Hail the dual cab
Workhorse and weekend warrior, the top-selling HiLux definitely hasn’t reached the ute use-by date
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.