For a long time, workhorse utes were known for cheap and rough interiors, but that’s changed in the last decade.
Buyers expect current cabins to look and feel more carlike, even if the plastics are hard and fabrics are made for maximum durability.
Entry-level versions of all these utes come with few frills, though most now have six airbags and electronic stability control standard, with washout rubber floormats, too. Our test utes were all relatively high-end four-doors, so the equipment levels and interior quality are higher than the average pickup.
The Toyota Hilux got a mild upgrade last year, but its cabin is the most dated of the group. It does have a big high-resolution center screen, which is excellent, but the rest of the interior falls well short.
Instead of accessing relevant vehicle data on the big (main) screen, you have to use a green retro LCD display above that, controlling it by pressing an odometer-style button. The rest of the interior is plain, but all the controls are easy to use. (This is a Toyota.) We like that there is considerable interior space and good headroom.
The Volkswagen Amarok’s interior is also very practical, yet more than a little dull. The center screen is straight out of the passenger-car range, along with the instrument cluster, which includes a handy central digital display showing all kinds of engine data.
The cupholders are strange optional rings that bolt onto the holes in the dashboard (you don’t have to fit them), and there are a few blank button spaces that made us feel like we should have spent more money to get all the features available.
The Amarok's interior space makes up for the ute's lack of visual flash. Its extra width means the cabin feels large, with more than enough space for three blokes to sit across the rear seat. The ceiling also appears to be nice and high.
The designers had a great opportunity to make the Holden Colorado's interior cool and unique, but we’re not sure it worked in either case. The dashboard is dominated by a big circular control cluster for the air-conditioning controls, which are surrounded by plain surfaces.
In general, it looks and feels like a lower trim package and certainly not at the standard you expect at the upper end of the market. The speedo does have an interesting font, but we did have some trouble getting an accurate idea of exactly how fast we were going.
We are thankful that those same designers did a good job of making the cabin feel spacious even though it may not be as wide as the VW. There is as much, if not more, headroom.
The Ford Ranger’s interior is a class above all the others. It has a modern, chunky design (modeled on the Casio G-Shock watches), as well as a clean and crisp color digital screen in the center of the dash. The instruments are easy to read, and the lighting gives the car a prestige look at night.
It’s clear Ford invested in quality materials, paying close attention to textures and surfaces that look like they could be from a luxury passenger car. But it’s not perfect.
We found some of the controls a little confusing and not logical, like those for the stereo. (I still have no idea what some of the buttons do.) Although the cabin feels reasonably wide (at least when compared with everything except the Amarok), the ceiling seems tight, and rear passengers reported feeling a little cramped after going for a ride in the Colorado.
2012 Global Pickup Shootout