FEW VEHICLES BOAST BADGEWORK THAT DOUBLES AS A CLEAR DESCRIPTION OF THEIR INTENDED PURPOSE – BUT THE 2016 TOYOTA HILUX WORKMATE CERTAINLY DOES.
Tested here as an entry-model, in double cab (four doors, five seats) and rear-wheel drive configuration (or 4x2 in ute speak), this entry HiLux does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s for work, mate.
You can picture it: blokes cloaked in ‘high-viz’ sitting inside, an unadorned grey ute with unpainted bumpers and black steel wheels, picking its way down into a dusty open-cut mine. Given the HiLux's reputation, it should keep on ‘keeping on’ for hundreds of thousands of kilometres.
There are no frills, but also no great bills with this $33,990 (plus on-road costs) diesel-engined double-cab manual variant.
Vehicle Style: Ute / pickup
Price: $33,990 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 110kW/343Nm 2.4 litre 4cyl turbo-diesel | 5sp manual
Fuel Economy claimed: 8.9 l/100km | tested: 8.9 l/100km
When buying any ute, it’s best to first consider whether you need a back seat, or not.
In the case of the HiLux, if just two perches are required, it means saving $9000 and selecting the Workmate in two-seater, cab-chassis configuration, all from $24,990 (plus orc, although a tray is extra).
The harder question may be whether you need two- or four-wheel-drive. The 4x2 HiLux versions, in fact, are outsold almost three-to-one by 4x4 HiLux models.
But to get the Workmate double cab with 4x4 ‘hi-rider’ capability will cost you another $10,000, starting from $43,990 (plus). So, 4x2 or 4x4?
We’re testing the 4X2, four doors, good-sized tub, and built for work. It might be the one you need...
- Standard equipment: power windows and mirrors, keyless entry, multi-function trip computer, air-conditioning, cloth seat trim, cruise control
- Infotainment: 6.1-inch colour touchscreen with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, USB input, AM/FM radio, CD player and 2 speakers
- Options fitted: none
Those used to the vinyl-trimmed seats of the previous-generation HiLux Workmate will not only be pleasantly surprised by the inclusion of cloth seat trim in the new model, but also by the bright colour touchscreen taking centre stage.
Of course, whether or not cloth trim will be seen as an advantage in this type of vehicle is moot, but flooring is still of the vinyl variety, and still perfect for muddy miners’ boots.
A more sizeable bone of contention concerns the touchscreen. Over time, it may not respond well to dirty fingers, particularly as there are no physical volume or tuning knobs, only touch-sensitive buttons.
To some it could be a step backwards for a work vehicle. But we’re happy to give Toyota plaudits for adding more equipment to its entry model, without substantially racking up the price.
Little details such as auto-off headlights, a steering wheel now adjustable for height and reach, and four-door power windows further boost the Workmate package.
There is no argument about the more comfortable seating front and, especially, rear. While the perches up at the pointy end are more supportive and decently plush, the new back bench is simply a revelation, with a nicely-tilted cushion and a backrest that isn’t as upright as before.
But, compared with rivals, the similarly priced Mitsubishi Triton GLX double cab 4x2 feels more capacious, likewise the Ranger is roomier overall (but it starts $2400 higher than the entry Toyota).
Still, the ‘Lux is now more than competitive in the class, and Toyota claims its latest model is 70mm longer and 20mm wider than the old one.
Along with a big, square and wide tray boasting a one-tonne (or 1020kg) payload, the Workmate offers a decent blend of price, equipment and practicality.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 110kW/343Nm 2.4 4cyl turbo-diesel
- Transmission and driveline: five-speed manual, RWD
- Suspension: Independent front, leaf spring rear
- Brakes: ventilated front discs and rear drum brakes
- Steering type and turning circle: hydraulically assisted mechanical steering, 11.8m
- Towing capacity: 2500kg, 1020kg payload
Back to our earlier question for a moment – cab chassis two-seater or double cab five-seater?
This HiLux Workmate double cab 4x2 may score a 1020kg payload, but it is beaten by the $9000-cheaper HiLux Workmate cab chassis 4x2 that boasts a 1240kg payload, which is also the highest figure of any model in the range.
Ah, but 4x2 or 4x4? Well, that HiLux Workmate double cab 4x4 can manage even less, getting only a 955kg payload by comparison.
On the flipside, where this 4x2 has a 2.5-tonne towing capacity, the 4x4 can lug up to 3.2t, the second highest figure in the HiLux range.
All diesel-engined Workmates run a 2.4-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine, producing 110kW of power at 3400rpm and 343Nm of torque between 1400rpm and 2800rpm.
From this same engine, however, 4x4 versions get the same power but extra torque, at 400Nm between 1600rpm and 2000rpm.
Just to make things complicated, only the 2.7-litre petrol four-cylinder Workmate is available with manual or automatic transmission, where this diesel is a five-speed DIY-shifter proposition only.
(Incidentally, we wouldn’t bother with a revvy, thirsty petrol engine, particularly as it only saves $3300 comparing manual to manual.)
Toyota claims that body rigidity is up 20 percent compared with the previous HiLux, while the rear leaf springs are 100mm longer and mounted 50mm wider apart in order to achieve “SUV-style ride comfort”.
A thicker front stabliser bar, larger dampers and increased roll stiffness round out the claimed changes. Saying it is merely ‘changed’, however, does not do this latest Toyota justice.
Compared with the old ute that had been on-sale since 2005, the new one feels overwhelmingly stronger, quieter and more car-like.
Some of that might be attributed to the ‘low-rider’ 4x2, which, compared with the ‘high-rider’ 4x4 models, reduces ground clearance and lowers the centre of gravity, which should aid handling.
The 4x2 may not be able to go offroad, but thanks to chubby tyres it will be able to mount kerbs and scale dusty worksites without a problem. Again, do you really need the 4x4?
The Workmate has light and precise steering that loads up subtly when winding on lock entering a corner. It feels stable and surefooted, and is backed by an electronic stability control system that acts early and decisively, as it should in a load lugging context.
The diesel is quiet but never feels quick, and Power mode makes the throttle far too touchy.
We would love to see Toyota inject another (sixth) gear inside the manual, to meet contemporary standards. Likewise it would be great to get the full 400Nm in the two-wheel-drive versions (you can get 403Nm in a Nissan Navara and an even heftier 430Nm in the Triton GLX).
The biggest let-down with the Workmate comes in the form of unladen ride quality. Surefooted the HiLux may be, but its jiggly and bouncy suspension remains some way off the Ranger benchmark and even the similarly-priced Triton.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 34.45 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Dual front and curtain airbags, ABS and ESC
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
With its five-year warranty, nicer ride and bigger back seat, we would be tempted by the Triton first and new Navara second. In 4x2 double cab guise the Ranger is too pricey (from $36,390 plus orc).
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
It may not be as popular as 4x4 HiLux models, but there are good reasons why the Toyota HiLux dominates the 4x2 segment.
In Workmate specification, the whole package gels nicely. The diesel is refined but not too quick (and it matched its 8.9 l/100km economy claim on test). The interior is comfortable and roomy without being too flashy, and the price is competitive without being too expensive.
Bundled in with HiLux’s hard-earned reputation for reliability, and its high resale values, and there is plenty to recommend in this unpretentious and supremely practical entry-model double cab.
With a little extra ride-comfort and performance, we might have rated this Toyota our number one pick in the class. But choose this one, and you'll still have chosen well.
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