New ute boom! Choosing between Mazda BT-50, Isuzu D-Max, Great Wall Cannon, Jeep Gladiator and Toyota HiLux

Australia is about to welcome a new ute gold rush, with a flood of new metal about to hit our shores that will surely make choosing which dual-cab ute you want parked on your driveway harder than it’s been in years. 

Yes, the Ford Ranger and Toyota HiLux (along with the Mitsubishi Triton, Nissan Navara and Volkswagen Amarok) currently dominate Australia’s dual-cab sales charts, but soon the competition will get even tougher. The imminent arrival of the new Isuzu D-Max, Mazda BT-50, Great Wall Cannon and Jeep Gladiator, along with an updated HiLux, will see guarantee it.

So to help guide you through these ute-mad times, we’ve put together this handy cheat sheet so you know just what to expect when each new vehicle touches down.

Toyota HiLux – Expected in June

The big hitter of the ute world will be updated around June, and it’s more than a nip and tuck for Australia’s top-selling vehicle.

The two big-ticket changes are more grunt under the bonnet, and a tech upgrade in the cabin that finally delivers proper smartphone mirroring to Toyota’s big-selling ute. 

First, and probably most important, the HiLux’s 2.8-litre turbo-diesel will get an as-yet-unspecified power boost, which will see outputs climb above the current 130kW and 450Nm on offer.

How much they’ll climb remains to be seen, but we don’t expect the boost to elevate the HiLux to Ford Ranger Raptor territory (you’ll have to wait for the GR HiLux for that), but more power is never a bad thing, right?

The cabin tech overhaul will also see the inclusion of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for the first time, finally bringing the HiLux in-line with vehicles like the Ford Ranger. 

Expect official announcements from Toyota over the next two months. 

Great Wall Cannon – Expected in Q3, 2020

Great Wall has high hopes for its Cannon, which it benchmarked against the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger, and quietly hopes will elevate it to the main stage when it comes to ute sales in Australia. 

And on paper, the Cannon (though it likely won’t be called that when it lands in Australia) appears to measure up.

Stretching 5410mm in length, 1934mm in width and 1886mm in height, and with a 1520mm/1520mm tray, it’s on the bigger side of the dual-cab ledger, and the brand is promising a 1000kg payload and a “minimum” 3000kg towing capacity.

Its 2.0-litre engine delivers 120kW and 400Nm – though it could be upped to 450Nm in Australia – and is fed through a choice of an eight-speed ZF automatic or a six-speed manual, which can be sent to all four tyres. 

The Great Wall should also arrive with push-button start, smart headlights, a 9.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and advanced active safety, like AEB, lane-keep assist, a 360-degree parking camera, as well as six airbags.

We were expecting the Cannon to arrive around the middle of the year, but with the havoc wreaked by Covid-19, it could push towards the end of 2020.

Isuzu D-Max – Expected in July

There’s plenty of hype around the new D-Max, and with good reason. A true cult favourite of the ute world, it’s also one of our older offerings, and people are rightly salivating at the thought of a new one.

The good news first: that 3.0-litre diesel engine lives on, only this time it produces even more power. Now coded 4JJ3, the diesel donk is good for  140kW at 3600rpm and 450Nm at 1600rpm, and can be paired with a six-speed gearbox of your choosing, be it manual or auto.

The new D-Max measures 5265mm in length, 1870mm in width and 1790mm in height (in crew cab guise), and the tray comes in at 1495mm/1530mm.

While we don’t know the new D-Max’s towing capacity and payload yet, we do know that the existing car offers 3.5 tonnes and over 1000kg respectively, and we can’t see those numbers going backwards. There’s also updated suspension, an electronic diff lock, bigger brake rotors and a wading depth increase to 800mm.

On the equipment front, expect a 9.0-inch touchscreen, home to both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while a redesigned interior is meant to make driver and passenger feel like they’re in a more modern feeling vehicle, rather than a traditional workhorse. You should also find keyless entry, push-button start, voice recognition, dual-zone climate, front and rear parking sensors and six airbags, as well as blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, round-body parking sensors, hill start assist and hill descent control.

Mazda BT-50 – Expected 2020

Mazda is remaining super tight-lipped about its new BT-50, which is being co-developed with the Isuzu D-Max, but history suggests the Japanese brand’s new workhorse should be in Australia this year. 

When Mazda last partnered with Ford for the Ranger/BT-50 tie-up, the two vehicles were launched just two months apart, in September and November 2011. And with the new D-Max scheduled for a July launch in Australia, the BT-50 should follow a little later this year. 

But while Mazda is yet to confirm details of its new ute, its partnership with Isuzu does give some pretty strong hints.

Isuzu has told CarsGuide that the new D-Max was “developed solely by Isuzu” and that the finished truck would then be provided to Mazda.

“This was developed solely by Isuzu, and we have decided to supply or provide this vehicle to Mazda as an OEM. But it was developed purely by us,” he told us last year.

“We independently developed this D-Max. We tried to strike a balance between passenger use and more off-road demand. We understand the increasing demand on the D-Max as a passenger car.”

That means Mazda should share the 4JJ3 3.0-litre diesel engine, which is good for 140kW at 3600rpm and 450Nm at 1600rpm, and should roughly share the D-Max’s dimensions (5265mm in length, 1870mm in width and 1790mm in height, and with a 1495mm/1530mm tray).

I say roughly, because Mazda’s design choice will alter those numbers slightly, with the brand’s chief designer promising the new BT-50 would be more “masculine and tough” than the current model.

“The rear area of the truck itself is very difficult to use this (Kodo) design language, but I could try,” the company’s design boss, Ikuo Maeda, told us in 2018.

“I myself think the truck should look masculine and strong, and really like a truck. It might be difficult to try this kind of design, with all the light reflections, to a truck. It’s tough.”

Jeep Gladiator – Expected from May

The least traditional dual-cab to touch down in Australia is also arguably the coolest, with the Gladiator blending the off-road prowess of the Wrangler with a proper tray.

But with no true entry-level model, the Gladiator will wear a $75,450 sticker, before on-road costs, in Australia, which will see it battle the Ford Ranger Raptor on the price front. 

And like the Raptor, we’re taking a proper off-roader, too. Think a ladder-frame chassis, low-range transfer case and Selec-Trac Active On-Demand 4×4 system.

All Australian-delivered versions are powered by a 209kW/347Nm 3.6-litre V6 petrol engine, which pairs with an eight-speed automatic, and standard equipment includes leather seats with heating for front passengers, a heated steering wheel, a removable hardtop roof, a full LED lighting signature, body-coloured fender flares, nine-speaker sound system and an 8.4-inch Uconnect multimedia touchscreen, which incorporates Apple CarPlay/Andoird Auto and satellite navigation.

Of course, if you really want to target the rough stuff, you’ll want the Rubicon, which adds front and rear locking differentials, Fox-branded shocks, an upgraded 4×4 system, forward-facing off-road camera and 17-inch wheels with BFGoodrich off-road tyres.