Sells as well as it works

It’s safe, solid, re­li­able and eco­nom­i­cal — and that’s why the HiLux dom­i­nates the sales charts

The Advertiser - Motoring - - ROAD TEST TOYOTA HILUX SR5 - BILL McKIN­NON

TOY­OTA’s HiLux was Aus­tralia’s top-sell­ing ve­hi­cle, in any class, in 2016, the first time a ute has taken pole po­si­tion in the sales race.

In the top 10 sellers for the year, the Ford Ranger took fourth place, while Mit­subishi’s Tri­ton came in ninth.

Toy­ota went in hard at the end of 2016 to se­cure the over­all win with a $52,990 drive-away deal on SR5 — not so long ago, a dis­count on a HiLux was a pigs-might-fly propo­si­tion but Ford’s Ranger has given Toy­ota a big fright.

Look at the top end of the ute mar­ket and the Ranger 4WD (in­clud­ing cab chas­sis, sin­gle and dou­ble-cab) fell just 196 sales short of knock­ing HiLux 4WD off last year’s top spot.

So the HiLux is still Aus­tralia’s best sell­ing ute. Whether it’s Aus­tralia’s best ute is a much trick­ier ques­tion.


At base Work­mate 4WD level, the dou­ble-cab is wall-to-wall in­dus­trial-grade grey plas­tic, as­sem­bled with typ­i­cal Toy­ota pre­ci­sion, with not a squeak, chirp, siz­zle or rat­tle to be heard.

You get generous seat travel (but no height ad­just­ment) and a reach-ad­justable steer­ing wheel, while the com­fort­able rear seat is wide enough to carry three blokes (as long they’re not all se­ri­ous pieeaters) and has am­ple legroom.

Lots of handy stor­age, seven airbags, two Isofix an­chors, seat belt in­di­ca­tors for all po­si­tions, a large in­fo­tain­ment touch­screen with easy-to-hit icons, voice con­trol that works, au­dio and phone con­trols on the steer­ing wheel and a cam­era are stan­dard in the $43,990 dou­ble-cab Work­mate.

That buys a 2.4-litre turbo diesel/six-speed man­ual/part­time dual-range 4WD driv­e­train. A six-speed auto adds $2000.

We also tested the SR5, which costs $54,390 and runs a 2.8-litre turbo diesel. Ours was fit­ted with the op­tional leather­faced, power ad­justable driver’s seat ($2000, with leather on other seats and wheel, larger in­fo­tain­ment screen, sat­nav, dig­i­tal ra­dio, brighter di­als and in­for­ma­tion dis­plays).

The re­strained use of fake al­loy, chrome and gloss black plas­tic helps give the SR5 cabin a rich, lux­u­ri­ous feel. For a ute.


This im­pres­sion dis­ap­pears, though, when you head out into the traf­fic, where the ride, es­pe­cially on SR5, is bloody aw­ful. Toy­ota will ar­gue that HiLux is a one-ton­ner so it needs firm sus­pen­sion.

Fair enough — but most ri­vals have sim­i­lar pay­loads as well as also pro­vid­ing a much more com­pli­ant, con­trolled ride. The HiLux fid­gets and shakes in­ces­santly; on messy sur­faces it can be­come rough and very un­com­fort­able for oc­cu­pants.

The 2.4 (110kW/400Nm) is a lazy, smooth slug­ger that doesn’t feel like 400Nm worth of grunt, es­pe­cially in the up­per mid-range, where it dies a slow death. The Tri­ton’s 2.4 (133kW/ 430Nm) is a su­pe­rior en­gine.

Sim­i­larly, the HiLux’s 2.8 (130kW/450Nm) has a stronger de­liv­ery over­all and much bet­ter re­spon­sive­ness but its torque also plateaus early.

It doesn’t pull as hard in the 2500rpm-4000rpm zone as the Ranger/Mazda BT-50's 3.2-litre five-cylin­der, the Holden Colorado’s 2.8-litre four or VW Amarok’s 2.0-litre four.

Still, it has the legs to chug away eas­ily enough in town, where the au­to­matic re­turns 9.0L-11.0L/100km.

In ute-world, the Amarok’s 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel (165kW/550Nm), priced from $59,990 in the High­line, is in a class of its own for re­fine­ment, per­for­mance and fuel-ef­fi­ciency.

In the HiLux, Toy­ota’s sixspeed au­to­matic is a seam­less fit with ei­ther en­gine and 4WD se­lec­tion is via a sim­ple dial on the dash. In the SR5 you get a rear diff lock and 18-inch al­loys.


Any­body who tells you that utes are now so good they drive just like cars is hav­ing a lend.

They’re cum­ber­some, un­wieldy things on the open road. The very firmly sprung HiLux can still get ner­vous and jumpy, es­pe­cially at the back end, when you hit a few bumps.

The Colorado, Tri­ton, Ranger and Amarok are no sports cars but they are more se­cure, con­fi­dent han­dlers at high­way speeds.

Tick­ing over at 1500rpm at 100km/h in sixth gear, the HiLux’s 2.8 is smooth and quiet, re­turn­ing about 8.0L/100km.

Thanks to the ro­bust chas­sis and stiff sus­pen­sion, you can fit ac­ces­sories, carry heavy loads in the tub or use its 3200kg tow­ing ca­pa­bil­ity (SR5 auto; man­ual is 3500kg), with less rear-end sag than some ri­vals.

It’s a given that a HiLux will take se­ri­ous pun­ish­ment, too. High clear­ance (279mm) and a 700mm wad­ing depth add to its ca­pa­bil­ity out in the boonies.


The HiLux is far from the best ute on the road but, as with Isuzu’s D-Max, it’s a safe, solid, re­li­able,eco­nom­i­cal work­horse — ex­actly what a work ute is meant to be, so it’s no won­der HiLux is No. 1 on the charts.

That said, ri­vals have the edge in other ar­eas. The Tri­ton is killer value at reg­u­larly ad­ver­tised mid-$30K drive­away prices, the Ranger/BT-50 and Colorado nail the grunt­fea­tures-size tri­fecta and the Amarok, by quite a mar­gin, is the best drive.

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