2023 Best Work Ute: Ford Ranger XLT

Are you a tradie in the market for a new ute? You’ve come to the right place, because we are rounding up what we think are the top five 4x4 tradie utes available in Australia right now.

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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.

Best Utes: Read the full series

Wheels Best Utes 2023 is your ultimate guide to the top picks in this vast and varied segment.

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.

Then there is the growing range of larger, more expensive American pick-ups available Down Under, with brutish offerings from RAM, Chevrolet and soon Ford and Toyota.

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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.

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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.


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Ford Ranger XLT

$61,990 before on-road costs

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.

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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.

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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.

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Isuzu D-Max LS-U

$59,000 before on-road costs

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

Isuzu’s latest generation D-Max has the largest engine on our list, an impressive array of standard safety technology, and a compelling price tag of $59,000 before on-road costs.

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.

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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.

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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.

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Nissan Navara SL Warrior

$60,500 plus on-road costs

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.

Powered by a 2.3-litre twin-turbocharged diesel engine, producing 140kW/450Nm, the Navara is no slouch, but it lacks the torque of gruntier options like the Ranger and HiLux.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Toyota HiLux SR5

$58,680 before on-road costs

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.

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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.

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Mitsubishi Triton GSR

$55,690 plus on-road costs

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

The Triton is the bargain of the bunch, with the top-spec GSR coming in at just $55,690 plus on-road costs. However, a new model has already been revealed and is due down-under in early 2024.

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.

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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.

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Visit our Best Utes page to find the right ute for you.


Ford Ranger XLTIsuzu D-Max LS-UNissan Navara SL WarriorMitsubishi Triton GSRToyota HiLux SR5


Ford Ranger XLTMitsubishi Triton GSRNissan Navara SL WarriorToyota HiLux SR5Isuzu D-Max LS-U
Engine Size2.0 L2.4 L2.3 L2.8 L3.0 L
InductionTwin Turbo IntercooledTurbo IntercooledTwin Turbo IntercooledTurbo IntercooledTurbo Intercooled
Engine ConfigurationIn-lineIn-lineIn-lineIn-lineIn-line
Transmission10-speed automatic6-speed automatic7-speed automatic6-speed automatic6-speed automatic
Drive4X4 Dual Range4X4 Dual Range4X4 Dual Range4X4 Dual Range4X4 Dual Range
Fuel Capacity80 L75 L80 L80 L76 L
Fuel TypeDieselDieselDieselDieselDiesel
Fuel DeliveryCommon Rail Diesel (Direct Injection)Common Rail Diesel (Direct Injection)Common-rail Direct InjectionCommon Rail Diesel (Direct Injection)Common Rail Diesel (Direct Injection)
Fuel Consumption Combined7.2 L/100km8.6 L/100km7.9 L/100km7.9 L/100km8 L/100km
Fuel Consumption Highway6.9 L/100km7.8 L/100km6.7 L/100km7 L/100km6.9 L/100km
Fuel Consumption City7.7 L/100km9.9 L/100km9.9 L/100km9.4 L/100km9.8 L/100km
Fuel Average Distance1111 km872 km1013 km1013 km950 km
Fuel Maximum Distance1159 km962 km1194 km1143 km1101 km
Fuel Minimum Distance1039 km758 km808 km851 km776 km
CO2 Emission Combined189 g/km225 g/km208 g/km207 g/km207 g/km
CO2 Extra Urban182 g/km204 g/km177 g/km184 g/km180 g/km
CO2 Urban202 g/km261 g/km261 g/km247 g/km254 g/km
Front Rim Description17x7.518x7.517x7.018x7.518x7.5
Rear Rim Description17x7.518x7.517x7.018x7.517x7.0
Front Tyre Description255/70 R17265/60 R18275/70 R17265/60 R18265/60 R18
Rear Tyre Description255/70 R17265/60 R18275/70 R17265/60 R18265/60 R18
Length5370 mm5305 mm5260 mm5325 mm5275 mm
Width1918 mm1815 mm1850 mm1855 mm1870 mm
Height1884 mm1795 mm1825 mm1865 mm1790 mm
Wheelbase3270 mm3000 mm3150 mm3085 mm3125 mm
Track Front1620 mm1520 mm1600 mm1535 mm1570 mm
Track Rear1620 mm1515 mm1600 mm1550 mm1570 mm
Ground Clearance (mm)234220260216240
Approach Angle (degrees)3031362930.5
Departure Angle (degrees)2323192719
Kerb Weight2250 kg1999 kg2224 kg2110 kg2110 kg
Gross Vehicle Mass3230 kg2900 kg3250 kg3050 kg3100 kg
Gross Combination Mass6350 kg5885 kg5910 kg5850 kg6000 kg
Payload1030 kg901 kg1026 kg1000 kg990 kg
Towing Capacity (braked)3500 kg3100 kg3500 kg3500 kg3500 kg
Towing Capacity (Unbraked)750 kg750 kg750 kg750 kg750 kg
Warranty5 yr/unlimited km10 yr/200,000km (if serviced with Mitsubishi)5 yr/unlimited km5 yr/unlimited km6 yr/150,000km
Regular Service Interval in Km15000 km15000 km20000 km10000 km15000 km
Regular Service Interval in Months12 months12 months12 months6 months12 months
Cobey Bartels


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