The West

Amarok could double as family car
Leaving the tarmac, off-road mode sees the ESC, diff-locks and ABS brakes all recalibrate.

The Volkswagen Amarok doubled its 4x4 light-commercial market share in Australia to 4.8 per cent last year and, while it may not reach the sales heights of the HiLux, it is part of a new brigade of tradie-mobiles to have recently emerged as an alternative to the Toyota model and other mainstays such as the Nissan Navara.

And a quality alternative it is too. Inside sees surroundings with a level of finish not found in many light commercials and, while the Highline test car lacked the plush leather of the top-spec Ultimate, it was still a nice cabin to drive in.

In fact, there's plenty here to allow the Amarok to double as a family car when needed, or at least accommodate more than two tradies comfortably. Rear head and leg room is better than most dual- cabs, and there are even drink holders for rear passengers.

Rear parking assist makes squeezing into car spaces easier, though a vehicle with a 3m-plus wheelbase is never going to have the tightest of turning circles.

The Amarok is the first commercial ute in Australia to have an eight-speed automatic transmission - and it's great.

Despite its 2.0-litre engine being equal smallest in class, the Amarok runs through gears quickly and gets up to speed at a good pace.

Although the test model was a diesel, one could sit on 100km/h without knowing it, such is the minimal cabin noise, while the suspension offers a smooth ride whether on gravel or on coarser surfaces.

The Highline is fitted with the comfort suspension package, which does drop the payload from 1014kg to 960kg, which is less than the Mazda BT-50 (1197kg) and Ford Ranger (1148kg) dual-cabs.

However, it's still above the HiLux SR5 manual (915kg) and Navara ST-X automatic dual-cab pick-ups (915kg and 776kg respectively), and for those unlikely to need to haul the extra kilos the benefits are certainly worth it.

When driving off the tarmac, the mechanical diff-lock, electronic stability control and off-road mode can all be easily switched on or off via a cluster of buttons conveniently located on the centre console. Off-road mode sees the ESC, diff-locks and ABS brakes all recalibrate for rougher conditions, and the transmission defaults to first gear. On the road, the Amarok will often take off in second but will change up through the gears as higher speeds are reached.

At 1550mm deep and 1620mm wide, the tray is big - I managed to fit a large barbecue width-ways in the back, along with an outdoor setting and chairs - meaning packing in any equipment won't be an issue.

Finally, the Amarok's braked towing capacity of 3000kg puts it alongside others in the class.

The Amarok is comfortable, capable and tough. It impressively has car-like comfort levels and interior space beyond many of its competitors, without shirking its commercial-use capabilities.

Model: TDI420 Highline
Price: $53,990
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel
Outputs: 132kW/420Nm
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Thirst: 8.3L/100km
Safety: Five stars

Model: XLT Double Cab
Price: $53,390
Engine: 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo-diesel
Outputs: 147kW/470Nm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Thirst: 9.2L/100km
Safety: Five stars

Model: ST-X
Price: $57,290
Engine: 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel
Outputs: 140kW/450Nm
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Thirst: 8.5L/100km
Safety: Four stars

Model: SR5 Double Cab Pick Up
Price: $53,490
Engine: 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel
Outputs: 126kW/343Nm
Transmission: Four-speed automatic
Thirst: 9.3L/100km
Safety: Four stars

The West Australian

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