WHEN YOU'RE NUMBER ONE, RIVALS HAVE JUST ONE SINGLE OBLECTIVE - TO BEAT YOU.
Toyota launched the all-new 2016 HiLux line-up in September, sometime after the arrival of all-new models or updates from major rivals Ford, Nissan, Mazda and Mitsubishi. Yet, despite conceding that head-start to the competition, who have all fired their best shots, Hilux remains Australia’s ‘numero uno’.
It has, in fact, been the number one best-selling commercial vehicle here for the past 18 years consecutively.
What has changed is that the margin to the chasing pack is now significantly reduced compared to the not-too-distant past when HiLux enjoyed a sales lead of more than 40 percent over its closest rival.
Vehicle Style: Dual Cab 4x4 Pickup
Price: $55,990 (plus on road costs)
Engine/Transmission: 2.8-litre, four-cylinder turbo-diesel | 6sp automatic
Fuel Consumption claimed: 8.5 l/100kms; Tested: 9.9 l/100kms
TMR tested the range-topping Toyota HiLux SR5, which is a rival to the slick Ford Ranger Wildtrak.
Perhaps taking direct aim at the locally-developed Ranger, Toyota hasn’t held back in highlighting the Australian input (mostly in the suspension) and testing (claimed to be more than 650,000kms) for the all-new eighth generation HiLux range.
It has also been beating the drum about its “unbreakable” toughness, better engines, increased payload (925kgs for the SR5 tested or up to 1240kgs) and towing capacity (3.2 tonnes for the SR5 tested or up 3.5 tonnes).
That toughness extends to the load tub which gains revised ribbing and new cross-members, a reinforced header board, thicker outer panels and steel-plate brackets for the tailgate struts.
Toyota HiLux SR5 adds extras such as 18-inch alloy wheels, stainless steel sports bar in the tub, a few extra splashes of chrome and a host of interior features.
Our test car was fitted with the optional leather trim and electronically-adjustable drivers’ seat. For this test we used it as a family hauler for the week, running around the city with a run into the Yarra Valley, no off-road work but some trips heavily loaded.
- Standard features: Cruise control, power windows and mirrors, rake/reach adjustable steering wheel, split-fold rear seat base, satellite navigation, auto-levelling LED headlights and LED DRLs, fog lights, climate-control air-conditioning, silver trim highlights.
- Infotainment: Six-speaker audio, 7.0-inch touchscreen, voice recognition, Bluetooth connectivity and streaming, DAB+ digital radio, Pandora internet.
Interior space is up in the all-new Toyota HiLux. Up-front, there’s more head and shoulder room, and the extra 10mm of knee-room in the rear seat of the dual-cab model we drove, directly addresses criticism of the previous generation.
Drivers will appreciate reach and telescopic adjustment for the steering wheel (a rarity amongst utes, with the Triton the only other to offer both ‘reach and rake’) and extra drivers’ seat-height adjustment (60mm in this model compared to 45mm in the previous generation).
We like the shape of the front seats and, in the SR5 model as tested, the second row includes two ISOFIX child seat anchorage points, a stowable arm-rest and the base split-folds 60:40.
We also like the all-new look for the dashboard with its tablet-style touchscreen and improved instrumentation (‘cool blue’ illumination in the SR5), as well as the multi-function wheel.
Importantly, for the up-specced SR5 model, and for buyers using their vehicle as a tool-of-trade, the communication features and sat-nav are easily accessed and navigated, the DAB audio is crisp and clear and key functions can be accessed via voice recognition.
Toyota HiLux SR5 also adds an air-conditioned cool box capable of chilling two 600ml bottles – just the thing for hard-working tradies or recreationalists; there is also an additional 12V power socket plus a 220V outlet for charging a laptop or cordless tools.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 130kW/450Nm 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic
- Suspension: Independent front/leaf spring rear
- Brakes: Front discs, rear drums
- Cargo and Towing: Payload 925kgs, towing capacity 3.2 tonnes (for the SR5 tested)
Local HiLux models run on what Toyota calls its ‘tough’ market suspension (also used in Russia, the Middle East, South America and South Africa).
Compared to the previous generation, there are larger diameter shock absorbers up front and a thicker anti-roll bar, while the rear leaf springs are 100mm longer and mounted wider.
Couple those changes with that terrific 2.8-litre turbo-diesel (and a six-speed auto with sporty throttle-blipping downshifts), more direct steering, a chassis which boasts 20 percent better torsional rigidity plus underbody protection which is 40 percent thicker and 30 percent larger… and, well, the sum total is a HiLux which drives better and is much more refined (the latter an area where Toyota needed to make up ground on newer rivals).
The SR5 runs on road-biased tyres which no doubt contribute to its quiet operation at speed, however at low speeds there is some noticeable engine noise to contend with.
With no load in the tub, the Toyota HiLux SR5 – like all pickups – does get a bit ‘fidgety’ in the rear-end when encountering train/tram crossings or mid-turn bumps.
And, unladen, it is certainly more firmly sprung and feels ‘harder’ on road than the Ranger and BT-50 for instance, and lacks the more suv-like feel of the Navara. The smart interior notwithstanding, its pack-horse leanings (and appetite for work) are still not far below the surface.
However, things change when that tub gets the kind of use it was designed for. We loaded-up the SR5 with a couple of marquees and associated paraphernalia for the TMR Juniors’ netball team’s ‘away’ tournament.
With some ballast in that rear, the ride and refinement improves dramatically.
Off-road testing ultimately comes down to a tyre test and while the SR5 – aided by an impressive armada of technology – is near unstoppable off-road in the dry, enthusiasts will probably prefer some meatier rubber.
(A four-way 4X4 comparison torture test is coming: Ed.)
Safety features: Seven airbags, anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, stability control, traction control, reversing camera, trailer sway control, hill-start assist, downhill assist control, electronic rear differential lock.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The Australian designed and developed Ford Ranger is the pick of this bunch. Ranger’s update delivered a ‘butched-up’ look and some interior modernization - but smartly left its superior driving dynamics largely unchanged.
The Ford’s five-cylinder 3.2-litre turbo-diesel is the segment’s most powerful (147kW/470Nm) but there’s no denying the Ranger gets pricey; you’ll need $57, 890 plus on-roads for the range-topping Wildtrak double cab.
The similar Mazda BT50 tops-out with the 3.2 GT dual-cab model which - while not as racy as the Ranger Wildtrak – looks sharply priced at $51,790 (plus)
Sticker price for Nissan’s NP300 Navara ST-X dual-cab is $51,990. Under the bonnet is the remarkable twin-turbocharged 2.3-litre four-cylinder diesel which delivers 140kW/450Nm.
Mitsubishi’s Triton 2.4 Exceed dual-cab is the lowest-priced of the lot at $47,790 but, while strong and quite refined, it isn’t on the same page as the muscled-up Ford Ranger Wildtrak. Mitsubishi’s 2.4-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel isn’t left behind however, with 133kW/430Nm on-tap.
VERDICT | OVERALL
In terms of styling, technology and interior comfort, there’s no doubt the all-new Toyota HiLux delivers the goods.
However for on-road driving dynamics, we still have the Ford Ranger in front – thanks primarily to better steering response, ride and body control.
Does that justify the extra $1,900 required for the Ranger Wildtrak over the HiLux SR5?
Tough question, but what we can say with surety is that the all-new HiLux sits head-and-shoulders above its predecessor in very department.
With killer resale values, and a deserved reputation for hard graft and reliability, the HiLux deserves its success. As a day-to-day proposition however, Ford’s Ranger takes the cigar.
Best you have a look, because there is not a lot in it. And, as certain as the sun rises in the East, Toyota HiLux will round-out 2016 as Australia’s best-selling ute…again.