By Dumi Xaba

Over the years, weather-beaten motoring experts have been perplexed and lost valuable sleep in the process, trying to fathom why bakkies have gained such popularity.

Not so long ago, give or take two decades, the most popular bakkies were single Cab work horses. The main task of a bakkie was to haul cargo or tow trailers by tradesmen and their paraphernalia to worksites.

Even though these tasks remain, each manufacturer is in pursuit of five-star safety ratings, additional standard features and improved general appearance and performance. With every new model, each bakkie maker goes all out to smooth out the jagged edges.

Bakkie manufacturers have, in recent years, prioritised safety features and crammed their bakkies with systems to improve the safety of occupants.
The Australian New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) gave the Hilux and Ranger a 5-star safety rating.

This rating was achieved by the two bakkies because they are equipped with:

• Driver, passenger, curtain, and side airbags
• Electronic stability programme
• Park distance control
• Reverse camera
• Traction control
• Hill launch assist
• Trailer sway control
• Rollover mitigation
Besides boasting these safety features, there is a great deal of improvement on automatic transmissions plus a bigger number of ratios that bolster driveability. Some of these bakkies can haul up to three and a half tons of payload.
In spite of even more ‘luxury’ dual-cab bakkies appearing on our roads, the Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger are indubitably two of the top contenders in the bakkie segment.

They are both above average sellers for their particular companies. According to sales figures from WesBank, for the month of July, the Toyota Hilux dominated the bakkie segment with 2 836 units sold, followed by the Ford Ranger at 1620 units. Clearly the Hilux and Ranger have sizeable number of very of loyal owners.

Just a speck of history of the two bakkies: The first Ford bakkie was a model TT built in 1917 and the first Ranger was built in 1983. The Toyota motor corporation built their first Hilux in 1968 with a 1.6liter engine.

It has been a long way since then and the technology has improved significantly.

I spoke to a couple of drivers/owners of these bakkies and only a minute number cared or desired a capable and mean machine than can tackle rough and tough terrain.

The gizmos that give these bakkies the power to take on a mini Kilimanjaro, were of no importance to most.
All they cared about is a luxury bakkie, one that offers comfortable driving and is capable of negotiating kasi pavements and our ever-famous potholes.

One can’t blame them though, these bakkies drive like luxury sedans compared to their predecessors.

I have had bewildering pleasure of driving the Ford Ranger Wildtrak and the Toyota Hilux 4-litre V6 petrol. I have yet to wrap my hands around the steering wheel of the 2.8-litre 8th generation. What I have gathered from those who drive it, is that it is also a mean machine.

My take on the Hilux is that it is a rugged monster of a machine. I am looking forward to getting a personal feel of the 8th generation diesel.
The Hilux base model double cab, which retails at R454 000, is powered by a 2.7 VVTI motor that produces 122kw. Toyota’s attraction, Legend 50 RS GD is powered by a new 2.8 general diesel motor that produces 150kw and comes kitted in all gizmos like reverse camera, Android and Apple connect, park distance control (PDC) front and rear.

Ford Ranger
The Wildtrak has been a roaring success for Ford.
I found it to be a somewhat soft drive, with an SUV feel.
The fellas from Detroit give you a 2.2-litre base model at R406 700. However, if you have a good stash of cash that you can spend without breaking a sweat, you can treat yourself to a minibus taxi-scaring monster Raptor at just over R910. 000
The Raptor beckons you the moment you swing open the driver’s door…it tells you that ‘I’m a beast that is ready to race’.
All I can say is that this big, bad model also has the most jaw-dropping specs such as PDC, reverse camera and a cooler box and a generously sized infotainment touch screen whose ease of operation is unlikely to confuse even my born-before-technology grandmother.
The inevitable rupture has thrown me into the beastly but bewitching arms of the Raptor. It is high on my preference list.
If you are scared of the rapturous beast, it acceptable that you go with the devil we all know, the tried and tested Hilux. There is no denying that it is highly reliable and is adored by farmers as well as office clerks.
Whichever model you settle for to tame the rough terrain or punish potholes, both have a good resale value as used vehicles and they are selling like hot cakes in second hand dealerships.

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