Taking a sporting analogy to utes, Toyota HiLux is in the Sir Donald Bradman-Michael Jordan-Jack Nicklaus league. The sales figures and customer satisfaction measurements speak for themselves – Toyota HiLux is the benchmark.
So despite, the arrival of an all-new Ford Ranger and all-new Mazda BT50, it is the facelifted Toyota HiLux which the newcomers will measure up to.
How popular is Toyota HiLux? Well it’s the number one best-selling vehicle outright in Queensland, West Australia and the Northern Territory and – incredibly – has repeated that success nationally in five months.
In that context, launch of the facelifted Toyota HiLux is one of the biggest stories for the Australian automotive industry this year.
Toyota HiLux Overview
In a strategic move, Toyota took us to Townsville, North Queensland for the HiLux national media launch. Toyota opened its first branch in Townsville back in 1964 and this commitment to North Queensland has earned the brand a reputation which is second-to-none – in that region, at the end of July, Toyota HiLux remained the best-selling vehicle, with its sales more than double its closest rival.
Now, for this facelifted model, Toyota has sharpened prices by as much as 16 per cent, freshened the appearance with a new front end and interior, added extra specifications and – significantly – shuffled the model lineup with important inclusions like a new turbo-diesel WorkMate Pick-up in Double Cab 4x4 (starting price $38,990). The entry-level model is the Toyota HiLux 4x2 Single Cab WorkMate (2.7-litre, five-speed manual) priced at $18,990 while the popular 4x4 SR5 Xtra Cab (3.0-litre turbo-diesel manual) has decreased by $5,650 and is now priced at $46,990.
ABS anti-lock brakes are now standard across the Toyota HiLux range, cruise control is standard on SR, SR5 and 4x4 WorkMate models fitted with an automatic transmission. Other added features (depending on the model) include an advanced satellite navigation system, new sports seats and new-design alloy wheels.
Toyota HiLux if offered in two-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive, three cabin styles (Single Cab, Xtra Cab and Double Cab), two body types (Pick-up or Cab Chassis), three model specifications (WorkMate, SR and SR5) and three engines. In fact, while some rivals are shortening their available models, Toyota has expanded the HiLux lineup from 32 variants to 35.
The full range is:
4x2 Single Cab
WorkMate CC 4-cylinder manual $18,990
WorkMate CC 4-cylinder automatic $20,990
WorkMate CC turbo-diesel manual $24,490
SR CC V6 manual $24,990
SR CC V6 automatic $27,490
SR CC turbo-diesel manual $26,990
SR Pick-up V6 manual $26,490
SR Pick-up V6 automatic $28,990
4x2 Xtra Cab
SR V6 automatic $30,990
SR turbo-diesel manual $31,990
SR% V6 automatic $40,990
4x2 Double Cab
WorkMate 4-cylinder manual $26,990
WorkMate 4-cylinder automatic $28,990
SR V6 manual $34,990
SR V6 automatic $37,490
ST turbo-diesel manual $32,990
SR5 V6 automatic $44,990
4x4 Single Cab
WorkMate CC turbo-diesel manual $31,990
WorkMate CC turbo-diesel automatic $33,990
SR CC turbo-diesel manual $34,990
SR CC turbo-diesel automatic $37,490
4x4 Xtra Cab
SR CC turbo-diesel manual $38,490
SR turbo-diesel manual $39,990
SR5 turbo-diesel manual $46,990
4x4 Double Cab
WorkMate turbo-diesel manual $38,990
WorkMate turbo-diesel automatic $40,990
SR V6 manual $41,990
SR V6 automatic $44,490
SR CC turbo-diesel manual $40,490
SR turbo-diesel manual $41,990
SR turbo-diesel automatic $44,490
SR5 V6 manual $50,990
SR5 V6 automatic $53,490
SR5 turbo-diesel manual $50,990
SR5 turbo-diesel automatic $53,490
Toyota HiLux Engines
No changes in drivetrains – new Toyota HiLux retains the three-engine lineup comprising two petrol powerplants (2.7-litre, four-cylinder and 4.0-litre V6) and one turbo-diesel (3.0-litre, four-cylinder).
Leading the petrol lineup is Toyota’s venerable 4.0-litre V6 (code-numbered 1GR-FE) with 175kW of power at 5200rpm and peak torque (manual transmission) of 343Nm. V6-powered HiLux models driving through the five-speed automatic transmission score an extra 33Nm of torque – up to 376Nm.
The 2.7-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine is only fitted to entry-level Toyota HiLux 4x2 WorkMate models (Single Cab or Double Cab). Code-numbered 2TR-FE, the four-cylinder delivers 116kW at 5200rpm and peak torque of 240Nm at 3800rpm and returns fuel economy as low as 11.0l/100kms (five-speed manual).
Toyota HiLux diesel is Toyota’s 2.7-litre, four-cylinder engine code-numbered 1KD-FTV. The DOHC intercooled turbo-diesel is good for 126kW at 3600rpm and peak torque of 343Nm between 1400rpm and 3400rpm.
Toyota HiLux The Interior
Facelifted Toyota HiLux rings-in substantial and detailed changes inside. The bad news for rival utes is there has been no change in rear seat dimensions for Double Cab models – they’re still very spacious (these versions are the major family vehicles in Thailand, the world’s largest ute market and location of the Toyota plant which supplies HiLux models sold in Australia).
First-up you’ll notice the new, sporty four-spoke steering wheel (unfortunately still only adjustable for rake) and new seat and door trim material (selected models). Toyota HiLux 4x4 SR and SR5 models gain new-design sports front seats with side and curtain-shield airbags.
The upper dashboard is a new design with a horizontal layout for the instrument cluster which is intended to enhance the feeling of width for front row occupants.
Audio systems feature major improvements, headlined by the range-topping Toyota HiLux SR5 models which gain satellite navigation viewed on a 6.1-inch LCD touch screen and offering SUNA traffic alerts and audible warnings for red-light cameras, school zones and variable speed limits. Other audio systems vary according to models but, for example, could include voice recognition, touch screen, 3D graphics, three-line text display and Bluetooth compatibility for entry-level WorkMate models.
SR 4x4 models are the big winners in the Toyota HiLux upgrades, scoring many features previously exclusive to range-topping SR5 variants – including sports front seats.
Toyota HiLux Exterior & Styling
Styling improvements for the new Toyota HiLux can be easily summarized – everything forward of the A-pillar is new. That means a new bonnet (with a re-positioned cool-air intake for turbo-diesels), with extra creases, new radiator grille, new headlights and new front bumper.
SR5 models go further with new fender flares, new door mirrors with indicator lights and new alloy wheels for 4x4 Xtra and Double Cabs.
Doesn’t sound like a lot, but in the metal, the new Toyota HiLux is distinctly different. So much so that one owner of a current model HiLux almost crashed in the main street of Townsville while trying to get a good look at our new model test car as we drove by.
Toyota HiLux On The Road
Toyota being Toyota, the drive route covered over two days from Townsville was one of the most memorable and thorough of the modern generation. We covered all types of road surfaces including dirt of variable standards – such is Toyota’s confidence in the new HiLux, the company did not shy away from setting a challenging route for us.
Think we’re stretching things? Think again when you recall Cyclone Yasi ripped through this region just months ago, inflicting devastating damage in its path – including some of the roads we covered.
To make things ‘real world’ Toyota securely fitted 180kgs of ‘ballast’ into cargo area of the test vehicles. As ute owners know, these vehicles are designed to operate best when loaded.
Once again Toyota HiLux impressed with its all-round prowess. HiLux runs a leaf-sprung rear end (favoured by many ute operators) and a coil-spring double-wishbone front (new calibration is included in the new model upgrades) and cornering balance and grip levels are impressive.
We enjoyed the extra rubber on the 17-inch alloy wheels on SR and SR5 models – just that extra bit of compliance over the bumps and washouts on these tough Queensland roads.
Part of the drive route saw us tackle some tough, rutted tracks in Toyota HiLux 4x4 models. Once again HiLux excelled in conditions harsh enough that some of our less experienced colleagues went bashing on alloy side steps.
After two days and hundreds of kilometres, our favourite amongst the new Toyota HiLux range was the SR model. Sure the SR5 delivers not insignificant extras like satellite navigation and a six-speaker audio system, but all things considered we reckon the SR gets lots of handy kit and its price advantage over SR5 is worth thinking about.
Toyota HiLux Challenges
Toyota has responded with its expected slickness – HiLux has never been better than this new, facelifted lineup. But the competition has stepped-up like never before and taken square aim at Toyota’s star - will the facelifted HiLux’ reputation in the ute segment be enough to hold buyers’ attention in the face of the impressive all-new looks of the Ford Ranger and BT50?
After two intense HiLux days in Townsville, we’ll only deduct points for the noise of the diesel engine under load – not as quiet as the Volkswagen Amarok but on par or better than anything else.
Toyota HiLux The Competition
If you thought small cars were a tough segment, competition in the ute market is now every bit as intense.
Introduction of the new Toyota HiLux has been eagerly watched by both Ford and Mazda as they launch the all-new Ranger and BT50. Car Showroom will drive both at the national media launches in coming weeks.
At this stage we know the Ford and Mazda are good lookers – we reckon the Ford Ranger is a standout – and both have been well engineered for the demands of Australian Ute buyers.
Nissan Navara is also a Car Showroom favourite and Mitsubishi’s Triton is enjoying great popularity with tradies for its load tub strength.
Then there are the new Volkswagen Amarok and Isuzu D-MAX – both shape-up admirably (although the Amarok is still restricted due to its exclusively manual transmissions).
In this league, the decades-long reputation earned by Toyota HiLux counts for a lot. You rarely hear of customer complaints regarding their HiLux. And clearly Toyota has steeled itself to recapture ground lost due to restricted supply from earthquake/tsunami-affected supplier companies in Japan – new HiLux is spot-on for specifications, the new additions to the lineup are sharply targeted at ute buyers and the pricing is very keen.
What you must do is check closely price and specifications for the specific model variant you’re considering to ensure you’re getting the best vehicle at the best price. The intense level of competition in the ute segment will also see manufacturers and dealers keen to do business.