The 2016 Toyota HiLux Workmate is one of the most affordable utes on the market. But does that mean you should buy one? Not necessarily.
Okay, that may seem like a negative way to start a review, especially considering the fact the base model Toyota HiLux starts from $20,990 (before on-road costs) for the 2.7-litre petrol four-cylinder model.
We tested the automatic version, which adds a $2000 premium, and replaces the five-speed manual gearbox with a six-speed automatic.
At $22,990 plus on-roads, that makes this version of the Toyota HiLux the cheapest automatic ute on the market. That can’t be ignored if you’re looking for a city-focused ute with a budget-friendly price tag. And in fact, it's a full $5000 cheaper than its nearest competitor, the Mitsubishi Triton GLX ($27,990 plus on-roads). You can get cheaper manual utes from lesser-known brands, but not for much less coin. If you can do without the auto 'box, though, the impressive Nissan Navara NP300 DX single-cab is cheaper at $19,490 (before on-road costs).
But like all cab-chassis utes, the list price excludes the fitment of a tray – that said, if you see a drive-away deal on a new HiLux cab-chassis ute, it will include a tray (Toyota has been running a $27,990 drive-away price on the entry-level diesel Workmate single-cab and a $23,990 drive-away price on the petrol manual).
If there aren’t deals on the model you’re looking at, the accessory price for the tray (as per our test vehicle) starts at $1573 fitted. The tray measures 2420mm long, 1760mm wide, and 255mm deep, and it features a clever inner-rail for tying down loads, and extra tie-down rails below the tray.
While we’re on the topic of figures, the HiLux base model ute has competitive – but not class-leading – towing capability, with capacities of 750kg unbraked and 2500kg braked.
Further, the payload is impressive, at 1210kg – but as we found during our testing of the HiLux, you will need to have as much weight in the back as possible for it to be anything close to comfortable in terms of its road manners.
That’s because the ride of the HiLux verges on unbearable with no load in the tray, though, it does settle incrementally the more weight you put in it. In fact, we found it most tolerable with about 1000kg of pavers in the tray, and even then it wasn’t overly squishy like some other single-cab utes. That’s sort of a compliment to the Workmate, because its stiffer suspension clearly copes well with lots of mass over the rear axle, and it is decently composed over bumps and doesn’t lean too much in corners.
Seriously, though – if you’re not going to run around with a lot of weight in the back, you may need to consider other vehicles in the class, because the CarAdvice crew collectively felt the Workmate was an untenable experience unladen. It jars, bucks and shunts its occupants over bumps, and even on smooth roads, the wheels manage to transfer invisible lumps into the cabin.
It’s a shame, because the HiLux Workmate isn’t that bad to drive, otherwise. The steering is not as slow as some other utes, and its engine never struggles with weight.
The Toyota’s petrol four-cylinder produces 122kW of power at 5200rpm and 245Nm of torque at 4000rpm, and the six-speed automatic does a decent job of making the most of the petrol powerplant’s outputs, hardly feeling stressed under load and actually offering a good amount of pep when empty.
The HiLux isn’t without its gearbox quibbles, though. It can be busy swapping between cogs of its own accord at highway speeds, searching for an adequate torque zone to keep at pace with the traffic. It can find steeper hills a bit challenging, too.
Toyota claims 10.9 litres per 100km for the HiLux Workmate petrol auto, but we saw 13.6L/100km during our time with it.
The HiLux is the only base model ute you can buy with a touchscreen media unit as standard. Whether tradies love that or not, after a few potential paint – or worse, plumbing – smears, is up to them. But the fact is that it puts the HiLux above its rivals in the infotainment stakes.
There’s no sat-nav, but it does have USB connectivity, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming technology, and steering wheel audio controls linked though to a two-speaker sound system.
While the old Grinner and Workmate models may have been somewhat more dour affairs inside that required some manual labour to ensure comfort, this generation HiLux has electric windows and mirrors, and the vinyl seat trim has been ditched in favour of cloth. It still has hard-wearing vinyl flooring, though.
Cruise control is standard, as is remote central locking, and while the extra-cab and dual-cab models get tilt and reach steering adjustment, the single-cab only has tilt adjustment. On the steering wheel there’s a button for voice control, but it doesn’t actually work on this variant – even though blanks look rubbish, we’d take one of those black gap-fillers over a misleading button any day.
It has halogen daytime running lights and halogen headlights, and those headlights are automatic on/off units, too. There's decent storage on offer in the cabin, but being a smaller-bodied ute than many rivals, means it feels tighter inside, and there's virtually no space behind the seats.
Toyota offers the option of a rear-view camera fitted as an accessory that plugs straight into that touchscreen media system for just $430 fitted.
Stability control and traction control can be called upon at times, as the rear wheels can spin quite easily without a load – particularly in the wet. As for airbag coverage, there are dual front, side and curtain ‘bags, as well as a driver’s knee airbag (seven in total).
Toyota’s ownership program extends beyond its bulletproof reputation for reliability. After just a week in the car we can’t vouch for its long-term prospects, and while its three-year/100,000km warranty is the industry standard, the Japanese brand also offers an affordable capped-price servicing plan. Maintenance costs just $180 per scheduled visit, but you do have to go in every six months or 10,000km, which is more regular than some competitors. The plan spans three years or 60,000km, whichever occurs first.
On the whole, the 2016 Toyota HiLux Workmate single-cab’s value equation cannot be ignored, but nor can its sub-standard road manners.
If you plan to buy one, load it up with plenty of weight and keep it loaded for good, it is a viable option. But for light-duty ute users, the even cheaper (but manual-only) Nissan Navara NP300 DX would be our primary petrol recommendation.
Click the Photos tab above for more images by Sam Venn and Matt Campbell.
Thanks to the guys at Lower Mountains Landscape Supplies for helping out with this shoot.