7 June 2002

Doublecab pick-ups a two-in-one star

Looking for practical new

wheels that can meet the

needs of business and non-

commercial use? Then a

doublecab 4×4 pickup

should be on your short-list.

Geoff Ashcroft reviews

the latest models on offer

UNTIL recently, vehicles providing decent load space, off-road capability and comfortable family transport have been as rare as hens teeth.

But the introduction of the doublecab pickup, and the VAT allowances it affords when the payload exceeds 1000kg, means it is now possible to cut running costs by replacing two vehicles with one.

Makers have been quick to respond to a market that appears to keep growing year-on-year. And the latest player in the market is Isuzu, with its new TF crew cab pickup models, which replace the previous Isuzu-built Vauxhall Brava pickup.

Available only through Isuzu dealers – Vauxhall has no plans to take on the Isuzu badged as a Vauxhall – the TF offers many improvements over the Brava version including more power, torque and refinement.

Two doublecab versions are offered, the 4×4 Crewcab and more luxurious 4×4 4Sport. Both come with 2.5-litre turbodiesel engines that gets a power boost from use of an intercooler. Power is now 100hp, up from 76hp, while torque has risen from 118lb ft to 166lb ft.

Isuzus 4×4 TF models also get a limited slip differential and payloads for both doublecab versions exceed 1000kg, while maximum braked towing capacities across the range are 2000kg.

The TF also has revised gearing when compared to the previous Vauxhall Brava. Higher ratios contribute to improved fuel economy, while a dual range transfer box provides low gears for extreme off-road applications.

The 4×4 Crewcab offers more functionality than comfort, while 4Sport buyers get additional spec including alloy wheels, air conditioning, electric mirrors/windows. Prices start at £14,995 for the 4×4 Crewcab, and £16,495 for the 4Sport.

Perhaps the most comprehensive choice of doublecab pickup comes from Mitsubishi. It offers five-seat versions of its L200 GL, 4-Life and Animal Cab models – all powered by an uprated 2.5-litre turbodiesel that meets Euro III emissions and now gives 113hp.

The basic GL specification suits those who want a workhorse, offering little in the way of creature comforts. Those in search of extra refinement need to consider Mitsubishis 4-Life and Animal Cab versions.

Fabric seats

Those opting for the 4-life model get fabric trimmed seats and door inserts, rear differential lock, rear seat armrest and airbags for both front seat occupants. Animal Cab buyers receive additional pampering through a six-disc CD system, anti-lock brakes, front fog lights and air conditioning.

But all three models benefit from Mitsubishis Easy Select four-wheel drive system that enables 4WD to be engaged at speeds of up to 62mph.

Payloads are similar too at 1065-1085kg depending on spec, while towing capacities are identical at 2700kg. Even with a four-door cab, the load space behind measures 1.5m in length and 1.47m in width.

The L200 range is priced from £14,495 to £17,995.

Toyota has recently revamped its pickup range with a host of new features including a common-rail D-4D engine with extended service intervals, more interior comfort and redesigned exterior styling. It is a range that now includes three doublecab 4×4 pickups with gross vehicle weights of 2700kg.

Buyers can choose from EX, GX and VX specifications and all three doublecabs come with Toyotas new 102hp D-4D engine. All three offer similar load space areas – (1.35m long x 1.46m wide) and payloads (1045-1075kg), but differ in their level of finish. Although the entry level EX model has air-conditioning, it lacks a tachometer, an alarm system and cab carpet – features available on the more up-market GX model.

Toyotas range-topping VX specification should meet the needs of the fashion conscious, with ABS brakes, alloy wheels and over-fenders fitted on the wheel arches.

And for the first time, the firm has added automatically selectable 2/4WD that eliminates the need to engage freewheeling front hubs.

A Hilux EX270 doublecab costs from £15,495, while the range-topping VX model costs £17,495.

Mazdas B series pickup is made in the same AutoAlliance factory as Fords Ranger in Thailand – and each company owns 45% of the plant.

Ford chooses to offer its Ranger in doublecab and the lifestyle-orientated XLT spec, while Mazda opts for the B2500 doublecab and 4-Action models. Other than the badge and cosmetic changes, there is little to differentiate the models.

The B-Series carries a three-year/60,000 mile warranty, and its flagship 4-Action lifestyle model boasts air conditioning, CD player, alloy wheels, wheel arch extensions and side steps. Such a truck recognises pickups are now expected to appeal to a wider audience needing a rugged workhorse which can be hosed down to provide a sport utility vehicle for private use.

Turbodiesel

All Mazda doublecabs get a 109hp 2.5-litre turbodiesel unit with three valves/cylinder and a single-overhead camshaft. Fords versions does too.

Ford has equipped the Ranger with selectable 4WD, and the front wheel hubs have remote electric locking which is engaged automatically and disengaged via a switch on the dashboard.

A limited slip diff and five-speed manual box is standard spec – but expect a visit to the dealer every 6000 miles for routine servicing.

Towing capabilities are useful too. All 4×4 models can pull a braked trailer of 2200kg, while payloads exceed 1000kgs.

Fords high specification Ranger XLT will set you back £16,982, while Mazdas B series costs £15,172 (B2500 doublecab) up to £16,612 (4-Action).

Nissan introduced a new pickup range to the market earlier this year, including a high-spec Navara model and a lower spec doublecab truck. Both are fitted with a thumping 133hp 2.5-litre Di engine, making them the most powerful diesel models on sale in the UK.

Trim level is high for the basic truck, but the Navaras extra £1650 price tag brings metallic paint, CD player and climate controlled air-conditioning.

Heated mirrors

Electrically adjustable and heated mirrors together with electrically operated rear windows are part of the package too.

But Nissan Navara owners will need to visit the workshops every 6000 miles for a service. Despite the four-door doublecab eating into the load area, both models offer similarly useful payloads exceeding a tonne, and braked towing capacities are up to 3000kg.

Expect to pay £14,450 for the basic model and £16,100 for the latest Navara. Both come with a three-year/60,000 mile warranty.

Land Rovers Defender doublecab still maintains an unmistakable look, but is now powered by an electronically managed TD5 engine.

Rated at 122hp, its the same five-cylinder engine used in the Discovery with electronic unit injector technology to give a clean burn and full torque at 1950rpm.

Available in 110 and 130 guises – each designation relates to the wheelbase in inches – the Defender offers two distinct bed sizes. The 110s cargo area measures 1.0m x 1.43m, while the larger 130 has a bed measuring 1.6m x 1.6m. This translates into payloads of well over a tonne and braked towing capacities of 3500kg.

While the Defender fails to win any awards for driver and passenger comfort, it still holds the crown for its go-anywhere performance courtesy of its beam axles, low ratio transmission and diff locks.

Tata has retained last years low prices for the latest Loadbeta pickup and doublecab ranges to ensure its models stay competitive.

Claimed to be the most affordable doublecab pickup truck in the UK, the £11,357 Tata Loadbeta 2.0 TDI has a 1080kg payload capability for the doublecab.

The 90hp machine comes equipped with cloth-covered individual bucket seats, carpeting, radio/cassette player, head restraints on the rear three passenger seats and a heated rear window.

A three year/60,000 mile warranty, six-year anti-perforation guarantee and a years free membership of Green Flag roadside recovery are also in the price. &#42

Nissan Navara packs a 133hp punch from a revised 2.5-litre engine.

Mitsubishi offers three doublecab versions of its L200: GL, 4-Life and Animal Cab. All models are powered by uprated 2.5-litre engines.

Toyotas recently revamped Hilux range gets a D-4D common rail engine and high-specification VX model.

Land Rover Defender doublecab is available in 110 and 130 models.

Isuzu TF pickup replaces Vauxhall Brava and brings with it a host of improvements. These include more power, torque and refinement.