Top Gear episode 6 review: Why pick-up trucks make sense

Top Gear episode 6 pick-up trucks

The latest generation of pick-up trucks such as the Volkswagen Amarok can be refined and make great family cars (Picture © VW)

Pick-up trucks featured heavily in Top Gear episode 6. Richard Hammond may not have had a ‘highly trained search and rescue unit’ coming to his rescue in Canada’s Rocky Mountains. But at least James May and Jeremy Clarkson picked the best wheels for the job when they went in search of their colleague stuck at the top of a snow-covered mountain.

Pick-up trucks have grown in popularity hugely over the past decade. Creature comforts, safety and the general driving experience have improved dramatically, and stepping from a family saloon to a pick-up truck is not the shock it once used to be. Clarkson and May drove American models – the supersize Ford F150 Raptor and Chevrolet Silverado – which are not only taller than Richard Hammond but bigger than the typical pick-up truck available in the UK. If you are thinking of buying a pick up truck, here are five reasons why they’re worth considering. 

Self-employed can reclaim the VAT when buying a pick-up truck
It might not have been mentioned in Top Gear episode 6, but a VAT-registered business can reclaim all or part of the VAT (Value Added Tax) when buying a pick-up truck outright. This is because most of them are classified as light commercial vehicles, originally intended as an incentive for farmers and builders. Always check with the dealer that the pick-up truck you want to buy qualifies for this. And bear in mind that if the car is for unrestricted private use, then there will be a “benefit in kind” liability. Known as BIK this is £600 per year for a 20% tax payer, and £1200 a year for a 40% tax payer. If the car will only be used for business, then there is no BIK to be paid.

Pick up trucks are capable for driving off-road

Ford Ranger pick-up truck

Pick-up trucks, such as the Ford Ranger, can take you places no MPV could go (Picture © Ford)

Whether you want to take the family camping in the wilderness or have to make site visits for work in areas that don’t have paved roads, a pick-up truck can hold its own in the rough stuff. Most have a versatile drive system which can be switched between two and four-wheel drive. Running in two-wheel drive improves fuel economy. Switching into four-wheel drive improves traction and stability when towing a heavy load. A good pick-up truck will also offer a lockable centre differential and low-range transmission, which gives superior performance during demanding off-road driving. Such as when crawling up a snowy slope to rescue a short colleague stranded at the top of a high mountain…

A pick-up truck is ideal for towing
Pick-up trucks are robust, stable and more than capable of towing, making them ideal for tasks such as pulling a trailer loaded with a car or hauling a horsebox. Car makers quote two different weights that their pick-up truck can pull safely. The first is unbraked, which simply means that the trailer has no braking system and the car has to manage its momentum. The second is braked and yes, that’s where the trailer has its own brakes. The allowance will be much higher for the latter. For example, Isuzu says its D-Max can pull 750 kilos when unbraked, or 3500 kilos when the trailer has brakes.

“Double cab” pick-up trucks are a practical family car

Isuzu D-Max pick-up truck

Add the optional hard-top as with this Isuzu D-Max and you have a huge boot space (Picture © Isuzu)

If you don’t carry passengers, then a single cab pick-up – a car that has just two seats – may be just the job. But for drivers who will be using their pick-up to ferry the family around, a double cab is much more practical. It typically has five seats, and many feature Isofix mounting points in the rear for child seats. They may not be as quiet, spacious or versatile as a people carrier car, but a pick-up is practical enough for most needs such throwing some mountain bikes and camping gear in the load bed. They’re built to last too as Top Gear proved with the “indestructible” Toyota Hilux.

The latest pick-up trucks are great to drive
It’s a given that a pick-up truck will be practical, but perhaps not so expected that they will be good to drive. The latest generation of models are pretty refined, comfortable, safe and kitted out with many of the latest creature comforts.

There is a wide choice of models available from mainstream manufacturers, such as Volkswagen’s Amorak – a car Auto Express said “rewrites the rulebook” in its class. Another model that has impressed its testers is the Izusu D-Max, which comes with a five-year warranty.

Parkers says that the Nissan Navara – a popular sight on British roads – offers excellent on-road abilities, but adds that the Toyota Hilux is a better overall package. Ford’s Ranger attracted praise from Autocar, which concluded that the company had created a “class-leading vehicle”.


2 comments on “Top Gear episode 6 review: Why pick-up trucks make sense

  1. Rodney Spraggins March 3, 2015 12:40 pm

    It’s really nice to have a pick up truck in your garage. I couldn’t say it’s luxury but a pick up truck is the best utility vehicle for me.

  2. David Grant July 3, 2016 9:44 pm

    Agree. There’s nothing it can’t handle – I’ve carried loads that have the mudflaps almost on the ground and they soak it up. Great for holidays when you take a trip to a beach or trail (accidently or on purpose). The 2016 Hilux is a definite sign of how pick ups are changing markets.

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