The recipe is simple for a single cab, cab-chassis ute. It needs to be durable and practical, first and foremost, but also hard-wearing and non-complaining. Toyota’s eminent HiLux has always been a popular choice, and now it’s bolstered by advanced safety technology.
We’ve got the diesel-powered 4x4-specification Toyota HiLux Workmate here, which is priced from $37,865. Throw in $600 worth of Nebula Blue paint and $1904.50 alloy tray (fitted), and it's $40,369.50 before on-roads are thrown into the equation.
What you’re looking at here is the cheapest ticket into a turbo diesel, 4x4-equipped HiLux.
Toyota doesn’t use the well-known 2.8-litre diesel across the HiLux range – there is another less talked about option on the lower specifications. The 2.4-litre ‘2GD-FTV’ is closely related making 110kW at 3400rpm and 400Nm at 1600–2000rpm.
If you want the proper 4x4 driveline, then you’ll need to pick a diesel engine. If you’re happy with 4x2, then a cheaper, thirstier option is available. It’s the long-serving 2.7-litre, four-cylinder petrol that makes 122kW/245Nm.
While there is the option of an automatic gearbox on different body styles, your only option in single-cab Workmate format is manual. It’s a six-speed unit, and is easy to run through the ratios around the ’burbs.
The big news for this range, and especially in this end of town, is the inclusion of advanced safety technology in the humble Workmate HiLux. Autonomous emergency braking is standard. There’s also adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and traffic sign recognition. This information is extolled and controlled by a 4.2-inch display in the driver’s binnacle, which is a new inclusion for this specification.
Annoyingly, there still isn’t any digital speed display available through this screen. And while I'm at it, a volume knob would also be greatly appreciated.
You might think this smaller, more humble 2.4-litre engine could be a bit of a slug, but it’s simply not true in the real world. There’s ample torque available on takeoff and through the gears. It’s a surprisingly easy and (in its own way) enjoyable car to pilot. This sprightly feeling is thanks to the shorter final drive (differential) gearing: 4.1 compared to 3.583 on more common models.
The six ratios are spread well across your common speeds, so revs are kept below 2000rpm when pumping along the highway. It’s a good match made easier by the balanced clutch feel. While providing plenty enough poke, the engine scores more points for staying surprisingly refined. Things get a bit blunt and boisterous when you’re feeding in plenty of throttle, however.
The cloth seats are firm but reasonably comfortable. They could get a bit testing after a big day in the saddle, and I’d love to see some adjustable thigh support. The steering column has tilt and rake adjustment, however, so you can dial yourself in reasonably well.
Those seats fold forward for a meagre amount of lockable storage against the rear panel. Think one smallish backpack, per side.
Speaking of storage, other utes could learn a thing or two from this HiLux. The centre console has big recesses each side of the gear shifter, which are perfect for those odds and ends you compile on a daily basis. Two cup holders towards the back are supplemented by one each that pops out under the air vents (could keep your drink hot or cold?), and twin gloveboxes are always better than just one.
You could fit a decent-sized bottle of choccy milk or lolly water in the door, and I was surprised that my 15-inch MacBook Pro (not a skinny one) also slotted in. Despite being small, the cabin has a good amount of available storage.
The alloy tray is simple and effective. It doesn’t feel flimsy or cheap, and is mounted to the chassis via beefy galvanised C-channel steel. The way Toyota has mounted the handbrake cabling strikes me as a little odd (outboard of the chassis rails), and your access to the fuel filler is tucked away below the tray. If you can envisage filling the tank using drum fuel, this will be problematic.
The tray is all about maximum size for practicality and load hauling, with a decent amount of rear overhang. It’s a full 2.4m long, with nearly 1800mm of bed width. A rail on each side of the tray peppered with tie-down points is also handy, along with rope rails on the underside of the tray.
Weighing in at 1775kg, a three-tonne GVM leaves you with 1225kg worth of payload. Towing capacity is a maximum of 3.2 tonnes. This is where you might be wanting the extra grunt of a 2.8-litre engine.
While the 2.8-litre diesel used in the HiLux, Fortuner and LandCruiser Prado is in the midst of a class action against allegedly faulty diesel particulate filters, we aren’t sure if the same problems of excessive smoke and high fuel consumption extend to the 2.4-litre unit. Regardless, this HiLux has the new DPF button, which can help clear a blocked filter by doing a stationary burn. There’s also an idle-up button.
Under the bonnet looks the same as the 2.8 model, to this layman’s eyes. The DPF is high up, directly after the turbocharger. There’s a spot for a second battery that's ready with rivnuts to accept a battery tray. There’s also an accessory fuse panel, high-ish-mounted alternator, and an air filter drawing sensibly from the inner guard. All very practical, and handy for those who want to make some changes and additions.
The interior of the HiLux Workmate looks familiar in terms of layout, but it’s the simple, spartan take. Hard plastics feel solid and stout, with no wiggling, rubbing or squeaking to be found. Rubber floor mats are impressively thick, as well.
The infotainment unit is familiar across the range of other HiLux utes, but the Workmate gets a smaller (6.1-inch) display. The touch-sensitive 'buttons' can be annoying to work while driving, if you are unsure whether you have pressed them or not. The system is fairly slow, as well, which can add to the indecisiveness. And while this model is base spec, we think not having a reversing camera is still a shortfall.
There are electric windows, basic air conditioning, two-speaker sound system and solitary USB and 12-volt outlets. Being such a small cabin, the air conditioning is impressively powerful. To be honest, even the tinny sound system does a decent job. Let's face it: put on some talkback radio, crank it up to just shy of crackling point, wind down the windows and get cruising.
Speaking of cruising, this HiLux set-up did prove to be a frugal operator. We got 7.8 litres per hundred kilometres, which was mostly unladen highway driving, and Toyota's official claim is 7.8L/100km for mixed-cycle driving.
The ride is firm, and especially jiggly from the rear. That’s par for the course in this segment, however. That 1200kg of payload is there to be used, and the ride will get progressively softer each time you load up. More important than the ride for a vehicle like this is that the braking performance is good, as is steering. Visibility from the driver’s seat is awesome, as well.
Toyota’s warranty of five years and unlimited kilometres is a good offering, although commercial and business fleets get a 160,000km cap. Servicing intervals are frequent: every six months or 10,000km. They are capped on the cheap side, however. The quoted price is $240 per visit for the first 36 months or 60,000km. From there, prices creep up a bit: $333.19, $718.96, $507.65 and $422.51 to see you out to 100,000km.
Having the advanced safety across the range of HiLux utes is a significant move by Toyota, and one that must be applauded. It certainly makes economic sense by putting the HiLux in contention with fleet buyers who demand the latest in safety technology.
Toyota could have done what others do and stuck to an old ANCAP five-star rating. Instead, it is constantly updating and improving its product offering here in Australia. While there is a small price increase, we think it’s worth the money.
What’s important, however, is the fact that the HiLux is still a solid, honest working tool for those who need to haul and tow. The added benefit of this turbo-diesel driveline is a solid delivery of torque in the right places, some good economy, and more 4WD ability than you would likely ever need.