THE HILUX IS BACK AS AUSTRALIA’S MOST POPULAR 4X4, AFTER ITS 12-YEAR RUN ATOP THE 4X4 SALES CHARTS WAS BROKEN LAST YEAR BY THE RANGER.
THE HILUX is not just the best-selling 4x4 in Australia, it’s the country’s bestselling new car overall; the only ute to achieve that distinction. It first got there in 2016, after 12 years as Australia’s best-selling 4x4. Last year, however, the Hilux was deposed as Australia’s bestselling 4x4 by the Ford Ranger. Toyota responded by fleshing out the Hilux model range by fitting alloys and sat-nav to the work-spec SR to create the SR+, and adding heated seats to the SR5+ to match top-spec rivals. Then came a range of accessorised models, first the TRD and then more recently the Rogue, Rugged and Rugged X.
Compared to the first six months of 2017, Hilux 4x4 sales are up 12.2 per cent, sufficient to see it squeeze back in front of the Ranger by a mere 21 units, despite Hilux buyers no longer having the option of the petrol V6. Dual-cabs make up 86 per cent of Hilux 4x4 sales, with single and extended cabs evenly split in the remaining 14 per cent.
Somewhat controversially, Toyota decided to downsize from a 3.0-litre diesel four to a 2.8-litre four in this latest generation Hilux, which puts it at a disadvantage against the notably bigger 3.2-litre five-cylinder engine in the Ranger, in a market where smaller engines are seen to work harder than bigger engines to do the same job.
While the 2.8 is well short of the Ranger – let alone the Amarok V6 – in performance, it is a quiet, refined and nicely flexible engine. Three-quarters of all Hilux 4x4 buyers opt for the sixspeed automatic despite its tendency to shuffle between fifth and sixth gears at legal highway speeds on undulating roads, which makes the manual the better choice for country driving.
There’s no doubting the Hilux’s offroad ability, though, which is as good as it gets in its class. Build quality, day-to-day ownership practicality and aftermarket support are also second to none, but the Hilux’s cabin size and maximum tow and load capability is behind most rivals.