All’s well that toils well

The HiLux dou­ble-cab fig­ures large on the tradie-fam­ily land­scape

Herald Sun - Motoring - - THE TICK -

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.

THE TICK

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

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