The Toyota HiLux’s success as an all-round sales leader in Australia is far from an unprecedented occurrence. By now, it must be downright commonplace as pickups continue to appeal to a broader audience looking for ultimate versatility.
To stoke the flames, automakers are continually improving the recipe to add new talents to an otherwise utilitarian machine. Looks are now more of a priority, for example, and so are measurements of refinement, handling, comfort, on-board tech, and active safety features.
Trading sales blows with the HiLux is its longtime rival the Ford Ranger, another terrific all-rounder that just happens to be a dual-cab ute. In Wildtrak spec, is just about pips its Japanese rival for sheer presence and can match it for sheer off-road prowess. Where the Ranger can surge ahead, though, is in how it also manages to handle on the road.
Now, though, we have a new(ish) entrant from Holden, the comeback kid. The previous pre-update Colorado couldn’t really compete against these two segment heavyweights, but the changes given to this heavily revised version have amounted to a significantly improved package.
It’s still as capable of a hauler and terrain traverser as it was before, but it’s now more capable on the road, more desirable, more comfortable, and yes, good looking enough to give Ford and Toyota admirers some pause.
HEAD TO HEAD
Engines and Drivetrain
Turbodiesels are the order of the day for dual-cab, more passenger-minded pickups, and our trio is no different. These motors are hardy and can deliver the torque necessary to propel them up and out of sticky situations or into the fast lane on a highway, all while sipping modest amounts of fuel.
Both the Colorado and HiLux derive motivation from a 2.8-litre four-cylinder, but the Holden has more bang with 147kW over the Toyota’s 130kW. In the HiLux’s case, this smooth motor is the most widely available, such as in the SR5. Maximum torque, though, including on the Colorado, are strong, but again sees the Holden victorious with 500Nm to HiLux’s 450Nm.
Of the two engine choices in the Ranger, the 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbodiesel in the Wildtrak outputs the same 147kW as in the Colorado but less torque at 470Nm. While the Holden leads the class here in sheer numbers relative to displacement, the pulling power granted by either contender is more than adequate. In the real world, and given the nature of the vehicle, it’s often difficult to discern any true performance advantage or deficit.
On this scale of mechanical detectability, the operation of the transmission is one that does impact everyday driving. The Colorado, Ranger, and HiLux all offer a manual transmission at various points in the range, but the majority of buyers will elect to have the automatic. In this case, all offer a torque converter with six forward ratios and a manual shift option via the gear lever. There’s really nothing to complain about other than that the shifts aren’t particularly fast in either of the three. But the Toyota and Ford are particularly smooth.
This is an area that, arguably, has undergone the most change over the years. Overall, they have all gotten much more car-like in their layout and amenities, especially with regard to their respective range-toppers.
Without fail, there’s now standard leather on all three models at the high end and an impressive amount of sound insulation applied to shield the cabin from any rattles or clanks that might otherwise intrude - a consideration that was quite uncommon until recently. Over the versions they are replacing, more emphasis has been given to interior aesthetics and feel on all three pickups. Soft touch material is present but so are tougher, harder plastics to fit the more durable purpose these kinds of vehicles were meant to fill.
There’s also other conveniences such as a more robust infotainment package similar to that in the most current cars. Features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which would allow you to access smartphone features using the built-in dashboard display, is now prevalent on pickups as well. With respect to our trio, only the HiLux misses out as Toyota has largely ignored the technology, but it otherwise goes a long way in giving the Colorado and Ranger a modern feel. That said, the HiLux does have - and this is arguable - the most ‘futuristic’ looking interior, with a large central touchscreen and tiered dashboard layout.
Behind The Wheel
For high riding 4x4s sat atop a ladder frame chassis, pickups have come a long way in terms of how accomplished they are at being smooth conveyances. They’re far from perfect, but perfectly decent - generally.
In terms of on-road ability, the Ranger has an edge over the HiLux and Colorado here just for the way in which it deals with corners, responding with a relatively neutral angled body while maintaining a rather pliant ride over imperfect surfaces.
The differential between the Toyota and Holden has actually grown to be rather thin, and praise has to go to the Colorado’s much improved ride thanks to its new suspension geometry. Both offer direct steering and a composed ride in most situations.
They all have predictable handling and strong grip levels presuming the proper tyres are fitted, though again the Ranger’s mannerisms make it slightly more accomplished on the tarmac. Thankfully too, steering is quite direct in all and this alone is enough to give even an inexperienced driver decent confidence.
1st: Ford Ranger
Upon its 2015 update, Ford elevated the Ranger to entrench its already wide spread of appeal and ability. It’s not as at home off-road as its main rival, the HiLux, but with more and more customers prioritising ultimate versatility instead of off-road traversal, the Ranger comes closest to ticking all those boxes - essentially being a car within a pickup.
2nd: Toyota HiLux
The 8th-generation Toyota HiLux, in terms of sales, doesn’t really have anything to prove. But the gap between the Ranger as rounded vehicles of work-and-play, while significantly reduced, remains nonetheless. In isolation, the HiLux is a very good vehicle indeed and in many ways leaps ahead of the version it replaces - better looking, better to drive, more comfortable, more refined, has better engines, and feels more capable off-road. Should Toyota be sufficiently receptive to feedback, an updated HiLux should be a nothing short of class-leading in all areas.
3rd: Holden Colorado
Make no mistake, the 2017 Holden Colorado is a significant step forward for the company’s pickup assault. From a mid-level contender to one that should be on anyone’s shortlist is quite an improvement in a short span of time. They’ve pulled it off by emulating the key strengths of its new main rivals while keeping a tight grip on what it already had right. It’s engine is strong and smooth, its refinement is impressive, and it offers plenty of tech. Only nitpicks can be levelled against it as there no longer are any glaring deficiencies. However, it’s those cumulative nitpicks that hold it back from being at the head of the field.