Utes used to be a popular choice of vehicle for farmers and tradespeople due to their payload, size and reliability. However, these features alone no longer cut the mustard with today’s consumers now demanding a multi-functional vehicle.

As is the case with most vehicles, utes these days are arriving fully equipped with the same level of features as passenger cars and the latest safety technologies, making them a far more versatile vehicle and a popular choice among families and drivers with towing requirements. Utes in today’s market are much more than a humble work horse.

Driving experience

Many utes still use a traditional ladder chassis, however manufacturers have improved sound proofing and suspension systems, which can adapt to changing loads. That means no more bouncing around in your seat like a beach ball when driving your ute without any load.

Some models incorporate electronic power steering (EPS), making parking manoeuvers easier and offering firmer steering when on the open road. Adaptive cruise control is also widely available, which is perfect for when you’re stuck in traffic on your way home from a family getaway.

Lean burning turbo diesel units are popular among models and, considering the size and weight of these vehicles, they offer a surprising amount of power and impressive fuel economy figures. Some manufacturers also offer refined, quiet V6 diesel engines.

While some may find driving these larger vehicles a little daunting, technology like parking sensors and cameras help make the drivers life a little easier. Driving a ute now feels just like driving a car thanks to the availability of automatic transmissions and better ride quality in most model ranges.

Safety features

Utes feature plenty of the latest safety technologies that passenger cars also possess. In order to compete against the increasingly popular SUV market, utes had to adapt and be able to create a comfortable and safe space for occupants. This has resulted in better occupant protection through side and knee airbags and collision avoidance systems, which allow them to achieve competitive safety ratings. By boasting the same safety features as SUVs, utes have been able to broaden their target market

Interior quality

It’s not just the on-boarding of safety features that are helping utes to maintain their strong position in the new car market. All the visual trimmings from SUVs are creeping into these vehicles. Utes now commonly have electric seats, leather upholstery, stitched dashboards, cooling compartments and other options. The interior attention to detail, increased passenger space in double cab models, elaborate infotainment systems and USB charging plugs can be very appealing to drivers with families. 

In 2016, a year that saw a 9.5 per cent increase in new vehicle registrations, the popular Ford Ranger maintained its position as  New Zealand’s top selling vehicle for the second year running having bumped the Toyota Corolla down in to second place in 2015. Not only that but utes made up half of the vehicles in the top ten.

In other words, the dominance of utes in the market shows no sign of waning. In fact, if you’ve previously considered a ute to be an addition or alternative to the household’s passenger vehicle, it may be time to think again and revisit the market.

There may well be better equipped and more practical models out there compared to the last time you looked and you could potentially end up saving money that’s normally spent maintaining and running two vehicles.

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