You’d struggle to find a dual cab that left you scouring your garage for tool boxes and serious-looking work kit as much as the 2016 Toyota HiLux, in Workmate guise.
It’s a serious work truck for serious workers, and we found ourselves pretending we were tradies for the duration of our week with it. You certainly want to look the part while you’re driving it. It’s almost a crime to drive it around without some tools in the tray and clean as a whistle. A bit of mud, some shovels, picks and garden maintenance gear would make it just right.
We’ve been thoroughly ‘uted’ here at CarAdvice recently, what with our eight-vehicle mega test and the subsequent individual reviews. That’s without considering all the new models in the segment that we’ve covered in the past 12 months. It’s been a never ending torrent of new dual cabs. So much so that you’d be forgiven for thinking we wanted nothing to do with the segment for a while.
But this particular HiLux is one of the more interesting dual cabs we’ve tested. It’s certainly more purposeful, tough as nails in fact, more work-ready than any of the high-end dual cabs, and it looks the part too.
In Workmate guise with the six-speed automatic as tested here, the HiLux starts from $45,990 plus on-road costs, which seems like pretty good value to the casual observer. It translates that way in the real world too, with this HiLux not necessarily feeling cheaper than the more upscale (and significantly more expensive) range topping models.
We especially loved the 17-inch black steelies and matching black exterior trim. Particularly in contrast to Toyota’s Glacier White paint colour. The black plastic exterior trim almost suits this segment more than the pretty chrome work you’ll find further up the ladder, and helps the Workmate look like it’s ready for, well, work. The wheels especially, garnered plenty of comment about how tough they looked and the higher profile rubber doesn’t hurt bump absorption, poor surface ability and off-road performance either.
Climb up into the cabin, and aside from the vastly more modern dashboard design, it’s pretty much a spartan, focused workspace. Rubber trim lines the floor, with heavy duty rubber mats fitted over that to ensure keeping the floors clean is only a hose-down away. The sculpted mats do a fantastic job of capturing mud and stones too, meaning they just need an occasional shake off at the most. It’s a far smarter option than carpet if you spend time on building sites, that’s for sure. The seat materials and plastic trim have that utilitarian feel Toyota does so well too, which probably indicates they will still be serviceable after years of job site hammering.
Bottle and cupholders, plenty of storage bin space and smaller cubby holes for wallets and phones make the Workmate’s interior space perfect for daily work. Properly-sized bottle holders are a must for the worker and the HiLux’s door-mounted ones are excellent.
There’s the high riding feel we’re familiar with too, endowing the HiLux Workmate with a commanding view of the road ahead, even if the bonnet line is a little higher than we’re used to in previous models. HiLux isn’t as big as some of the competition, but it’s no shrinking violet either. General visibility is worthy of mention, with the expansive glasshouse affording plenty of vision fore and aft. On that note, the reverse camera – standard across the HiLux range – is excellent. The Bluetooth system worked well, and the general infotainment system itself is attractive. It’s not at the leading edge of the segment, but it’s solid at this end of the working dual cab spectrum.
Under the bonnet is a 2.4-litre turbo diesel that generates 110kW at 3400rpm and 400Nm at 1600rpm, the latter being the key figure. You'll notice the gulf between this engine and the 130kW/450Nm 2.8 in the HiLux SR5, though they share the same 3.2-tonne towing capacity.
The combined ADR fuel usage claim is an impressive 7.3L/100km, and even with plenty of low speed around town driving, we saw an indicated return of 8.9L/100km. It’s a fair bet too, that the HiLux will be able to work to that kind of number all day, every day, especially once it’s properly run in. So while it has lower outputs than its pricier sibling, it's also more frugal.
The engine is absolutely effortless in the city. With 400Nm available just off idle at 1600rpm, this engine once again illustrates just how well suited a modern oiler is to the daily grind. It works with the auto to get the portly HiLux off the mark way quicker than you expect, and it keeps piling on speed right up to redline. Modern diesels don’t run out of puff with the same harsh drop off the way older versions did, and this HiLux engine is impressive in the way it gets to work. There’s little doubt it’s built to work and work hard. It’s one of the pillars of Toyota’s success with business owners and it looks set to continue.
On the run up to the foot of the mountains, we were once again reminded of just how much more refined this new HiLux is. At 110km/h, the cabin is serene, the engine barely audible and almost no wind noise creeping in. The tyres don’t generate much noise either, but the general lift in refinement means the HiLux cabin is a much more pleasant environment to spend long periods of time behind the wheel. It’s certainly going to be a lot less fatiguing for owners who clock up a lot of kilometres every week.
As they do around town, the engine and gearbox deal with the highway with consummate ease. The gearbox drops down into sixth pretty quickly once you’re up to speed and there’s no doubt that helps with refinement and efficiency. It also ensures the engine is never working too hard either. The Amarok might have more ratios than the HiLux for example, but you don’t really need those extra two gears either, given how impressively the six-speeder performs under the HiLux.
The first thing we noticed as we headed out with the Workmate unladen was some of the criticism we’ve levelled at the ride of the new HiLux didn’t pertain to this particular model grade. It might have something to do with the smaller rims and chunkier rubber, but whatever the reason, the Workmate’s around town ride is a little more comfortable than an SR5 for example.
The ride obviously gets better when you load some weight into the tray. We headed up to our mates at Lower Blue Mountains Landscape Supplies and tossed a few bags of garden rocks into the tray. Once again, we went with around 400kg of ballast and the result was a much more settled ride. The suspension coped with the weight easily too. So much so, in terms of driving response, you’d barely register it was there.
One thing we did notice is the height of the load tray when you’re lugging heavy weights like 20kg bags of rock. Getting the bags in wasn’t so hard, but hauling them back out was a little more difficult. It’s the trend across the segment, but the height of the tray floor isn’t quite low enough. If you’re loading and unloading heavy toolboxes or work equipment often, you’ll get a solid workout.
The HiLux is covered by Toyota's three-year/100,000 warranty and has six-month/10,000km service intervals. Those intervals don't quite match some of the segment leaders like Ranger, but Toyota offsets that impost with cheaper costs. For the first six services up to 60,000km, the cost is capped at $180, which is comparatively quite cheap.
There’s a sense of effortless ease to everything the HiLux Workmate does. This dual cab is targeted at workers who will use it and work it pretty damn hard too. The fact that it’s comfortable, refined and so well sorted is a bonus the tradie owner will definitely appreciate. We’d be tempted by the sub 46 grand starting price too, though base rival such as a Triton are still cheaper.
This segment is getting better and better across all model variants and the HiLux Workmate benefits from those improvements too. Tradies can now access a dual cab that looks as tough as it performs.
Click on the Photos tab to see more 2016 Toyota HiLux images by Trent Nikolic and Mitchell Oke.