All-terrain ability is not just useful when it snows and there are plenty of fleets for whom a 4×4 driveline is a necessity rather than a luxury. Dan Gilkes braves the mud to assess the market.
While the UK’s light commercial vehicle market recovered in December 2019 to finish the year slightly up on 2018, two areas that suffered a little were pickups and 4×4 vans. That said, the pickup sector was only down 1% and 53,000 registrations is certainly a strong market. Demand for 4×4 LCVs fell by almost 10%, though it should be recognised that this is a very small market sector, where one or two large fleet deals can make a big difference to overall numbers.
As with the rest of the van market, the major changes for pickups and 4x4s have been emissions-related, as we move to Euro 6d-TEMP regulations. There have been new model launches and major updates in the last year so there is even more choice for discerning buyers.
Ford’s Ranger pickup remains the top-selling truck in the UK and recent changes to the line-up have further improved it. Ford has dropped the old 2.2-litre engine in favour of the 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel already in use in various Transit models. Available with 130hp and 170hp in single turbo form, or as a range-topping 213hp twin-turbo model, the engine delivers much improved fuel consumption and lower emissions.
Also new to the Ranger line-up is the availability of a 10-speed automatic transmission, while in the cab Ford introduces SYNC3 infotainment and a host of driver assistance systems. Ranger remains one of the few pickups available in the UK in three cab formats – single cab, Super cab and double cab – though all models are now 4×4.
Ford also offers its Transit van with an all-wheel drive option. It is available with the 130hp and 170hp engines, in panel van and double cab-in-van formats.
It has been a relatively quiet year for Isuzu, as the company waits for a major upgrade to the D-Max pickup range in 2020. D-Max can be had in single, crew and double cab layouts, with the single cab model still offered in a choice of 4×2 and 4×4 drivelines. All models above the entry-level Utility specification are double cab and 4×4 only.
All D-Max pickups are powered by the same 1.9-litre diesel engine, with six-speed manual gearboxes and a six-speed automatic option on higher trim levels. The company now splits its line-up into three sectors. The Business range includes all Utility models; the All-purpose line-up includes Eiger, Yukon and Utah specifications; and the Adventure range is now made up of Blade, the recently introduced XTR and the Arctic Trucks AT35 models. Isuzu also boasts a new fleet preparation centre capable of modifying and tailoring vehicles to meet a customer’s specific working requirements.
The latest generation of Iveco’s Daily 4×4 is a true off-roader, with a high-riding stance and the ability to travel almost anywhere. Available in a range of body lengths and heights, Daily 4×4 is offered at 5.5- and 7.0-tonne gross weights. All models are powered by a 180hp 3.0-litre diesel engine and can be supplied with a six-speed manual or eight-speed Hi-Matic auto transmission. With double low ratios available in the transfer box, that gives the driver a choice of 12 or 16 forward gears. Three differential locks, in the front and rear axles and on the transfer box, ensure total traction on the toughest terrain.
While the off-road world waits for the arrival of an all-new Defender later this year, which will be offered in SUV and LCV versions, Land Rover’s load-carrying offer is currently limited to the well-equipped Discovery Commercial. Available with a 240hp 2.0-litre diesel engine or a 306hp V6, all models drive through an eight-speed automatic transmission and a full-time four-wheel drive system.
There is plenty of room in the back, which is easily accessed through rear and side doors. That said, a payload of around 650kg is not going to be the main reason for purchase. The Discovery Commercial does have a full 3.5-tonne towing capability though, which will certainly appeal to those looking to regularly haul cabins, toilet blocks, mini excavators and other larger trailers on and off road.
MAN’s TGE van range, based on parent company Volkswagen’s Crafter van, includes panel vans, single and double cab chassis with the option of all-wheel drive. They can be had with a choice of 140hp and 177hp diesel engines, driving through six-speed manual gearboxes. The more powerful engines can also be mated with an eight-speed automatic transmission. As the vans are based on the front-wheel drive TGE, gross weights are limited to 3.5-tonnes, though there is a choice of wheelbases and body lengths on offer.
Mercedes-Benz Vans has certainly stirred up the luxury end of the pickup market with X-Class, which borrows much of its construction and some drivelines from the Nissan Navara. However, Mercedes has confirmed that it will cease production of the X-Class in May of this year, so if you want one, you will need to get to a dealer fairly soon.
Those who require more of a working off-road commercial may be tempted by the Sprinter 4×4. This robust all-wheel drive van is offered at 3.5 and 5.0-tonnes gross weight in various lengths and heights. You can also opt for 4WD in single and double cab chassis, with a choice of 163hp and 190hp engines.
Last year was a big one for Mitsubishi, with the launch of the Series 6 L200 pickup. This much-improved truck now comes with a smaller 2.2-litre diesel engine, offering 150hp and 400Nm of torque. Though power is down on some of the Series 5 models, Mitsubishi claims that improved torque delivery makes the pickup easier to drive, with no loss of pulling power.
There are six-speed manual and automatic gearboxes on offer and Mitsubishi’s four-wheel drive system remains one of the few that can drive in two- or four-wheel drive on the road without winding up the transmission or transfer box. The company has dropped the single cab layout, but 4Life utility-specification trucks are still available in Club cab as well as the more popular double cab format. If you are going to use the truck to tow, it is worth noting that Mitsubishi only advises towing the full 3.5-tonnes if you have a three-axle trailer. For two-axle trailers the limit is 3.1-tonnes. Mitsubishi has just added the Trojan trim to the L200 line-up, sitting below the Warrior and Barbarian models and above 4Life.
The company also offers commercial versions of the Shogun Sport and the Outlander PHEV. While the Shogun Sport is a heavy-duty off-roader, the Outlander PHEV Commercial offers four-wheel drive capability in a hybrid package. It is already proving popular, with more than 200 sold in the last year. Mitsubishi recently added a higher Reflex Plus trim level, to run alongside the existing Reflex specification PHEV, for those looking for a little more luxury in the van.
Nissan updated its Navara pickup range last year with the addition of a new six-speed manual gearbox and the introduction of multi-link rear suspension on the King cab models. Payload limits were increased slightly and there has been a boost in torque on the 163hp engine, which gets twin turbochargers, the same as the more powerful 190hp motor.
The Navara range starts with King cab models now, with no single cab on offer any more. However, both King and double cab chassis are also offered, to allow customers to fit their own rear bodywork or attachments. Safety has been improved, with reduced stopping distances despite a cut in braking force at the pedal. Trailer Sway Assist is now incorporated across the range.
For those who require additional off-road ability, Nissan has updated its Arctic Trucks conversion, now called the Off-Roader AT32. Riding on massive 31.6-inch tyres, the AT32 gets bespoke wheel arch extensions, all-terrain Bilstein suspension and plenty of under body protection.
Renault continues to offer a 4×4 conversion on the updated Master van. Provided by specialist converter Oberaigner, the 4×4 is based on a rear-wheel drive van or chassis cab at 3.5-tonnes GVW. The conversion includes raised suspension, a transfer box, a driven front axle and substantial underbody protection, but it’s not cheap, with a list price of around £25,000 on top of the base van.
As Renault Trucks sells the Master van range too, produced by former partner Renault, you can also opt for the Oberaigner conversion through the truck firm. Indeed, Renault Trucks, with a customer base that includes power generation, construction and utility companies, offers the 4×4 Master in a range of configurations to suit individual customer demand.
SsangYong’s Musso pickup has been making in-roads into the fleet sector, with 32 of the double-cab trucks being taken by Highways England last year. All Mussos are four-wheel drive and double-cab with the same 181hp 2.2-litre diesel engine. There are six-speed manual and automatic transmissions on offer and, unusually, the auto is the only one that can tow 3.5-tonnes, with manual models limited to 3.2-tonnes.
Available in four trim levels, all are well equipped and come at a price that is around 10% lower than typical competitors. Coil-sprung rear suspension delivers a relaxed on-road ride and decent handling, with no drop in carrying capacity. All SsangYongs come with an impressive seven-year warranty.
Toyota’s Hilux continues to meet the needs of pickup owners around the world. Another manufacturer offering single, extended and double-cab models, though like Ford all now come with 4WD. All models share the same 150hp, 2.4-litre diesel engine driving through a choice of six-speed manual or automatic transmissions.
The latest generation of Toyota Safety Sense is now standard on all bar the entry-level Icon grades, where it can be added as an option. This now includes Adaptive Cruise Control and a Pre-Collision System, along with Lane Departure Warning and Road Sign Assist. The most recent update is some additional cosmetic detailing on the range-topping Invincible X model, which can now be ordered with a manual gearbox if preferred.
As an alternative to Hilux, Toyota offers its Land Cruiser SUV in Commercial form. It’s available in short three-door, or long wheelbase five-door models, and Toyota has recently added a second trim grade to the Land Cruise Commercial line-up. Initially offered in back-to-basics Utility specification, it can now also be ordered in more luxurious Active trim.
Vauxhall is no longer offering the Oberaigner all-wheel drive system on its latest Movano van, though customers can still approach the converter themselves. However, the company does now have another 4×4 on its price list. The Combo Cargo van can now be ordered with a Dangel conversion to high-riding all-wheel drive.
French converter Dangel offers the conversion on the Peugeot and Citroën versions of this van too, though neither has chosen to make it readily available in the UK. But Vauxhall will offer the 4×4, in both a standard and a Plus Pack with additional ride height. The Combo 4×4 is expected to be offered in L1 and L2 model in both Edition and Sportive trim. They will use the 130hp version of the 1.5-litre diesel engine with a six-speed manual gearbox.
Volkswagen’s Amarok continues to sell well, but not for long. Amarok is to be discontinued in Europe this summer, as the plant in Hanover moves to produce a new electric van. Amarok will be re-introduced in two years’ time, though the new model will be produced in cooperation with Ford.
VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system is also on offer in both Transporter and Crafter vans. For the Transporter, buyers can opt for a 150hp engine with six-speed manual gearbox or a 199hp motor with a seven-speed DSG automatic. In the larger Crafter van, the 4Motion driveline is available with a 140hp engine and a six-speed manual gearbox, or with a 177hp version of VW’s 2.0-litre diesel engine and a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission.