The super-ute category has a new challenger. Here’s how the new Nissan Navara N-Trek Warrior stacks up against the pioneering Ford Ranger Raptor and HSV Colorado SportsCat on the road.
Our love of utes is literally reaching new heights, with top-end high-riding models such as the Ford Ranger Raptor and HSV Colorado SportsCat now being joined by the lifted Nissan Navara N-Trek Warrior.
All three vehicles share the same philosophy: transform a double-cab ute into a serious off-roader, while improving its road manners and tough-guy looks.
The Ford Ranger Raptor rolls off the Thailand production line in this guise, making it both an engineering and manufacturing feat to get such specialised suspension and bodywork modifications down a mass-production line.
This road test was done in the weeks leading up to Holden's announcement that it was closing its doors in Australia. That means when existing stocks of this model are exhausted it will be over and out for the HSV SportsCat.
As this article was published, HSV was still negotiating revised pricing for its Colorado-based model. It is unclear whether it will get the same $15,000 to $17,500 discounts as the regular Colorado range (according to a confidential Holden dealer bulletin issued this week), so check back with us before you sign on the dotted line.
We will bring you the revised prices for the HSV Colorado SportsCat as soon as they become available. In the meantime, this test is based on the HSV Colorado SportsCat's RRP.
Conspicuously absent from this test is the Toyota HiLux Rugged X. It is also modified in Australia after being shipped from Thailand partially complete; however, we didn’t include it in this comparison because it hasn’t undergone tyre and suspension modifications.
While we have plenty of respect for the Toyota HiLux Rugged X and appreciate its capabilities, it is not in the same league as this trio in our opinion.
Toyota has focussed on heavy-duty bolt-on parts and enhanced the front clearance angle of the Rugged X, rather than tinker with tyres and suspension. Here’s hoping Toyota explores further changes in future versions of the HiLux Rugged X.
In the meantime, we have these three brute utes. The bandwidth of these vehicles is now so vast, we’ve split this comparison in two: a gnarly off-road course and this on-road test. Here’s how they stack up.
Price and equipment
You can almost throw a blanket over all three of these vehicles when it comes to price.
The Ford Ranger Raptor has an RRP of $76,290 plus on-road costs, but we’ve heard of some dealers limboing to about $72,000 drive-away to clear 2019 stock ahead of 2020 arrivals.
The HSV Colorado SportsCat SV tested is $70,590 plus on-road costs, but comes with a hard lid, which is an extra-cost option on the other utes gathered here. As with the Ford, actual transaction prices for the HSV Colorado SportsCat vary greatly from the RRP, and we’ve seen examples advertised for as low as $69,000 drive-away, even before the Holden shutdown announcement.
Nissan, meanwhile, has nailed the brief by launching with sharp pricing from the get-go – $65,490 drive-away – rather than publishing an RRP and obliging buyers to negotiate. Here’s hoping the idea of sharp drive-away pricing rubs off on other models in the Nissan range.
The Ford Ranger Raptor rolls off the production line with a whole new chassis, Fox shocks, 17-inch alloys with off-road tyres, heavy-duty side steps, bulging front and rear fenders to accommodate the larger footprint, a unique grille, and a new front bumper and bash plate designed for off-roading. A tow bar is also standard. Inside, the Raptor is equipped with sports seats and steering wheel with magnesium paddle shifters.
The HSV Colorado SportsCat gains fender flares, a bonnet bulge, a hard lid, bigger front brakes, 18-inch wheels and off-road tyres, a suspension lift, a completely redesigned fascia, and locally trimmed sports seats and steering wheel.
The Nissan Navara N-Trek Warrior gains fender flares, a hoopless bullbar with an LED light bar, 17-inch alloys with off-road tyres, a suspension lift and a redesigned tow bar.
Technology and infotainment
All three utes here have the basics covered: a touchscreen infotainment display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and embedded navigation in case you need directions when you’re out of phone range. They each also have a digital speed display in the instrument cluster.
However, only the Ford Ranger Raptor and Nissan Navara N-Trek Warrior have sensor keys with push-button start; the HSV Colorado SportsCat still uses an old-school ignition barrel – which is not the end of the earth, just unusual in this price range.
On the safety front, each of these utes has six or seven airbags and based on vehicles that earned five-star safety ratings in 2015 and 2016. However, technically they are regarded as 'unrated' by the ANCAP crash test authority as they have not been assessed with the off-road engineering changes.
The HSV and Nissan would not get five stars if rated against today’s more stringent criteria because it requires advanced safety to be standard and, for now, neither vehicle is available with the extra tech. (The entire Toyota HiLux range was equipped with autonomous emergency braking and radar cruise control from last year so it could maintain its five-star status for mine sites and government contracts for years to come).
The Ford Ranger Raptor is the only car among this trio with autonomous emergency braking (though not radar cruise control available on the Ranger Wildtrak and Ranger XLT models), and a 000 emergency dialling function (provided your phone is paired to the car).
The HSV Colorado SportsCat has forward-collision alert (a flashing light warns the driver if you’re too close to the car in front), but it won’t apply the brakes.
All three vehicles get a rear camera and rear parking sensors. The Ford's camera has the clearest and best resolution image day or night, the Holden camera is the worst of the three, while the Navara is the only one with a 360-degree 'surround' view. All three rear camera images start to look a bit marginal once the lens on the tailgate is covered in grime or water spray.
All three of these utes are based on the top-of-the-line models, so they’re pretty fancy inside.
The Ford Ranger Raptor gets proper sports seats with good side bolsters (although the lower seat cushion bolsters are softer, so it’s easier to clamber in and out of the car), and Ford Performance blue stitching on the dash, seats and steering wheel. The red stripe on top dead centre of the steering wheel is a nod to rallying to help the driver point straight after getting crossed-up.
The Raptor is also the only ute here with paddle shifters, and they’re made from magnesium so they have a quality feel unlike the plastic paddle shifters on some cars.
The HSV Colorado SportsCat now finally gets sports seats and a thicker sports steering wheel (both items retrimmed by HSV in Melbourne), suede inserts in the dash and reupholstered back seats to match the pattern in the front.
The Nissan Navara N-Trek Warrior has the same interior as the standard Navara N-Trek, with partial leather seats and plenty of gloss-black highlights in the cabin.
The Nissan has the best interior presentation, the Ford cabin is starting to look a bit dated (despite the Ford Performance upgrades), while the Holden cockpit is let down in this company by cheap-looking plastics, switches and dials.
Further, only the Ford and Nissan have dual-zone air-conditioning; the HSV has single-zone. And only the Nissan has rear air vents. However, in terms of back seat space, the Ford and HSV are a touch roomier than the Nissan.
One final bugbear: all three of these utes only have height adjustment on their steering wheel columns, so some people may struggle to find the perfect seating position. If you want a double-cab ute with height and reach adjustment in the steering, your options are the Toyota HiLux, Mitsubishi Triton and Volkswagen Amarok.
All three of these vehicles have one thing in common when it comes to their diesel engines: despite the tough truck looks, they have no more power than the vehicles on which they are based.
That’s because the cost of recalibrating the engines while meeting the latest emissions standards is literally millions of dollars and requires thousands of hours of testing that takes the better part of 18 months to two years to complete. And that’s just to find a few kilowatts here or there, rather than any meaningful power bumps.
So, to contain costs, these flagship models get the same engines as what’s available in the rest of the range.
The Ford Ranger Raptor comes with a twin-turbo 2.0-litre four-cylinder (157kW/500Nm) matched to a 10-speed auto (also offered in the Ranger XLT and WildTrak). A manual transmission is not available.
The HSV Colorado SportsCat is the next most powerful combination here with a single-turbo 2.8-litre four-cylinder (147kW/500Nm) matched to a six-speed auto or optional six-speed manual.
The Nissan Navara N-Trek Warrior is powered by a twin-turbo 2.3-litre four-cylinder (140kW/450Nm) matched to a seven-speed auto or six-speed manual.
Despite the appearance of high performance, all three of these utes are in fact a touch slower than the standard models on which they are based because they have piled on the kilos with all the add-ons, plus the larger rolling radius of the tyres doesn’t help either.
They’re not supposed to be race cars, but we put a V-Box on them (a satellite-based timing device) just to see how they shape up. To be frank, from behind the wheel they all feel pretty similar performance-wise, so the precision timing equipment helped split hairs and will hopefully bring an end to any pub arguments once and for all.
On the same stretch of pavement on the same day, the Ford Ranger Raptor led the 0–100km/h test averaging times of 10.2 seconds. The HSV Colorado SportsCat was not far behind it (averaging 10.6 seconds), ahead of the Nissan Navara N-Trek Warrior (averaging 11 seconds neat).
The exercise proved that the smallest engine out of this trio can do incredible things when paired to a 10-speed auto.
The Ford Ranger Raptor was the quickest despite being the heaviest (2342kg), and the Nissan Navara N-Trek Warrior was the slowest despite being the lightest (2186kg). The HSV Colorado SportsCat split the difference (2250kg).
On the road
If you don’t plan on exploring the off-road potential of these utes, the great news is they’re decent to drive on-road – for a hulking, go-anywhere double-cab ute, that is.
All three have better road manners compared to the utes on which they are based. In essence, they’ve gone to finishing school.
Despite the aggressive off-road tyres, they don’t hum as much as mud tyres. That said, if you’re upgrading from a car or SUV, you will need to get used to the sound and feel of these tyres, and they aren’t as smooth as the tyres on the more luxury-oriented utes that sit just below these models.
The HSV Colorado SportsCat's tyres (Cooper Zeon LTZ Pro Sports All-Terrain, 285/60/18) were the loudest of the trio but still liveable. It’s also worth pointing out the HSV's tyres are wider than the others here, so there’s more rubber on the road to provide grip.
HSV has completely retuned the shocks and springs to suit these tyres (and improve ground clearance to 251mm), and it's a big step up over the standard Colorado. It’s a touch on the firm side, but not busy, unsettling or uncomfortable. The changes also mean there is a lot less lean in corners, and it feels extremely planted and stable.
The Nissan Navara N-Trek Warrior – which also runs Cooper tyres, but a different type and size (Cooper Discoverer AT3 All-Terrain, 275/70/17) – are slightly quieter on smooth tarmac than the HSV's rubber. But they are also narrower.
With the help of Melbourne engineering firm Premcar, which previously did the development work for the modern-day Ford Falcon GT sedans, the Nissan Navara N-Trek Warrior has retuned suspension to suit the structure of these tyres. As with the HSV, the Nissan’s tyre profile and suspension changes have delivered more ground clearance (to 268mm).
The Ford Ranger Raptor has had more than a suspension tune – it has a completely redesigned rear end to adopt coil suspension. In fact, it’s a unique chassis compared to the rest of the Ranger line-up, and it has a much larger footprint.
The pumped fenders front and rear make way for a 150mm wider track, which proved to be a benefit off-road, but can be cumbersome in a shopping centre car park. Which brings us to turning circles. These things are huge.
Nissan claims the N-Trek Warrior has the same turning circle as the standard Navara (12.7m), even though the track is slightly wider due to the different offset of the wheels. The Ford Ranger Raptor's turning circle has crept up to a claimed 12.9m (though it feels broader than this in practice).
The HSV Colorado SportsCat's turning circle is huge: 13.6m. That’s because HSV had to limit how far the steering could turn so the wider front tyres wouldn’t foul the inner guards. If HSV were to fit slightly narrower tyres that still deliver good road manners and off-road performance, they might go some way to helping the situation.
But back to the Ford Ranger Raptor. Quite simply, on the road it’s sublime. Little wonder given the Fox shocks are some of the most expensive components on the car. It has the best ride comfort of any ute in this class. The only thing that tops it in this price range is the RAM 1500 pick-up with its car-like suspension and tyres.
The Raptor's BFGoodrich K02 All-Terrain tyres (285/70/17) are superb on dry sealed roads, and can handle seemingly almost any punishment on dirt roads and gnarly off-road obstacles. The turn-in is surprisingly responsive, and you can feel exactly what the car is doing as the weight shifts front to rear, or subtly from side to side.
It’s remarkable this type of suspension has made its way onto a road car, especially given that few customers will ever take advantage of its ability to clear a large jump and make a soft landing.
There is, however, one large and very important caveat: the Ford Ranger Raptor's tyres are dicey in the wet. To be clear, all-terrain tyres in general are slippery on wet pavement. Their nobbly tread patterns and large grooves are designed to clamber over rocks, not grip wet roads.
But even by all-terrain tyre standards, the Ford Ranger Raptor's rubber is left seriously wanting in this department. To make sure it wasn’t a figment of our imagination, we brake-tested all three utes from 100km/h on the exact same stretch of wet road. The Nissan and HSV pulled up in about 49–50m, while the Ford Ranger Raptor skidded past them and didn’t come to a stop for 56m.
This is despite the fact that the Ford Ranger Raptor has four-wheel disc brakes, and the front calipers have a large swept area (almost as large as some six-piston calipers).
The HSV Colorado SportsCat SV comes standard with four-piston AP Racing brakes (and standard drum rears) and a bigger brake booster, but the brake pedal lacks the precise feeling of the Ford Ranger Raptor’s brake pedal.
The Nissan Navara N-Trek Warrior has the smallest front discs among this trio (it also keeps the standard rear drums). While they did the job on our road test, we do wonder about their durability and longevity when hauling heavy loads. Room for improvement here, we reckon.
None of the automatic transmissions on these vehicles is perfect. The Ford Ranger Raptor’s 10-speed auto needs further calibration to smooth out the shifts and indecisiveness. The HSV Colorado SportsCat’s six-speed auto has a subtle driveline vibration when accelerating, and the Nissan Navara N-Trek Warrior's seven-speed auto takes a while to kick down through the gears, especially on winding uphill roads.
The official fuel consumption average claims vary across all three vehicles (Ford Ranger Raptor 8.2L/100km, HSV Colorado SportsCat 8.7L/100km, Nissan Navara N-Trek Warrior 7.0L/100km), but real-world use will likely be vastly different depending on the type of driving: city or highway, loaded or unloaded.
We didn’t run fuel economy numbers in the end, because some cars spent more time idling or did more drive-bys than others during our photography. However, previous experience with these vehicles shows the Nissan and Ford are pretty efficient at freeway speeds, but start to get thirsty around town (particularly the 2.4-tonne Raptor).
The rating label figures would have you believe the HSV is thirstier than the Ford, but we’ve seen it get close to the efficiency of the other pair on freeway drives. That said, your type of driving and how much weight you’re carrying will vastly affect real-world figures. As a guide, when we’re not chasing fuel economy targets, we see between 10 and 12L/100km for these types of vehicles from a mix of city and highway driving.
Towing and payload
The HSV Colorado SportsCat leads the way if you need to tow and/or carry a decent load. It has the highest gross combination mass (6300kg) among this trio, the highest payloads (893kg manual, 900kg auto), and maintains the standard Colorado’s 3500kg towing capacity.
The Nissan Navara N-Trek Warrior, with a gross combination mass of 5910kg, has taken a bit of a hit on payload (730kg manual, 724kg auto), but also maintains its 3500kg towing capacity.
The Ford Ranger Raptor has the lowest gross combination mass (5350kg) and weakest towing capacity (2500kg) among this group. The engine and gearbox can handle the weight (this powertrain has a 3500kg towing capacity in the Ranger XLT and Wildtrak), but the desert racer-style suspension has been designed for soft landings rather than hauling heavy loads.
We reckon there’s room for two types of Raptor: this one with Fox shocks should be called the Raptor RS, and perhaps Ford could offer a version with heavier-duty springs and shocks to tow 3500kg and call it Raptor HD. That way, the guys who want a Raptor but need to tow can get a real one rather than a WildTrak with look-alike parts.
For more about the off-road capabilities of these vehicles – with details on departure angles and tyre diameters – click here for our four-wheel-drive test.
All three utes come with five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranties, but the cost of routine maintenance varies greatly, despite capped-price servicing programs.
To compare costs fairly, we’ve calculated servicing prices over five years (which is the length of the vehicle warranties and also happens to be the average period of ownership). The annual average distance travelled according to Census data is 15,000km.
The Ford Ranger Raptor is the cheapest to maintain over five years ($1676) according to the service schedule. Service intervals are 12 months or 15,000km (whichever comes first) and the breakdown for each visit is: $299, $299, $414, $299, $365.
The Nissan Navara N-Trek Warrior is the dearest among this trio for routine maintenance ($3035), and almost twice as much as the Ford. Service intervals are 12 months or 20,000km (whichever comes first) and the breakdown for each visit is: $526, $595, $727, $617, $570 including two brake fluid changes.
Although it’s not listed on HSV’s website, there is no reason the SportsCat should not be eligible for the Colorado's capped-price servicing. Its five-year cost for routine maintenance adds up to a hefty $2734.
That’s because even though the Colorado has 12-month intervals, Holden recommends maintenance every 12,000km. So to compare these utes on a level playing field – 75,000km over five years – we had to add an extra service, so there are six dealer visits versus five for the others over the same time and distance. The individual cost breakdown looks like this: $299, $499, $399, $499, $439, $599.
In addition to their tough-truck looks, all three of these utes are a dramatic improvement over the vehicles on which they are based in terms of driving comfort and added features.
If you have your heart set on a particular model, we wouldn’t discourage anyone from buying one of these. That said, we are here to rank them and we know not everyone will agree, but here goes.
The HSV Colorado SportsCat is a big step up compared to the standard vehicle and, unlike the Ford Ranger Raptor, it maintains a 3500kg towing capacity.
However, its comparatively high price, driveline harshness, broad turning circle, and lack of advanced safety technology (now standard on the top three-selling utes in Australia) weighed against it, placing it third in the road test component of this comparison.
The Nissan Navara N-Trek Warrior continues to impress and surprise us the more we drive it. Nissan has done as much as it can with its available resources and within the confines of cost – and without sacrificing the 3500kg towing capacity.
Compared to the HSV, the Nissan is more refined and more comfortable in the city or on the highway, is slightly more fuel-efficient, and has a more upmarket interior. And the Nissan's price is bang on, undercutting the other two vehicles by some margin.
However, the Nissan’s high servicing costs and a lack of advanced safety features weighed against it, and we believe the Navara would benefit from larger brakes, especially for buyers who plan on hauling heavy loads.
That leaves the Ford Ranger Raptor as the winner of this contest, making it the champion on- and off-road among this trio in our opinion. It’s not perfect (those tyres are a handful in the wet – even by ute standards – and towing capacity is limited to 2500kg), but the Raptor excels everywhere else.
It’s the best to drive by a significant margin, has the longest standard equipment list, the strongest performance, the sharpest servicing costs, and more standard safety tech than the other pair.
Plus, and this is a hard one to measure, it looks the business. If transaction prices continue to limbo to more realistic levels, it could be a bargain to boot.