AUSTRALIA’S TOP-SELLING UTE, THE TOYOTA HILUX, IS SO POPULAR THAT IF IT WERE A STAND ALONE BRAND IT WOULD FALL JUST OUTSIDE THE TOP-TEN SELLERS IN AUSTRALIA.
As it stands, the Hilux was the fourth most popular model in Australia last year – a figure skewed ever so slightly by supply issues as the superseded model was run out to make way for this new one.
And as far as new models go, the Hilux has left no stone unturned. New engines, new gearboxes, a new frame underneath, and a new interior all combine to ensure the Hilux range hold onto its title as Australia’s favourite ute.
Vehicle Style: 4×4 dual cab ute
Price: $46,490 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 130kW/420Nm 2.8 4cyl turbo diesel | 6spd manual
Fuel Economy claimed: 7.6 l/100km | tested: 8.6 l/100km
Call it what you like: a ute, a pick-up, a fourbie – there’s no denying the mark the Toyota Hilux has left on the Australian landscape. They’re everywhere, from the centre of town to the middle of nowhere.
The model we’ve chosen represents the workhorse of the range. The SR dual cab isn’t entirely stripped out, unlike the cheaper Workmate model, but it does come with the brawnier 2.8 litre diesel engine for added grunt.
Tied to a six speed manual with a dual-range transfer case and four wheel drive, the SR offers enough space and comfort to keep the family happy, hot to mention the required payload and towing capacity to put in the hard yards without raising much of a sweat.
- Standard equipment: Cloth seat trim, manual air conditioning, steering wheel audio controls, side steps, floor carpet, heated and cooled upper glovebox, monochrome multi-info display, height-adjustable driver’s seat, 60:40 split fold rear seat base, 17-inch steel wheels
- Infotainment: Bluetooth connectivity, 7.0-inch touchscreen with four speakers, Aux and USB inputs
Owners of the previous generation Hilux will barely recognise the fitout of the new model. Reworked from top to bottom, the interior borrows the best of Toyota’s passenger car range, while still being work-rated.
From the 7.0-inch touchscreen to the cooled upper glovebox the Hilux feels more like an SUV, but the dash and doors are still finished in hard wearing, knock-resistant plastics, so there’s little fear you’ll tear or split anything.
Premium cloth seats and a carpeted floor add a little comfort (You’ll find the same seat fabric in the Fortuner). Seat travel is generous enough to accommodate drivers of all shapes and sizes, plus the steering wheel features reach and rake adjustment.
There’s more room in the rear, stacks of head room, and more than enough knee room for anyone up to the six-foot mark. Grab handles on the B-pillars aid entry, while the rear seat base can be flipped up to fit more gear in.
There’s still no face-level air vents for rear seat passengers, but the air con is effective and the cabin cools down quickly, even on sweltering summer days.
There are a few issues we picked up on that might affect some owners. The cloth seat trim is an absolute dirt magnet, and the padded armrests in the doors looked putrid already.
As for the touchscreen, while it’s nice in theory plenty of utes spend their life choked in a layer of grime – gritty hands and plastic touchscreens aren’t a perfect solution in our opinion.
At the business end the tub offers 1569mm of length, 1645mm of width and a depth of 481mm making it larger than before in all directions. The tailgate persists with a two-latch fastener (unlike the SR5) making it a two hand operation, while a sturdy header frame and built-in rope rails are all part of the SR package.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 130kW/420Nm 2.8 four-cylinder turbo diesel
- Transmission: Six-speed manual, low range 4×4
- Suspension: Double wishbone front suspension, leaf-spring rear with solid axle
- Brakes: 319mm ventilated front discs, 295mm rear drums
- Steering: Hydraulically assisted power steering, turning circle: 11.8m
- Towing capacity: 3500kg (braked) 750kg (unbraked)
Like Prado and Fortuner the new Hilux offers a 2.8 litre 1GD engine that produces 130kW at 3400rpm and 420Nm from 1400rpm (jumping to 450Nm at 1600rpm if you chose the automatic). For the sake of comparison the 3.0 litre 1KD engine it replaces managed 126kW and 343Nm.
The new engine is also quieter and smoother than the previous one. While it still isn’t an absolute front-runner for refinement (Triton holds that title amongst diesel utes) it does improve vastly on the old one.
We noticed less chug down low, and less thrash up high, making hours spent behind the wheel in and out out of town a more peaceful affair. While there’s plenty of torque in reserve down low the quieter engine means you can let it drop below 1000rpm all too easily while coasting around town, reducing responsiveness.
Aside from that though the extra oomph is welcomed, but on the open road the tall sixth gear means you’ll need to drop a cog or who to keep things purring along when faced with an incline.
The shift action of the six-speed manual has been tweaked too. There’s less effort required between gears, and even with an old-school long throw the shift doesn’t feel too agricultural.
Reverse is via a push-through detent to the left of the gate, push the lever a tad too hard when looking for first and it’s easy to mis-select reverse. There’s a chime to let you know, but if you’re in a rush or not paying attention it’s an easy mistake to make.
Suspension changes include 100mm longer rear leaf springs to settle the ride, without reducing payload.
With a completely empty tray the ride is a little jittery, trembling over smaller surface changes. By Toyota’s calculations most owners won’t run their vehicles empty (makes sense really) and by the time we’d loaded everything required for a backyard makeover into the tray the Hilux rode far more comfortably.
Payload for the SR dual cab utility is rated at 1005kg, while maximum towing capacity is 3500kg.
Venturing off the beaten track revealed that over rough roads, corrugations, and washouts the Hilux does its best work. It was hard to catch it out across the gravel-strewn trails at the southern end of the Great Dividing Range.
Low range offers a proper crawling gear if things get properly rugged, and progress is aided by the standard rear diff lock.
ANCAP rating: 5/5 Stars – the Hilux scored 34.45 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: All Hilux models come with seven airbags standard (dual front, front side, side curtain, and driver’s knee), front seatbelts with load limiting pretensioners, height adjustable head restraints and three-point seat belts in all positions, and three top-tether child seat anchorages, with two outboard ISOfix mounting points.
Traction and stability control, ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and brakes assist, are provided across the range, while a reverse camera comes standard on utility models.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The biggest threat to Hilux’ market dominance is Ford’s Ranger, which offers a stronger five-cylinder diesel engine and a comfy interior. Nissan’s Navara is big on car-like comfort, particularly if you opt for the coil-sprung dual cab utility.
The Mitsubishi Triton is a good value bet, its lower pricing and excellent refinement will win it plenty of friends. Sharing the Ranger’s oily bits means the Mazda BT-50 excels in all the right areas, but a unique look inside and out helps it stand apart.
- Ford Ranger
- Nissan Navara
- Mitsubishi Triton
- Mazda BT-50
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
With the new Hilux your tough truck is ready to roll. Like every Hilux before it the eighth generation isn’t afraid of a bit of hard work, but there’s a few more modern and refined touches to bring it up to speed.
The black steel wheels don’t look out of place, especially when matched with the black side steps and black grille, and the square-set solid stance hold the right appeal. Vitally though, the more user-friendly diesel engine makes long hours at the helm aless tiresome task.
Behind the scenes, Toyota put the development of this new model into the hands of Aussie engineers (we can break things here in ways no one else can) to make sure the Hilux lives up to its reputation for strength and reliability.
While the flasher SR5 is set to become the most popular Hilux variant, for those who can’t stretch the budget that far – or simply want a more practical alternative – the SR is well and truly willing to work hard.