The mainstay of building and landscaping companies, pick-ups and dropside sales have taken a battering in recent times, but this has not dented the wide array of models available. Steve Banner takes a look at what is on offer.
In common with the rest of the light commercial market, pick-up sales have endured a severe battering over the past 18 months; but that hasn’t stopped manufacturers introducing new products. Among those leading the charge is Mitsubishi with the L200; What Van?’s Pick-up of the Year for 2010.
Up until recently one of the vehicle’s key drawbacks was that the four-door Double Cab’s load bed was too short for some applications. Happily the manufacturer has dealt with this objection by adding a Double Cab Long Bed to the line-up and selling it alongside the standard Double Cab offering.
Using the same wheelbase as the existing L200, the newcomer gives operators an additional 180mm of cargo length to utilise. Overall vehicle length is 5,180mm. The cargo box’s sidewalls are a little bit higher than those employed on the mainstream L200 and have a more-horizontal upper edge
Marketed solely as a 4x4, the 1,000kg-or-thereabouts-payload L200 is not just sold as a Double Cab. It can also be ordered with either a two-door Single Cab or a Club Cab, a stretched version of the Single Cab with a couple of occasional rear seats and retaining the two-door configuration.
All L200s are equipped with the same 2.5-litre diesel, but pumping out 134hp, 165hp or 175hp depending on the variant you select.
The diesel is married to a five-speed gearbox — an automatic can be specified on some models — plus selectable four-wheel drive. It allows you to switch to a low-ratio set of gears should you feel the need to indulge in some serious mud-plugging. Super Select is up for grabs as an alternative on some L200s. Including a traction control system it features a central viscous coupling that automatically adjusts the front/rear torque split.
Over the past 20 years Mitsubishi has been instrumental in transforming the image of the pick-up from pedestrian workhorse to must-have style icon by introducing a whole succession of models with eye-catching names and plenty of goodies. So let’s hear it for Warrior, Animal, Raging Bull and the Walkinshaw Performance Double Cab, complete with fully-independent five-point multi-link rear suspension.
While the recession may have taken some of the shine off the higher end of the pick-up market, it’s an approach that has been emulated by Mitsubishi’s rivals. Ford, for example, is continuing to promote Thunder and Wildtrak versions of its Ranger pick-up, which has just been revamped, alongside the more prosaic XL and XLT derivatives.
Changes include some mild exterior restyling plus the deletion of the 3.0-litre diesel automatic, which in our experience had a tendency to get a bit tail-happy in the wet. The auto ’box is now offered instead solely with the 2.5-litre Duratorq TDCi diesel. You can still get the 156hp 3.0-litre lump, but only with a five-speed manual box. The 143hp 2.5-litre is up for grabs with a five-speed manual too.
With gross payloads ranging from 900kg to 1,235kg, Ranger can be ordered as either a 4x2 or a 4x4. It’s produced as a four-door Double Cab, a two-door Regular Cab and with an extended Super Cab with two forward-hinged and two half-width rear-hinged doors.
Bar some cosmetic tweaks Mazda’s BT-50 is virtually the same as Ranger and has shared its makeover. Interestingly, Mazda has decided to add the 3.0-litre auto package to the line-up rather than avoid it, and markets it under the Intrepid banner. Features include leather interior trim, air-conditioning and an MP3-compatible six-CD autochanger. Customers have not reported any problems with the vehicle, says the company.
Also competing for sales in the one-tonne-payload-or-so category is Nissan’s hugely-impressive Navara. On the downside you can’t have it as a 4x2 or with a single cab. On the upside it comes with a highly-competent 171hp 2.4-litre diesel and either a six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic gearbox.
The stretched two-door King Cab and the four-door Double Cab offer comfortable working environments, which is more than can be said for what’s on offer from Navara’s rather more basic 133hp 2.5-litre diesel NP300 stablemate. While it has the advantages of being marketed with two- as well as four-wheel drive, is solidly-constructed and has a wider selection of cab types than Navara, its in-cab fixtures and fittings and on-the-road behaviour are, to say the least, unimpressive.
Happily stocks have been wound down and it is in effect disappearing from the UK market. It’s built in Japan and exchange rate problems have ended up making it too expensive.
The foregoing models have two other rivals in the redoubtable shapes of Toyota’s Hilux and Isuzu’s Rodeo. For 2010 Hilux is on offer with either a 144hp 2.5-litre or a 171hp 3.0-litre diesel. The latter can be ordered with a five-speed automatic ’box instead of the five-speed manual that is otherwise standard across the range.
Marketed only as a 4x4, Toyota’s rugged load-shifter can be ordered in Single Cab, stretched two-door Extra Cab and four-door Double Cab guise.
Don’t forget that the 3.0-litre is offered solely as a Double Cab and in upmarket Invincible trim. Don’t forget either that you may still be able to get hold of the 2009 specification Hilux, which was produced with the now-deleted 120hp diesel.
Isuzu’s Rodeo boasts either a 136hp 2.5-litre diesel or a 163hp 3.0-litre diesel and is sold as a Single Cab 4x2 and as a Double Cab 4x4. A five-speed manual ’box is standard, with a four-speed auto on offer on selected models. Watch out for the limited edition Rodeo LE Sport, which is chock-full of extras.
Yet another competitor will appear in 2010 when Volkswagen returns to the pick-up market with an all-new model. Scheduled to arrive in September, it will be called Amarok — the name means ‘wolf’ in the Inuit (Eskimo) language — and it will be assembled at VW’s Pacheco plant near Buenos Aires in Argentina.
Power will come courtesy of common rail diesel engines generating up to 400Nm of torque and the newcomer will boast a towing capacity of up to 2,800kg as well as the ability to shift 1,000kg of cargo itself.
The Double Cab 4x4 will be the first version to appear, with Single Cabs following at a later date.
It’s often forgotten that Land Rover’s Defender is marketed as a pick-up. Having undergone a major revamp three years back, the legendary off-roader is now powered by a 122hp 2.4-litre diesel borrowed from Ford’s equally-legendary Transit.
Pick-up gross payloads range from 695kg to 1,529kg and Defender is produced in both Single and Double Cab guise. A six-speed manual transmission comes as standard.
At the other end of the payload scale, the smallest pick-up on sale in the UK today is probably Piaggio’s three-wheeler Ape 50. Made in Italy — Ape means ‘bee’ in Italian — it’s powered by a 50cc two-stroke single-cylinder petrol engine. Top payload is a modest 205kg.
If you fancy something that can haul a bit more weight, then you can always opt for the Ape TM instead. Payload capacity is 755kg if you want the 422cc diesel model or 805kg if you’re happy to opt for the 220cc petrol. Again, we’re talking about a single-cylinder two-stroke; the diesel is a four-stroke. Either way, don’t expect to be travelling too fast.
Piaggio also produces the four-wheel Porter dropside, with two different body sizes and the ability to shift north of half a tonne. Powered by a 63hp 1.3-litre petrol engine and complete with a five-speed gearbox, it’s sold as either a 4x2 or a 4x4.
If you don’t want the petrol engine, then you can always order Porter with battery power. Sitting beneath the cargo bed, the lead-gel battery pack offers a range between recharges of up to 85 miles.
Also marketed as a panel van, a tipper and even as an MPV, Porter has won What Van?’s Microvan of the Year award for 2010.
Still with compact pick-ups, offbeat French manufacturer Aixam Mega offers its distinctive-looking Mega as a pick-up or a dropside as well as with other body styles.
Buyers can opt for a 600cc twin-cylinder Kubota diesel or either eight or twelve absorbed glass mat batteries; variants of the familiar valve-regulated lead-acid battery. Payload capacity goes up to 500kg.
Moving up the payload scale, a number of manufacturers produce chassis cabs grossing at up to 3.5 tonnes or more which can accommodate dropside bodies. They often form part of what are sometimes referred to as ready-to-go-to-work programmes. In other words, the chassis is delivered ready-bodied to the dealership and can be put to work by the customer immediately.
In some cases the entire vehicle is warranted by the chassis manufacturer. In others, the manufacturer warrants the chassis and obliges the bodybuilder to provide a warranty that matches the warranty on the base vehicle in terms of mileage and duration.
With its award-winning Ready to Run range, Citroën is a prime example of a manufacturer that offers a ready-to-go-to-work conversion programme and dropsides play a key part in the line-up. Warranted in its entirety by Citroën, and grossing at 3.5 tonnes, the Relay Specialist dropside is based on a 35 L3 120 and offers a gross payload capacity of 1,420kg.
For your money you get alloy drop-down sides and an alloy tailboard plus a load deck made from a 15mm-thick one-piece birchwood sheet sitting within an alloy frame. The body is supported by a galvanised steel subframe with steel cross-bearers, and the package includes a headboard topped off by a ladder gantry complete with a mesh infill.
Ford (Transit), Vauxhall (Movano), Nissan (Cabstar), Isuzu Truck (Grafter), Toyota (Dyna), Volkswagen (Crafter), Fiat (Ducato) and Mercedes-Benz all offer competitor packages. The payload capacities and warranty terms vary however, and in some cases the bodies are fitted at the factory or at an import centre rather than by a UK bodybuilder. One of the best-known British makers of dropside bodies incidentally is Ingimex of Telford.
One or two manufacturers — Iveco is a prime example with the Daily — don’t offer ready-to-go-to-work schemes, and instead take the view that bodywork specification is better left to the customer, the local dealer and the bodybuilder of their choice.
One slightly unusual product that competes in this category is the dropside long-wheelbase Vauxhall Vivaro. Grossing at just over 3.0 tonnes, and with a gross payload ranging from 1,093kg to 1,153kg depending on the model you pick, it comes with a cargo bed 2,900mm long plus nearside and offside underfloor lockers. In addition you get an underfloor cargo compartment that is 2,860mm long and accessed from the rear. Renault offers a similar body on Trafic.
Owners of the larger-capacity pick-ups and dropsides often use them to tow trailers. Remember that you may have to have a heavy-truck-style tachograph fitted if you decide to do so, and comply with the Drivers Hours regulations; and if you’re hauling a big enough trailer, you may have to obtain a heavy truck Operator’s Licence too.
Sales in this sector of the market are currently poor thanks to the affects of the dire state of the economy on the building industry, but if it’s time to invest in a new pick-up or dropside this could be good news. Manufacturers still need to shift metal so there should be some good deals out there.