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Sitting forlornly in our shed is an old HiLux, with hose-out trim, a column-shift and a radio that's not familiar with Frequency Modulation - a proper workhorse. While this is hardly the segment for cutting-edge technology, it's no longer a complete backwater either. Big, square, robust and rugged - it'll never be mistaken for a Renault concept car or a Mazda Le Mans racer - but it is certainly fit for purpose. The safety side of the features list was upgraded late last year, so the SR5 now has dual front, front-side and full-length curtain airbags, stability and traction control, anti-lock brakes (upgraded last year to include brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution, but still using rear drums).
The SR5's talents were put to the test on a number of fronts during our time in the car. Sitting forlornly in our shed is an old HiLux, with hose-out trim, a column-shift and a radio that's not familiar with Frequency Modulation - a proper workhorse. Fast-forward to 2011 and Toyota are selling them by the boatload - more than 700,000 so far and it is still a regular podium finisher each month in the vehicle sales figures, not just for LCVs either - and it's not hard to see why. The list price of $53,690 didn't change despite some extra safety gear bing added last year, but for that pricetag you're shelling out for something a little more comfortable than a hose-out hack.
It sits on 17in alloys and has the obligatory alloy sports bar and side steps, as well as cloth trim, carpeted floors, power windows, remote central locking, cruise control, air conditioning, a tilt-only steering wheel (it's showing its age there), a trip computer, Bluetooth link for the phone and music, a USB port within the four-speaker sound system, front sports seats, tinted rear windows.
While this is hardly the segment for cutting-edge technology, it's no longer a complete backwater either.
The front end has a double-wishbone suspension set-up but the rear remains leaf-sprung, which works when loaded but is a little jittery (something that afflicts most models in this class) when empty. Big, square, robust and rugged - it'll never be mistaken for a Renault concept car or a Mazda Le Mans racer - but it is certainly fit for purpose. The front seatbelts get pre-tensioners and all outboard seating positions get lap-sash belts - the back seat middle passenger makes do with a lap-only belt.
The single-cab's 1805mm tray would be more useful that the 1520mm cargo bay on the dual cab, but drop the tailgate down for longer loads and the only way you'll miss out is if a speed camera can't see your number plates. Even with all-terrain "jack-of-all-trades" tyres, the dual-cab easily dealt with loose-surfaced dirt and greasy, muddy back-tracks with little concern for getting stuck. Even on the tarmac, the HiLux is not as ponderous as you'd expect - in fact a mercy dash for hard-to-find water pipe supplies for an urgent repair showed it can cover ground at a decent rate. The yardstick is starting to show its age a little but remains the one to beat in what is fast becoming a popular segment.
Renault Master LCV is the next vehicle in the French marque's range to get a big push in the sales race. Having re-established Renault in the passenger car market in Australia, particularly in the high-performance field, the French marque is about to begin an onslaught on the light commercial vehicle field.
Renault has been number one in the LCV class in Europe for the past 15 years, which certainly justifies its big ambitions down under. The Master is offered in both front and rear-drive variants – all RWD have dual rear wheels – with single-cab versions available  in two chassis lengths.
While it shares its wheelbase with the LWB front-drive models that have been imported to Australia in the past - at 4332mm - the rear overhang has been extended to 1674 mm, up from 1024mm. Renault Premium Pack gives the convenience of integrated sat-nav, under-seat storage compartment, additional large door bins and a lidded A4-sized dash-top compartment.
Renault is putting a big emphasis on the overall cost of Master ownership, saying that merely looking at purchase price can be false economy. Cleverly, the Master keeps track of its own engine and lubrication conditions, so instead of servicing being done according to a calendar, the computer advises when the work is needed. Renault Masters are powered by a 2.3-litre turbo-diesel direct-injection four-cylinder engine, producing 110 kW of power and 350 Nm of torque, the latter between 1500 rpm and 2750 rpm.
The engine drives through a six-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed automated manual built by ZF.
Standard features include dual front airbags, ABS with EBD, ESC Electronic Stability Control with ASR traction control.
A Safety and Security Pack comprises auto headlights and rain sensing wipers, dual side airbags (where the drivers' suspension seat is a delete option), foglights and anti-theft alarm, but you need to buy the Renault Premium Pack to get a reversing camera. The cab is large and spacious, with a driver's suspension seat, made by Isringhausen, as an interesting feature, putting it in line with its big truck brothers.


The four seats in the rear of the dual-cab models have enough width for adults on the slender side, as is often the way in commercial vehicle design, the seatbacks are rather upright, so not particularly comfortable. There's good engine torque, but the engine is working harder in the RWD Master than in the FWD as overall gearing is 20 per cent lower.
As is usually the way, the automated manual gearbox can be irritatingly slow and jerky in its operation, particularly in lower gears.
All Renault Master RWD vehicles have a 4500 kg GVM (Gross Vehicle Mass) so can be driven by holders of passenger car licences. SMITHY SAYSMight lack the bling of some others, but no-fuss workhorse gets the job done.OWNERS SAYRoy Hancock has owned his D-Max LS-U for four years and reports he has had no trouble at all. It looks good and the country-road ride and compliance is great, there is enough space in the boot and it's fine for a modern family with one or two youngsters. Fast-forward to 2011 and Toyota are selling them by the boatload - more than 700,000 so far and it is still a regular podium finisher each month in the vehicle sales figures, not just for LCVs either - and it's not hard to see why. It sits on 17in alloys and has the obligatory alloy sports bar and side steps, as well as cloth trim, carpeted floors, power windows, remote central locking, cruise control, air conditioning, a tilt-only steering wheel (it's showing its age there), a trip computer, Bluetooth link for the phone and music, a USB port within the four-speaker sound system, front sports seats, tinted rear windows. The short-trayed dual-cab is fast-becoming the weapon of choice for those in the trades with toys and tykes to be transported on the weekends. Even on the tarmac, the HiLux is not as ponderous as you'd expect - in fact a mercy dash for hard-to-find water pipe supplies for an urgent repair showed it can cover ground at a decent rate.
We're in the HiLux SR5 dual-cab turbodiesel and bidding it farewell as the market leader prepares for an updated range arriving before year-end. The test car was equipped with the standard five-speed manual but there's also a four-speed auto on offer.
Its rear tray isn't overly long (dual cab trays generally aren't) but it was enough for a large load of pine fence posts, with tie-down rings to help keep them all in place.
The ute has 210mm ground clearance (which makes the sidesteps compulsory for those smaller of stature to get in and out). The HiLux is under siege from Nissan, Mitsubishi, Ford, Holden, Mazda and even Volkswagen, among others, but it remains the one to beat. Renault Master has been a quiet background performer locally for some time, but the company now has plans to reach mainstream buyers. Until now Renault Master has only been sold in Australia in front-wheel-drive format, now rear-drive Masters are also being imported.
They can be ordered as a cab-chassis to which a custom designed body, or one penned by Renault can be attached.  These can have a single or dual cab, the latter is capable of carrying seven people including the driver. The Renault Master high-roof rear-wheel-drive model has 17 cubic meters of load capacity and can carry a payload of 2134 kg, which is 500 kg more than the largest front-wheel Master van. As such a scheme called Pro+ has been set up at selected dealers and will deal with all aspects of the purchase, including insurance and finance. Capped price servicing is pretty reasonable in its cost and lasts for three years, but only 90,000 km. Whereas the front-drive models have the engine mounted east-west, the powerplant has been turned through 90 degrees to give it a conventional layout for the truck class. The two-place bench seat beside the drivers unit can carry two blokes without too much of a squeeze. Ride comfort in the cab-chassis with a tray, but no load on board is truck-like in its bounciness, but much better with a tonne in the back. It does improve noticeably in high gears and you can operate it as a manual without a clutch pedal if you so choose. The re-named Nissan Qashqai is the class favourite, ahead of the Hyundai ix35, but the newcomers are splitting the decisions and it's only a question of time - for me - before the CX-3 takes class leadership. The cargo bay shares the same 1765 mm width of all Master vans, but offers an internal height of 2048mm, up from 1894mm. It varies from model to model so contact your Renault Pro+ LCV dealer for information on the one that suits you. Backing up the turbo-diesel was a choice of five-speed manual or 4-speed auto, and there was a choice of rear-wheel drive and dual-range four-wheel drive.On the road it was comfortable and competent in all environments, whether weekday townie or weekend bush master. Now having done 80,000 km he says it's still in perfect condition.Sonny Joseph was largely influenced by his father-in- law's trouble-free experience with a 2005 Rodeo when he bought his 2008 D-Max LS-M.


But what about the Captur?It's closely tied to the baby Clio, both mechanically and visually, and it shares lots of parts right down to the well-shaped handles used to close the rear hatch.It's a car I drove and liked - a lot - at a European preview, and I'm still a fan of the shape and the comfort of the seats and the headlamps and the way it drives.
All but the base model have VW's 4Motion all-wheel-drive, with the 118TSI being the sole front-wheel driver and the only one with a manual gearbox.
We're in the HiLux SR5 dual-cab turbodiesel and bidding it farewell as the market leader prepares for an updated range arriving before year-end.
The test car was equipped with the standard five-speed manual but there's also a four-speed auto on offer.
With its dual-range four-wheel drive system it was capable of tackling the most challenging offroad tracks, its gutsy turbo-diesel happy to slug it out on steep climbs and rough tracks.NOWMost D-Max owners love their utes, few complain about them, and those who do usually complain about fairly minor things, like the power windows needing attention. After a minor issue with the front hub lubrication, which Isuzu fixed, he hasn't had any trouble and feels his decision to buy the D-Max was the right one.
It's not huge inside, but one of the trendy new double-decker boots with a lift-out false floor means reasonable load space and the back seats are set a little higher than the fronts to improve the view.Equipment is what I expect for the size and price, including that essential rear-view camera, and the infotainment screen is well sized and easy to use. One issue that does come to light occasionally is a high-pitched whistling noise, which is caused by the grease used on the oil seals on the front hubs by the factory drying out.
It's a very capable and underrated machine is Sonny' summation of the D-Max.The paint on Nicholas Alexandrou's 2011 D-Max cab-chassis is fading and Isuzu has said it is due to environmental factors rather than a production fault, and is not covered by the warranty. A space-saver spare would normally earn a cross, but weight and space are a premium in all the small SUVs.The starter motor only has 66 kiloWatts and, even in a car weighing only 1135 kilograms, it's not enoughIf that was the end of the story it could be 'happily ever after', but it's not.
Nicholas says his car is has only done 30,000 km and is garaged all the time, and he isn't happy with Isuzu's response.Chris Ward was encouraged to buy his 2011 LS D-Max on the strength of a report that the Australian Army had just placed an order for 500 of the same model.
The base price for the Captur is $22,990 and that means a wheezy three-cylinder petrol engine and a five-speed manual gearbox. Australia is an automatic landscape, which means you have to pay at least $25,990, although the up-sell brings the benefit of an 88 kW four-cylinder engine.The starter motor only has 66 kiloWatts and, even in a car weighing only 1135 kilograms, it's not enough. This is a common problem with the paint used on most of today's cars, and regular cleaning, waxing and polishing is the way to combat it.Regular servicing is also the way to ensure long life from your engine. Changing oil and filters regularly will help extend the life of the Isuzu diesel.Some owners report problems with the DPF filter not automatically regenerating. It's carried all kinds of loads over all kinds of roads, it's brilliant off road in the mud, and its low range torque is brilliant in the bush, over rocky country and around farm paddocks.
Both have class-leading road manners, the diesel's prodigious torque makes it shine, the 155's looks, luxuries and switchable ride (best to leave it in 'normal') give it a lot of appeal.
It's usually because the vehicle is not being driven in a way that allows the filter to go through its regular automatic regeneration routine. In his view it is well designed, well made, and well finished.Eric Brockhoven describes himself as satisfied D-Max owner. Still, the shift is light and the fuel economy and range is good.It's impossible to write about the Captur without talking about safety, since it would have been only a four-star ANCAP car in 2014 because - like the Clio - there are no rear curtain airbags. Handling is neutral, comfort and visibility first class and the Tiguans all have the whole gamut of electronics to enhance safety. Rule changes mean it's a controversial five-star performer in 2015, based on test results and not just a tick for the back bags.I have seen the actual NCAP side-impact crash car in Paris, complete with a baby capsule and booster in the back seat, and I'm convinced the child protection is fine without the airbags thanks to good design and high-strength steel in the body.
The alternative is to have the dealer do the regeneration, but that can be a costly exercise.
What convinced him to buy it was the twin-cam, 4-valve, low compression engine, which had a camshaft chain. And Renault has lots of numbers to show the risk in a side impact for a rear-seated child is tiny. Bottom line? Eric's summation of the D-Max is that it is a very good, honest vehicle, not spectacular, but a real workhorse.OTHERS TO CONSIDERTOYOTA HILUX – 2008-2012 Under attack on all sides, but it's still the benchmark and worth considering. 3 stars. FORD RANGER – 2008-2012 Will carry and tow with the best of them, but engine issues are a concern.



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