SA Bakkie of the Year announcement: VW Amarok wins inaugural SA Bakkie of the Year contest!

South Africans are bakkie-mad. This fact is borne out by the monthly vehicle sales figures for the country, with three out of the five top-selling vehicles in South Africa being ladder-frame based one-ton pickups, as well as the best-selling passenger vehicle in the country for the last decade. 

Given this popularity, it made sense to establish a dedicated South African Bakkie of the Year competition with the purpose of evaluating and appraising the specific requirements, as well as critical performance measurements – such as off-road, advanced 4×4 and on- and offroad towing capabilities – expected from these vehicles. These exact requirements were addressed and evaluated in a measurable, repeatable, and verifiable manner.

After undergoing an extensive evaluation divided into three distinct disciplines (4×4 driving and capability tests, off-road performance tests, and towing performance on and offroad), the Volkswagen Amarok Panamericana 3.0 V6 TDI 4Motion was crowned as winner of the inaugural 2023 South African Bakkie of the Year (SABOTY) competition at the Nampo Cape exhibition in Bredasdorp.

The new Amarok Panamericana 3.0 V6 TDI bakkie, launched in South Africa early this year, impressed the SABOTY jury, consisting of leading specialist motoring journalists and industry experts, with its impressive dynamics and towing capability, comfortable ride on the road as well as off it, and its high-quality interior.

To ensure the highest grade of professionalism in the SABOTY evaluation procedures, an expert in each discipline was appointed to draw up the testing procedures and requirements. The two “discipline specialists” were multiple national rally champion and off-road performance expert Sarel van der Merwe, off-road and 4×4 towing expert Gerhard Groenewald from Klipbokkop Off-Road Academy, who also created the scoring criteria for testing the 4×4 dynamics and capabilities of the 9 bakkies. 

Ably assisted by the jury who, besides participating in the testing procedures, also comprehensively scored each vehicle according to a very detailed and specifically developed questionnaire, the winner of the inaugural South African Bakkie of the Year (SABOTY) competition was chosen from the flagship leisure double cab 4×4 bakkie with automatic transmission from each manufacturer. 

All manufacturers with suitable vehicles were invited to participate, and the participants (in no particular order) in the competition were the:

  • Nissan Navara 2.5 DDTI Pro-4X 4×4 AT
  • GWM P-Series 2.0TD LTD 4×4 AT
  • Mahindra Pik Up 2.2 S11 Karoo Storm
  • Peugeot Landtrek 4Action Africa Edition 4×4 6AT
  • Mitsubishi Triton 2.4 DI-DC 4×4 AT Xtreme
  • Isuzu D-Max 3.0 Ddi 4×4 V-Cross AT
  • Volkswagen Amarok PanAmericana 2.0 BiTDI 4Motion AT, and the
  • Volkswagen Amarok PanAmericana 3.0 V6 TDI 4Motion

Declining the invitation to participate, Ford of Southern Africa who recently won Car of the Year accolade for the Ranger. Although Ford is extremely proud to have won that award, the full explanation for not entering BOTY was due to the (R40, 000) entry-fee required by the organisers in order to take part. Had there been no entry fee, the Ranger would have undoubtedly been involved in BOTY. Toyota South Africa also decided not to participate (stating that the 2.4-litre Hilux Raider X considered for entry would not be launched in time). 

Also not entered was the Mazda BT50 (Mazda South Africa declined our invitation to participate, as very small numbers of the BT50 are sold locally) and the JAC T9 double cab (the soon-to-launched bakkie could not be homologated in time).

For the competition, a privately owned Toyota Hilux Double Cab 2.8 4×4 GR-S AT was evaluated and scored but as it was not an official entry, its results were not included in the final scoring. Also, to level the playing field, the bakkies were divided into three categories according to engine performance – from 100 kW to 120 kW, from 121 kW to 150 kW, and from 151 kW to over 200 kW.

In terms of the categories, the Peugeot Landtrek Africa Edition, Mahindra Pik Up Karoo Storm and GWM P-Series LTD competed in the 100-125 kW category, the Mitsubishi Triton Xtreme, Nissan Navara Pro-4X and Isuzu D-Max V-Cross  competed in the middle category (up to 150 kW) with the Volkswagen Amarok PanAmericana 2.0 BiTDI 4Motion AT and Hilux GR-S against the Amarok 3.0 V6 TDI in the top category.

After the rigorous evaluation in the different disciplines all the points were tallied and audited (including cost of ownership as supplied by Lightstone, and value for money in terms of retail price, warranties and service plans), the winners of the different categories are:

100 - 120kW category:  GWM P-Series LTD (120kW)
121 - 150kW category: Nissan Navara Pro4X 4×4 AT (140kW)
151 - 190kW category: Volkswagen Amarok Panamericana 3.0 V6 TDI (184kW)

For the towing tests, Marius Ras from Mobi Lodge Adventure Caravans supplied two camping trailer models – a small MobiX off-road trailer and the top-of-the-range Mobi Lodge – with the less powerful bakkies towing the smaller model, while the most powerful contenders were also tested with the big caravan. The same test was repeated in off-road conditions, and the power of the Volkswagen Amarok Panamericana 3.0 V6 TDI 4Motion assured it of victory in this category as well.
The 4×4 tests at the Klipbokkop Off-Road Academy included terrain with sand, rock and shale, and the testing of wheel articulation and traction. It also included measurable evaluation, such as a dirt road braking test and wheel travel measurements. 
The jury members commented on how discernible the differences between the contenders were when tested back-to-back in the same conditions but in the end it was the Volkswagen Amarok Panamericana 3.0 V6 TDI 4Motion that again earned the laurels.
The performance tests, done under the auspices of Sarel van der Merwe, was conducted on suitable tar and dirt roads close to Franschhoek. All performance aspects (acceleration, braking and handling) were evaluated, and there were some surprising results. However, with the evaluation concluded, the smaller Volkswagen Amarok, the PanAmericana 2.0 BiTDI 4Motion AT was declared the winner. 

Dirk Gallowitz, convener of the SA Bakkie of the Year competition, congratulated Volkswagen South Africa with the Amarok’s victory in the inaugural SABOTY. 

“After extensive evaluation, we can confidently declare the Amarok Panamericana 3.0 V6 TDI 4 Motion a worthy winner,” commented Gallowitz. “The Amarok impressed the jurors in virtually all aspects and proved itself a great all-rounder by winning two categories besides the overall accolade.

“The first Bakkie of the Year competition has set a new benchmark for the evaluation of vehicles in the highly popular and hugely competitive pickup category, and we look forward to again presenting this competition next year, perhaps looking at different models within the same segment.”

The organisers decided to include "Cost of Ownership" as a criterium, with data received from Lightstone. Four specific but very relevant criteria measured over 4years/80,000km were addressed, namely Maintenance, Insurance, Fuel consumption measured at claimed figures and Trade-in price.

The Mahindra Pik Up 2.2 S11 Karoo Storm was adjudged the best bakkie in terms of the lowest cost of ownership and is our Best Value for Money Bakkie.