Believe it or not, there are more bakkies sold across the world every year than the most plentiful passenger car. The Ford F-series bakkie for example, sold exclusively in North America, sells close on a million new units a year. That works out to something ridiculous like 100 an hour, every day of every week. Overall there are more bakkies in the world right now, than there are South Africans or Australians or New Zealanders or Rwandans… you get the idea.
The same trend prevails here on home soil too. The Toyota Hilux has sold 5.5 million units worldwide since 1969, and 850 000 of them reside in South Africa. That’s 1 600 units every month for 42 years and all of them are presumably still going. The Toyota Hilux, while getting a bit long in the tooth – and no they aren’t fooling anyone with the new chrome face, still goes toe-to-toe with the most prolific passenger car sold locally every month. The Hilux has 41% of the bakkie market all shored up for itself. But don’t think Volkswagen hasn’t been eyeing them out.
You see, to make a safe, comfortable passenger car takes a lot of research and development from an automaker. Thanks to Euro NCAP and the Institute for Highway Safety in North America, you can’t just flog out a cheap-as-chips car and expect it to be an instant sales phenomenon… Although how some manufacturers have tried and succeeded outside of the U.S. and Europe (ahem… think South Africa’s love affair with the Citi Golf).
Profit margins are slim on a car like the new Ford Focus, versus a comparably priced F-series bakkie. Bakkies run on relatively simple engineering like ladder chassis’, leaf spring suspension and old drivetrains, but if you add some leather on the inside the manufacturer can jack up the price. Finance experts believe the profit on a bakkie to be double that of a passenger car. F-series bakkie’s account for half of Ford’s overall profit every year, making bakkie’s an avenue for untold mountains of cash for automakers. Nissan’s positively archaic Hardbody bakkie is still their most profitable endeavour in South Africa.
Why are these simple transport solutions still so popular with consumers then? Well, aside from their commercial use, I believe it has to do with the frontier spirit that lives somewhere in us all. A bakkie makes you feel like a pioneer – forging ahead into unchartered territories.
The Volkswagen Amarok does exactly that, and captures that exact spirit while being undoubtedly the most hi-tech bakkie made in the world today. Volkswagen got us used to the idea of an advanced and desirable bakkie with the double cab, and now they’re ramming the initiative home with their new Single Cab.
Prime amongst their advances in the bakkie realm is the use of highly fuel-efficient TDI, direct injection engines with the 2.0-litre TDI (90 kW & 340 Nm), and the 2.0-litre Bi-TDI (120 kW & 400 Nm), whose levels of performance are achieved with exceptional economy: The 2.0-litre TDI consumes just 7.6 L/100km and the 2.0-litre Bi-TDI just 7.9 L/100km. Arriving later in the year in the Amarok Single Cab range is the 2.0-litre TSI petrol engine with maximum power of 118 kW and peak torque of 300 Nm. A bakkie with a clean revving, turbo charged motor of Golf GTI genealogy is absolute madness, but I can’t wait to have a go.
This hi-tech attitude doesn’t mean Volkswagen have forgotten about the real nitty-gritty of commercial vehicles. The Single Cab Amarok has the biggest payload capacity in its class: 1 345 kg and towing capacity is unrivalled, with a gross combination mass of 5 550 kg, that’s 30% better than any competitor.
What’s most impressive though in the Amarok Single Cab, 4Motion Trendline, that we tested, is the interior comfort and space. I most appreciate Volkswagen’s common sense thinking. It’s utterly conceivable that a commercial farmer is going to travel long distances between the town centre and his farm, so our Trendline offers cruise control and a trip computer for the long haul, height and reach adjustable steering wheel for interior comfort and a hook to hang your Sunday best jacket on, along the way. What more can you ask for?
Counter arguments that have been levelled against the Volkswagen Amarok surround reliability. That it’s a bit of a light weight against the might of the tried and tested Toyota Hilux. Well, understandably, for a brand new car, that we can only test for a week we have no way of really answering that question. However, we did drive our Single Cab test unit, non-stop for 955 km, until the fuel tank was empty, over every terrain available in the Western Cape, and it didn’t miss a beat. Tar roads, urban driving, motorways, gravels roads, sandy off-roading, muddy roads without so much as a coffee break for the hard working driver (me), and it took them all in its stride. All we can do is wait and see what customer feedback and reliability surveys say.
The ride quality wasn’t even all that bad considering the less hi-tech rear suspension used on the Single Cab over the double cab Amarok. The car became a bit of a bouncy castle depending on the off road corrugations, but we’d still peg it streets ahead of other single cab competitors. The optional (R3 772) Electronic Stability Control (ESP) is a worthwhile and inexpensive add-on to tame the bouncy rear end.
We can’t think of anything we’d change to make the Amarok Single Cab any better. Volkswagen had its first month of single cab sales in August, breaking 1 000 units sold in the bakkie segment in South Africa. Still quite a way off the phenomenon that is the Toyota Hilux, but making an impact never the less.
What we like…
- Massive dimensions combined with a tall ride height, great wheel travel and 4Motion lets it go anywhere off road.
- Turbo diesel motor pulls well through all gears and delivers great economy.
- Class leading towing and load capacity tick all the right commercial boxes.
- Brilliantly comfortable interior with cruise control, trip computer and build quality that revolutionises the bakkie market.
What we would like…
- The Amarok to successfully prove its reliability and dissuade any naysayers.
|Base Price||R313 700|
|Warranty||3 year / 100 000 km|
|Engine Capacity||1 998 cm³|
|No. Of Cylinders||4-cylinders, In-line|
|Power||90 kW @ 3 750 r/min|
|Torque||340 N.m @ 2 250 r/min|
|Drive type||All-wheel drive|
|Acceleration||0 – 100 km/h in 13.6 seconds (claimed)|
|Top Speed||162 km/h (electronically limited)|
|Fuel Consumption||7.6 l/100km (claimed combined)|
|CO2 Emissions||199 g/km|