2012 TOYOTA HILUX REVIEW
What’s hot: Better looks, better pricing, proven winning package.
What’s not: New style not overly obvious; diesel noise when working hard.
X-Factor: Unassailable resale values, almost refined, and tough as ten bridge-bolts.
Vehicle Style: Double Cab 4x4 Utility
Price: $44,490 (auto); $41,990 (manual)
Fuel consumption (claimed): 8.1 litres/100km
Fuel consumption (on test): not recorded
The King is dead? No way, not even resting. HiLux, the nameplate that has ruled the workhorse sector for nearly two decades isn’t yet ready to relinquish the throne.
New from the A-pillars forward, with a sharpened interior, subtle on-road refinements, and sharpened pricing across the 35 variants in the 2012 range (many prices repositioned downward), Toyota’s 2012 HiLux is still the one by which all others are judged.
At its launch in North Queensland, we put both petrol and diesel HiLux 4x4 Double Cab variants through their paces, in auto and manual. We looked closest at the no-nonsense SR TD 4x4 Double Cab auto for this review.
At $44,490, a saving of $2400 over the model it replaces, the 2012 HiLux SR TD is well-equipped, lacks few of the things that matter when compared to the range-topping SR5, and is perhaps the pick of the crop.
Quality: It’s not the best interior in the sector for style and feel (that mantle belongs to the Mazda BT50, Ford Ranger or Amarok), but the dash, fittings and seats of the new HiLux are improved over the old.
It’s also well laid-out and nicely trimmed in charcoal and grey. And, as we’ve come to expect from the HiLux, everything is well put-together and as tight as a kettle-drum.
Comfort: The seats are comfortable and, though slightly short in the squab (both front and back), provide enough grip and support when lurching about off-road.
We quite like the feel of the new materials and the trimming on the doors, but the light-grey seat-shoulders began to show a few sweaty hand-prints.
Although manually operated, the seats provide ample adjustment for getting set at the wheel. Unfortunately though, the new four-spoke wheel adjusts only for rake and not reach – something longer-legged drivers may mark down.
On the plus side, like last year’s model, headroom in the rear is pretty good; so is the legroom back there (provided the legs occupying the front aren’t too long).
Equipment: The 2012 SR is pretty comprehensively decked-out. It gets a number of features previously only found on the SR5 like ‘sports-style’ front seats, and side and curtain airbags.
It also gets neat drilled-metal 17-inch steel wheels (VL Interceptor-style), over-fender flares and, in V6 petrol models, a limited-slip diff.
Inside it scores metal trim and audio controls to the steering wheel, power windows, cruise-control, remote central locking, fascia-mounted aux-in and USB input, Bluetooth (with audio streaming and phone-book access profile) and voice recognition for phone and audio.
Storage and Towing: Braked towing capacity on 2012 HiLux 4x4 models has been increased to 2.5 tonnes. This is bettered by some in the sector but up to the task for towing the horse-float or Bobcat trailer.
The deep tub is unchanged from last year’s model – in the Double Cab it’s tail-gate down for the trail-bikes.
On-road: Now with one of the bigger turbo-diesels in the class (since the Triton down-sized to the 2.5 litre capacity of the Navara, and the Amarok makes do with 2.0 litres), the HiLux’s 3.0 litre TD is a robust and understressed unit.
With 126kW @ 3600rpm and 343Nm of torque from 1400rpm to 3400rpm, the DOHC 16-valve turbocharged and intercooled diesel provides just reasonable on-road urge.
It’s a little more leisurely than some – not helped by the four speed auto – but will sit up quickly enough to get out and around when overtaking. (It will even hit the old ton – 160km/h – if given its head on a longer stretch.)
The high-stepping 4x4 stance on 17-inch rims is not ideal for long tarmac kilometres, but while there is some fore-aft jiggle on secondary surfaces, it’s not half-bad.
On gravel, it is very good and can be paddled along enthusiastically without banging and crashing from below. There were lots of dry and semi-dry creek beds on a leg of the drive route near Charters Towers, but we were in no danger of finding the bump-stops.
Off-road: The 4x4 HiLux has always been just as much at home on a sticky work-site as on a deeply rutted fire-access track. With the right tyres, you feel like it could climb a wall.
It’s well protected underneath, has steep approach, departure and ramp-over angles (although side steps can compromise things here) and good wheel articulation for stepping over boulders and across ruts.
In the auto, it is simply a matter of pointing the nose at the hill, picking the line and using the torque of the diesel to crawl up and over
(The manual we also drove is equally capable off road but more work at the wheel in balancing the revs and approach speeds – especially on looser climbs.)
Refinement: The HiLux SR TD has a bit more diesel clatter than you’ll notice in some of the other contenders (the Amarok is quieter on the move).
It intrudes a little on winding roads with rising and falling revs, but settles to a muted ticking-hum on highway stretches. It’s not unpleasant but the TD’s V6 petrol stablemate holds the upper-hand for on-road refinement.
Otherwise, wind-noise is relatively low, only apparent around the base of the A-pillars above 110km/h, and road noise is very well isolated. Except for the jiggle from the 4x4 suspension, the HiLux is more car-like than commercial workhorse on the highway.
Suspension: Up front the 2012 HiLux comes with the well-proven double-wishbone coil-spring front suspension with twin-tube dampers and a ball-joint mounted stabiliser bar and – naturally – a leaf-sprung rear.
There have been some small refinements down below for the 2012 model, notably a change to the suspension bushes to better isolate vibration from the front end.
Damper valves have also been changed to improve damping performance, especially on rough roads.
Braking: The pedal hardens a little if you ride it for too long down a long decline, but braking performance is as you’d expect and pedal feel in normal driving is good.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Mitsubishi Triton GL-R 4x4 Dual Cab Auto ($38,240) - We like the Triton but remain a little unsure that the current model is an improvement over the old.
That previous 3.2 diesel – a little coarse and a little thirsty – was nevertheless a good unit. The Triton GL-R is worthy, but the HiLux in SR trim is the better option. (see Triton reviews)
Nissan Navara D40 ST 2.5DT Auto ($46,050) - The other logical eyeball-to-eyeball competitor; a solid rig with a ‘US truck’ interior feel, but bettered by the HiLux SR diesel auto (the drone from the Navara’s CVT auto can be wearing).
Some driveline issues seem to still be lingering around the Navara manual but it’s a strong seller for Nissan and a worksite favourite. (see Navara reviews)
VW Amarok TDI400 Trendline 2.0DT ($47,990) - This one came with high hopes for VW but doesn’t seem to have caught on with trade buyers.
Smooth as silk (comparatively, for a work ute), good on road and very good off it. Priced at the upper end of the segment but doesn’t quite hit the mark. (see Amarok reviews)
2012 Ford Ranger ($19,740 - $57,390) - Here’s the next pretender to the throne. Great expectations, tough-truck style and to be released in two weeks – we’ll bring you the launch review.
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The new HiLux SR TD diesel is not the quietest, nor the smoothest nor the most comfortable in the class. And the front-end styling update, though an improvement to its lines, may go unnoticed by some.
But with the HiLux, Toyota demonstrates time and again that it understands best buyer-needs in this segment.
Its reputation and bullet-proof resale value is deserved: it hasn’t spent 14 continuous years at the top of the segment for nothing.
The updated HiLux is an improvement to a very robust and very capable package. We particularly like the diesel SR 4x4 Double Cab. It’s not only improved, but cheaper than the model it replaces.
The HiLux is still top of the heap. This is an easy one to recommend.