All’s well that toils well
The HiLux double-cab figures large on the tradie-family landscape
I OWN a Toyota HiLux. I mention this only because I’m driving the all-new HiLux and I don’t want anyone to think that my choice of a 2003 HiLux as my weekend playmate is going to affect the assessment of the 2015 model.
In fact, my view of the HiLux is more skewed by recent time in the latest Mitsubishi Triton and Ford Ranger.
I’m not remotely a fan of the Triton, which feels cheap and is a bit rough-and-ready in the drive. Having done well in our Car of the Year shootout, the Ranger does not feel quite as composed or classy in the cabin as the Toyota for me.
But I’m getting ahead of myself, as well as the HiLux.
It has been a year of turmoil in the pick-up business, with allnew versions of the Triton and Nissan Navara hitting showrooms and most of the other contenders getting some sort of tickle.
Now it’s time for the HiLux, which has been unbeatable for decades. It’s the ute that more people want — even if they buy a Ranger for class or a Navara on price — because of its bulletproof reputation.
It might cost more but that is often reflected at resale time and there is a HiLux — it has more than 100 individual combinations — for any job.
My choice is the one that’s helped drive the HiLux to monthly showroom champion several times in recent years, the SR5 double-cab four-wheel drive. It can be a family car or a tradie-mobile — and usually both, thanks to the five-seater cabin, useful load space and 4WD grip to take you on to any work site or away for a camping weekend.
I know what’s coming but I’m still shocked by the sheer heft of the beast. Compared with my HiLux, it looks and feels more like a truck than a ute. And the double-cab layout, so popular for work-and-play use, means the tray is shorter
than my old-timer and it’s much harder to lift a load up into the high-riding bed.
This HiLux tips the scales at just over two tonnes but will tow 3500kg. Its six-month service intervals are just plain dumb. A HiLux is tougher than that and Toyota insiders say the current limits are down to the company’s inexperience with the all-new 2.8-litre diesel engine (also in the latest Prado) and could easily be stretched to 15,000km at next year’s engineering review.
The diesel makes a modest 130kW but its 420Nm and the six-speed auto mean it’s a strong performer. You need to flick the switch to Sport for proper response but that’s the case with a lot of economy-focused models that have come through The Tick recently, including the Mazda CX-5.
No one could complain about the view from the HiLux perch. The controls are light, although the turning circle is not great and there is plenty of tyre growl on concrete surfaces and at highway cruising speeds. The reversing camera is essential for safety.
I like the Isofix child-seat mounts, the shape and support of the seats front and back and the comfort items such as the audio and the cupholders.
I don’t get a chance for serious off-roading but I tackle some dirt without a drama and I’m certain I will give up before the HiLux does if we head into the bush. It’s good to know you can switch from rear-drive to all-paw grip on the fly, although engaging low-range needs a complete halt.
The ride is fine, at least with a light load, as is the handling. Headlamps are all right. The Ranger grips better in corners and rides better when it’s working, thanks to its Australian engineering, but the HiLux is a delight after the wobbly Triton.
I still have doubts. This SR5 double-cab diesel is $53,990 and that’s A Big Ask. Even a fairly basic double-cab HiLux is nearly $35,000.
You’ve got to question the wisdom of trying to tick all the boxes when a car is better as a car and the Falcon works fine as a utility.
But there are towing needs as well as dirt and off-road duties. The SR5 conveys me to a better understanding of why so many people want a work-and-play ute.
In the end this HiLux is not for me, or my family, but I know plenty of people who crave nothing else.
It sits alongside the Ranger at the top of my ute rankings and that means it easily qualifies for The Tick.
Thirsty work — and play: HiLux’s dashboard cooler, below left