The skinny: A new Hilux comes once a decade, so Toyota is justifiably excited about the prospects for its top selling ute. Almost entirely new, the Hilux enters a bustling market filled with new or updated utes, all vying for a piece of Toyota’s enviable market share.
But with new diesel engines, new safety features, and a focus on delivering SUV-like levels of refinement, the Hilux is setting up to take control of the market yet again. But this time with the increasingly popular Ford Ranger hot on its tail.
Vehicle Style: 4x4 Dual-cab ute.
Price: $36,990 - $55,990 (plus on-roads)
Workmate: 110kW/400Nm 2.4 4cyl turbo diesel | 6spd manual, 6spd automatic
SR and SR5: 130kW/420Nm (man) 450Nm (auto) 2.8 4cyl turbo diesel, | 6spd manual, 6spd automatic - 175kW/376Nm 4.0 6cyl petrol | 6spd automatic
Fuel economy claimed:
2.4 TD man 7.3 - 7.7 l/100km
2.4 TD auto 8.3 - 8.5 l/100km
2.8 TD man 7.6 - 8.1 l/100km
2.8 TD auto 8.5 - 9.0 l/100km
4.0 V6 auto 11.5 - 12.0 l/100km
Australians love utes, and the ute they love most is the Toyota Hilux - it's been the top selling ute in this country for the past 17 years.
Last year alone, Hilux sold 38,126 units, putting it a whopping 11,000 units ahead of Ford Ranger, the second highest seller in its segment. That number also made Hilux a higher seller than the entire Honda brand, which finished in tenth place on the sales chart last year.
Now, from the chassis rails, to the suspension, and throughout the interior, the Hilux is freshly minted. A pair of new diesel engines - a 2.4 litre diesel, plus the headline 2.8 litre - and new transmissions, with six-speeds in place of five in 4x4 models.
The 4.0 litre V6 petrol remains a box you can tick (and also the familiar 2.7 litre petrol for 4x2 models, not covered with this review).
Toyota promises this new Hilux is more rugged than it’s ever been, with increased wheel articulation, a larger-section box frame, and more underbody plating made from thicker steel,
Will it be suited to Aussie conditions? It ought to be - over a million development kilometres were hammered-out globally during development, and a massive 650,000km were racked up here.
But ruggedness counts for nothing if the comfort to endure it isn’t there, so additional sound deadening, and a completely redesigned interior that takes its cues from passenger cars and SUVs provides a more comfortable office.
Toyota introduced us to the new Hilux at the Anglesea proving grounds in Victoria, where some of the new car’s development work was carried out, to give an idea of what the new model is capable of.
- Workmate: Fabric seat trim, vinyl floor covering, manual air-conditioning, steering wheel audio controls, auto up/down driver’s window, 17-inch steel wheels
- SR (in addition to Workmate): Black side steps, floor carpet, premium fabric seat trim, heated and cooled upper glovebox, monochrome multi-info display, height-adjustable driver’s seat, 60:40 split fold rear seat base (dual cab)
- SR5 (in addition to SR): Premium shift knob and steering wheel, Auto-levelling LED headlamps with LED running lamps, fog lamps, stainless steel sports bar, proximity key and push-button start, chrome power folding mirrors, rear privacy glass, chrome grille and rear step bumper, single-zone climate control air conditioning, auto up/down - all windows, variable intermittent windscreen wipers, premium instrument cluster with 4.2-inch colour multi information display, alarm, chrome interior door handles, silver highlights in cabin, 220v power socket, additional 12v power socket, 18-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: Bluetooth connectivity, 6.1-inch touchscreen w/two speakers (Workmate) or 7.0-inch touchscreen with four speakers (SR) plus satellite navigation and DAB+ digital radio (SR5)
- Payload: 920-1120kg (depending on specification)
With SUV-like levels of comfort the target, Toyota has delivered an interior that is light years ahead of the previous model.
Even the base model Workmate models feature a 6.1-inch display audio touchscreen unit, with SR upgrading to a 7.0-inch screen, and SR5 picking up DAB+ digital radio and satellite navigation.
Seat trim is cloth across the board, with ‘premium cloth’ used on SR and SR5, or the option of leather trim with a powered driver’s seat for $2000 on SR5 turbo diesel dual cab.
Additional seat travel seat travel on SR and SR5, plus a steering column that now adjusts for reach as well as angle on extra cab and dual cabs means more shapes and sizes will be able to set a comfortable position behind the wheel.
In the rear, the dual-cab offers a natural seating position, and a comfortably angled backrest, plus underseat storage on SR and SR5 dual cab, with a 60:40 fold up seat base.
SR and SR5 models also come with a chilled upper glovebox that can hold two 600ml bottles.
Mobile-office skills are also enhanced in the SR5 with an additional 12V power socket, and a 220V outlet for charging a laptop or cordless tools.
ON THE ROAD
- 110kW/400Nm 2.4 four-cylinder turbo diesel
- 130kW/420Nm (man) 450Nm (auto) 2.8 four-cylinder turbo diesel
- 175kW/376Nm 4.0 naturally aspirated petrol V6
- Six-speed manual or six-speed automatic, low range 4x4:
- Double wishbone front suspension, leaf-spring rear with solid axle:
- Brakes: 319mm ventilated front discs, 295mm rear drums
- Hydraulically assisted power steering, turning circle: 11.8m
- Towing capacity: 3000-3500kg (depending on specification)
The new engine line-up has all bases covered in the new Hilux; the 2.8 litre diesel (shared with the Prado) is the headline act, but the HiLux is the last 4x4 ute to also offer a V6 petrol-engine option in Australia.
New six-speed auto and manual gearboxes also take the place of the previous five-speed units across the board for 4x4 models.
The range kicks off with a 2.4 litre turbo diesel in Workmate spec which produces 110kW and 400Nm in 4x4 models. The 4x2 models make do with 343Nm which still matches the outgoing 3.0 litre diesel’s torque figure.
SR and SR5 step up to a 2.8 litre turbo diesel, the same engine you’ll find in the Prado SUV, power is rated at 130kW (or trimmed to 125kW in 4x2) with 420Nm of torque paired with a six-speed auto or 450Nm (or the same 343Nm as the smaller 2.4 in 4x2).
Putting the Workmate 2.4 through its paces revealed that it is no weak link. While it may make a little more noise than the larger 2.8, and take a little longer to reach freeway speeds, it provides plenty of pulling power.
Coupled to a six-speed auto it's also civilised enough to get the job done smoothly, and sharp enough in its kickdown response to keep itself on the boil.
Step into the brawnier 2.8 and the Hilux could even be defined as swift. The larger engine revs with greater ease, feels a touch more refined, and the additional torque is noticeable.
At just 1200rpm both diesel engines deliver 80 percent of their maximum torque, that means for low-speed off-road work there’s little difficulty hauling the Hilux out of trouble.
A clean shift-action for manual equipped models makes them more effortless to drive than before, and the clutch is easy to modulate, with a positive take-up point. The weighting isn’t at all heavy; the pedal providing a really good feel, either empty or loaded to the hilt.
To give an idea of the Hilux’s towing ability, Toyota hooked up 2.7 tonnes of caravan, plus threw 200kg in the tray and let us hit the high-speed ring at the Anglesea proving grounds.
The load was hardly enough for the Hilux to break a sweat. With towing capacities between 3000kg and 3500kg on 4x4 models, the 2.8 litre SR manual we drove was well and truly able to cope with the load.
Without a load behind the Hilux feels no less settled on the freeway. All the cars we drove were loaded with 200kg in the tray, something Toyota says a typical owner would carry on a daily basis.
The steering is settled, with no on-centre twitchiness. There’s plenty of assistance to disguise the Hilux’s weight, and along with new rear leaf springs that are 100mm longer, to help settle the ride, the Hilux sits firmly and squarely on the road.
We also gave the Hilux a heavy-handed flick on a gravel road - stability control is lightning-fast to intervene, but there’s still a bit of movement instead of a full power shut-down, allowing you to catch the slide and get things back on track safely.
Refinement is hugely improved over the outgoing model. There’s less noise, less vibration, a smoother manual gearshift and a more settled ride, leading to less driver fatigue. For anyone that puts in long hours behind the wheel, that’s all good news.
We also had a limited spin in the V6 SR5, which comes solely with a six-speed auto. By far the smoothest of the engines, and fairly effortless too, with 175kW of power 376Nm of torque.
Another noteworthy variant is the intelligent manual transmission fitted to turbo diesel SR5 which features rev-matching to ensure smoother gear changes, and to prevent shift-shock and compression lock-up on downshifts. It’s subtle, but makes the manual version all the easier to drive
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars.
Safety features: All Hilux variants come equipped with seven airbags (dual front, dual front-side, curtain, and driver’s knee) as well as ABS brakes with brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution, active traction control, vehicle stability control, trailer sway control and emergency brake signal.
A reverse camera is standard on pick-up bodied models, and available as an accessory for cab chassis versions.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
There’s no shortage of 4x4s on offer right now with the recent arrival of a new Navara, and new Mitsubishi Triton. Ford’s Ranger has had a big overhaul, while the related Mazda BT-50 got a less extensive update.
For the time being The Volkswagen Amarok, Holden Colorado, and Isuzu D-Max also soldier on unchanged, but are holding healthy slices of this growing market.
- Nissan Navara
- Mitsubishi Triton
- Ford Ranger
- Mazda BT-50
- Volkswagen Amarok
- Holden Colorado
- Isuzu D-Max
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
This new Hilux takes a massive leap forward in on-road behaviour, and with no loss of its impressive capability off-road.
The improvements to refinement, the greater ease of driveability, improved suspension and the stout new 2.8 litre diesel (shared with the Prado) add up to a "better, stronger, quieter, faster" new HiLux.
In any way you care to look at it, this is a very compelling dual-purpose vehicle. But, still the king for now, it won't have its own way in this market with such improved competitors circling the camp.
The Colorado cabin lacks the same neat and tidy style, but is not short on power and torque. And the composed and very well-sorted Ranger sets a benchmark both on-road, and off-it.
Will that be enough to stop the Hilux from topping the light commercial sector yet again? We can’t imagine so; there is a lot of showroom appeal and a lot of 'history' in this badge that won't be easily worn away.
Add a hard-won reputation out in the field, and the bank of buyers waiting for this new model should guarantee its success.