DCOTY 2013: Best Ute

20 May 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on DCOTY 2013: Best Ute
Mitsubishi Mirage


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DCOTY 2013: Best Ute

In the battle of a sporting two-seater against a four-door workhorse it was the latter that won out for Car of the Year in 2013.

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In an award proudly titled Car of the Year the inclusion of a utility category could be seen as, if not an aberration, certainly a distraction to the main events of the other awards.

And yet in some ways this particular small battle represents the state of the Australian market as it stands today: traditional Australian car-based utes #8211; arguably icons of a particular form of local culture #8211; are on the nose with buyers. Four-door light trucks, on the other hand, are selling just as fast as their manufacturers can ship them into the country.

So it#8217;s somewhat poignant that here we have the new Holden VF Commodore Ute in almost top-spec SS-V guise duking it out against the COTY criteria with last year#8217;s winner, the Thai-built Mazda BT-50 XTR 4×4.

Apart from the fact both have trays on the back the two could hardly be more different: two doors versus four; five seats versus two; petrol V8 against a diesel five-cylinder; rear-drive against all four. Which one wins the award?

In the end it was a close call, but the Mazda came out on top again. That#8217;s no mean feat given the plethora of similar vehicles out there, but the BT-50 (largely engineered by Ford#160;Australia, incidentally, alongside its sister car, the Ranger) has consistently proven to be cream of the crop, and in this company got the better of the Holden.

Which in some ways was strange, because there wasn#8217;t a judge who didn#8217;t prefer the SS-V to drive. Not surprising really, given it is based on the VF Commodore with fairly heavily modified rear bodywork but retaining the stonking 6.0-litre, 270kW V8 engine, six-speed automatic transmission and all the straight-line performance that comes with it.

Being car-based, it is low to the ground and handled the dynamic disciplines with aplomb: fast on the straights, stable through the corners and with the added bonus of being adjustable on the throttle so if the driver wanted to push the tail wide, the SS-V responded. In other words, tons of fun.

At $42,490 it#8217;s cheaper than the VE version it replaces and good bang-for-buck by any standard providing two seats are okay. Equipment levels are high, road manners are generally better than average when it comes to ride, noise levels and driving position, and the 1.8-metre tray might not carry a huge amount of weight (less than 700kg) but there#8217;s a lot of space back there and for most the payload is more than adequate.

In contrast, the tall and heavy BT-50 is not at home on the race-track being slow, ponderous, with alarming body roll, panicky stability control that tries to save the day when either front or rear ends slide wide on baggy tyres, and it sounds like a tractor.

On the road it has a jiggly ride, the engine noise doesn#8217;t improve, the driver#8217;s seat is uncomfortably close to the floor making prolonged pedal use tiresome and overall it feels exactly like what it is: a truck. In XLT 4×4 automatic guise, it#8217;s an expensive $50,890 truck at that.

Mitsubishi Mirage

But. For those less interested in refinement or driving ability and more concerned with actual utility, it#8217;s easy to see where the BT-50 pulls away. That back seat can#8217;t be ignored, because this can also be a family car, and a fairly spacious one at that.

The rear tray might be about 300mm shorter than a Commodore or Falcon#8217;s but at 1550mm long, is still useful for recreational or trade equipment.

Two other tricks in the BT-50#8217;s bag are braked towing capacity #8211; a massive 3500kg #8211; and the fact that with all that ground clearance, low range gears and four wheel drive, it is a true off roader.

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