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was the fourth most popular model in Australia last year - a figure skewed ever-so-slightly by supply issues as the superseded model was run out to make way for this new one.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, Toyota has left no stone unturned with the new Hilux. New engines, new gearboxes, a new frame underneath, and a new interior all combine to ensure the Hilux range holds onto its title as Australia’s favourite ute.
Vehicle Style: 4x4 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 will: 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 is on the firmer side of comfortable, but offers ample space and comfort to keep the family happy. It can also effortlessly carry the required payload and has the towing capacity to put in the hard yards.
- 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 are 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 4x4
- 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 comes with 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 among 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 of town a more peaceful affair. While there’s plenty of torque in reserve down low, the quieter engine means you can easily get caught letting it drop below 1000rpm while coasting around town, leaving you quickly shuffling for a cog if you need to get moving.
And, while the extra oomph from the diesel is very welcome, on the open road the tall sixth gear will also have you looking for another cog to keep things purring along when faced with an incline.
But we do like the shift action of the new six-speed manual. There’s less effort required when changing gears, and though the long throw is a bit old-school, it is hardly agricultural.
Reverse however 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, after we'd loaded everything 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 the Hilux does its best work on rough roads, corrugations, and washouts . 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 the standard rear diff lock is also there to help when tackling more extreme trails.
ANCAP rating: 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 Toyota's 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.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
With the new Hilux, Toyota has your new tough truck. Like every Hilux before it, the eighth generation isn’t afraid of a bit of hard work, and is now more refined and modern that it has ever been.
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 holds the right appeal.
Vitally though, the more user-friendly diesel engine makes long hours at the helm a less tiresome task.
Behind the scenes, Toyota put the development of this new model into the hands of its Aussie engineers (seems we can design, torture test and 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 ready for hard work.
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