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Three out of four of Australia’s top-selling ute range, Toyota’s HiLux, in the huge-selling light commercial segment are 4x4s. That's quite a stat. It’s not that nobody buys the generally more affordable 4x2s, as over 10,000 rear-driven utes of various makes and models found Aussie homes in the first quarter of 2016, it’s just that over 35,000 4x4s were sold is same period.
The reasons why so many Aussies are drawn to pricier, all-wheel-drive pick-ups and cab chassis too many and varied to address here though, needless to say, it's not exclusively driven by a need for off-road-ability...
These same reasons must be why a great many buyers – many of them tradies, presumably – would overlook, say, the 2016 Toyota HiLux Workmate 4x2 Double Cab pick-up 2.4 TD manual (apologies if I missed anything there, Toyota) and opt for the 4x4 version of a very similar namesake. Ten thousand reasons, perhaps, as you’ll a hefty extra $10k beyond this rear-driver’s $33,990 (plus on-roads) ask to add two extra driveshafts…and, as we’ll cover off below, more than little extra in the way of specification.
But as 'Our HiLux', as I'll conveniently abbreviate, proves, there's not merely much to like about the humble 4x2 beyond being merely cheap and cheerful. But is it properly capable as a workhorse? Or, at least, capable enough to pocket the $10k saving over a 4x4? And for whom is it the right tool?
You could call this oiler manual rear-driven Double Cab lower-middle class in the HiLux range’s $20,990 to $53,990 breadth that swallows a whopping 31 different variants. Its slightly exhaustive namesake pretty much spells out what you’re getting, except Workmate – ‘bare bones’ in HiLux speak – anchoring its all-business approach in conspicuous steel wheels, raw plastic bumpers and rubber mats.
For a full rundown of the HiLux range, see our report here.
Opting for more or less spec and equipment essentially means looking elsewhere among the other 30 variants, so this ute's options list is slim pickings. Our HiLux, though, gets a single cost option of metallic grey paint work ($550). It's a great look, too, leaving the ute appearing as if it's been deep-dipped in a vat of almost-black. It's almost a shame that the ‘Toyota’ tailgate logo isn't displayed in gloss black (as opposed to its supplied white) for an extra veneer of ‘sinister’.
If your business is slightly illicit and conducted in the wee hours, this anti-colour scheme may well be right down your darkened alley.
The cabin, too, is almost completely bereft of colour – for some tastes all the better for it. This veritable cave of dark greys and not-quite-blacks minted in plastic and vinyl trim neatly sidesteps the common, cheerless medium-greys that make so many utes appear ‘budget’. It’s a durable and hardy workspace, hardly luxurious but it presents well and highlights the minimal jewellery on show: namely the tablet-style touchscreen floating in that curvaceous, monochromatic dash fascia.
The 6.1-inch touchscreen adds (two-speaker) radio, Bluetooth functionality, a trip computer and…not much else. There is voice recognition, though, as well as both audio and phone controls on the wheel, and the audio system sounds great. Hooray for the standard-fit reverse-view camera that, while a little fuzzy and ‘fish-eyed’ in distorted, is a handy ally when attempting to shoehorn over 5.3 metres of utility into even modestly sized urban parking spaces.
The high-set front buckets are shapely, supportive and offer excellent outward visibility, but there’s no height adjustment for, erm, vertically impaired drivers who might find it a literal stretch to the pedals. That said, with its tilt/reach steering adjustment and naturally located controls, the HiLux has friendly ergonomics crucial to long-haul, workday comfort. As for details, the Workmate gets single USB, aux and 12V outlets in the console tray.
The second row is surprisingly roomy for head and knee room and you’ll fit three adult at a shoulder-rubbing squeeze, the outboard positions comfortably shapely and offering both Isofix and conventional tether points for child seats. The seat base also folds upwards, hooking into the centre head-rest, presenting generous and useful storage behind the front seats, complete with dual storage cubby holes in the rear floor. The extra-long grab handles in the B-pillar are also handy, particularly in aiding young kids to climb in and out.
Thing is, it's not terribly for kids or work mates alike in the rear? Bar bottle holders in the door bins, there are no features. No power, no cup-holders, no air-vents (or access-aiding side steps) to service youngsters when it comes time for HiLux to play family truckster. It is, though, quite roomy. Workmate doesn’t pretend to be a lifestyle, because it patently isn’t, though it could function as a kiddie runabout in a pinch if need be.
The (1520mm long, 1570mm wide, 480mm high) rear tub, with its reinforced and thicker in construction for this 2016 gen, is a little smaller than the 4x4 tub and won’t fit an Aussie pallet, but given the tray-back HiLux alternatives available in range that's no foul.
Frustratingly, there are no tie-down points in the tray itself, only under the tray’s outer lip which only serves to secure items taller than the walls of the cargo area. The tailgate, too, uses a dual-latch system rather than the conventional single, centrally located latch, a robust design if one requiring two-handed operation (or one-handed operation performed twice). Payload capacity, though, is an honest and proper one-tonne-plus (1020kg) maximum.
There’s more at play in spec representing the whopping $10K saving the 4x2 HiLux has over the 4x4 Double Cab version of the Workmate. The 4x2 is narrower (by 55mm) and feels so in its general maneuverability, and at 1840kg it’s significantly more lightweight, saving 200kg against the 4x4 Double Cab Workmate. It sits on 16-inch (rather than 17-in) wheels with narrow 215mm ‘highway’ rubber and features smaller front disc/rear drum brakes, too. Unusually, the steering rack, with its vast 3.82 turns lock to lock, is a lot ‘slower’ and requires more turns than the faster racks (3.43 and 3.30 depending on model) in the HiLux 4x4 breed.
So, yes, the 4x2 is vastly more affordable, but it comes with less, not-insignificant stuff.
At 2500kg, the rear-driver has at least a 500kg lower braked towing capacity, down a whole tonne against some all-wheel-driven HiLux variants. The 4x2 is not merely hamstrung in towing by driven wheels, but by powertrain, too: this is not quite the same 2.4-litre 2GD-FTV turbodiesel as fitted to its pricier stablemates.
In 4x2 spec, the oiler makes the same 110kW (at 3400rpm), but at 343Nm (between 1400-2800), it’s down a not-insignificant 57Nm on the HiLux 4x4s’ 2.4 diesel alternatives and further off the pace with the various 2.8L engines in range. A case of the cheaper the ute the lesser endowed the engine, of course, though the 4x2 Workmate’s five-speed-manual gearbox mightn’t have the superior torque rating of the six-speed manuals and autos fitted to other diesels in the HiLux range.
Lacking the ‘industrial strength’ of some stablemates doesn’t necessarily make the Workmate-spec diesel manual 4x2 incapable. In fact, for one thing, it goes like the proverbial clappers.
Its 343Nm isn’t merely ample in making swift progress, as the ‘issue’ around town is actually traction from the skinny tyres. Even in dry running and without attempting to provoke, the traction control warning light regularly flickers while, in the wet, the HiLux’s conflict with tractive motion can be either entertaining or alarming, depending on individual mindset.
There’s a Power button, too, which merely triggers the onset of traction loss more suddenly, and Eco, which dulls the throttle if without robbing urgency. That said, it’s a doddle to drive and its throttle easy to modulate without provoking wheelspin, and it can be very swift point to point. It’s a gutsy engine, then, and even the tall-geared driveline doesn’t rob it of flexibility: the HiLux will hold second and run out to almost 80km/h, yet it’ll also tool around happily at 30km/h in third gear.
The transmission is workmanlike. It’s a little vague finding its gates and is annoyingly graunchy when trying to find reverse, though it's no clunkier to use than other budget-friendly ute gearboxes. The loose-spinning screw-on gear knob, however, doesn’t exactly impart the toughness Toyota likes to market.
At a claimed 7.1L/100km combined diesel consumption, the 4x2 Workmate diesel five-speed format, even in Double Cab form, is among the most frugal of today’s HiLux range. On test, it regularly overshot its 8.7L urban claim, the ute’s trip computer display fluctuating wildly (between six and 30L per 100) on its ’15-minute’ elapsed consumption readout, for a rough 10-litre average figure.
The ride is something else: with its skinny highway rubber inflated hard to suit maximum payload, it transcends ‘terse’, eclipses ‘rigid’ and sits up there in ‘brutal’ territory, mostly across the rear axle if a little more compliant up front. Real, do one-tonne capable utes – and that’s most of them on the market - really
Click on the Photos tab for more images by Christian Barbeitos. Thanks again to the guys at Lower Mountains Landscape Supplies for allowing us to shoot the images on-site.