Ford Ranger Wildtrak

It was one of those typical Western Cape rainy, mostly overcast days – cool to the point of almost being cold. But nothing was going to put us off our weekend trip to Strandfontein high up the West Coast, near Vredendal.

Ford Ranger Wildtrak

Before setting off I was worried that our bedding would get soaked but the slightly funny looking cladded rollbar gave just enough protection.

We headed north on the R365 via Porterville to the N7 as we wanted to experience the Clanwilliam Dam sluices in full flow. From there we went on the R364 as far as Graafwater where we headed north on an interesting gravel road. We wondered why the local looked at us a little strangely when we confirmed the route. But not for long. Wild, wet and… well, fun.

Cruising on tar is a cinch. The cruise control even has distance control and a reminder to take a rest comes on every 90 minutes. There really is power to spare, especially when that second turbo kicks in. It makes passing so quick and easy. The Wildtrak simply absorbs all the road imperfections, its like riding on a magic carpet. The bakkie is equipped with most of the tech you may want, from automatic wipers and headlights to the very good Synch 3 infotainment system to top notch safety systems.

Wildtrak at Strandfontein beach.

Hit the gravel, or in this case mud on the road between Graafwater and Doornbaai just before Strandfontein. Turn on 4H, which you can do while driving, and enjoy the trip. This bakkie is steady and its tail does not wag the body like some other bakkies. What a pleasure.

Parking at the mall in Vredendal was easy. I did not even have to use the park assist (City Park Steering), although I found the rear camera useful, once I had cleaned the lens. The town impressed me, providing all the services and retail outlets you may need on a short trip to the area. The coffee shop in the mall serves a good coffee but their serving sizes are a bit… different.

A very civil bakkie this, with heated seats, combination fabric and leather seats, 2x USB outlets, 3x 12v sockets, a 230v inverter outlet, “A”-pillar grab handles, soft touch where you are likely to touch, very good multi-function steering wheel, climate control and more.

The 2.0 Bit 4X4 D/cab Wildtrak At gives you 157 kW and a mighty 500 Nm of torque through a silky smooth 10-speed automatic box. The loadbay is good for 860 Kg. The standard wheel size is 265/60 R18, which is quite a good balance. If you are going to spend a lot of time offroad think about changing to 265/65 R17s.

All the normal safety, passive and active, kit is included.

On the Strandfontein weekend I averaged 9.1L/100km. I think that is pretty representative of general driving, but in town it will be higher.

Of all the double cab bakkies I have driven over the years I think the Wildtrak comes closest to being the real thing, delivering comfort, performance, safety, drivability, space and economy.

Yes, the Raptor is better on a fast gravel track, yes the V6 Amarok is the ultimate highway cruising bakkie, but as an all round package Wildtrak delivers better than all the rest.

The warranty is for 4 years or 120000Km, 5 Year Corrosion, 3 Year Roadside Assistance and a 6 year or 90000Km service plan is included.

Also look at the VW Amarok Dark Label 2.0 BiTDI (R742 600), Mercedes Benz X 250 d Auto (R724 202), Toyota 2.8 GD6 GR-S (R750 300), Isuzu D-max 3.0 Auto (R679 900) and of course the Raptor.

Mitsubishi ASX

Mitsubishi ASX – the inbetweener

Mitsubishi ASX at the Buffelsrivier Dam near Pringle Bay

Mitsubishi do not sell sedan cars in South Africa any more Instead they offer five SUV’s and a bakkie. This is a trend internationally. Ford in the USA for example has also reduced the number of sedans on offer to 3 (Fusion, Mustang and Mach-E) out of the 14 models they sell in the US which include two vans, three bakkies, two station wagons, two SUVs and two crossovers. Some models are available as hybrids or electrical battery cars. They also still offer the GT performance car and are about to release another SUV, the new Bronco. But I digress.

The smallest of Mitsubishi offering in SA is the ASX. A “tween” car, not tiny but not quite “family” size either; perfect for empty nesters who may occasionally have two passengers in the back or for a young family with smaller children. The caveat being that as with all these smallish SUV’s (from all the brands) the boot is smallish too. Think of it as a high rise hatch or a mini station wagon on stilts. Okay for a weekend, but tight for a holiday.

A normally aspirated 2.0L does service in this model. The next size up, the Eclipse Cross gets a 1.5 turbo motor giving it a much more aggressive or sporty feel. I get the impression the ASX is targeted at a more mature, considered market, hence the normally aspirated 2.0 L. A good choice perhaps.

The ASX has a solid equipment list as standard, including: Tilt and telescopic adjustable steering column, multi-function leather steering wheel with audio and cruise control, bluetooth with hands-free voice control, / multi-information display, smartphone-link display audio, with apple carplay/android auto, full automatic air-conditioning, electric windows, chromatic rear view mirror, USB and accessory socket and a very clear rear view camera.

The interior is well thought out, practical and pleasant to spend time in. All the boxes have been ticked.

Safety aspects are well catered for with 8 airbags, side-impact protection bars, ISOFIX child seat anchors, active stability and traction control, hill start assist system, ABS, EBD (electronic brake-force distribution), brake assist system and rear park distance control.

The 2.0 MIVEC DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder engine with ECI-Multi Point Fuel Injection and a 6-speed CVT, with 6-step Sports Mode delivers 110kW and torque of 197Nm at 4200 rpm. This package gives satisfactory performance and I think all the power you really need. Mitsubishi claim 7.9L/100km (Combined Cycle), which is about what I achieved. Handling is good and the car feels well planted. It does the job quietly and efficiently with no fuss The ASX is not an off-road vehicle but will tackle gravel roads with aplomb.

Build quality seems to be very good. No rattles or squeaks, doors close with a pleasant thump, and it feels solid.

The CVT model as tested has a list price of R415 000, while the manual is R400k. The warranty is for 3 years or 100 000km. Road Side Assistance is for 5 years with unlimited mileage. The service plan is for 5 years or 90 000km. Service intervals are every 15 000km.

I think the CVT is the one to go for.

The competition includes the Suzuki Vitara (now with a 1.4 L turbo option), Mazda CX-3 (2.0 L Dynamic a good buy), Nissan Qashqai (a bit bigger), Peugeot 2008 (GT Line is lovely), Opel Mokka, Jeep Renegade, Ford EcoSport (1.0 LT Titanium a great city car), VW T-Cross and Hyundai Venue