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Utes, or “one-tonners” as many like to call them thanks to the carrying capacity of their trays, are aspirational vehicles for many. The big brands like Ford, Nissan and Holden have broadened this type of vehicle considerably.
So, if you’re looking for a second-hand ute, you will find everything from solid workhorses to luxurious double cab models that can replace a conventional family car.
The Australian-developed Ford Ranger has become quite a phenomenon in New Zealand, topping the new-vehicle sales charts for several years now. It’s a Ford ute that competes with, and beats, SUVs and sedans.
A second hand Ranger is a tempting proposition for image and quality-conscious buyers: the model is plentiful, although good examples are also highly sought after.
It’s a relatively young model, with the T6 Ranger being launched in 2011 as a replacement for the Courier. It pioneered the idea of upmarket “lifestyle” utes early on, with the influential Wildtrak model.
When looking for a used Ford Ranger, the key dates are 2015, when a facelift gave the model a more truck-like appearance with a deep grille up front, and 2018 when the 2.2-litre (mostly used for base models) and popular 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo diesel models were joined by a high-tech new 2.0-litre biturbo engine with 10-speed automatic transmission.
Ford also found huge favour with buyers by offering Hi-Rider versions of the Ranger: they were 2WD, but had the same high ride height and rugged looks as their 4x4 counterparts.
The core Ranger lineup includes XL, XLT and Wildtrak versions, but there have been many special editions along the way.
The real hero of the range, the Ford Performance Raptor, came along in 2018. If you’re lucky you might even find a used Ranger in this very special configuration.
The Nissan Navara ute has a truly rich heritage and is a deservedly sought-after used model. This Nissan ute dates way back to 1985, although many argue the current generation really started in 1997 with the D22 model. It was followed by the D40 (2004) and D23 (2017), with the latter getting a major facelift in late-2020.
The core engine for Navara from D40 onwards is a four-cylinder turbo diesel which is reknowned for its strong torque delivery. However, if you’re looking for a second hand Navara D40, also keep an eye out for a very rare beast: the STX 550, which had a V6 turbo diesel borrowed from Nissan’s Alliance partner Renault and was sold in NZ from 2012. It’s an early example of the performance/lifestyle utes that are so common now.
But back to the real world! The standard four-cylinder Navara is a great blend of strong performance and good fuel economy: smaller capacity than some rivals does not bring a disadvantage in power and torque, and helps greatly with fuel efficiency.
There can be no doubting the wisdom of a used Nissan Navara purchase when you consider how influential this model has been globally. A number of other utes have even been directly based on the Navara, the most well-known example being the four-cylinder versions of the Mercedes-Benz X-Class.
The Holden brand was retired for good in 2020, so a used Holden Colorado is almost a part of NZ’s motoring history – as well as still being a very tough and capable vehicle. Unlike the long-running Commodore tray-deck models, Colorado is a Holden ute that fits in with the popular one-tonne format.
But the Colorado has a fascinating history all its own, quite apart from any other Holdens. The Holden Rodeo was renamed Colorado in 2008, when General Motors/Holden split from Isuzu. The Rodeo and Isuzu D-Max were sister models for nearly three decades and remained so into the Colorado era, including the new generation that came along in 2021.
A second hand Colorado has a reputation as a no-nonsense workhorse, with great towing ability (up to 3500kg) and strong engines. In the most recent generations (post 2012) most models have a 2.8-litre turbo diesel that is strong on torque, although some entry-level versions also use a 2.5-litre engine.
In the used Colorado market look out for DX, LX, LT and LTZ models in the mainstream range. Holden also created its own “lifestyle” ute with the Z71, a badge borrowed from GM’s American truck line that came with extra exterior decals, upmarket wheels and sportier-looking interior trim.
The body shape stayed essentially the same from 2012 – 2020, although there were improvements to performance just a year after launched, in 2013, and a major facelift for the model in 2017.