Volkswagen Amarok SUV
Price: £24,809 - £37,841
- Spacious interior
- Excellent build quality
- Big load bed
- Car's size can be intimidating
- Difficult to park
- Uncomfortable suspension
"The Volkswagen Amarok blurs the lines between builder's wagon and family car, with huge off-road ability, a big load bed and a spacious and well finished five-seater interior."
Pick-up trucks have definitely crossed the divide between commercial vehicles and every-day cars. With the way paved by the SUV and 4x4 boom of the last decade, the pick-up is now a more common sight, with double-cab pick-ups in particular being used for both work and family life. The Volkswagen Amarok brings VW's reputation for peerless quality and customer satisfaction to the market. It still benefits from the same company car tax breaks as its commercial rivals, but it now has just as much appeal as a robust family car nowadays, thanks to the space and quality that it offers inside. Currently, you can only get as a five-seater double-cab, although a single-cab is mooted to follow on soon, and it stands out from its competition because of its solid build quality and high-grade materials. It's tough and will take on anything you can think of off-road, while the 2.0-litre twin-turbo diesel engine comes with a choice of 137bhp or 176bhp outputs. The Amarok comes in three main specifications – entry-level Startline, mid-range Trendline and top-of-the-standard-range Highline. All versions come equipped with a part-time four-wheel system as standard, to make sure the car really can take the roughest terrain in its stride. There's also now an Amarok limited edition luxury model that adds advanced touchscreen RNS 315 sat-nav, Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control and automatic air-conditioning. Its massive dimensions can make parking a little bit of a challenge, but once you've got used to just how big it feels when you’re behind the wheel, the Amarok becomes quite fun to drive.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Economy of 35mpg and £210 road tax
The Amarok hardly looks cheap to run, giving its hulking dimensions and workhorse construction, but the diesel-only VW is actually better than you might think. It's capable of fuel economy of 35.8mpg and you pay a flat rate of £210 in road tax a year, hence its appeal as the owner's sole mode of transport, in and out of work. Its economy is on par with the L200 but falls behind the Hilux. VW does offer competitive service plans, though, which prevents any big bills in the first few years of ownership.
Interior & comfort
Widely adjustable seats, but engine is noisy
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. You won’t be able to escape the gruff, grumbling engine, no matter where you sit, however, though it is less intrusive when driving at cruising speeds. The downside of the suspension being set up to carry heavy loads in the pick-up beds is that when the Amarok is driven with nothing in the back, it has a tendency to bounce around all over the place, especially over rough roads. However, even with that in mind, it's still better to drive than most rival pick-ups.
Practicality & boot space
Big load bed, decent interior space
Before we get to the obvious commercial practicality, the inside offers loads of space for five adults to sit comfortably, and if you add the optional grab handles and running boards, it's easy enough to climb in, too. Leg and headroom also impress in both the back and the front. So, the size of the load bed is obviously going to be an important factor for anyone thinking about buying a pick-up truck, and the Amarok's is long and wide. It's trimmed with durable plastic as standard, but you can select a metal chequer plate finish instead if you want. There's also a selection of tonneau covers and even a hard top if you so require. It's wide to carry a forklift pallet and can support up to 1,100kg of load, depending on the model. There's also a convenient 12-volt power socket in the load bed.
Reliability & safety
Superb VW quality, strong crash rating
This is slightly different from assessing a standard car's reliability, because the Amarok is designed to withstand the kind of beating that would crush a city car in about 30 seconds. However, a high-quality feel runs throughout the pick-up, from the rugged exterior to the surprisingly comfortable interior. The 2.0-litre diesel engine has been tried and tested elsewhere in the VW range so should prove reliable, and any wear and tear will depend exactly on how you use, obviously. While VW's 16th-place showing in the 2013 Auto Express Driver Power customer satisfaction survey is disappointing given its reputation, that's harder to apply here – and the Amarok isn't included in the survey. In terms of safety, the Amarok was tested in 2010 and got a four-star Euro NCAP crash safety rating, which is likely because of its size and original purpose. You do still get driver, passenger and side airbags, electronic stability control, hill hold assist and ISOFIX child seat anchor points all fitted as standard. Servicing will depending on how hard you push it, but will be performed by VW's commercial vehicle network, which should bring some peace of mind. You can also select drive modes electronically, while the stability control can prevent any trailer you’re towing from going out of control.
Engines, drive & performance
Heavy weight compromises speed and handling
If you haven’t driven a five-metre-long pick-up truck before, it’ll be no surprise that it will take a while to get used to the sheer size of the Amarok - parking will be a real challenge. You’re sat nice and high though, with great visibility, and all the controls and switches on the dashboard are clearly laid and have a quality feel. Now, while the diesel engine certainly has plenty of power and is a superb off-road performer, its body weight of more than two tonnes does make it hard to pull out of junctions quickly. The gearbox is efficient, while the steering takes quite a lot of turning to get it to steering lock. The height of the pick-up also means that you still get body roll through the corners, even though it is very heavy.
Price, value for money & options
More expensive than the competition, but used values are good
The Volkswagen Amarok is priced in the same range as the Ford Ranger, but is undercut by the Mitsubishi L200 and Toyota Hilux. The VW has stronger resale value in the used market though, and offers a higher level of equipment and accessories. This is particularly true of the top-spec Highline and limited edition models, which include climate control and heated leather seats.
What the others say
Last updated: 9 Nov 2013