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Best pickup trucks (2021)

Pickup trucks are pretty much the Swiss army knives of motoring. That’s because they’re able to carry heavy loads or tow large trailers and caravans, and they offer large business tax benefits.

Better still, the best of them manage to do so while offering the sort of luxury kit you might expect in a high-end car, while shrugging off the rough-and-tumble lifestyle working vehicles are subject to and offering proper off-road ability

Some aren’t even too bad when it comes to fuel economy – for big working trucks at least
Not all pickups are born equal, however, so carwow has come up with the definitive list of the best pickup trucks you can buy.

  • Volkswagen Amarok
  • Ford Ranger
  • Toyota Hilux
  • Mitsubishi L200
  • Nissan Navara
  • SsangYong Musso
  • Isuzu D-Max
  • Ford Ranger Raptor

Volkswagen Amarok

Of all the 4×4 pickup trucks on sale, the Volkswagen Amarok is the star perched at the top of the tree. It nails all the pickup essentials, with a maximum payload of up to 1,154kg and a towing capacity of up to 3,100kg.

However, the Amarok has many more strings to its bow than sheer capacity. For starters, it can return a decent 35mpg and the interior is spacious enough for two adults and two children, while providing such features as leather upholstery and climate control from the base-level trim up.

The 204hp, 3.0-litre V6 diesel is the best engine available for the Amarok, thanks to its suitable blend of power, smoothness and cost. But there’s also a 258hp one that’s surprisingly brisk.

Ford Ranger

Though the Ford Ranger isn’t anywhere near as big as the American F-150, it’s versatile — with a wide array of diesel engines and the choice of a two- or four-seat cabin. You won’t go far wrong picking up the keys to a four-seater one with a 2.0-litre, 213hp diesel engine up front.

It has bags of pulling power, is able to tow well over three tonnes, while returning fuel economy of up to 36mpg. The Ranger can handle payloads of up to 1,200kg and tow up to 1,800kg depending on spec.

It feels relatively smooth-riding, but there’s a lot of engine noise under more strenuous work.

 

Toyota Hilux

The Toyota Hilux takes the unique advantages of a double-cab pickup truck and emphasises them to the nth degree. Not only is it famously reliable; every version of the car, from the entry-level trim up, is able to hold payloads over 1,000kg and tow over 3,200kg.

Unlike some alternatives, it fares well off-road thanks to its high ground clearance, making mincemeat of uneven terrain.

Sadly, the trade-off for the Hilux’s strength is that, to accommodate big loads, it has a rather stiff suspension setup and rides comparatively harshly as a result.

 

Mitsubishi L200

If you want a pickup that will last you for the long run, the Mitsubishi L200 is a good call. It’s a safe option, having scored a respectable four stars in Euro NCAP tests and is backed with a five-year/62,500-mile warranty.

The L200 is able to tow up to 3,000kg and, in the back, you can carry up to 1,060kg of kit. Get a model with a 180hp, 2.4-litre diesel engine and you’ll be served up enough power to make light work of those loads too.

Best 4x4s revealed

Nissan Navara

Pickups are commonly known for their hard-working, rugged abilities, but the Nissan Navara is more welcoming and car-like than most. Inside, it can easily accommodate four adults in its cabin, can be had with posh car equipment, while the upholstery and infotainment are comfy and intuitive, respectively.

The Navara has a 1,050kg payload capacity, plus the ability to pull along up to 3,500kg. The 2.3-litre, 170hp engine is both punchy and refined, and it has more advanced rear suspension than most pickups so the ride is comfortable, but wind noise is pretty apparent and the steering is pretty vague.

 

SsangYong Musso

Starting at less than £22,000, the SsangYong Musso is cheaper than many rivals — but that doesn’t make it less capable. The Musso can tow up to 3,500kg and carry up to 1,050kg. The rear end even has a 12v socket — ideal if you don’t have access to a power outlet on your travels.

In the Musso’s cabin, there’s ample space for two adults and two children, as well as some pleasant, soft-touch materials and Bluetooth phone support as standard. Upgrading to the car’s Rebel trim sees the inclusion of an eight-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility.

Isuzu D-Max

The Isuzu D-Max absolutely nails the pickup fundamentals, because it can tow 3,500kg and carry up to 1,300kg out back. The interior is spacious enough for a family of two adults and two children, too.

Furthermore, its infotainment is surprisingly good, especially to the top-level trim’s nine-inch touchscreen, which proves bright and intuitive to control.

TheD-Max is far from fun to drive, though, lacking the smoothness and sheer refinement that you would be able to find in something such as the VW Amarok.

 

Ford Ranger Raptor

The Raptor is the angry big brother of Ford’s Ranger, and is an off-road-ready behemoth powered by a 2.0-litre diesel engine with a ten-speed automatic gearbox. The Raptor has uprated suspension so it is fun, both on and off road, gripping tightly and navigating uneven terrain with ease.

However, as a workhorse pickup it isn’t so good, most notably in the areas of towing and truck bed capacity. While every other pickup on this list can carry more than a tonne, the Raptor tops out at 620kg. Furthermore, compared with the Ranger, the Raptor can tow a tonne less, with anything heavier than 2,500kg set to get the better of it. This is more of a playful Tonka toy than a functional truck

 

Honourable mention

Ford F-150

You can’t officially buy a Ford F-150 in the UK, but it deserves a wildcard slot on this list purely because it is the king of modern pickup trucks. Its popularity – especially in the United States – has made it one of the best-selling road vehicles ever, with nearly 800,000 F series trucks sold in 2020 alone.

Bigger is better in America and the F-150 is no exception. The behemoth has a 3.5-litre twin turbo V6 engine (or even a 5.0-litre V8) with a 136-litre fuel tank. It can also tow a ridiculous 5,171kg.

Honourable mention

Tesla Cybertruck

The Tesla Cybertruck looks like something Judge Dredd might use to get back from defeating the Terminator. Someone clearly pinched all the protractors in the design office and replaced them with set squares. According to Tesla boss Elon Musk, the Cybertruck will have a range of up to 500 miles and will be able to dash from rest to 60mph in just three seconds.

Off-roading ability will be enhanced by the presence of air suspension with huge travel.

The Cybertruck is scheduled to go on sale in 2022, and there will be three models to choose from. A single-motor, two-wheel-drive model will cost from $40,000, while the top-end, three-motor truck will cost around $70,000.