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Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Ute buyers defy logic as they back off at the sight of Mazda's pretty face

Mazda BT-50 XTR Dual Cab.
Mazda BT-50 XTR Dual Cab.

By Garth Morrison

When it comes to Utes Australians are a weird mob. For example take Ford and Mazda Utes, new owners are not buying their mounts on price alone. Many potential buyers don't like the Mazda's pretty face.

The Ford Ranger XLT Double Cab diesel outsells its kissing cousin the Mazda BT 50 XTR Double Cab by a claimed up to 2 to 1.

Defying practical budget logic the Mazda seems to translate in the buyers minds as too pretty, while the Ford comes through as a grunty Yank Truck.

On the official specifications numbers there is little difference in the two vehicles. The Ranger and the Mazda share chassis and power-train. Their specifications are near identical.

But there is a significant dollar advantage; the Mazda is about $4800 cheaper from a dealer.

Ford-Ranger-XLT Double Cab
Ford-Ranger-XLT Double Cab

The only obvious minimal technical differences are in weight and tray. The Ford weighs 2159kg and the Mazda 2103kg, 56kg either way.

The Mazda tray capacity is 1097kg and the Ford 1041kg. Once again it is a minimal 56kg difference.

Both Utes use the same 3198cc 5 cylinder DOHC 20 valve turbo diesel engine.

They both produce 470Nm. The Mazda between 1750 rpm and 2500rpm and the Ford in a broader power spread from 1500 rpm to 2750rpm. This probably reflects Mazda's design goal of more car-like Zoom Zoom for their customers.

Both the Mazda and the Ford are rated by their builders to tow a maximum trailer weight of 3500kg on a maximum ball weight of 350kg.

Both use a six speed automatic gearbox. Both are thirsty compared to their diesel Ute peers with a basic 9.2 litres per 100km.

For comparison the well engineered Volkswagen Amarok Highline TD 1420 Dual Cab claims 8.3 litres per 100km.

Mitsubishi Triton GLS Double Cab 7.6 litres per 100km, Nissan Navara ST Dual Cab 7 litres per 100km and the Toyota Hilux SR Double Cab 8.5 litres per 100 km.

GSA expects these claimed fuel use figures to double when towing caravans of about 2500kg in settled weather on flat terrain.

It should be noted that three of the diesel utes mentioned, the Toyota Hilux (3200kg), Mitsubishi Triton (3100kg) and Volkswagen Amarok Highline TD1420 (3000 kg), are not in the 3500kg max trailer weight, 350kg on the tow ball towing division.

GSA Ranger in Grampians at Glen Thompson.
GSA Ranger in Grampians at Glen Thompson.

Rated 3500kg trailer and 350kg on the tow ball is the province of the grunty diesels Ford Ranger XLT, Mazda BT-50 XTR, Nissan Navara ST, Holden Colorado LTZ and the Isuzu D-Max LS-U.

In 2016 there are specific practical arguments for the Ford Ranger's popularity. Its electric power steering is superior to its rivals. Its engine is refined with new injectors and a cylinder head revision.

It is a grunty towing option which holds its own with quality 4WD vehicles on and off road.

But the BT-50 XTR Dual Cab comes across as a value buy at the top of the diesel Ute price range with a willing engine. To GSA's eye it has better planned instruments and is reported to be fairly easy to live with in terms of handling through its hydraulic steering on the bitumen.

It is better priced than the Ranger and much more than just a pretty face among Ute options. That leaves Ute buyers with an interesting head or heart decision.

In New Zealand the Ford Ranger ‘pickup’ topped a record total 134,041 registrations car sales year in 2015 when it passed the Toyota Corolla to be New Zealand’s most purchased new vehicle with 6,818 sold. This gives the Ford Ranger a five percent market share.

The Toyota Hilux put another Ute in third place overall in the Kiwi car market. In 2014 Ford Ranger success ended 30 years of Hilux supremacy in NZ. Sports Utility Vehicles (SUV’s) are the most popular new vehicles sold in New Zealand. In 2015 they accounted for 34 percent of the NZ new car sales market.

Editor's Note: A byline on a GoSee story indicates  opinion.

The GSA Ford XLT Super, P/U HR 3.2 diesel DPChipped Ranger has been towing on the road as part of a full-time travelling office for about two years. So we are in a position to offer practical experience based on carefully compiled numbers. Its performance is satisfying.

Drivers Pam and Alan report comfortable, reliable towing. Pam likes the Ranger's driving position and easy handling for its type.

The GSA 2014 Ford Ranger XLT Super P/U 3.2 auto 4x2 follows our now well established pattern and is DPChipped. The 5-cylinder diesel improves from a standard 470Nm to 525Nm, the DPChip website says.

Clearview mirrors on GSA Ford Ranger
Clearview mirrors on GSA Ford Ranger

The Ford 4x2 choice is a break with GSA's long-term use of 4WD and AWD tow vehicles which is based in vehicle design, weight, engine and gearing with towing as a first priority.

Australia's limited options where capable, warranted tow vehicles are required skews the buying decision process toward 4WD specifications.

But the move to 4x2 saved $8000 on the Ford Ranger's purchase price and has cost nothing in the Ranger's towing ability in front of a 21ft Blue Sky caravan of about 2500kg (ATM).

The caravan is now GSA's full-time home and office on the road.

Another direct cost-saving DPChip benefit when the Ranger took over the full-time on-road towing role was the chip used in the Colorado the Ranger replaced could be easily removed and re-programmed to suit the Ranger at a cost of about $200 which covers a wiring loom. This is a direct save on buying and fitting a new DPChip priced at $1,495 to the Ranger.

Vehicle changeover with DPChip is only offered if the next vehicle is compatible.

DPChip says the upgrade service may include a different harness custom software for the next vehicle and relevant installation instructions. If DPChip identifies changeover is possible between vehicles the cost range is $150 to $200 plus $20 postage.

The free GSA Fuel Calculator reports the Ranger's fuel log consumption is in the 18 and 19 litres per 100 km ranges when GSA travels in high winds and with full caravan water tanks.

GSA Ford Ranger and 21ft caravan.
GSA Ford Ranger and 21ft caravan.

Other times travel has been with low water levels in the caravan's twin tanks in good weather. over 3,975km average fuel use is 14.54 litres per 100km.

Towing from Pinaroo into strong head winds pushed fuel use to 19.12 litres per 100km.

Gale force winds towing from Bordertown to Stawell produced 17.14 and 18.20 litres fuel consumption figures.

The GoSee free Fuel Calculator is available to TravelSmart Club members. The option button to join free is on the left of the Home Page. Follow the prompt to access extra TravelSmart benefits.

These stories from the GoSee free library will help:

4x2 Ranger diesel choice steps away from long-term towing comfort zone


Ranger towing figures underline benefits of GSA six year DPChip use

Unacceptable caravan sway forces tow bar change on GSA Ford Ranger

GSA takes The Great Alpine Road and finds drive to the conditions, you can do most things safely

Acknowledgement – This Information Article is provided through the support of generous sponsor Caravan Industry Association of Victoria (CIA Vic.). This support covers story research costs.

It is because of sponsors like CIA Vic. that an extensive library of free Information Articles is available to help users Go Make Some Memories. Click to find road touring destinations two and three hours from Melbourne. Go Make Some Memories

For more information
contact: Garth Morrison
Editor Go See Australia and Go See New Zealand Directory

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