Tradies make up a huge part of the Australian economy, and most depend on a vehicle to get the job done time and time again. What are the top 10 cars on the market at the moment that are ready to work as hard as a tradesman?
How can anyone devise a top 10 list of vehicles for tradies without starting foremost with the HiLux? It's the most popular commercial vehicle in Australia by far, and sometimes the best-selling vehicle in the country overall. Toyota Australia offers a vast range in terms of specifications and cabin configurations, including petrol and turbo-diesel, rear-wheel and four-wheel drive, and in workhorse-ready to classy luxury trims. The nameplate will celebrate its 50th anniversary in a few years.
Adopting the fashionable 'i' prefix, the iLoad has been around in virtually the same form since 2008. However, it is one of the newest nameplates to hit the market, and so it jumps out of the gate packed with plenty of convenient mod-cons. All models get Bluetooth connectivity, a multi-format audio system, power windows and up to four cup holders. It's available in a variety of configurations as well, with petrol and turbo-diesel options, auto and manual, and short and long wheelbase layouts. It's worth noting the turbo-diesel is the most torquey van in the short wheelbase class, with an impressive small V8-like 441Nm (auto).
Mitsubishi Australia has developed a big reputation for its comprehensive warranty and servicing plans, not to mention some of the most competitive off-the-shelf prices in the industry. The Triton is a perfect example of how to build a dependable, historically-proven, and robustly made and equipped ute. The four-wheel drive versions in particular are fitted with one of the best off-road mechanical packages around, with electronic diff locks at all ends.
Would you like a small, medium or large workhorse? Many of Australia's biggest companies rely on the HiAce and have implemented a full fleet for their employees. It's been around in a similar form for a few years now, but it's a case of 'why change it if it isn't broken?' Toyota Australia offers petrol and turbo-diesel versions, short and long wheelbase (or Long Wheelbase and Super Long Wheelbase, as Toyota calls them), and seated and extra tall models. The most popular regular (Long) wheelbase version boasts an incredible 6000-litre cargo capacity, which is one of the biggest in the class.
Australian tradies might seem like a burly bunch, but they can have a distinct taste for style and efficiency. And that's where the Amarok comes in. It manages to be both strong and robust yet also very fuel efficient and quite sharply dressed. It's available with an eight-speed automatic transmission - usually unheard of in this segment - as well as a 2.0-litre turbo petrol (the only ute in Australia with a turbo-petrol motor). It also comes in twin-turbo-diesel four-cylinder flavour, developing 420Nm. Like most European vehicles, it can filled to the brim with advanced features and luxury appointments.
Ford Transit Custom
One the longest-running nameplates in Ford's history. A new model has just come out and it's perhaps the most comprehensively equipped van you can get. It is priced slightly higher than the rest, but it makes up for that with class-leading safety across the board and extensive connectivity and functionality. It comes with barn-style doors at the back so you can literally drop a pallet straight in from a forklift. It also comes with the most useable cargo space in the segment, with a class-leading wheel-arch width and height of 1390mm and 1406mm, and a benchmark-setting 2500kg braked towing capacity.
Holden Commodore Ute
The Holden Commodore Ute is one of just two Australian-made utes still on the market. Sales figures show it consistently outsells its blue-badged competitor by more than double. And there's a reason why it's still going strong. It is the best-handling ute on the market and the most comfortable, being based on a sedan. It's also the most powerful thanks to its optional Chevrolet-derived 6.0-litre V8, serving up a tow-anything 270kW and 530Nm (manual). Even the base model 3.6-litre V6 is as potent as they come for the light commercial market, with 210kW ready to haul you and your equipment to the next job. Like the excellent VF sedan, the ute comes with plenty of modern technologies to help make your workday as comfortable and manageable as possible.
Since the latest edition joined the lineup in 2013, the Ranger has gone on to become one of the most popular utes on the market. Its equally impressive sales figures in both the 4X2 and 4X4 segments means it caters for a wide range of duties. The 3.2-litre turbo-diesel five-cylinder is a standout unit, developing a stout 147kW and 470Nm. It's also one of a handful of utes that boasts five-star ANCAP safety across all variants.
It might not be the first van you think of in this segment, but the Traffic is one of the best in terms of drivability, practicality, and equipment. Competitive drive-away deals at the moment means it's one of the best value vans on the market. Australians are showing a strong following too; it's currently the third best seller in the 2.5-3.5 segment. The new model due soon is expected to be even more popular.
Volkswagen Caddy Van
The Caddy is as practical and zippy as a small hatch only it has the space of a small van. VW has cleverly catered for a niche market here, and successfully too; the Caddy is the most popular vehicle in the class, competing with only five other models. It outsells its nearest competitor by more than double, largely thanks to its renowned Volkswagen efficiency and build quality. Being based on the Golf means it offers car-like road manners and some of the most economical powertrains on sale. Available engines span from a 63kW 1.2-litre, up to a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel producing 103kW/320Nm, with average fuel consumption figures as low as 5.5L/100km for the mid-range 1.6 TDI. In short, it is the perfect tool for those who constantly run deliveries all day of reasonably light and small dimensions.