Hail the dual cab

Work­horse and weekend war­rior, the top-sell­ing HiLux def­i­nitely hasn’t reached the ute use-by date

Herald Sun - Motoring - - First Drive - JOSHUA DOWLING joshua.dowling@news.com.au Twit­ter:@JoshuaDowl­ing

THE Toy­ota HiLux has been Aus­tralia’s top-sell­ing work­horse for more than three decades. There are still some months in which it leads the en­tire new-car mar­ket.

In the past two years it has fin­ished sec­ond and third in the sales race and was the most pop­u­lar of the four utes in the Top 10 in 2013.

Scoff at the HiLux and its ri­vals all you like but it’s not just min­ing com­pa­nies driv­ing sales. It’s a cliche be­cause it’s true: the mod­ern ute re­ally is two ve­hi­cles in one th­ese days, a work truck through the week and a fam­ily car on week­ends, thanks to added crea­ture com­forts and safety fea­tures.

That’s why Toy­ota has given the HiLux its fourth up­date in eight years (some were more sub­tle than oth­ers). A new model is still at least two years away and, bus­tled by newer ri­vals, Toy­ota had to re­spond.

The 2014 model HiLuxes just be­gin­ning to ar­rive in deal­er­ships now rate a five-star ANCAP score, with a rear view cam­era stan­dard on sev­eral mod­els.

The HiLux had been writ­ten off by some as be­ing past its use- by date. On reac­quain­tance, we were pleas­antly sur­prised by how well it’s hold­ing its age.

VALUE

The HiLux is among the dearer work­horse pick-ups, though the Ford Ranger and Volk­swa­gen Amarok are more ex­pen­sive.

Its pre­mium price looks even more out of whack when you see the dras­ti­cally dis­counted prices for the age­ing Mit­subishi Tri­ton and Nis­san Navara utes, and the weaker sell­ing Holden Colorado, all of which have done a limbo into the low-to­mid-$30,000 price bracket in re­cent months.

Brought into the price war at the end of the cal­en­dar year, the 2013 top-line HiLux SR5 crew cab (ute-speak for four-door) diesel man­ual was $46,990 drive-away, about $8000 off the full RRP. The flag­ship has never been so cheap (pub­licly, at least).

That was to clear the last of the four-star safety-rated SR5s. Prices are set to re­turn to nor­mal once the new model ar­rives. But we know Toy­ota had been trim­ming prices be­fore the $46,990 drive-away deals.

Trans­ac­tion prices be­tween $48,000 and $50,000 drive­away were not un­com­mon for an SR5 crew-cab (full re­tail is $52,000 plus on-roads, or nearer $55,000 drive-away).

Some­where in the high$40,000 range would be our tar­get price for a man­ual SR5 crew-cab and a neat $50,000 drive-away for an auto should still leave enough profit for the dealer.

We tested the two-door ex­tra-cab SR5 which starts at $47,990 plus on-road costs. Aim for this price but drive-away, no more to pay. The dealer will wince a bit but it’s doable.

TECH­NOL­OGY

Other 4WD utes have the op­tion of full-time all-wheeldrive on tar­mac (Mit­subishi Tri­ton) or crawl func­tions for steep off-road work (VW Amarok).

The HiLux lacks th­ese use­ful fea­tures yet the fairly ba­sic de­sign is durable.

The ma­jor ad­vance­ments in­clude a bet­ter built-in nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem with a stan­dard rear cam­era (mounted crudely but ef­fec­tively on the tail­gate) and six airbags.

DE­SIGN

Noth­ing much has changed here since the last up­date about 18 months ago, adding new nose and re­designed tail-lights. Don’t ex­pect any rad­i­cal styling changes un­til the newie in about two years. Grey seat trim and door pan­els have been changed to black. It’s in­cred­i­ble what a big dif­fer­ence such a small change has made to the in­te­rior. The nu­mer­ous stor­age cub­bies re­main.

SAFETY

Six airbags and five-star ANCAP rat­ing, thanks to the ad­di­tion of a seat belt warn­ing light, lap-sash belt for the cen­tre rear seat on the crew cab and ex­tra pad­ding near the driver’s knee on all mod­els. There are no body or struc­tural changes.

DRIV­ING

The Toy­ota HiLux is not the best of it type on-road — the Ranger and Amarok are still the class lead­ers in that re­gard — but it is by no means bot­tom of the class. It’s a bet­ter all-round pack­age than some of the newer com­pe­ti­tion in­clud­ing the

Mazda BT-50 (too bouncy), Holden Colorado (too vague) and Mit­subishi Tri­ton (like driv­ing in the dark ages).

Toy­ota has also im­proved the cal­i­bra­tion of the sta­bil­ity con­trol, which dis­creetly pre­vents a skid in cor­ners by ap­ply­ing the brakes to the wheel that’s los­ing trac­tion.

Ear­lier ver­sions of Toy­ota’s sta­bil­ity con­trol were quite abrupt; the up­date is barely dis­cernible as it goes about its work. That said, there is scope for Toy­ota to keep im­prov­ing this, with the Ranger and Amarok as dy­namic bench­marks.

The age­ing 3.0-litre turbo diesel isn’t the most pow­er­ful or re­fined among its peers but it has tonnes of grunt at low revs and was rel­a­tively fuel-ef­fi­cient dur­ing our time with it (9.0L/100km av­er­age).

It would ben­e­fit from a sixspeed man­ual how­ever, in­stead of the stan­dard five-speed. At least a five-speed auto is op­tional (up from a four-speed).

VERDICT

The Toy­ota HiLux is hiding its age well. Loyal buy­ers won’t con­sider any­thing else, nor would we dis­cour­age them.

For those con­sid­er­ing a HiLux for the first time: it may not be the cheap­est ute out there, but it is a much stronger propo­si­tion now that Toy­ota has started to slash the price. And it still has un­beat­able re­sale value.

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