Volkswagen Amarok SUV
Price £24,814 - £32,554
- Spacious interior
- Excellent build quality
- Big load area
- Car's size can be intimidating
- Difficult to park
- Uncomfortable suspension
At a glance
"The Volkswagen Amarok blurs the lines between builder's wagon and family car, with off-road ability, a big load bed and a spacious five-seater interior."
Pick-up trucks used to be a relative rarity on UK roads, reserved for owners who needed them for work duties rather than as an everyday car. But models such as the Mitsubishi L200 and Nissan Navara changed that, and the Volkswagen Amarok is the German company's answer to the Japanese favourites.
In fact, the Volkswagen is probably even more usable day-to-day than the Mitsubishi. As you would expect of a Volkswagen, it has a well-built interior, which is also very spacious. The load bed is huge, and is the reason why the Amarok appeals to everyone from builders to sporty types and families. The Amarok is still subject to the usual tax breaks that apply to any other commercial vehicles, too.
It can be had with a choice of two, 2.0-litre diesel engines, which offer the effortless power that you need if you’re carrying heavy loads, although they can’t match the economy of the latest diesels you’ll find in modern SUVs – mainly due to the car's size and weight.
All models of Amarok – from basic Startline, through to Trendline, top-of-the-range Highline and the Canyon special edition – come with grippy four-wheel-drive, so the Volkswagen is a competent off-roader.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Economy of 35mpg and £210 road tax mean it's not as economical as some SUVs
In modern terms, neither of the VW Amarok's diesel engines are hugely economical, but they are more frugal than the Mitsubishi L200 and only slightly behind the Toyota Hilux. The most economical version can manage economy 36.2mpg and CO2 emissions of 205g/km, for road tax of £285 but bear in mind that if you load it up with cargo, economy will tumble. The more powerful version costs the same to tax, and economy drops only slightly to 35.3mpg. It is the only engine that can be combined with an automatic gearbox, but fortunately it has no impact on economy.
VW also offers a range of servicing packages, to save money on maintenance, while the warranty covers you for two years, with no mileage limit, and for a third year up to 100,000 miles.
Interior & comfort
Widely adjustable seats, but engine is noisy and the suspension bouncy
The Amarok shows its utilitarian side in terms of engine noise when accelerating, although it does settle down significantly at a cruise. Another negative is the pick-up's suspension, which due to the fact it's been designed to carry heavy loads, can get bouncy when the load bed is empty. However, even with that in mind, it's still better to drive than most rival pick-ups.
There's a good range of adjustment in the driver front passenger seats, so getting comfortable and finding the best driving position should be pretty easy.
Practicality & boot space
Big load bed and decent interior space make the Amarok impressively practical
The VW Amarok's interior is spacious enough for five people, with plenty of head and legroom all round. It's a tall car, though, so it may be worth going for the optional grab handles and running boards to help when entering and exiting the vehicle.
Unsurprisingly, the Amarok's load bay is huge and offers 2.5 square meters in total, as well as being able to carry up to 1,145kg – that's more than the Ford Ranger can offer, but less than the Nissan Navara's maximum payload. VW also offers a range of tonneau covers and hardtops, while the Amarok's maximum towing capacity is an impressive 3,000kg. Its electronic stability control system has been tuned to keep the vehicle stable when pulling a trailer, too.
Reliability & safety
Standard VW quality make it more car-like than some of its rivals
The Volkswagen Amarok didn’t feature in the 2013 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey, but Volkswagen did come a relatively disappointing 16th out of 32 manufacturers. Nonetheless, the Amarok feels solid inside and out, and has been built to withstand a hard working life, so should brush off most of what you can throw at it. Volkswagen's warranty, which covers the Amarok for up to 100,000 miles, also adds some peace of mind.
The VW Amarok got a four-star rating from Euro NCAP for safety, which isn’t up to the standards of most modern SUVs, but is still pretty decent for a commercial vehicle. It comes as standard with features such as driver, passenger and side airbags, as well as ISOFIX children's seat mounts and a hill-hold assist.
Engines, drive & performance
Heavy weight compromises speed and handling
If you’re used to driving a normal car the Amarok is going to feel pretty big at first, but the flip-side is that its raised driving position gives the driver an excellent view of the road. It isn’t particularly quick, though, meaning overtaking will take a certain amount of anticipation. Its steering doesn’t feel very responsive, either, and if you go into a corner quickly you’ll notice plenty of body roll.
Off-road, however, the Amarok feels at home thanks to its grippy four-wheel-drive system and raised ride height that keeps its mechanicals well away from rocks and roots.
Price, value for money & options
More expensive than most of its rivals, but used values are good
The Volkswagen Amarok is more expensive than both the Mitsubishi L200 and the Toyota Hilux, although it's closely matched by the Ford Ranger, and the VW badge arguably has more kudos than all of them.
The top-spec VW Amarok Highline in particular comes well specced with equipment such as climate control and heated leather seats. Sat-nav is a cost option on all models, but even the basic Startline model has electric windows all round, air conditioning, and a useful 12v plug for charging electronic devices such as your mobile phone or MP3 player.
The special edition Canyon model gets an extra £8,500 worth of kit over the mid-spec Trendline model, including 19-inch alloy wheels, sat-nav, heated leather seats and front and rear parking sensors. Prices start at £34,788 for the Canyon, representing a £626 saving if you were to buy a Trendline model and order the standard equipment on the Canyon as extras.
What the others say
"The Volkswagen Amarok was voted the Best Pick-Up of 2013 at the Auto Express awards, offering SUV-rivalling quality and equipment."
"The Volkswagen Amarok won’t be enough to tempt people away from a conventional 4x4 or crossover, but it does compare well to rival pick-ups."