The 2020 Toyota HiLux SR flies under the radar a little when conversations turn to the success of dual-cabs in Australia – especially in relation to the pricier SR5 variant. The question here, then, is whether the more budget-friendly SR is a smarter way to spend your money?
When we last tested the SR back in February 2019, Mike Costello opined that the SR might be the best all-round version of the HiLux model range. It’s a point worth remembering, too, because while there’s the obvious rush to get into the range-topper – Rugged X and Rogue aside, of course – sometimes more isn’t, well, more.
Pricing for the SR double-cab starts from $47,515 before on-road costs, which gets it neatly below that 50-grand threshold. Step up to an SR5 double-cab, and you’re going to need to fork out $55,240 before on-road costs. There’s an appreciable $7725 difference between the two, then, and it’s worth questioning whether the SR5 feels nearly eight-grand ‘better’?
There’s the revised nose that came to market last year, but perhaps more importantly, a DPF burn-off switch to sort out the issues that came with the DPF before the switch was added. I’ve been monitoring a few close mates who own 70s and HiLux dual-cabs with the DPF switch, and it’s so far, so good with those.
It’s impossible to review a HiLux of any kind without the comments section exploding with commentary on potential issues, perceived issues, buyers wearing blinkers, pricing being too high, and the list goes on. You’d have to think, though, that Australians wouldn’t keep buying them if they didn’t do the job buyers expected them to do.
That’s key here, too, because whereas the SR5 is more about the pose factor of owning a dual-cab, the SR is much more likely to actually have to work for a living. Not the way an alloy tray, tradie-spec Workmate HiLux would, but the SR will still need to work.
Looking at the SR’s more expensive sibling, you’ll feel the difference perhaps most inside the cabin. With the SR5, you do get premium steering wheel and gear shift trim, carpeted floors, digital climate-control AC, second-row air vents, keyless entry and keyless start. Outside, the SR5 gets LED headlights and DRLs, chrome door handles and a standard tow bar fitment.
Standard-equipment highlights include: fabric seat trim, side steps, a cooled centre console bin, manual AC controls, electric windows, cruise control, steering-wheel-mounted buttons, auto on/off headlights, a 7.0-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity, USB input, a rear-view camera, six airbags and a rear diff lock.
Our test SR had the $2000 option pack fitted – as they seemingly all do – which brings with it the silver six-spoke alloy wheels you can see in the photos and satellite navigation. That’s a tough one for me. I like having on-board satellite navigation, even if I tend to use phone mapping more often, and I love the black steel wheels that come with the SR standard. The wheels, especially, give a tough look to the HiLux – to any dual-cab, in fact – but the alloys are attractive, too. I reckon I’d spend the two grand if it were my money.
The venerable 2.8-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder isn’t a powerhouse, and you need to take that into account if you tow a heavy trailer regularly. We’d opt for a more powerful four-cylinder, or a V6 depending on the use case if towing is a big factor. The 2.8 makes 130kW at 3400rpm and 450Nm from 1600–2400rpm. When I mention V6 there, the Amarok Core punches out 165kW and 550Nm, and it’s easy power and torque, too, so you may need to factor that in if you do tow often.
The 2.8-litre oiler is backed by a six-speed auto and there is a six-speed manual available, too, but even the most rusted-on dual-cab and off-road fans are begrudgingly accepting the superiority of the modern automatic.
The ADR fuel claim is a decent 8.4L/100km on the combined cycle, and as we’ve seen many times before with this engine, the average moved between 9.4L/100km and 9.9L/100km depending on where we had been driving and for how long. Single figures for a dual-cab is a solid return, though.
The HiLux cabin is like that old jumper you can’t bear to pass on to the charity bin. By that, I mean that it’s all so familiar despite generational change and new standard equipment. The rubber floor mats bring with them a tough worksite feel, which means you’re less likely to be concerned with dirty boots getting into and out of it.
The general ergonomics are as good as any dual-cab on the market aside from the Amarok, which still leads the way, and the placement of the switchgear is all pretty well thought out. The steering wheel has telescopic adjustment, there's a broad supply of useful storage, and solid build quality with regard to fit and finish.
We have tried the Toyota Link system before and, while it works, it shouldn’t be as fiddly as it is. Yes, you can work it out, and it does do the job, but it seems like a needless addition when we already have smartphones that do the same thing. Just provide Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality and we’ll call it even – and that’s a message to every manufacturer really. Neither of those systems is faultless either, of course, but familiarity makes their operation a lot easier.
I don’t take issue with the tablet-style screen as some do, and I think it’s clear enough to use day-to-day. The proprietary navigation system is solid, and works well. I found Bluetooth connectivity to be reliable on test, too. Set up once, it worked without issue for the remainder of the test period. We think a digital speedo is coming in the next round of updates, and that’s a good thing. It’s a handy feature that you use a lot more than you might initially think.
A couple of things in the second row – no air vents could be an issue if you do use the SR as family transport regularly, and the fixed grab handles are a good way to whack your head if you’re not careful getting in and out. There’s enough room back there, though, and the seats folds up to provide useful storage.
I like the way you can drive the SR in town. The steering is light enough to be easy to use at low speed, but it doesn’t feel floaty on the highway either. The ride quality (bump absorption specifically) is, like nearly every dual-cab, begging to be weighted down with a load in the tray to settle things down a little. The SR rides competently enough thanks to a chunky sidewall, but it is still pretty bouncy unladen.
In theory, though, you’re buying this dual-cab to work, and that’s where the ride comes into its own. We’ve tested them with anything from 300kg up to 800kg in the tray, and the SR carries that weight pretty easily in every sense. There’s minimal sag up at 800kg, and the ride is well settled.
The other area the SR comes into its own is off-road. If you’re looking to set your dual-cab up for off-road work, the SR will take that task on easily. So again, if it’s work at the worksite, or work off-road, the SR is the perfect candidate.
The SR gets a full five-star ANCAP rating, but does miss out on some of the active electronic safety tech that competitors get across the range. There’s also the five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty. Servicing is required every six months/10,000km, but the pricing is sharp – $240 each for the first six.
While we know that, despite the sales figures, the HiLux isn’t the ‘best’ dual-cab on the market, it does present a compelling buying proposition. And, if your intention is to use it as its maker intended, the SR is the one I’d be looking at. Save the coin from the SR5, and use it for the modifications you would like to make to go to work or head off-road.