2016's most popular 4x4s: Top 10

2016's most popular 4x4s: Top 10

THE Toyota Hilux has retained its position as Australia’s best-selling 4x4 in 2016 by less than 200 units from the popular Ford Ranger, selling 31,076 units to the Ranger’s 30,880.

The overall new-car market strengthened by two per cent to 1.18 million units and is now being lead by the Hilux, with 2016 being the first year a ute has topped Australia’s new-car market.

The combined sales of Ranger 4x4 and Ranger 4x2 place it in fourth spot overall behind the Hyundai i30. Hilux and Ranger 4x4s both comfortably outsell their respective 4x2 variants, the Hilux by 3:1 and the Ranger by 5:1.

In 2016 the 4x4 market was more dominated by utes than in 2015, with eight of the 10 best-sellers being load haulers. While most of the usual suspects remain in the 4x4 top 10, the Jeep Grand Cherokee has disappeared and replaced by the Volkswagen Amarok.
Read on for the ten best-selling 4x4s of 2016.

01. TOYOTA HILUX: REIGNING CHAMP

Toyota HiluxToyota’s Hilux is Australia’s most popular 4x4 and has been for the past 11 years.

THE new-generation Hilux with its 2.8- and 2.4-litre diesel engines, in place of the outgoing 3.0-litre, now has a full year of sales behind it. The result: Hilux sales have climbed 5137, or around 20 per cent, sufficient to keep it ahead of the hard-charging Ford Ranger 4x4, but only by the narrowest of margins.

Part of the sales strength of the new Hilux comes off the back of an expanded range that includes 19 4x4 models, five more than what was offered with the previous generation. The range includes three engines (two diesels and one petrol) and three gearboxes (two manual and one automatic) in 4x4 models.

This is the first time two diesel engines have been offered in the Hilux range, but both are smaller than what was offered previously and notably smaller than the 3.2-litre five-cylinder diesel offered in the Ranger. The perception that a smaller engine has to work harder than a bigger engine to do the same job is thought to be working against the Hilux in its sales war against the five-cylinder Ranger.

Hilux does offer a bigger and more powerful engine in the form of the 4.0-litre petrol V6, carried over from the previous-generation Hilux, but it’s shunned by buyers and accounts for just one per cent of Hilux 4x4 sales. This is despite the fact it’s offered in both SR and SR5 spec, where previously the petrol V6 was only available as an SR5.

The most popular engine in the range by far is the 2.8-litre diesel, as the 2.4-litre diesel is only offered in Workmate spec. Compared to the outgoing 3.0-litre diesel, the 2.8-litre offers marginally better pedal-to-the-metal performance but is smoother, quieter and more refined, an attribute you especially notice in relation to the Ranger’s gruffer 3.2-litre diesel.

In fact, on-road refinement and a sense of quality is very much what this new Hilux is all about. It also brings big improvements off-road thanks to more ground clearance, a far more effective traction control system and, more than anything else, class-beating rear wheel travel… all 520mm of it.

SPECS: Toyota Hilux SR5 Double-cab (auto)
Engine: 2.8-litre 4-cyl turbo-diesel
Max Power/Torque: 130kW/450Nm
Gearbox: six-speed automatic
4X4 System: dual-range part-time
Kerb Weight: 2075kg
GVM: 3000kg
Towing capacity: 3200kg
Fuel tank capacity: 80 litres
ADR fuel claim: 8.5 litres/100km

2016 SALES: 31,076
2015 SALES: 25,939
Change: Up 19.8%

02. FORD RANGER: HEIR APPARENT

Ford RangerThe Ford Ranger made plenty of ground on the Hilux in 2016, only to be pipped at the post.

THE Ford Ranger is the big mover in 2016, picking up a whopping 7444 extra sales compared to its 2015 total. That results in a massive increase of 31.8 per cent on its already strong sales from the previous year. The 2016 sales come off the back of an additional 2762 units in 2015 compared to 2014.

Back in 2012, the first full year of sales for the then new-generation PX, Ranger 4x4 sales were just 12,743. That means that in the five years since the PX arrived in late 2011, Ranger 4x4 sales have increased by an astounding 142 per cent. If this trend continues (and with the popularity of dual cabs, it’s likely) the Ranger will be number one in 2017, breaking the Hilux’s 12-year reign as 4x4 sales champion.

The Ranger’s strong sales have come off the back of a significant mid-life upgrade in late 2015. To keep it new and competitive the refresh brought a quieter and more responsive engine, electric power steering, more safety kit, a new dash with a bigger touchscreen, and revised styling.

These changes built on the Ranger’s core strengths of a big grunty engine, well-sorted on-road dynamics, spacious cabin, and class-leading towing and load carrying. And that’s not just on-paper, as our recent load and tow test comparison proved the Ranger to be the champion work ute among its peers. All these factors seem to be resonating with buyers.

The MY16 upgrade also saw the Ranger’s already solid off-road credentials improved thanks to a tweak to the 4x4 system. When the rear diff locks, which is standard fitment on all Ranger 4x4s, are engaged, the electronic traction control (ETC) now stays active across the front axle. Previously the ETC was deactivated on both axles when the rear locker was engaged, which is generally the norm with factory lockers in competitor utes, the Hilux included.

If the big 3.2 isn’t for you, then Ford also offers a lower-priced 2.2-litre four in a handful of single and double-cab 4x4s that punches well above its weight.

SPECS: Ford Ranger XLT Double cab
Engine: 3.2-litre 5-cyl turbo-diesel
Max Power/Torque: 147kW/470Nm
Gearbox: six-speed automatic
4X4 System: dual-range part-time
Kerb Weight: 2159kg
GVM: 3200kg
Towing capacity: 3500kg
Fuel tank capacity: 80 litres
ADR fuel claim: 9.2 litres/100km

2016 SALES: 30,880
2015 SALES: 23,436
Change: Up 31.8%

03. MITSUBISHI TRITON: RUNNING ON VALUE

Mitsubishi TritonMitsubishi’s Triton proves that less of everything can still be a successful formula.

THE Triton remains Australia’s third most popular 4x4 despite selling 2826 fewer units in 2016 compared to 2015. While that might seem like bad news for the new-generation 2.4-litre ‘MQ’ Triton, given 2016 was the first full year of sales of this new model, appearances in this case are deceptive.

Sales in 2015 were buoyed off the back of heavy discounting of the previous-generation MN Triton leading up to the second-quarter introduction of the new MQ. In fact, Mitsubishi were selling run-out MNs at near Chinese and Indian ute prices to get them off the showroom floor.

The Triton stands out among 4x4 utes in a number of significant ways. First, it’s a relatively small ute by class standards and doesn’t quite match the class leaders
in terms of payloads or towing capacity.

The fact that most of the tray of the dual-cab models overhangs past the rear axle
is also a negative when it comes to carrying those really heavy loads.

That said, in our recent load and tow test the Triton proved that its ‘little’ 2.4-litre diesel was well up to towing 2800kg and carrying maximum payloads, even if the rear suspension wasn’t entirely happy to carry that much weight around. The chassis still coped okay but not as well as others when loaded right up.

The flip side of the coin is that the Triton is more manoeuvrable than most competitors thanks to its relatively short wheelbase, and it has a sporty feel to the way it steers and handles thanks in part to being lighter than most competitors.

Significantly, GLS and Exceed models also offer full-time 4x4 in the form of Mitsubishi’s ‘Super Select’ system that also incorporates a 2WD mode. Full-time 4x4 adds greatly to the Triton’s functionality, driveability and safety under most driving conditions, including off-road. That’s not to say the Triton is a gun off-road ute, because it isn’t, but that’s nothing to do with its Super Select system. The Triton is still handy enough off-road, but it’s certainly no Hilux, Ranger or Amarok.

SPECS: Mitsubishi Triton GLS
Engine: 2.8-litre 4-cyl turbo-diesel
Max Power/Torque: 133kW/430Nm
Gearbox: five-speed automatic
4X4 System: dual-range full-time (+2WD)
Kerb Weight: 1950kg
GVM: 2900kg
Towing capacity: 3100kg
Fuel tank capacity: 75 litres
ADR fuel claim: 7.6L/100km

2016 SALES: 17,969
2015 SALES: 20,795
Change: Down 13.6%

04. HOLDEN COLORADO: BRAND LOYALTY

Holden ColoradoColorado sales continue to march north, but at a very modest pace. Perhaps better times are ahead.

THE Holden Colorado retains its fourth place from 2015 despite picking up a modest 390 sales increase along the way. In 2015 the Colorado also did better than in 2014, gaining 802 sales and climbing up two spots in the rankings as the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Toyota Prado slipped in the game of snakes and ladders.

Holden should be happy with the Colorado gaining the fourth place ranking and holding it for another year as – frankly – the Colorado wasn’t much to drive until its recent overhaul for the MY17 model year. Holden will no doubt be hoping for better things this time next year following a full year of sales of the rebirthed and much-improved Colorado.

It certainly deserves to sell better. Thanks to a raft of changes, where Holden has literally pulled the Colorado apart and put it back together again with a host of new or revised parts, it’s much nicer to drive. Changes such as moving the engine’s balance shafts, adding sound deadening, changing the engine and body mounts, and adding a thicker windscreen, new window seals, roof mouldings and mirror mounts are all aimed at improving the Colorado’s previously poor running refinement. Chassis changes including recalibrated suspension, electric power steering and more seamless automatic transmission, thanks to a new torque convertor, are also most welcome.

As ever there is plenty of performance from the Colorado, even if it needs more revs to get there compared to the bigger and ‘lazier’ five-cylinder in the Ranger. In our recent seven-ute load and tow comparison, the Colorado also impressed when hauling either a 3500kg tow weight or a one-tonne payload. The engine and chassis certainly coped well, while the automatic gearbox was the best on test.

Sadly the Colorado isn’t much better off-road than before. It’s still a tough and capable truck, but it won’t go where a Ranger, Hilux or Amarok will.

SPECS: Holden Colorado LTZ Crew cab
Engine: 2.8-litre 4-cyl turbo-diesel
Max Power/Torque: 147kW/500Nm
Gearbox: six-speed automatic
4X4 System: dual-range part-time
Kerb Weight: 2121kg
GVM: 3150kg
Towing capacity: 3500kg
Fuel tank capacity: 76 litres
ADR fuel claim: 8.7 litres/100km

2016 SALES: 16,353
2015 SALES: 15,963
Change: Up 2.4%

05. TOYOTA PRADO: FAMILY FIRST

Toyota PradoAmong a sea of dual-cab utes, Toyota’s Prado remains the champion 4x4 wagon.

SOME 525 less Toyota Prados were sold in 2016 than in 2015, although Prado retains fifth spot overall in the 4x4 top 10 and is comfortably the best-selling 4x4 wagon. This slow erosion of sales continues the recent trend, but it wasn’t as bad as 12 months ago when sales dropped by 857 units.

In what’s been a volatile 4x4 market in many ways, the Prado has been a steady hand at fifth place for a few years now as others around it move up (Ranger) or down (Navara) – in the case of the Jeep Grand Cherokee both up and down within a very short period of time.

The fact the Prado still sells nearly 15,000 a year is testament to both the vehicle itself and the strength of the Toyota brand, given the core design now dates back to 2009. The Prado has continued to find favour with buyers despite a significant shift away from traditional 4x4 wagons and towards the now fashionable 4x4 dual-cab utes.

What’s more, the popularity of dual-cab utes has spawned a swag of ute-based 4x4 wagons also trying to eat away at Prado sales. The all-new Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, although smaller than the Prado, has come from nowhere to sell more than 6000 units in 2016, while other newcomers like Toyota’s own Fortuner (3871 sales) and Ford’s Everest (3614 sales) must also be having a negative impact on the Prado. Even sales of Isuzu’s MU-X and Holden’s Colorado 7 (now Trailblazer) are up, proving there’s still plenty of interest in 4x4 wagons even if the love is being spread more thinly.

The Prado itself has also undergone change, and 2016 represents the first full year of sales of the 2.8-litre diesel engine and new six-speed automatic gearbox. The 2.8-litre diesel replaced the 3.0-litre diesel that first saw service in 2006 in the previous-generation 120 Prado, while the new six-speed automatic replaced the previous five-speed auto. These changes add to the Prado’s refinement rather than performance and, as ever, the Prado remains a comfortable and accomplished tourer and a more-than-capable off-roader.

SPECS: Toyota Prado GXL
Engine: 2.8-litre 4-cyl turbo-diesel
Max Power/Torque: 130kW/450Nm
Gearbox: six-speed automatic
4X4 System: dual-range full-time
Kerb Weight: 2290kg
GVM: 2900kg
Towing capacity: 2500kg
Fuel tank capacity: 150 litres
ADR fuel claim: 8.0L/100km

2016 sales: 14,730
2015 sales: 15,255
Change: Down 3.4%

06. NISSAN NAVARA: DIFFERENT STROKES

Nissan NavaraThe all-new Navara NP300 isn’t quite the winner Nissan was hoping for.

WITH a full year of sales of its new NP300 model, as well as a fleshed-out model range, Navara sales have jumped by 1591 in 2016 compared to 2015. However, that sales jump isn’t sufficient to see the Navara climb above its number six ranking from 2015, which was actually a bad year for Navara, selling 2521 less 4x4 models than it did in 2014.

All this is a far cry from 2013 when the Navara was second only to the Hilux in 4x4 sales, thanks to combined efforts of the previous-generation D40 Navara – potent 550Nm V6 diesel included – and the even older D22 Navara.

The new NP300 was initially only available as a dual-cab pick-up with a coil-sprung rear end, and it wasn’t until very late in 2015 that the NP300 range was fleshed-out for 2016. However, despite these new models the model mix is still wanting. You can’t, for example, get the more potent 2.3-litre 140kW bi-turbo diesel in a dual-cab pick-up with a leaf-sprung rear end. If you want leaf springs in a dual-cab all you can get is a base-spec (RX) cab-chassis with the 120kW single-turbo engine.

The NP300 was a long time coming given the previous-generation D40 debuted 10 years ago, but it has fallen short of the mark. While well-equipped (you can even get a sunroof) and offering a car-like cabin, it doesn’t drive all that well despite offering decent performance and a slick seven-speed auto. Unfortunately the bi-turbo engine is noisy when worked hard and the steering is heavy and dull.

When put through the wringer on our recent max load and tow ute comparison the Navara was found wanting despite the 140kW engine being up to the job. Of all the utes tested the Navara struggled the most chassis-wise and is certainly not up to towing its 3500kg max rating. It’s not much joy off-road either, where the Navara is well short of the best in class.

In what appears like an admission that things haven’t been right, Nissan announced a D23 ‘Series 2’ late in 2016, which comes with a number of suspension changes for the coil-sprung dual-cabs – among other changes and additions. At this stage we haven’t driven, let alone tested, the so-called ‘Series 2’.

SPECS: Nissan Navara NP300 ST
Engine: 2.3 litre 4-cyl bi-turbo-diesel
Max Power/Torque: 140kW/450Nm
Gearbox: seven-speed automatic
4X4 System: dual-range part-time
Kerb Weight: 1865kg
GVM: 2910kg
Towing capacity: 3500kg
Fuel tank capacity: 80 litres
ADR fuel claim: 7.0L/100km

2016 sales: 13,863
2015 sales: 12,272
Change: Up 13.0%

07. ISUZU D-MAX: MR CONSISTENT

Isuzu D-MaxJust like the driving experience, D-Max sales are steady as she goes.

ISUZU’S D-Max is the mister consistent of the segment, selling just 20 more 4x4s in 2016 compared to 2015. This follows on from a 2015 that saw 1022 more D-Max 4x4s sold than it did in 2014. This is a solid result for the D-Max given it’s competing with much newer or significantly revised utes. In fact, the D-Max is one of the older designs among the popular utes – a section of the new-car market that is growing in popularity.

The D-Max has done well right from when this generation arrived in 2012. In its first full year of sales in 2013 it sold 8500 units and moved to number nine in the top 10. Since that time it has climbed to number seven.

What makes this even more remarkable is that Isuzu was only established in Australia in 2008 as a ute brand in its own right, so it has come a long way in a very short time. Of course, Isuzu utes have been sold in Australia for a very long time, but they were hidden behind Holden badges.

The D-Max is an honest ute with a well-proven 3.0-litre diesel engine that has been around in one form or another for more than 10 years (it was actually first seen here in Australia in the last of the Holden Rodeos). Likewise, the D-Max’s five-speed automatic gearbox has a proven track record as it’s essentially the same gearbox used in the Toyota Prado (up until recently) and in the original petrol 200 Series.

On the road the D-Max isn’t brilliant, especially if you’re in a hurry as the old donk isn’t as urgent as it could be. It’s also not too happy towing its claimed maximum of 3500kg, even if the chassis is willing.

Still, all that could be about to change due to the introduction of new emission standards. The current 3.0-litre engine is only Euro 4 compliant, and vehicles built from November 2016 have to comply with Euro 5. At the very least that will mean fitting a diesel particulate filter to the current engine, but we suspect Isuzu will do better than that. Watch this space!

SPECS: Isuzu D-Max LS-U
Engine: 3.0-litre 4-cyl turbo-diesel
Max Power/Torque: 130kW/380Nm
Gearbox: five-speed automatic
4X4 System: dual-range part-time
Kerb Weight: 1945kg
GVM: 2950kg
Towing capacity: 3500kg
Fuel tank capacity: 76 litres
ADR fuel claim: 8.1L/100km

2016 sales: 11,321
2015 sales: 11,301
Change: Up 0.002%

08. TOYOTA LANDCRUISER 200 SERIES

Toyota LandCruiser 200-seriesToyota’s iconic 200 Series has enjoyed a huge jump in popularity off the back of increased demand for the big-dollar variants.

THE mighty 200 Series dates back longer than any other vehicle in the 4x4 top 10, but it has jumped in popularity in 2016 – percentage wise – more than any other. Sales are up nearly one third – 2648 units – to nearly 11,000.

The result follows on from a strong 2015 where a small jump in sales from 2014 saw the 200 as the only wagon in the top 10 with a sales increase.

Remarkably the 2016 sales increase was made up almost entirely of VX and Sahara models that start at $100K and $120K respectively (before on-road costs). Toyota offers a sweet petrol V8 in the LC200, but only one per cent of buyers went that way. The 2016 jump was also largely off business sales rather than private sales, with the rest coming from rental companies.

Also, 2016 was the first full year of sales for the facelifted 200 that arrived in the fourth quarter of 2015. That facelift brought distinctive new styling, a raft of new safety and tech kit, and Euro 5 compliance for cleaner running, improved economy and even a slight jump in power.

No doubt the 200’s strengthening popularity is due in part to a lack of real competition from Nissan with either its Patrol Y61 diesel or Y62 petrol V8. With the Y61 no longer able to be sold due to Euro 5 emission regulations introduced in late 2016, the Patrol will offer even less competition for the 200 going forward. An interesting aside to all this is that Patrol sales jumped in 2016 by more than 100 units compared to 2015 but still only managed 2000 all up, so small numbers compared to the 200.

As ever, the 200 works beautifully both on and off the road, offers proven Toyota reliability and has Australia’s biggest dealer network to back it up, all of which highlights its enduring practicality.

At this stage, the development of the 200’s replacement is also well advanced and should debut by 2018 at the latest.

SPECS: Toyota LandCruiser 200 GXL
Engine4.5-litre V8 turbo-diesel
Max Power/Torque200kW/650Nm
Gearboxsix-speed automatic
4X4 Systemdual-range part-time
Kerb Weight 2740kg
GVM3300kg
Towing capacity3500kg
Fuel tank capacity138 litres
ADR fuel claim9.5L/100km

2016 sales: 10,899
2015 sales: 8,251
Change: Up 32.1%

09. MAZDA BT-50: THE FORGOTTEN ONE

Mazda BT-50The MAZDA BT-50 gained sales in 2016, but remains well behind ITS near mechanically identical COUNTERPART, THE Ford Ranger.

WITH a mid-life refresh behind it, Mazda’s BT-50 enjoyed 809 more sales in 2016 than in 2015 but remains in ninth place in the top 10. The BT-50’s sales also jumped in 2015 from 2014, so it’s on a slow rise.

The interesting thing here is that the BT-50 is a close cousin to the Ford Ranger, but for every BT-50 Mazda sells Ford sells more than three Rangers. Mazda may even be content to sell the BT-50 in those numbers, as the marque is enjoying record sales elsewhere thanks to the popularity of its SUVs and passenger cars. It sits only behind Toyota in the overall new-car market, whereas Ford is down in fifth spot.

The BT-50 came out late in 2011 about the same time as the Ford Ranger, and in original guise the two were as good as mechanically identical. Aside from the obvious styling and equipment differences, the two varied only in their steering-rack ratios and suspension damper calibration. All that changed late in 2015 when both the BT-50 and the Ranger underwent a mid-life makeover, but to vastly different degrees.

Ford introduced a raft of mechanical changes to its Ranger to improve its performance, off-road ability, driving feel and to enhance its refinement, while Mazda’s rework of the BT-50 was limited to exterior styling, a new dashboard for mid- and top-spec models and some equipment changes. The only mechanical change of note for the BT-50 was a new linkage for the six-speed manual, designed to address the previously vague shift action.

These changes have made the Ranger a better ute than the BT-50 both on- and off-road, but in essence the Mazda still offers the core values of the Ranger including a big cabin, strong performance and plenty of load and towing ability. In fact, on our recent load and tow ute comparison the BT-50 was only beaten by the Ranger – and even then only on the finer points.

SPECS: Mazda BT-560 XTR
Engine: 3.2-litre 5-cyl turbo-diesel
Max Power/Torque: 147kW/470Nm
Gearbox: six-speed automatic
4X4 System: dual-range part-time
Kerb Weight: 2118kg
GVM: 3200kg
Towing capacity: 3500kg
Fuel tank capacity: 80 litres
ADR fuel claim: 9.2L/100km

2016 sales: 9,489
2015 sales: 8,680
Change: Up 9.3%

10. VOLKSWAGEN AMAROK: LONE WOLF

VW AmarokVolkswagen is hoping for increased sales in 2017 with the V6 - which is already proving popular.

DESPITE a drop in sales of 132 units from 2015 to 2016, Volkswagen’s Amarok makes it into the top ten with 7489 4x4 sales, filling the vacancy left by the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Somewhat surprisingly, sales in 2015 (7630) also fell marginally from 2014 (7716).

No doubt this slide has been off the back of the stiff competition from new utes like the Hilux, Navara, Triton and the heavily revised Ford Ranger. The Amarok is the oldest of the popular utes, arriving here in early 2011. The vast majority of Amarok 4x4 sales are dual-cabs with only 195 single-cab 4x4s sold last year – VW doesn’t offer an extended-cab Amarok.

In 2016, the most popular Amarok 4x4 was the Core with 2827 sales, closely followed by the Highline with 2678 sales. Interestingly, more than 80 per cent of Amarok 4x4 sales were for the eight-speed automatic rather than the six-speed manual. The Amarok’s automatic gearbox is mated to a full-time single-range 4x4 system, whereas the manual is only mated to a traditional part-time dual-range system.

At first glance you’d think the automatic wouldn’t be much good off-road, but it’s very good and will outperform most competitor utes that come with dual-range gearing. In fact, the Amarok, along with the Hilux and the Ranger, is right at the pointy end of the class in terms of off-road ability, while it’s the class leader in terms of polished on-road dynamics. A spacious cabin and large rear tub are also Amarok highlights.

VW will be hoping for stronger sales in 2017 with the arrival of the V6 models. Initially available in just two top-end models with the eight-speed automatic, more V6 models are in the pipeline including a manual with dual-range gearing. With a claimed maximum of 180kW backed by 550Nm the V6 Amarok offers sizzling class-leading performance, and more than 60 per cent of Amarok orders are already for the V6.

SPECS: Volkswagen Amarok TDI420 Core
Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cyl bi-turbo-diesel
Max Power/Torque: 132kW/420Nm
Gearbox: eight-speed automatic
4X4 System: single-range full-time
Kerb Weight: 1989kg
GVM: 2040kg
Towing capacity: 3000kg
Fuel tank capacity: 80 litres
ADR fuel claim: 8.3L/100km

2016 sales: 7,498
2015 sales: 7,630
Change: Down 0.02%

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