Even if you don’t drive you’ll know that potholes here in the UK are a big, big problem. And, it’s a problem that’s getting worse, thanks to a lack of investment and a ‘patch it up’ mentality rather than a cohesive plan for revitalising Britain’s road network that includes over 24,000 miles of surfaces that need repairing.
It seems hard to believe but, according to the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA), almost 1.7 million potholes were filled in on local roads in England and Wales during 2016 alone. That’s one every 19 seconds. But if you do drive and spend any amount of time on the roads it often feels like things are getting worse rather than better. The AIA says that £12.06 billion is needed to bring local roads in England and Wales up to scratch for starters. After the bad weather earlier this year the roads have really taken a nosedive, so it seems likely that the figure will keep rising faster than those repairs take place.
While the problem might be an expensive one to solve, it’s also costing drivers dearly because of damage to their vehicles. In 2017 alone over £7 million in compensation was paid out to owners who suffered damage to their vehicles, including punctured tyres, broken wheels and damaged suspension. And that’s the ones who made successful claims. So, if you’re tired of potholes and want a potential solution then a pickup truck might be an option to consider. This isn’t as daft as it might seem because the pickup of today is far removed from the tinny machines of old with their spartan interiors and frugal trim levels.
Rough and tumble
North America has always been the place for the pickup truck, with the chunky Ford F150 being a best seller for the past 40 years. It’s easy to see why with those big expanses and lots of areas where roads are more dirt track than tarmac. However, there are other locations around the globe where the pickup is big business. One place is Thailand, where brands like Isuzu, Toyota and Nissan can be seen everywhere. And, in Thailand, while the incentive to buy is often down to lower tax than conventional cars, there’s also a keenness to customise.
Here in the UK, though, the pickup is becoming increasingly appealing because it’ll get you from A to B no matter what sort of road surface you encounter. And, chances are, that’ll probably involve more than a few holes in the road. Modern pickups are hugely versatile, good value for money and there are plenty of options ranging from the basic no-frills models through to fully-loaded editions that put plenty of saloon cars to shame in terms of looks and luxury. Granted, they’re not known for their performance, but you’ll get to your destination feeling rested and relaxed thanks to a new take on the old-school design. While pickups used to be bought for commercial purposes, now you can rock up anywhere in one and not feel embarrassed about your wheels.
It isn’t just about the rugged go-anywhere exterior features either. Where once you’d have been lucky to get a cigarette lighter socket, these days pickup trucks come fully loaded, depending on what sort of money you want to spend. There are proper seats too, not those horrible vinyl-covered benches that used to be almost exclusively reserved for builders bums. What’s more, if you buy a model with a double cab arrangement then you’ll get four decent seats, which makes the inside feel more akin to a family car. Plus, there’s insulation, so they’re quiet and, as an added bonus, higher specification models carry all the tech toys too.
Take the Toyota Hilux for example. This thing is great, with impressive levels of trim and enough in-car tech to keep most people happy. Pay a bit more and you can get a version that packs cruise control, a reversing camera and Toyota’s Touch 2 touchscreen infotainment system. It’s got four doors, four seats and the pickup bit at the back that’s perfect for dumping all your stuff in. Best of all though is that it rides high, and drives over our dismal roads with ease. There’s no worry of busted alloys, bottomed-out exhausts or chips to paintwork with this baby. Got a rough road to try? The Hilux is ready for it.
The Toyota Hilux has been around forever too, with many different incarnations over the year. It’s been tested to destruction in all points of the compass, and even Top Gear didn’t manage to destroy the one on TV a few years ago. However, there are plenty of other options if you’re in the market for a pickup and they’re not all Japanese as used to be the case. Alongside the likes of Nissan and Misubishi there are now very tempting models from the likes of Ford, Renault and Fiat plus upmarket entries from Volkswagen and Mercedes.
Sticking with the Japanese manufacturers for a minute though, the brand new Nissan Navara N-Guard is a special addition to this popular line. Inside this beauty there’s leather and cloth seats plus Hill Start Assist, Hill Descent Control, Intelligent Emergency Braking and Intelligent Around View Monitor as standard equipment. Outside, there are beefy alloy wheels, stylish trim flourishes and you even get a sunroof with tinted glass. And, much like the Hilux, you can get your pickup in a fetching metallic colour too, unlike the old days when these things just came in cheap and cheerful solid colours.
Elsewhere, the Mitsubishi L200, Fiat Fullback, Renault Alaskan (which is built using the same platform as the Nissan Navara), Ford Ranger (with an OTT Raptor edition being the one for show-offs) or Volkswagen Amarok carry on the theme for pickups with a car-like edge. Less flash, but cheaper as a result, are the Isuzu D-Max or the SsangYong Musso pickups, but at the other end of the spectrum there’s the Mercedes X-Class. This not only looks cool from the outside – the interior is undeniably luxurious and comes with funky Germanic styling and a great infotainment system.
Ford Ranger Raptor
Get behind the wheel of a late model pickup and you’ll think you’re in a car too and that extends to the driving experience. Sure, the interior might be lush and comfortable, but at the same time the biggest bonus is that you’re higher up than a standard car. It’s easy to see why 4x4s and SUVs have become so popular, but not everyone wants to show-off in a Range Rover, Porsche or Audi. In fact, if you’re looking for low-key motoring, with reasonable trim levels and a driving experience that is high and mighty but without an ego, the pickup is definitely the way to go.
Pickups are, naturally, quite big so while they’re pretty good for carrying yourself, the family and your stuff around, they take a little bit more effort when it comes to parking. And, while you can haul things around in the flatbed bit of your truck, this location isn’t quite so great for the weekly shop. Unless you pack it in well and keep it covered over you might lose it or reduce everything to mush by the time you get home. However, one upside about parking in the local supermarket to do said shopping is that you probably won’t have to worry about door dings because you’ll be higher up than everyone else.
Unless, of course, the person in the next space is driving a pickup too.
Featured image: Ford Ranger Raptor