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
Pros: Broad engine range, accurate and composed handling, competitive value
Cons: No electric version (yet), Raptor’s not a proper commercial vehicle