The mighty dual-cab 4x4 ute has become a must-have for tradies in Australia, serving as a workhorse and daily driver, and taking you further into the bush or onto the beach.
Gone are the days of two-wheel-drive utes, with cult classics like the HSV Maloo once signifying the pinnacle of success on a jobsite. A dual-cab 4x4, with plenty of aftermarket goodies fitted, is now the sign you’re doing just fine.
Dual-cab ute cabins are also as refined as their passenger-car relatives these days, without sacrificing their utilitarian purpose. No longer must tradesfolk settle for bench seats, bland interiors and hard plastics everywhere.
Nowadays, the options are seemingly endless within the ever-expanding ute segment, traditionally dominated by Japanese manufacturers but with Chinese players like LDV and GWM emerging with appealing cut-price models.
But here we're looking exclusively at the best midsize 4x4 utes under $65,000. Because, let’s be honest, they are a winning formula and perfectly suited to our trade needs in Australia.
It’s no accident that three of the five utes we evaluated here also occupy the top 10 best-seller list for 2023 (so far). In fact, one sits at the very top of the Australian sales ladder, and has for quite some time.
What makes a good tradie ute?
This guide explores value, durability, carrying capacity, safety and features.
Of course, tradies love to put their own touch on their work rig – and when they basically live in their utes, who can blame them? To that end, we've made sure the top five utes all have solid aftermarket support.
- 🥇 Ford Ranger XLT
- 🥈 Isuzu D-Max LS-U
- 🥈 Nissan Navara SL Warrior
- 🥉 Toyota Hilux SR5
- Mitsubishi Triton GSR
Ford Ranger XLT
Things we like
- Car-like comfort
- Big torque out of efficient 2.0-litre engine
- Strong towing performance
Not so much...
- The 10-speed gearbox shifts constantly
- Expensive compared to competition
- Engine can become thirsty when pushed
The latest generation Ford Ranger, released in 2022, is the smartest ute on the list with advanced off-road and towing tech, class-leading active safety and serious levels of refinement.
It’s also the only Aussie ute on the list because, while assembled in Thailand, it was designed and engineered by Ford Australia for our unique conditions.
The option we think represents the best tradie value is the mid-range XLT dual-cab, with the 2.0-litre bi-turbo engine, coming in at $61,990 before on-road costs.
Despite its small displacement the 2.0-litre engine produces 154kW/500Nm and backed by a 10-speed automatic transmission, it is surprisingly peppy.
An official fuel rating of 7.6l/100km isn’t too far from reality, with our testing returning figures between 8-9l/100km from the peppy 2.0-litre engine.
The XLT can be optioned with the more powerful V6 diesel, but at nearly $4,000 more for the extra cylinders we would recommend the four-pot unless you plan to tow regularly.
On the topic of towing, the full Ranger line-up (excluding the Raptor) will pull 3500kg, and payload for the XLT is a healthy 1005kg.
The XLT offers a premium cabin and technology offering, featuring LED headlights and daytime runners, adaptive cruise with ‘stop & go’ functionality, lane centering, active park assist and smart keyless entry.
The latest generation Ranger scored a full five-star ANCAP safety rating, with nine airbags onboard and Ford’s suite of safety features on stand-by.
Ford offers a five-year / unlimited-kilometre warranty for all Ranger models, and services come up every 15,000km or 12 months. Capped-price servicing keeps the first four services at or below $329.
For those wanting to trick up their new Ranger, the good news is that Ford joined forces with ARB to offer an impressive range of dealer-fit accessories. Of course, aftermarket support outside of Ford and ARB is also strong, with near endless accessory options out there.
Isuzu D-Max LS-U
Things we like
- Full suite of safety tech standard across entire range
- Tried and tested 3.0-lite ‘4J’
- Solid value
Not so much...
- Six speed gearbox feels slightly undercogged in 2023
- Loud compared to quieter engines here
- Harsh rear-end ride when unloaded
The 3.0-litre turbo-diesel engine is a variation of the same unit that’s been powering the D-Max since its Australian debut back in 2008, famed for its rugged reliability and tuneability.
Power comes in at 140kW/450Nm with the choice of a six-speed manual or automatic to transfer it to the wheels, but the beauty of this under-stressed engine is its wide truck-like torque spread.
Our reason for suggesting the mid-spec LS-U is that the X-Terrain above it gets additions like a sports bar, which most tradies will remove to fit a canopy, and the extra money is better spent on aftermarket upgrades.
Inside, the LS-U has a 9.0-inch infotainment screen, comfortable premium cloth seats, and a mix of soft and hard interior materials that offer a classy touch without sacrificing durability.
The D-Max scores a full five-star safety rating and eight airbags, as well as Isuzu’s full suite of advanced safety features including autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise, lane keep assist, forward collision warning, misacceleration mitigation, driver attention assist and automatic high-beam control.
On the road, steering is fantastic, braking is predictable and power delivery is stout. However, unloaded, the D-Max is jarring with its stiff rear leaf setup performing best with some weight in the tray.
The D-Max has a maximum braked towing capacity of 3500kg and payload of 995kg. If you want to be able to put a tonne or more in the styleside tub, you’ll need to shop down to an LS-M or base SX model.
Claimed fuel use is 8.0L/100km, but owners can expect that number to hover between 8.5-9l/100km depending on how much highway work is done. We typically averaged just over 9L/100km when testing the D-Max during mixed use.
Isuzu offers a six-year / 150,000km warranty on all D-Max models, and services come around every 15,000km or 12 months. Capped-price servicing is offered for seven years or 105,000km, with the cost per visit coming in at between $409 and $769.
The D-Max has strong aftermarket support for everything from lift kits to canopies – but if you do increase the ride height by more than 40mm, look into fitting aftermarket upper control arms at the same time.
Nissan Navara SL Warrior
Things we like
- Real-world 4x4 upgrades out of the box
- Good value
- Tough aesthetic
Not so much...
- Bare bones interior
- Pared back safety tech
- Stiff ride quality
The Navara is a strong contender, sitting on the lower end of the power stakes but offering strong value in off-road-focused models that don’t scream out for further customisation.
Nissan claims fuel use figures of 7.9L/100km and it is an economical unit even when pushed, but delivered closer to 9L/100km during testing.
This is the only option on the list with a multi-link coil-sprung rear end, resulting in a plush unladen ride compared to the others on the list. It undoubtedly handles better around town than its leaf-sprung competition, but is still stiff. It’s a ute, after all.
Since scoring a facelift in 2021, the NP300 Navara range has grown to include two Premcar-fettled off-road models. What’s unique about Nissan’s approach to its hardcore models, is that while one is of course a range-topper, the other is actually an entry-level SL model.
For that reason the SL Warrior is our pick of the Navara bunch for tradies, coming in at $60,500 plus on-road costs but with items like a lift kit and better rubber already ticked off the to-do list.
Not only does it offer serious value with a wider track, beefy bash plate, suspension lift, bullbar with built-in lightbar, towbar and larger all-terrain tyres from factory, it also scores a GVM upgrade. So the SL Warrior will happily carry 1081kg, tipping it over the tonne – good news for trade buyers.
It will also tow 3500kg, and having a 30mm wider track and 30mm longer wheelbase than a stock SL, it should in theory tow better too.
While the SL Warrior scores an impressive list of off-road gear, the interior and technology offering are fairly basic. Cloth seats and vinyl floors may deter some, but for hardworking tradies, this wipe-down interior will wear well. An 8.0-inch infotainment screen sits front and centre, with the usual Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (both wired), but that’s about it.
Safety in the base SL models is pared back too, with no lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring or surround-view camera system.
It does feature autonomous emergency braking, forward-collision warning, driver-fatigue warning and seven airbags.
While it scored five stars back in 2015, the Navara's score expired in December 2022.
Nissan offers a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty with complimentary roadside assist.
Services come around every 20,000km, or one year, with capped-price servicing across the range. Service costs, for the first six visits, range from around $500 up to $782.
While aftermarket support is strong, the SL Warrior is fairly sorted out of the box, saving you time and money.
Toyota HiLux SR5
Things we like
- Solid build quality
- Good on-road and off-road performance
- Strong aftermarket support
Not so much...
- Outdated compared to others on our list
- Stiff ride, particularly when unloaded
- Loud engine
The undisputed king of the dual-cab utes, at least in terms of overall popularity, is the Toyota HiLux – the Milwaukee of the ute world. It also happens to be the top-selling car in Australia, period.
The ‘can’t kill ‘em’ reputation the HiLux earned across the last 50 years has stuck (even through widespread DPF issues), making it an easy go-to and a tradie favourite.
Our pick is the SR5, which sits around the middle of the recently expanded HiLux range, priced at $58,680 before on-road costs.
The HiLux is powered by a 2.8-litre turbo-diesel engine producing 150kW/500Nm, backed by a six-speed automatic or manual transmission, sipping a claimed 7.9L/100km. It’s one of the most frugal engines listed here, confirmed during real-world testing.
Being a high-spec model, it gets leather seats, 8.0-inch screen, and piano-finish black trim that feels premium, if a little dated.
The safety technology includes autonomous emergency braking, lane departure alert, adaptive cruise control, surround-view cameras and road sign assist. The HiLux has seven airbags and it scored a full five-star ANCAP safety rating in 2019.
The SR5 has a braked towing capacity of 3500kg, but its payload is under a tonne at 940kg. Fitting an alloy tray will of course claw back some payload.
Toyota offers a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty for its HiLux range and will extend it to seven years if vehicles are serviced within its dealer network.
The HiLux will, however, need to be serviced every 10,000kms or six months, which is more frequently than the others listed here. Services will set owners back an average of $290, or $1740 across the first three years.
Being by far the most popular dual-cab ute in Australia for so many years, aftermarket support is fantastic. Every off-the-shelf part you can imagine is available for the HiLux.
Mitsubishi Triton GSR
Things we like
- Fantastic value for money
- 10-year extended warranty
- Proven off-road performer
Not so much...
- About to be superceded
- Dated design against newer alternatives
- Down on payload and towing capacity
Don’t let the incoming model deter you from the current range just yet, though, because it’ll almost certainly cost you much more of your hard-earned cash to get into a next-gen Triton.
The current GSR model features a 2.4-litre turbo-diesel producing 133kW/430Nm, paired with either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission. Mitsubishi claims fuel use of 8.6L/100km which is about right, if not a little optimistic.
Braked towing potential is down on the other utes here, with the Triton topping out at 3100kg, and its payload is also on the lower end at 901kg.
A relatively modern interior features a 7.0-inch infotainment screen with smartphone connectivity, leather seats with heating and electric adjustment, keyless entry and push-button start.
The Triton GSR gets a comprehensive suite of safety technology with features like forward-collision mitigation, pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring. The Triton scored a five-star ANCAP rating back in 2015, but its score expired in December 2022. The Triton also has just six airbags – down on safety compared with the other options on the list.
The current-generation Triton has solid aftermarket support with myriad bullbars, lift kits, canopies and other accessories available.
If you plan on waiting for the new model, Mitsubishi and TJM have already developed 46 aftermarket products for the incoming range.
Mitsubishi offers a generous ten-year / 200,000km warranty for Triton models, provided all servicing is done at an authorised dealership.
Services come around every 15,000km or 12 months, and pricing is capped at around $600 per year for the first 10 years or 150,000km.
Sure, it’s down on power, payload and a little dated in its design, but this is the cheapest ute on our list – despite being a top-spec model.
Visit our Best Utes page to find the right ute for you.
|Ford Ranger XLT||Isuzu D-Max LS-U||Nissan Navara SL Warrior||Mitsubishi Triton GSR||Toyota HiLux SR5|
|Ford Ranger XLT||Mitsubishi Triton GSR||Nissan Navara SL Warrior||Toyota HiLux SR5||Isuzu D-Max LS-U|
|Engine Size||2.0 L||2.4 L||2.3 L||2.8 L||3.0 L|
|Induction||Twin Turbo Intercooled||Turbo Intercooled||Twin Turbo Intercooled||Turbo Intercooled||Turbo Intercooled|
|Transmission||10-speed automatic||6-speed automatic||7-speed automatic||6-speed automatic||6-speed automatic|
|Drive||4X4 Dual Range||4X4 Dual Range||4X4 Dual Range||4X4 Dual Range||4X4 Dual Range|
|Fuel Capacity||80 L||75 L||80 L||80 L||76 L|
|Fuel Delivery||Common Rail Diesel (Direct Injection)||Common Rail Diesel (Direct Injection)||Common-rail Direct Injection||Common Rail Diesel (Direct Injection)||Common Rail Diesel (Direct Injection)|
|Fuel Consumption Combined||7.2 L/100km||8.6 L/100km||7.9 L/100km||7.9 L/100km||8 L/100km|
|Fuel Consumption Highway||6.9 L/100km||7.8 L/100km||6.7 L/100km||7 L/100km||6.9 L/100km|
|Fuel Consumption City||7.7 L/100km||9.9 L/100km||9.9 L/100km||9.4 L/100km||9.8 L/100km|
|Fuel Average Distance||1111 km||872 km||1013 km||1013 km||950 km|
|Fuel Maximum Distance||1159 km||962 km||1194 km||1143 km||1101 km|
|Fuel Minimum Distance||1039 km||758 km||808 km||851 km||776 km|
|CO2 Emission Combined||189 g/km||225 g/km||208 g/km||207 g/km||207 g/km|
|CO2 Extra Urban||182 g/km||204 g/km||177 g/km||184 g/km||180 g/km|
|CO2 Urban||202 g/km||261 g/km||261 g/km||247 g/km||254 g/km|
|Front Rim Description||17x7.5||18x7.5||17x7.0||18x7.5||18x7.5|
|Rear Rim Description||17x7.5||18x7.5||17x7.0||18x7.5||17x7.0|
|Front Tyre Description||255/70 R17||265/60 R18||275/70 R17||265/60 R18||265/60 R18|
|Rear Tyre Description||255/70 R17||265/60 R18||275/70 R17||265/60 R18||265/60 R18|
|Length||5370 mm||5305 mm||5260 mm||5325 mm||5275 mm|
|Width||1918 mm||1815 mm||1850 mm||1855 mm||1870 mm|
|Height||1884 mm||1795 mm||1825 mm||1865 mm||1790 mm|
|Wheelbase||3270 mm||3000 mm||3150 mm||3085 mm||3125 mm|
|Track Front||1620 mm||1520 mm||1600 mm||1535 mm||1570 mm|
|Track Rear||1620 mm||1515 mm||1600 mm||1550 mm||1570 mm|
|Ground Clearance (mm)||234||220||260||216||240|
|Approach Angle (degrees)||30||31||36||29||30.5|
|Departure Angle (degrees)||23||23||19||27||19|
|Kerb Weight||2250 kg||1999 kg||2224 kg||2110 kg||2110 kg|
|Gross Vehicle Mass||3230 kg||2900 kg||3250 kg||3050 kg||3100 kg|
|Gross Combination Mass||6350 kg||5885 kg||5910 kg||5850 kg||6000 kg|
|Payload||1030 kg||901 kg||1026 kg||1000 kg||990 kg|
|Towing Capacity (braked)||3500 kg||3100 kg||3500 kg||3500 kg||3500 kg|
|Towing Capacity (Unbraked)||750 kg||750 kg||750 kg||750 kg||750 kg|
|Warranty||5 yr/unlimited km||10 yr/200,000km (if serviced with Mitsubishi)||5 yr/unlimited km||5 yr/unlimited km||6 yr/150,000km|
|Regular Service Interval in Km||15000 km||15000 km||20000 km||10000 km||15000 km|
|Regular Service Interval in Months||12 months||12 months||12 months||6 months||12 months|