Dual-cab utes remain hot property in 2023, with the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger continuing to dominate the top of the charts for new-vehicles sales.
The problem is that the best versions of these models are found above $60,000.
That's not cheap by any stretch, while most ute manufacturers seem to be spending most effort on higher-spec variants that can bring wider profit margins.
Honourable mentions go to the LDV T60 and GWM Cannon, which offer premium features for a great price. However, the three vehicles listed below nudge them out when combining both quality and value in equal measure.
Ssangyong Musso Ultimate XLV
Packed with creature comforts belying its price point, the top-spec Musso XLV impresses both on- and off-road.
What we liked
- Engine refinement
- Interior space and quality
- Balanced on-road performance
Not so much...
- Unrated by ANCAP
- Rear-seat lap belt
- Extra length can hinder off-road performance
If there’s ever been a ute that surpasses expectations more than the Musso, we’d like to hear about it. Granted, expectations may be low, but feedback is consistently positive once people exit the driver’s seat of the Korean-born dual-cab.
A real perk of the Musso is its cavernous cabin and well-appointed interior. The seats are wide, supportive and accommodating, and there are plentiful storage bins and sizable drink holders. The infotainment system is modern and speedy, and its user interface is intuitive and easy to navigate.
A noticeable negative, and it’s a bit of an oversight, is the use of a lap belt for the rear middle seat. It’s just something not seen these days. To that point, it's worth noting the Musso is currently unrated by ANCAP.
An obvious compromise of its spacious interior is that it translates to a big exterior, with the Musso quite large compared with its contemporaries. Its extra 300mm length in XLV guise can make navigating steep off-road climbs quite difficult.
Still, it drives really well on bitumen, and the 2.2-litre engine is impressively refined for a vehicle at this price point. Steering is well dialled in, which makes the Musso a very practical vehicle for daily duties. Coil-sprung suspension front and rear provides a balanced on- and off-road demeanour.
The inclusion of a Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) as standard is also a big tick.
In top-spec XLV guise, the Musso’s payload jumps from 790kg to a usable 880kg, and its 133kW/420Nm 2.2-litre diesel is mated to a six-speed automatic. It has a towing capacity of 3500kg.
A Luxury Pack is available for an additional $3000 (still keeping it below $50K). This adds more premium equipment such as Nappa leather seating and dual-zone climate control.
|2023 Ssangyong Musso standard features|
|18-inch black alloy wheels||Dual-zone climate (Ultimate Luxury)|
|Faux leather interior||Nappa leather (Ultimate Luxury)|
|360-degree camera||Powered sunroof (Ultimate Luxury)|
|TPMS||Powered front seats and driver lumbar support (Ultimate Luxury)|
|Heated seats and steering wheel||Heated rear seats (Ultimate Luxury)|
|2023 Ssangyong Musso safety features|
|Autonomous emergency braking||Rear cross traffic warning|
|Lane departure warning||Lane change collision warning|
|Blind spot detection|
|2023 Ssangyong Musso ownership details|
|Service interval||15,000km/12 months|
|Servicing cost||Five years at a cost of $1875|
Mitsubishi Triton GLX+
This versatile fan-favourite is equally adept at work and adventure duties. Its exceptional value in GLX+ trim makes it hard to ignore.
What we liked
- Nimble on- and off-road
- Great value
- Class-leading warranty
Not so much...
- Basic and dated interior
- Misses out on some advanced safety tech
- Limited towing capacity
Look at the best-selling 4x4 vehicles in Australia over the past few years and you’ll notice there’s one that consistently lurks behind the heavy-hitting HiLux and Ranger on the sales charts – and there’s good reason for that. The Triton not only offers exceptional value for money, but it’s equally capable on and off road.
In GLX+ trim, the Triton sits comfortably beneath the $50,000 mark with a $48,990 drive-away price. For that coin, consumers receive a hard-working all-rounder.
There are obvious compromises in certain areas, and none more so than inside the cabin, where cost-cutting measures can be noticeable.
Unlike other budget vehicles – think Musso, Cannon and T60 – which feature more premium features as standard, the utilitarian cabin in the Triton GLX+ has cloth seats, plenty of plastic and thrifty-looking trims, single-zone air-conditioning, and a small 7.0-inch touchscreen housing a dated infotainment system.
Despite these flaws, the Triton is nimble and direct to drive on- and off-road, thanks to its smaller stature (in the dual-cab class) and settled suspension (leaf springs at the rear and coils up front).
Unlike more premium models in the Triton stable, the GLX+ uses the more rudimentary – but easy to use – Easy Select 4WD system instead of the more advanced Super Select II 4x4 system.
All Tritons are powered by a long-serving 133kW/430Nm 2.4-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder diesel, mated to a six-speed automatic in the GLX+.
You’ll save close to $10K opting for the GLX+ instead of the GSR, and we reckon that’s great value.
A decent payload of 945kg makes it a solid base to form a custom work ute and/or adventure vehicle, and there’s a tonne of aftermarket accessories to suit. However, you’ll have to wait for the next-gen Triton for a 3500kg towing capacity, as the current model is limited to 3100kg. It's due in January 2024.
There are more premium Triton dual-cabs in Mitsubishi showrooms (GLS and GSR), which offer a more luxurious interior, Mitsubishi's Super Select II 4x4 system, and added safety features. But you’ll save close to $10K opting for the GLX+ instead of the GSR, and we reckon that’s great value.
|2023 Mitsubishi Triton standard features|
|16-inch alloy wheels||Front skid plate|
|Climate-control air-con||Seven-inch touchscreen with Android Auto/Apple CarPlay|
|Rear diff lock||Heavy duty suspension|
|Side steps||Reversing camera|
|2023 Mitsubishi Triton safety features|
|Seven airbags||Rear-view cameras|
|Forward collision mitigation system||Parking sensors|
|Lane departure warning|
|2023 Mitsubishi Triton ownership details|
|Servicing cost||10 years at a total cost of $6740|
Nissan Navara SL
Entry-level Navara SL sneaks into the sub-$50K category
What we liked
- Strong engine performance
- Impressive payload
- Highly customisable
Not so much...
- A bit long-in-the-tooth
- Dated interior
- Lacks some advanced safety tech
The Navara line-up received a refresh toward the end of 2021, which gave it a more purposeful stance and bolder style.
As the base model Navara, the SL misses out on plenty of equipment introduced with the ST. This includes carpet flooring, a leather-bound steering wheel and gearshift knob, chrome interior details, a stainless steel sportsbar, black side steps, a suite of advanced safety tech, and more sporty 17-inch alloy wheels.
A strong suit of the Navara is its twin-turbo 140kW/450Nm 2.3L bi-turbo diesel engine
Upgrade again to the Premcar-fettled SL Warrior and owners are treated to a 40mm suspension lift, a front bash plate, bullbar with integrated light bar, fender flares, all-weather floor mats, a tub liner, 100kg GVM upgrade, and Cooper Discoverer all-terrain tyres.
However, sacrificing this equipment does save you quite a bit of coin when signing on the dotted line – about $5000 (ST) and $10,000 (SL Warrior).
A strong suit of the Navara is its twin-turbo 140kW/450Nm 2.3L bi-turbo diesel engine, which runs through a seven-speed automatic transmission. The capable engine is paired with dynamic and well-weighted on-road characteristics, with the Navara’s road-handling an impressive attribute.
The Navara comes with a generous payload – 987kg in SL auto trim – which makes it an ideal vehicle for work or play customisation. That there’s also a smorgasbord of aftermarket accessories available is a bonus.
The utilitarian cabin does feel a bit old – and we’ll have to wait until 2025 for a new model – but it gets an 8.0-inch touchscreen (bigger than the Triton) that is well mapped out and intuitive to use, and it features Android Auto and Apple CarPlay (albeit wired rather than wireless).
The low and flat seating position does take a bit of getting used to, but it gets better with time. There’s plenty of USB ports and copious storage pockets, and the drink holders will swallow larger bottles.
There are more capable off-roaders in the Navara line-up, but the base model SL is the only model that sits beneath the $50K cut-off for this segment.
|2023 Nissan Navara standard features|
|Eight-inch touchscreen||Locking rear diff|
|Reversing camera||Vinyl flooring|
|Six-speaker sound system||Halogen DRLs|
|17-inch steel wheels with full-size spare|
|2023 Nissan Navara safety features|
|Autonomous emergency braking system||Driver attention alert|
|Forward collision warning||Hillstart assist and downhill brake control|
|Brake assist||Seven airbags|
|2023 Nissan Navara ownership details|
|Warranty||Five year/unlimited kilometre|
|Service interval||12 months/20,000km|
|Servicing cost||Six years at a cost of $4113 (auto)|
🏆 THE WINNER: Mitsubishi Triton
If you’re willing to forego a few creature comforts, the Triton’s smooth- and rough-terrain abilities make it a compromise worth making.
A decent 4WD system in conjunction with well-tuned suspension and a rear diff lock as standard makes it very capable off-road, and a huge range of aftermarket accessories makes it a great base from which to create the ultimate work or adventure rig.
Add in its unbeatable 10-year warranty (and mind the conditions) and you can’t do better in the sub $50K dual-cab ute category.
Visit our Best Utes page to find the right ute for you.
|SsangYong Musso XLV specs||Mitsubishi Triton GLX+||Nissan Navara SL|
|Engine||2.2-litre 4-cyl turbo-diesel||2.4L MIVEC turbo-diesel||2.3L twin-turbo diesel 4-cylinder|
|Power||133kW at 4000rpm||133kW @ 3500||140kW @ 3750rpm|
|Torque||420Nm at 1400 to 2800rpm||430Nm @ 2500||450Nm @1500-2500rpm|
|Transmission||6-speed auto||6-speed automatic||7-speed automatic|
|Transfer case||Dual-range part-time||Part-time 4x4||Dual-range part-time 4x4|
|Front suspension||IFS w/ upper and lower control arms, coil springs||Double wishbone with coil springs||Double wishbone with coil springs|
|Rear suspension||Live axle, coil springs, stabiliser bar||Leaf springs (heavy duty)||Multi-link with coil springs|
|Tyres||265/60R18||245/70R16 111S RF||255/65 R17|
|On-test fuel use||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|ADR fuel claim||8.2L/100km||8.6L/100km||7.8L/100km|
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