TOYOTA’S Hilux has plenty to defend. It’s been the top seller for decades, but in 2016 it’s come under more pressure than ever thanks to an attack by the Ford Ranger. Nevertheless, the Hilux remains the top seller in the class to July 2016, something bolstered by the arrival of this new model late in 2015.
WHAT YOU GET
STEPPING into the flagship SR5 Hilux is a $56,390 proposition once you factor in the six-speed auto. For that you get a generous spread of sat-nav, digital radio, auto lights, auto air-conditioning and a seven-inch touchscreen. The Hilux also gets smartkey entry and push-button start, although the proximity key requires you to press a button on the front door handles to unlock it. A recent update adds the drawbar for the tow bar, though you still have to pay extra for the tongue and wiring.
Leather is part of the $2000 Plus pack that also brings an electric driver’s seat.
POWERTRAIN AND PERFORMANCE
FOR AN all-new engine, the 2.8-litre donk that slots under the bonnet of the Hilux, Fortuner and Prado is nothing to get excited about on paper. There’s 130kw to play with, along with a more convincing 450Nm.
It’s that torque and a well-mated sixspeed transmission that endows the Hilux with solid performance. The torque peak arrives at just 1600rpm, so there’s plenty to play with without high revs. The transmission works with it nicely, with the torque converter slipping to help it settle into that sweet spot in the revs.
Push on and the Hilux’s four-pot also revs cleanly, ensuring decent, if not scintillating, performance. It’s also relatively refined for comfortable touring, while impressive claimed fuel use of 8.5L/100km ensures it’s a decent all-rounder.
HANDLING AND RIDE
THE Hilux feels stout and sturdy. The suspension is firm, particularly in the rear end, where successive high-speed bumps can have occupants jiggling around. Big hits, though, are shrugged off with ease, reinforcing the Hilux’s tough image. We’ve done plenty of driving with hundreds of kilos in the tray and the pay-off is in its ability to maintain composure when carrying a decent load.
No excuses for the hydrailically-assisted steering, though. It’s quite light, making for easy low-speed manoeuvring, but the downside is minimal feel at speed; not much of an issue on a freeway, but less endearing on snaking country roads where it’s difficult to get a taste for what’s going on at ground level.
Fortunately the whole thing is controlled well enough and the Hilux remains faithful and predictable in a wide range of conditions. The Dunlop Grandtrek tyres also provide respectable on-road grip.
When it comes to loads, the Hilux lags, although for most people not in a gamechanging way; its 3200kg towing capacity (300kg less than the manual) trails class leaders, and the 925kg payload falls short of the tonne.
OFF-ROAD is where the Hilux wins back big points, and it starts with the basic hardware. Toyota has popped solid steel protection underneath, as well as 225mm of ground clearance along with an excellent 700mm of wading depth.
Toyota has also put plenty of effort into the basic design. Like most dual-cabs, the rear overhang means it’ll scuff its tail on steeper stuff, but the tow bar brackets bear the brunt, while the rear bumper is tucked well out of the way. Up front, too, the protruding snout has enough of an angle to it so you can attack some seriously steep pinches.
The part-time four-wheel drive system has a good reduction gear for slow speed work, and it doesn’t take long to establish that the traction control is beautifully calibrated. Sure, it’ll spin wheels, but with brakes quickly applied it soon sorts out where the traction is.
We tried it through a sloppy mud hole and while it was threatening to get bogged, it trudged on, helped by engaging the rear diff lock, which eked out the last hints of traction to help it scramble its way out. Up a tricky rocky climb, too, the Hilux simply worked its way over each obstacle, pausing occasionally but easily ambling up. Combined with great articulation, it makes for an impressive off-roader.
CABIN AND ACCOMMODATION
TOYOTA has done a great job with comfortable yet supportive pews. It’s the start of a good driving position that includes full adjustability to the steering wheel and decent vision. We’re less convinced by the touchscreen, with its push buttons and shiny screen that easily collects dust.
Slide into the back seat and the Hilux is less accommodating. The rear seat is quite upright, something that encroaches on head room. At least there are sizeable grab handles to make it easier to drag yourself in there.
THE Hilux is a solid ute that gets better the more you punish it. Yet despite its reputation for ruggedness and reliability, it’s losing market share. Blame that on improvements in the competition and also a realisation that other brands make tough trucks. Still, there’s plenty to like about the Hilux, with its off-
Top-spec SR5 Hilux gets sat-nav, digital radio, smart-key entry and a 7.0-inch touchscreen with fiddly volume controls for the audio system.
Styling is always subjective and the latest Hilux with its protruding snout, has proven to be polarising.