Currently reading: Top 10 best pick-up trucks 2023
With cargo space, versatility and plenty of luxury features, today's pick-up trucks have become great, tax-efficient alternatives. These are our favourites

The recent history of the European pick-up truck market is an uncharacteristically epic tale of boom and bust, of unexpected twists and turns, new arrivals and sudden exits. It’s a lot more interesting than you might think.

Not so long ago, these vehicles were such big business that almost every major volume car maker was planning a ‘light flatbed’. Many wondered if Europe might, like North America, finally and fully embrace the lifestyle pick-up. And now, after brands like Renault, Fiat and even Mercedes-Benz tried - and failed - to establish a presence in the segment, which has been through both rapid expansions and contractions, only the doughtiest operators are left.

Now, while the benefit-in-kind tax advantages of running a pick-up truck as a company car relative to a fairly large passenger car remain clear, there are even bigger savings to be made - and greater hay for light commercial manufacturers - with all-electric pick-ups. The fully electrified buying options remain few, but we expect them to expand quickly once an appetite is established for flatbed regulars to ditch diesel for alternating current.

The lifestyle experiment has certainly left its mark on this segment. Formerly pretty utilitarian machines have now become increasingly glamourous and lavishly kitted out, as their makers woo private buyers and fleet ‘user-choosers’ with SUV-level comfort and refinement, eye-catching style and family-friendly versatility. The Covid pandemic then played its part in the pick-up's fall from grace, however, with sales tumbling by a third over the course of 2020 as buyers retreated from their plans for so many active, outdoorsy weekend pursuits. While other sectors started to recover thereafter, sales in the pick-up class struggled to, ahem, pick up. For that reason and others, vehicles such as the Nissan Navara and Mitsubishi L200 have disappeared from European markets.

We think that pick-ups still make a certain amount of sense if you're looking for a cost-effective set of company wheels that you can use on and off the job. For example, if you're self-employed and use one as a commercial vehicle, you'll pay just £290 in road tax per year, and have the option to claim back the VAT on its purchase price. If you're an employee and choose a pick-up as your company car, it'll fall under the benefit-in-kind (BIK) rules for commercial vehicles, which means a flat rate of £720 per year for 20% tax payers, which makes it far cheaper than any similarly sized, and priced SUV. There are also still UK purchase incentives available on electric commercials, as well as big first-year capital tax allowances for limited companies.

So here's our pick of the best pick-up trucks for 2023.

1. Ford Ranger

1 Ford ranger top 10

Pros: Broad engine range, accurate and composed handling, competitive value

Cons: No electric version (yet), Raptor’s not a proper commercial vehicle

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An all-new Ford Ranger has landed in UK showrooms this year, which to all intents and purposes is the third-generation model to the UK. This is Britain's most popular small truck. So while the rest of this market has shrunk, Ford has continued to make hay (and no doubt carried it in the Ranger's generously sized load bay) - and if the advancements of the latest-generation model, our new class favourite, are any reliable guide, it should continue to.

While the late-1990s original was developed in partnership with Mazda, this latest iteration (essentially a development of the old car's T6 platform) is the fruit of a commercial vehicle collaboration with Volkswagen that allows the German firm to essentially rebadge the Ford - after some lightish interior and exterior design tweaks - as an Amarok.

The new Ranger has made a fairly big leap in terms of desirability. Taking on more of the visual presence of Ford’s iconic, US-made F-150 pick-up, it has a squarer-set and more rugged look, and a much more digitally savvy cabin, with Ford’s latest, portrait-orientated Sync 4 touchscreen infotainment system on board, as well as digital instruments. Cabin design and material quality have improved notably, too.

The Ranger’s engine range has been broaden out and now includes 168bhp, 202bhp and 237bhp V6 turbo diesels within the regular model range, as well as a 207bhp diesel and a new 288bhp turbo V6 petrol engine in the Ranger Raptor. The four-pot diesels have better running refinement than plenty of rivals, as well as strong torque - and the 10-speed automatic gearbox with which most are partnered (only entry-level models are six-speed manuals) is smooth and slick.

To drive, the car shows pretty minimal dynamic compromises compared with a similarly sized passenger car. Its leaf-sprung rear axle feels firm, and causes the car to fuss over some lumps and bumps, but not many - while the Ranger steers unusually fluently and precisely for a pick-up, with decent body control and a respectable Tarmac grip level.

The Ranger’s working credentials are strong, too, The payload is now wide enough to carry a Euro pallet, and in terms of weight is rated for anything between 1035kg and 1207kg, depending on model. (The Raptor versions carry less, and can’t be registered or taxed as commercial vehicles.)

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The Ranger Raptor does get trick Fox suspension that allows it to do a passable impression of a Dakar dune-basher, however. The long-travel springs and dampers enable it to cover rough terrain at outrageous speeds, while on the road there's much greater composure and control than you might expect of a pick-up. Better still (for your entertainment if not your wallet), the twin-turbocharged 288bhp 3.0-litre V6 petrol has enough poke to put the frightners on the odd pocket rocket.

Ford's approach to Ranger pricing, and its wide choice of models, and its various on- and off-road static and dynamic advances make it our number one light pick-up for 2023.

Save money with new Ranger deals from What Car?

2. Toyota Hilux

2 Toyota hilux top 10

Pros: Hard-working capability, as tough as they come, Toyota dealer service backup

Cons: Four-cylinder diesel engines get noisy when really working

The Hilux has been part of Toyota's commercial vehicle range since the late 1960s, and it has since garnered a reputation for such versatility, dependability and robustness that none of us batted an eyelid when Toyota decided to dub the fully loaded version ‘Invincible’. It’s also the only vehicle that’s really challenged the Ford Ranger’s European-market sales dominance in recent years.

Regardless of trim, the Hilux is comfortable and decently finished inside, and also more refined and more pleasant to use than some of its rivals. Creditable ride and handling sophistication distinguish it too, as do dimensions that allow it to narrowly escape feeling elephantine on tighter roads.

As part of a mid-life update in 2019, the car got new bumpers and some cabin and equipment revisions, one of which made for better provision of active safety systems - features as useful on the school run, building site and everywhere in between. A year later, Toyota refined the car's chassis, styling and interior again, improving ride and handling by another step, and adding equipment and visual appeal for range-topping Invincible X versions. 

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Later again, a racily badged Toyota Hilux GR Sport version was added to celebrate the brand's success in the gruelling Dakar rally. Featuring some sporty visual touches inside and out, it also packs upgraded dampers and stiffer front suspension springs for sharper handling on the road and greater high-speed off-road capability, but gets little extra power. Anyone expecting Ford Ranger Raptor levels of driver entertainment will be disappointed.

The Toyota comes with a choice of 148bhp 2.4-litre and 201bhp 2.8-litre four-cylinder diesel engines, which don't make it sound exciting next to some multi-cylinder options, even if the 2.8 has plenty of real-world performance and surprisingly decent refinement for such a big-banger four-pot (when it’s not revving hard, at least).

Those who do need to transport heavier cargo might also be pleased to find out that its carrying capacity exceeds that of most of its competitors. Most Hiluxes will be double cabs, but a single cab and an extended cab are available on the 2.4 in no-frills trims. 

If you want all the bells and whistles – and there are many these days, including a potent JBL premium sound system -–it'll only be double cab for you.

Save money with new Hilux deals from What Car?

3. Volkswagen Amarok

3 Vw amarok top 10

Pros: Mainstream ICE trucks don’t get much more desirable than this 

Cons: Pricier than the closely related Ford Ranger

If any car kick-started the short-lived 'lifestyle pick-up' craze, it was the original Volkswagen Amarok. Of course, other makers had already delivered generously equipped and plushly finished double-cab models before, but none had the genre-crossing appeal of the VW, which combined a truck's tough utilitarian qualities with an exterior aesthetic and interior finish that aped its desirable passenger cars. We've long been big fans.

Yet despite its apparent popularity, the Amarok didn't make quite enough financial sense for VW's bean counters to sign off development of an all-new, independently engineered second-generation version. So, as we've mentioned, the latest VW is actually a joint venture with Ford. That said, the Blue Oval took the lead on the development, largely because its version is likely to outsell its German counterpart by about two to one, but also because both cars are based on the old Ranger's T6 platform.

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Externally, just the roof panel, door handles and external mirror housings are carried over from the Ford, but the new Amarok has a chunkier and more aggressive look than before. Inside, the Ranger's architecture is once again used, but it has been draped in VW specific materials to give an appreciably upmarket feel. We found it to be well equipped, comfortable and easy to get along with, feeling even more like an SUV than its surprisingly classy predecessor.

Currently, there's a choice of diesel engines, with the pick of the bunch being the smooth-revving 237bhp 3.0-litre V6 TDI that's mated to Ford's 10-speed auto (the only transmission choice in the UK) and permanent four-wheel drive. From our experience behind the wheel, it steers neatly enough, and VW has brought its influence to bear with improved refinement and comfort, but that leaf-sprung rear axle still struggles with rougher roads, betraying the Amarok's commercial roots. 

Still, if you're after a truck with more than a sheen of car-like appeal and cabin quality, the Amarok takes some beating.

Save money with new Amarok deals from What Car?

4. Ford F-150 Lightning

4 Ford f150 lightning

Pros: Huge, fast, comfortable, makes your race paddock diesel generator redundant.

Cons: Huge, heavy, left-hand drive, and so far not sold in the UK officially

Ford was the first of the big, blue-chip American truck makers to reveal that it was developing an all-electric version of a full-sized pick-up, its F-150. It was announced to the world before the Tesla Cybertruck and many other truck brands followed suit as a result.

Now, the F-150 Lightning has been on sale in North America for a couple of years and Ford is beginning to look to export markets for it. It hasn’t been confirmed for the UK yet, but it is being imported into EV-dominated Norway, with other European-market distribution rumoured to be under consideration. And that was enough to entice us to put a left-hand-drive, specially imported version through our full road test process.

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The results did not disappoint. The more powerful 568bhp version of the Lightning tipped our scales at a little over 3.1 tonnes, and needed more than 15m for its turning circle. And yet it still dispatched 60mph from rest in 4.5sec and a standard quarter mile in less than 13.5sec – faster, in both cases, than the celebrated BMW ‘M46’ M3 coupé.

In unloaded running, the car proved good for Ford’s 300-mile electric range - even if its outright carrying capacity (800kg) was limited by its heavy battery pack. It could ‘offload’ up to 9.6kW of mains power for on-site power tools; it had a 1.7m loadbay with a full-sized step hidden in the tailgate; and fully independent suspension for a surprisingly comfortable ride, as well as a huge and comfortable cabin.

The Lightning’s sheer size, its left-hand-drive-only cabin layout, and its likely near-six-figure price are all likely to make it a rare sight in the UK, assuming it does ever get officially imported here. But, amazingly, it’s sufficiently versatile that it’s still not hard to imagine a great many uses for one. 

5. Isuzu D-Max

7 Isuzu d max top 10

Pros: Tough, good value, much kudos among Welsh hill farmers

Cons: Ride and handling are rougher than others, diesel engine lacks oomph

You would imagine Isuzu to be quite good at building pick-up trucks, since that is all it sells in the UK. The Isuzu D-Max has been a quiet mainstay of the pick-up truck market for years, and has just been given a thorough refresh. So is it any good?

Well, with competitors like the Mercedes X-Class and Mitsubishi L200 now off sale, we predict Isuzu will recapture some of its market share. To do that, it continues to offer the D-Max in bare-bones workhorse spec, as well as more lifestyle-oriented versions with an infotainment system we found to be far more up to date, plus digital gauges and a nicer interior. It's available as a single or double cab. There's no extended-cab version of the Isuzu, but that's a more niche choice anyway.

During our assessments, the D-Max's improved interior, five-star Euro NCAP safety rating, and acceptable on-road manners all marked it out as a better vehicle than its predecessor. The D-Max still sits on a ladder chassis, which means that it's very stout and still extremely capable off road, albeit less well mannered in its ride and handling than some.

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Where it does still lag behind the competition is with its powertrain. It's the same 1.9-litre diesel as before, and we found that while it's quieter than it used to be, it's still gruff, and performance from the 162bhp unit is still lethargic. The 0-62mph sprint takes close to 13sec whether you have the six-speed automatic gearbox or the six-speed manual. 

Importantly, though, many buyers will forgive it for that, since all variants undercut their Hilux equivalents on price.

Save money with new D-Max deals from What Car?

6. GMC Hummer EV

Hummer ev top 10

Pros: Monstrously quick, super-capable off road, can do crustacean impression

Cons: Not available in mainland Europe or the UK outside of unofficial channels, weighs four tonnes.

If electric pick-up trucks are proving to be all about excess, the Hummer EV may be the most excessive of all. In range-topping form, it’s got a tri-motor powertrain with 1000bhp, and some 11,500lb ft of torque, it has a battery pack of 213kWh in all, and it weighs a little over four tonnes. It couldn’t therefore be driven in the UK by anyone without a Category C commercial vehicle licence.

Built on General Motors’ new Ultium electric car architecture, the Hummer EV has quite some party tricks. With an armoured underbody, it’s designed for peerless off-road performance. It can also crab walk, tilting its steered front and rear axles to the same angle, and waltzing sideways without turning at all.

On air suspension, it rides quite gently too, besides from performing every bit as brutally as you’d imagine. Mainland-European-market availability is unlikely, UK-market distribution even more so, apart from through unofficial routes. For more, read our first drive report here.

7. Maxus T90EV

6 Maxus t90 top 10

Pros: It’s an electric pick-up that you can actually buy, and it won’t cost a fortune

Cons: It’s not exactly desirable or upmarket, restless ride

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If and when the UK’s commercial vehicle market is fully electrified, how many people will recognise this little-known, Chinese-made flatbed as one of its pioneers?

The Maxus T90EV is Britain’s very first electric pick-up. Made in Wuxi, China by a brand owned by Asian car-industry giant SAIC (the same group that owns the Roewe and MG Motor brands), the T90 is a mid-sized, ‘one-tonne’ truck that’s been modified in order for registration as a working flatbed in the UK. In other markets, it’s rated to carry less than 1000kg, but since its UK CV tax status depends on a one-tonne classification, Maxus has uprated the vehicle’s load-carrying capabilities, and launched it in the UK in 2022.

If you recognise the look of the Maxus badge on the grille, it may be because this brand rose when SAIC bought Britain’s LDV firm, formerly Leyland DAF. It’s available through a UK dealer network of 60 outlets, from a little under £50,000 excluding VAT, and it will deliver significant tax savings for those who pick one in place of a conventional diesel truck.

The T90EV itself is powered by a 201bhp electric motor that gives it more than adequate power, acceleration and drivability, but its driving environment, while modern, is quite plain and sparsely fitted out. 

Its ride and handling are rougher than the pick-up class norm (the ride especially having been compromised by Maxus’s efforts to reinforce the car’s load-carrying capability). Real-world range is worth roughly 200 miles, or a little less when driven exclusively on the motorway.

8. Hennessey Mammoth 1000 TRX

7 Hennessey mammoth top 10

Pros: The ultimate statement truck, it’s quick, it’s tough

Cons: Probably a £150,000 purchase, and it’ll give your Shell loyalty app a workout

If you’re going to bother suffering all the inconveniences of running an imported, full-size, left-hand-drive, American-market truck - and, between the overhung parking spaces, the dwarfed road markings, the missed barrier tickets and all the rest, there are plenty - some would say that you might as well run a proper one. And ‘proper’ would certainly be one word to describe the Hennessey Mammoth.

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A Dodge Ram widely modified by notorious Texan tuner John Hennessey, the Mammoth TRX 1000 is powered by a 1012bhp, 6.2-litre supercharged Hellcat V8, and it’s claimed to be the fastest-accelerating flatbed ever produced. Hennessey claims that it’ll do 0-60mph in just 3.2sec, despite being 5.8m long. It’s also capable of towing nearly four tonnes on a braked trailer.

This, then, is precisely the kind of truck that you’d expect from the maker of the 300mph-plus Venom F5 hypercar, built for no other reason than because they can. On UK roads, it feels not only huge but also typically heavy, and isn’t as rapid away from rest as you might expect - but it certainly accelerates hard once it’s rolling.

9. Ssangyong Musso

6 Ssangyong musso top 10

Pros: Value for money, loadbed flexibility, cabin space

Cons: Few luxury features, rough ride

If you are after a left-field, right-hand-drive, affordable pick-up option, there is always Ssangyong, which offers the Musso – a name meaning 'rhinoceros' in South Korea, where this vehicle is produced. It's a far cry from the vaguely sporty, Ken Greenley-designed SUV of the same name that came to the UK in the mid-1990s, but we found that it delivers respectable performance and handling, as well as strong towing capacity and utility for value-savvy buyers.

The Musso's 199bhp, 2.2-litre diesel engine offers more grunt than some in the class, and its rating to tow 3.5 tonnes (although only with an automatic transmission - the manual is 3200kg) on a braked trailer also trumps certain rivals. 

We think it looks a little peculiar in standard form with its short load bay, but does offer four seats big enough to be usable by adult passengers. That it's also one of the shortest cars of its kind stands to make it appeal to those who've struggled to get vehicles like these into UK-typical parking spaces. Ssangyong does also offer a Musso LWB Rhino if you do need a full-length bed. Despite its name, the LWB's extra length doesn't come from a longer wheelbase, but rather it gets a longer rear overhang to create the same-sized load bed as you'd get in the single-cab version. The LWB Rhino only comes in the top trim, though.

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When we drove it, we discovered the Musso corners with very decent grip and roll control, and the fairly light steering (and helpfully small diameter steering wheel) has better centre feel than many of its rivals. The same goes for the low road and wind noise. 

Ride comfort only just clears the threshold of acceptability, but the engine feels torquey low down and impressively quiet when you're cruising, the six-gear spread giving it very long legs.

Save money with new Musso deals from What Car?

Pick-ups coming soon:

Ineos Grenadier pick-up

Ineos grenadier quartermaster top 10

Given how much the European pick-up truck market has thinned out in recent years, if you want something else, you will have to be patient or get creative and import something. If you've got time to wait and are after something that fills the Land Rover Defender pick-up-sized hole in your life, you might be interested in the pick-up version of the upcoming Ineos Grenadier.

The Grenadier is a tough, no-nonsense off-roader in the vein of the original Defender, with a ladder chassis, live axles and a hose-out interior. It will offer a payload of up to 1000kg, a braked trailer towing capacity of 3500kg, and a 150kg roof-load rating.

Rivian R1T

Rivian r1t top 10

The Rivian R1T is what you end up with if you set up a brand-new car business with a small band of talented engineers and an ex-Jeep designer, and you design your own electric car platform from scratch in a bid to give the world its first 'adventure EV'. 

Rivians will, according to company boss RJ Scaringe, split the difference between a modern Land Rover and a Tesla. Cars are already available in the US, and an R1S SUV will follow. Whether the Rivian R1T will come to Europe officially, or only via grey import, is unclear. Rivian has been rumoured to be scouting a European production location, but that will be primarily for vans.

The R1T was the first Rivian to hit the road. It's a compact double-cab pick-up by American norms, so it's about the size of most of the other pick-ups on this list. Rivian promises a range of 300 miles from a 135kWh battery pack, or 400 miles from a 180kWh pack. A smaller battery with a 250-mile range is coming as well.

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The company says the R1T will be able to tow up to five tonnes - that's about two Range Rovers. However, it is positioned more as an adventure vehicle than a work truck, and it's expected it will only be rated to carry up to 800kg. It has not one, not two, not even three, but four motors for over 700bhp, 800lb ft of torque and a 0-60mph time of 3.0sec. Having four motors also means four-wheel torque vectoring. 

We await a UK test drive with much interest.

Tesla Cybertruck

Tesla cybertruck top 10

Due later in 2023, the angular - and allegedly bulletproof - Tesla Cybertruck will have up to three electric motors and more than 500 miles of range in its top-level trim, with a claimed towing capacity of more than six tonnes and a loading bay the same size as that of a Ford F-150. Like Tesla's other bigger models, the Cybertruck will run on height-adjustable air suspension.

Tesla boss Elon Musk claimed that 200,000 customers placed cash deposits for the Cybertruck within a week of the vehicle's unveiling in 2019. It’s expected to cost the equivalent of between £50,000 and £75,000.


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Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

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ianp55 25 October 2022

Just curious why Jeep UK still hasn't bought the Gladiator here,since FIAT bought Jeep the model range has been reduced and sales have plumitted introduction of the pickup to the range could bring some punters back  

HiPo 289 6 August 2021

This top ten is madness.  Diesel pick-ups are obsolete and will be worthless as soon as the new generation of electric trucks arrive.  For the sake of your wallet, keep running your old truck until the market switches to electric.  Otherwise you will end up wth a stranded asset that no-one wants. 

russ13b 23 March 2022

Do you apply this logic to everything with an engine? Electric isn't going to take over heavy-duty applications as quickly as you appear expect, people who actually use them as "workhorses" aren't going to risk any early adopter unreliability, and also may have insufficient charging capability.