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Comparo : Nissan Navara VS Isuzu D-Max VS Ford Ranger VS Bison Savanna

POSTED BY CBT Team ON 15 April 2014

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SERIOUS towing, heavy hauling, comfort and a little fun, there is only one place where these things come together in an all purpose package and that’s in the pick-up truck segment.

The list of available pick-up trucks are growing by the number, but we narrow it down to four – the established Nissan Navara, comfortable Ford Ranger, economical Isuzu D-Max and the new boy on the block, the Bison Savanna.

Pick-up trucks are starting to evolve and consumers are preferring them instead of family saloon cars. Why? The answer is, why not?

Modern pick-up trucks are more than just a working man’s vehicle – they can be used for many applications and this is due to the manufacturers’ understanding that pick-up trucks need to be purposeful in many ways.

They have made many leaps forward, and this can be credited to amazing technological advances and efficiency of diesel engines. They are now quieter, more economical, powerful, reliable and can all be had in a smaller engine block, which helps with road tax.

Those that we picked except the new kid on the block have been reworked and have provided exactly that of a modern pick-up truck. They all work on a part-time 4×4 basis but on a flick of a switch can be fully utilised to operate on a full time 4×4 mode. The prices range from RM79,888 for the Bison Savanna to more than RM100,000 for the Isuzu D-Max.

To get a full picture of what each pick-up truck is capable of, we tried to use them in every possible way, which includes some fun in the sand, daily commuting and some light off-roading.

Bison Savanna

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The Bison Savanna is China’s answer to a robust and economical pick-up truck. It has provided impressive performances off-road. On the road, it was as civilised as most of its competitors.

With mechanical internals such as the Dana axle, Getrag gearbox and Cummins engine, the Savanna can be considered as the truck with the best bang for buck.
Despite its big name mechanical parts, we think that the Bison’s shortfall is its higher taxable road tax through its 2.8-litre engine compared with the Ford’s 2.2, Navara’s and D-Max’s 2.5.

Interior wise, the Bison is okay, but there’s nothing to shout about. We tested this strong truck in Terengganu recently and put it through some harsh punishment. At the end of the three-day off-roading trip, the truck proved to be robust, with no mechanical failures or signs of cheap and fatigued parts.

Nissan Navara

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The Navara recently received a facelift, and whilst the exterior was new, the internal mechanical parts weren’t, but then, why fix something that is not broken?
We liked the fact that the Navara comes with a reverse camera, which made parking in tight city spots that much easier.

It has always been dubbed the powerful one as it pushes out close to 400Nm of torque and when driving in it, the urge to always use all of it is always there.
The engine is a bit noisy, but has a nice sound to it. Off-road, it managed to tackle most things that we threw at it, but there was a moment when the truck started to make some eerie noises and would not come out of 4×4 mode.

On the road, the Navara felt safe around corners due to its good handling. The interior is simple but well laid out.

Isuzu D-Max

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Isuzu started to notice that there is a growing market of saloon owners who are moving over to pick-ups. To cater to them, the truck was designed to have more saloon-based qualities, starting from its swooping headlights to its comfortable cabin. Out of all the pick-ups, the D-Max definitely had the nicest interior with comfortable seats.
It felt more like an urban economical sedan than a light commercial vehicle. But that is not a bad thing as most people in Peninsular Malaysia purchase pick-up trucks for leisure and some light off-roading.

The ride was very smooth as the bumps and potholes on the road were more audible than felt and thanks to its new suspensions, the D-Max is more forgiving and offered a slightly better ride quality.

This unfortunately was also its downfall as to provide this smooth comfortable ride, handling performances had to give way and when faced with a corner, we always seemed to slow down more than the other pick-ups. The maximum torque is rated at 320Nm and is available between 1,800rpm and 2,800rpm.

Step on the pedal and you’ll be rewarded with a strong and punchy acceleration, but that excitement ends when the second gear is engaged. The gap between first and second gear is big and becomes obvious when you drive aggressively. But its shortcomings did not affect its off-roading performance as the D-Max seemed to swallow up everything that we gave it.

Ford Ranger 2.2 XLT

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The Ranger is truly the game changing pick-up truck, with many accolades behind it. It is almost the complete pick-up truck. For the first time in the New Straits Times-Maybank COTY Awards’ 11-year history, a pick-up truck won the overall award and this must mean that the Ranger is one hell of a truck.

The Ranger gained the most votes due to its ride quality, refinement, all terrain capability, value-for-money proposition and on-board features. They were right because we tried really hard to find faults with this pick-up truck but every time the truck came on top.

On road, the Ranger still felt like a pick-up truck, but had the right balance between comfort and handling. It isn’t the most powerful truck but felt like it had enough power for any application. To prove that that Ranger was more like a car rather than a truck, we gave it to our 5ft 3in lady colleague to test it and three days later, she asked how she can go about to owning one.

She had never ever drove a pick-up truck before, but mentioned that the Ford was easy to manoeuvre and operate. The Ranger also has the best wading depth, which makes it all that bit easier to cross a river or a flooded area. If we have to nitpick, it would be that the Ranger felt larger than the others.

Verdict

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In conclusion, all four pick-up trucks have their own strength and weaknesses, which makes it hard to award an overall winner. Choosing a vehicle is very subjective and most buyers have their own preferences on why they might choose a certain vehicle. All we can say is, if you like power, pick the Navara, if you like comfort, pick the Ranger, if you like luxury, pick the D-Max and if you have a budget, pick the Savanna.

ISUZU D-MAX

Engine: 2,499cc 4JK1-TCX inline-four VGS turbo intercooler diesel DOHC 16V
Transmission: Five-speed automatic
Max power: 134hp @ 3,600rpm
Max torque: 320Nm @ 1,800-2,800rpm
Safety features: SRS airbags, ABS with EBD, brake assist, electronic stability control, traction control system, load sensing proportional valve, limited slip differential, side door impact beams, collapsible steering column, vehicle security system, child protector safety lock
Price: RM102,190 OTR with insurance

NISSAN NAVARA

Engine: 2,488cc, inline-four, 16V, DOHC, variable nozzle turbine with intercooler, commonrail direct injection
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Max power: [email protected],000rpm
Max torque: [email protected],000rpm
Safety features: Dual front airbags, ABS, EBD
Price: RM94,834 OTR

FORD RANGER

Engine: 2,198cc, four-cylinder diesel turbo
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Max power: 148hp @ 3,700rpm
Max torque: 375Nm @ 1,800-2,800rpm
Safety features: driver/passenger airbags, four-wheel ABS, four-wheel disc brakes, load sensing proportionate valve (LSPV), electronic brake force distribution (EBD), emergency brake assist (EBA)
Price: RM98,453 OTR with insurance

BISON SAVANNA

Engine: 2,776cc diesel DOHC inline-four
Transmission: Getrac five-speed manual
Max power: 161bhp @ 3,600rpm
Max torque: 360Nm @ rpm
Safety features: ABS, EBD, front airbags, reverse sensor,
Price: 4×4 Double Cab RM79,888 OTR with insurance