Volkswagen Amarok deals from £16,495
Finance from £290 per month

Volkswagen's Amarok is big and tough, so it has a big and powerful 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine under its bonnet. This means that acceleration is pretty swift for a three-ton car and it’s capable off road too.

It's also a rather nice place to climb into. There are plush optional leather seats, powerful seat warmers and a VW touch-screen 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 modernised so it's fairly smooth and stable on the road. Driver assistance features, like parking sensors and a reversing camera, are available too.
Volkswagen Amarok buying guide

Length 5,254mm  Max. payload 1,126kg  Load length 1,555mm

     

3. Ford Ranger

Manufacturer price from £19,095 exc. VAT

Latest Ford Ranger deals from £10,350
Finance from £250 per month

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.

Ford's Ranger is available with plenty of creature comforts, including the new SYNC 3 dashboard software 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 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 typical 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 or 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 buying guide

Length Up to 5,362mm  Max. payload 1,296kg  Load length Up to 2,317mm

   

4. Toyota Hilux

Manufacturer price from £20,179 exc. VAT

Latest Toyota Hilux deals from £11,999
Finance from £208 per month

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 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 £20,179 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 17in alloy wheels, a 7in touchscreen, six speakers, digital radio and Bluetooth for connecting your phone wirelessly.

Just one engine is available across the range and that's a 2.4-litre diesel with 150 horsepower (hp). 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 mpg figure down to 36.2mpg.
Toyota Hilux buying guide

Length Up to 5,330mm  Max. payload 1,025kg  Load length Up to 2,315mm

      

 5. Nissan Navara

Manufacturer price From £20,500 exc. VAT 

Latest Nissan Navara deals from £12,690
Finance from £189 per month

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 158bhp guise or 187bhp in more powerful variants. A six-speed manual is the standard gearbox, but you can get a seven-speed automatic on the range-topping 187bhp Double Cab.
Nissan Navara buying guide

Length Up to 5,300mm  Max payload Up to 1,074kg  Load length Up to 1,758mm

   

6. Mitsubishi L200

Manufacturer price from £19,505 exc. VAT 

Latest Nissan Navara deals from £12,995
Finance from £202 per month

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 touch screen display and premium 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.

Length Up to 5,285mm  Max payload 1,050kg  Load length up to 2,265mm

 

7. Fiat Fullback

Manufacturer price from £21,995 exc. VAT

Latest Fiat Fullback deals from £14,995
Finance from £225 per month

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 trim levels are generous and it's easy to specify luxuries like navigation and leather seats without spending too much cash. Unfortunately, the Italian marque hasn't tweaked Mitsubishi's rugged suspension system, so on-road manners aren't as good as the 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.
Fiat Fullback buying guide

Length 5285mm  Max. payload 1,045kg  Load length 1,520mm

 

8. Isuzu D-Max

Manufacturer price from £16,509 exc. VAT

Latest Isuzu D-Max deals from £9,300
Finance from £149 per month

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 touch screen dashboard 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 premium kit thrown into the mix.
Isuzu D-Max buying guide

Length 5,315mm  Max. payload 1,196kg  Load length 2,305mm

 

9. Ssangyong Musso

Manufacturer price from £20,995 exc VAT

What the lesser-known Ssangyong Musso lacks in comfort, interior quality, load space and payload capacity, it more than makes up on 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 dashboard screen.

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 cheaper interior plastics and more wind noise than most of the (more expensive) competition.
Ssangyong Musso buying guide

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

 

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