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By Dumi Xaba

South Africa, a country known for its challenging road conditions, has seen a rise in the popularity of SUVs and bakkies. However, Australia takes the lead in the market when it comes to bakkies.

Many double cabs have been specifically developed and improved based on feedback from Australian and South African consumers, making them well-loved in both markets. The Ford Ranger and VW Amarok are prime examples of this.

Like Australians, South Africans often have rural connections and spend significant time commuting between cities and remote areas. As a result, manufacturers have shifted away from the traditional agricultural look and ruggedness of bakkies, opting for a combination of car-like and SUV-like features. This combination has appealed to both urban and rural dwellers, leading to the Hilux outselling all other Toyota products combined.

However, the high ground clearance of these vehicles can pose challenges in emergencies. Colliding with a cow at high speeds can turn any motor vehicle into a crumpled mess, making it an extremely dangerous scenario. In fact, it can be as fatal as hitting a tree at high speed. To address this, the Americans have developed a cow avoidance test called the moose test for these Utes. Some manufacturers have excelled in this regard, while others have struggled.

If you frequently travel to remote areas or want to be prepared to avoid serious accidents while driving your bakkie at high speeds, the following test results can be life-saving. It’s important to consider these results when choosing a bundu basher, keeping in mind that our roads can sometimes resemble scenes from the movie Mad Max.

Most of these bundu bashers were tested at speeds around 77 kilometres per hour, which is significantly lower than our average freeway speeds. Some have failed miserably, while others barely passed the test, teetering on three wheels.

The previous generation VW Amarok stands as a testament to the ingenuity of engineering. When put to the test at speeds just below 70 kilometres per hour, it emerged as the most composed bakkie among its peers. It flawlessly maintained traction on all wheels while effortlessly manoeuvring through various obstacles.

Fast forward to the 2023 Moose Car of the Year moose test, where the current generation Ford Ranger XLT showcased its capabilities at speeds averaging between 75 and 80 kilometres per hour.

This feat is particularly impressive, especially when compared to vehicles like the 2010 A class that struggled with a 70 km/h test. The iconic Amaford ‘VW Amarok’, sharing a platform with the Ford Ranger but with unique modifications, continues to impress. Both models have achieved a perfect 5-star gold standard rating on the Australasian New Car Assessment Program, the highest safety standard in the European Union.

These advanced safety features have significantly reduced road fatalities by up to 60 percent. With dual frontal, side chest, and side head airbags, these vehicles offer unparalleled protection in the event of a serious collision. Furthermore, the inclusion of Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD) and Electronic has improved road safety.

Toyota Hilux: Impressive Safety Rating, but Fails Moose Test

The Isuzu D-Max and Mazda BT50 have both achieved a 5-star ANCAP rating, solidifying their position as some of the safest bakkies on our roads. It is worth noting that the Mazda BT50 is often overlooked, despite its impressive safety features. The BT50 underwent testing at speeds just below 70km/h, placing it in second position alongside the D-Max.

In third place, we find a majority of our bakkies, including the Mitsubishi Triton which, while boasting a 5-star ANCAP rating, falls slightly behind the D-Max and BT50. The Triton is renowned for its reliability, earning the nickname “never say die” in the automotive industry. Despite this, it struggles to gain traction in the South African market, with few sightings on the roads.

The Navara, on the other hand, has been well-received in South Africa, although there are lingering doubts about its 2.3L engine compared to competitors like the Toyota 2.8 and Ranger bi-turbo.

The GWM P Series is a standout product that challenges the norm from all angles. Not only does it hold a 5-star ANCAP rating, but it is also a marvel of engineering on our roads. While it may be slightly underpowered with a 2L engine, the P Series offers more space than its rivals.

Despite being underrated in South Africa, government institutions such as Rand Water and the South African Police Service have recognized the value of this workhorse, enlisting hundreds of them in their fleets.

The Toyota Hilux, our beloved king, has a rather disappointing track record in the moose test. Despite its impressive ANCAP safety rating, the Hilux consistently fails this critical examination. Even at relatively low speeds of just over 60 kilometres per hour, numerous previous models have stumbled and failed. In some cases, the Hilux has even exhibited a worrisome tendency to lift both wheels off the road, almost teetering on the edge of disaster.

It’s no wonder that many of these vehicles find themselves abandoned in auto salvage garages. However, it’s important to note that the Hilux does offer safety for its occupants during accidents. On the flip side, the Hilux’s performance in terms of pedestrian safety leaves much to be desired. In the unfortunate event of a high-speed collision with a pedestrian, the consequences would likely be grave.

Mahindra has always maintained its practical and straightforward approach when it comes to its agricultural products. Although it may not have the highest safety rating with an ANCAP score of 3, this bakkie is still a reliable choice on our roads.

To strike a balance, Mahindra has made their current pickup truck less rugged and more aesthetically pleasing, without sacrificing its sturdy and versatile nature. Many farmers have chosen to upgrade from the previous Bolero to the current Pik-Up, despite some concerns about the clutch’s durability.

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