VERDICT: The new Toyota HiLux might lack the look-at-me styling of rivals from Ford, Mazda and even Mitsubishi, but it makes up for it by being more capable than ever when the going gets rough. It’s stronger and, in some cases, bigger than its predecessor and in SR5 trim is well equipped, although it doesn’t ever feel like a $56,000 vehicle. But, if you’re after something that’s been built to last, is great off-road and better than ever on-road then the HiLux should be on your shortlist.
The new Toyota HiLux arrived on the market late last year, becoming the eight-generation of the iconic ute. That the seventh generation lasted for a long 10 years was testament to both the popularity and ability of the thing.
But, this new one is stronger, bigger and more capable off-road than ever before. The frame is now thicker, the body is stiffer and underbody protection has been beefed up for better protection when driving off-road.
The HiLux has always been a vehicle where function has been placed ahead of form and so it is again with this new one. That’s not to say it’s unattractive, but against some key rivals it lacks the look-at-me factor. But for those wanting a practical off-roader then that’ll most likely be just fine.
Beyond the new nose, the most noticeable change on HiLux is the interior which has borrowed heavily from the interior styling of the recently-refreshed Toyota Corolla. The dashboard is dominated by a large touchscreen that’s easy to use, although it doesn’t offer Apple Carplay or Mirrorlink connectivity. Rather it relies on Toyota’s own Toyota Link system, but we didn’t test this function.
Beyond some shiny black plastic and some silver accents the interior is free of unnecessary cosmetic fripperies. Yes, the plastics are hard and scratchy but there also robust and the fit and finish looked good. All of the key controls are easy to use, although having volume on the touchscreen can be a little frustrating (luckily there are steering wheel controls).
The front seats are comfortable and, thanks to reach and rake adjustment on the steering wheel will be easy for owners to find the right driving position. Over in the back seat, the base of which can be folded up, there’s room for three adults in a pinch. The two outboard back seats carry ISOFIX mounting points but the top tether straps need to be routed via straps to the top tether anchor behind the middle back seat.
There are plenty of hidey holes stashed around the cabin, in the front and back, for bottles, phones and the like.
The tray is bigger on the new HiLux than its predecessor and measures 1569mm long (up 19mm), by 1645mm (up 79mm) at its widest point and 1100mm between the wheel arches. Side panel height is 481mm which is up 20mm.
The loading height has been reduced by only 4mm to 861mm. Toyota claims the new rib-style construction of the tray floor makes it stronger, but we weren’t able to test out this claim.
Ground clearance for 4×4 variants is 225mm while approach (31-degrees), departure (26-degrees) and wheel articulation (520mm on both sides) are all improvements over the seventh-generation model. Our test model is the HiLux SR5 and it comes standard with a rear-differential lock.
The HiLux SR5 runs a new 2.8-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine that makes 130kW at 3400rpm and 450Nm of torque between 1600-2400rpm. This is mated to a six-speed automatic and fuel consumption is a claimed 7.8L/100km on the combined cycle.
Wanting to add some refinement to the new HiLux, Toyota’s engineers added much-needed insulation to the bonnet and fitted a bigger outer dash silencer. Weather strips were also improved and lengthened to keep noise (and weather) from leaking in, while the engines themselves are generally more refined.
RIDE AND HANDLING
Toyota claims it’s improved the damper response on the new HiLux to provide a flatter ride and better response to out-of-nowhere potholes and bumps and the ride is generally very good. It’s a ute, so, without a load in the back it’ll always be little skittish on slippery roads, although the stability control does a reasonable job of keeping it neat and tidy.
The steering is dull and lifeless and so is both the throttle and brake pedal feel and so it takes a little while to get the hang of driving the thing without over revving it. The brakes are spongy but thanks to being a little bigger than before (319mm ventilated discs at the front and 295mm drums at the back) perform well.
When the going gets rough, the HiLux SR5 shines. It’s soft suspension means it can crawl across rough terrain without bucking off rocks, but not so soft that it’ll get the wobbles up and roll over. Thanks to improved wheel travel (520mm on both sides; the previous generation offered uneven wheel travel) the HiLux is able to maintain contact with the ground in places where the old model would have picked up a wheel.
And so clever is the HiLux’s Active Traction Control (A-TRC) which isn’t the same as stability control is able to brake individual wheels to maintain forward momentum. The SR5 also has a standard locking rear differential, which is particularly useful in very slow-speed rocky terrain.
The new Toyota HiLux gets a five-star ANCAP rating, seven airbags, emergency locking retractor three-point seatbelts for all seats, and seatbelt reminders on all front seats and for the rear seats of double cab models. A reversing camera is standard on pick-up models, stability and traction controls, hill start assist for use on- or off-road, downhill assist control, an electronically controlled rear differential lock, and low range. The HiLux also features Trailer Sway Control.
Key Standard Equipment for HiLux SR5 (over HiLUx SR) includes, 18-inch alloy wheels, six-speed manual transmission (turbo-diesel SR5), premium shift knob and steering wheel, auto-levelling LED headlights, LED daytime running lights, and fog lights, stainless-steel sports bar, keyless entry and start, chrome power-retractable exterior mirrors, privacy glass, chrome radiator grille, chrome rear step, climate-control air-conditioning, auto up/down – all windows, adjustable intermittent wipers, satellite navigation,Toyota Link added features, 4.2-inch touchscreen, additional 12V socket, 220V accessory socket for backseat passengers, alarm, downhill Assist Control (4×4 SR5 auto).
WHY YOU’D BUY IT
If you’re looking for a rugged 4x4 ute for both work and play then it’s hard to go past the HiLux SR5. It’s got bags of ability for when the going gets rough and has enough creature comforts to satisfy fussy buyers. It’s comfortable enough for around town use, can tow up to 3000kg and seems to be built to last.
The tweaks Toyota has made to the suspension and in strengthening the body has catapulted the lagging previous-generation HiLux to the head of the current crop of 4x4 dual-cab utes.
The usual suspects start to surface when weighing up pickup trucks, and it's a fight that will continue with each fighting for a stronger foothold on this competitive corner of the market. As far as the HiLux SR5 goes, it's more upmarket trim makes it prey for the Ford Ranger Wildtrak 3.2 (read our review here).
Although the HiLux has the Ranger beat when the going gets particularly rough, it can't quite match Ford's offering in terms of comfort, refinement, or roadholding. It's getting close, though.
Other rivals include the much improved Nissan NP300 Navara ST-X and the Mazda BT-50 Dual-Cab GT, which are also offered with more luxurious touches than their base models are afforded while still being well capable of handling all the utilitarian uses that a pick-up should.