The Toyota HiLux is one of Australia’s best-selling cars, let alone utes. But is the latest iteration of the iconic ute as ‘unbreakable’ as ever? Mandy spends a week with one to find out…
I must admit, I feel intimidated getting into the 2016 Toyota HiLux for the first time.
Normally driving either my 2000 Volkswagen Beetle or my 1965 Volkswagen Beetle, I've never really driven such a big car before. But, at more than five metres long and standing more than 300mm taller than either of my Beetles, there’s no getting around it (pardon the pun), the all-new eighth-generation Toyota HiLux feels big – especially as I can’t get up and into the thing without using the side step and grab handle.
Priced from $46,490 (before on-road costs) for the 4x4 dual-cab variant you see here, the mid-spec Toyota HiLux SR comes with halogen daytime running lights, automatic headlights, cruise control, a rear-view camera, 17-inch steel wheels and – a rare sight these days – a good-old-fashioned turn-key ignition.
First things first, though. Before starting my drive back home to Shepparton from the CarAdvice Melbourne office, I pair up my phone via the standard Bluetooth.
Out of all the cars I've driven as The Correspondent, the HiLux has been the simplest and quickest to set up. A press of three buttons on the fancy-looking 7-inch touchscreen and it's connected.
Partnered to a 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel, the HiLux’s six-speed manual transmission could be a bit smoother, with reverse occasionally needing a bit of force to get into, but it’s a gearbox that feels like it can be worked into the ground.
Apart from feeling as wide as a truck around town, the HiLux tends to wander about a little out on the open road, requiring a fair amount of concentration to keep it on track on multi-lane freeways. Okay, it might be because I’m more used to driving smaller cars, but in the almost two-metre-wide HiLux, with cars on either side, a blind-spot assist system would be handy.
When the first-generation Toyota HiLux was released in 1968, it had a 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine that produced 57kW. These days, you’ve got more than double that.
Starting up with the typical diesel gurgle, the 130kW/420Nm 2.8-litre engine has some go, but nothing compared with when you push the ‘Power Mode’ button down near the gear lever. Once I press it, I genuinely have to alter my driving style because of how much quicker the two-tonne HiLux takes off. The only word to describe it, is ‘phwoah’.
Switching to ‘Eco Mode’ means you have to use more throttle to get it up and going, but I also average 7.3 litres per 100km – better than the model’s 7.6L/100km combined claim (itself 2.0L/100km better than the 2.0-litre twin-turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine in the Volkswagen Amarok).
Being a country gal, I take it out down to the Goulburn River to test out the heavy duty suspension (reserved for Hi-Rider and 4x4 variants) and it handles the steep, rough, dirt roads quite easily. I stop on a hill to clear a large branch from off the road, and, thanks to the HiLux’s standard hill-start assist, I don't need to do a handbrake start when I take off again.
On my way out, though, I encounter some soft mud, and the wheels begin to spin. Even though I know I should've switched it into four-wheel-drive mode earlier – making best use of the rear differential lock – it’s too late. It isn't going anywhere. An hour and two muddy shoes later, I make it out, grateful for the SR’s rubber floor mats.
Back on solid ground, it’s clear that while the heavy duty suspension holds up well in tough conditions, the same can't be said for smooth roads.
With double wishbones up front and a leaf-sprung rigid axle out the back, I discover bumps I never knew existed on the same old roads I’ve driven for years.
Taking my folks on a two-hour drive to Melbourne airport proved an ‘interesting’ experience, especially for my poor Mum seated in the back. Apart from a distinct lack of long-drive rear seat comfort, with practically no load in the tray, Mum ended up feeling sick because of how rough the ride was. I think the HiLux is better suited to the roads Toyota is renowned for building it for: rough ones. That said, Mum did report plenty of leg room in the back, which mirrors that up front.
During my week with the SR, I notice just how many HiLux's there are towing boats or caravans. And why not? Not only does our 4x4 dual-cab variant offer up its 420Nm of torque between a helpful 1400-2600rpm, but it also has a 3500kg (manual)/3200kg (auto) braked towing capacity and a 750kg unbraked towing capacity. A brilliant safety feature too is the trailer-sway control system that makes towing in tough weather conditions far easier.
My favourite feature of the HiLux, though, is the front air-conditioned cooler box. It's a compartment above the glove box that keeps drinks cool. Toyota knows priorities!
While the weather has been less than ideal for camping, I can imagine how perfect a HiLux would be with a load of camping gear in the tray, along with maybe a tool box or two thrown in as well.
When it comes to price, the 4x4 Toyota HiLux SR range starts at $39,490 (before on-road costs) for the cab-chassis. A space-cab will set you back $44,490 (before on-road costs) and, as mentioned earlier, our dual-cab is priced from $46,490 (before on-road costs).
There's some stiff competition when it comes to dual-cab utes out there, with the Ford Ranger, Isuzu D-Max, Mazda BT-50, Mitsubishi Triton, Nissan Navara, and Volkswagen Amarok all vying for attention and sales. But, driving the HiLux for a week, I learnt a couple of key things. I learnt a thing or two about four-wheel driving, and I learnt that while the 2016 Toyota HiLux may not be the best ‘family car’, it is a highly capable workhorse that’s able to handle almost anything you can throw at it.
Is it as ‘unbreakable’ as ever? I think so.
Click on the Photos tab for more 2016 Toyota HiLux SR 4x4 Dual Cab images by Mandy Turner.