The Toyota HiLux Workmate 4x2 is one of Australia’s top-selling vehicles.
Although the Toyota HiLux has been the nation’s favourite car for the past four years in a row – when all variants are tallied – the Toyota HiLux 4x2 Workmate alone is not far off the Top 20 sellers list.
The Toyota HiLux Workmate has been the top-selling 4x2 heavy duty, body-on-frame ute since the year 2000, when it overtook the Holden Rodeo. And the Toyota HiLux Workmate has been the best-selling 4x2 ute outright since 2006, when it overtook the Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore utes of the day.
You see utes like this everywhere these days, driven by plumbers, builders, tradies, and landscapers. The most recent phenomenon: traffic controllers.
With so many of these types of vehicles on the road, we thought it was a good time to get reacquainted, especially as we’re in the lead-up to June, the biggest month of the year for ute sales – as accountants tell small businesses to reduce their taxable income and snap up an end-of-financial-year bargain.
What we have here is the 2020 Toyota HiLux Workmate 4x2 petrol five-speed manual with the general-purpose alloy tray. It’s the cheapest ticket into a brand-new HiLux.
The RRP starts from about $28,000 on the road (with small variations by state); however, this model has been on a long term drive-away offer of $24,490 drive-away for the better part of the past 12 months.
This generation of Toyota HiLux Workmate 4x2 petrol five-speed manual has previously limboed to $22,990 drive-away, before the update in June 2019 introduced advanced safety such as radar cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, speed sign recognition and lane-wander warning.
By comparison, the Mitsubishi Triton cab-chassis is currently available for $23,490 drive-away (once a $1500 discount is applied to the $24,990 drive-away price). It lacks the Toyota HiLux's advanced safety aids, but comes with a seven-year warranty.
The cheapest Ford Ranger cab-chassis (which also has most advanced safety aids) starts from $28,990 drive-away as a diesel manual. The other popular choice in this segment is the Isuzu D-Max, which currently starts from $26,990 drive-away as a diesel manual and comes with a six-year warranty.
The Toyota HiLux's advanced safety aids are in addition to seven airbags (yes, even the single-cab variants of this generation of HiLux from late 2015 onwards have two front, two curtain, two seat-mounted airbags, plus an airbag for the driver’s knee).
Standard fare on the entry-level Toyota HiLux Workmate includes air-conditioning, power steering, power windows, remote central locking and cruise control. It wasn’t so long ago these were optional or not available on a basic ute.
The infotainment system has AM/FM radio plus a CD player; however, it lacks navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It comes with Bluetooth phone connectivity (which has good clarity when parked, but is a bit noisy when you’re on the move). There is one USB charge port and one 12V power socket in the cabin.
With the most recent update in mid 2019, Toyota put the fancier instrument cluster from the dearer models in the HiLux range, though it still lacks a digital speed display.
Unlike more expensive models in the Toyota HiLux range, the steering wheel has tilt adjustment only (not height and reach) and the driver's seat lacks height adjustment.
The cab-chassis models are the only HiLuxes in the range that lack a standard rear camera; it’s available as an accessory. We reckon it should come as a plug-in option (perhaps stored in the glovebox before delivery) of every Toyota HiLux Workmate 4x2 sold, so buyers can attach the rear camera to any tray they choose to fit on the back.
There’s ample oddment storage in the large open centre console trays, door pockets and twin gloveboxes, though there is no vanity mirror on either sun visor. There is a sunglasses holder next to the map lights in the roof.
Each seat tilts forward with the pull of a lever to gain access to a slim area to store a laptop bag or similar. Unlike the car-derived Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore utes, you won’t be able to fit a slab behind there.
Outward visibility is good thanks to the large glass area and wide-view side mirrors. The vinyl floor covering means you don’t have to worry about getting carpet dirty. There are tabs to secure Toyota’s rubber floor mats, which make it easier to get rid of the rubble from the bottom of your work boots.
Overall, it’s a pretty well appointed cabin for a basic work ute. Our wish list for the next update to the Toyota HiLux Workmate 4x2 would include a digital speedometer, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a height-adjustable driver's seat, height and reach adjustment for the steering, a six-speed rather than a five-speed manual gearbox, and longer service intervals.
The warranty is five years/unlimited kilometres for private buyers, and five years/160,000km for commercial and business buyers.
Service intervals are six months or 10,000km, whichever comes first. Toyota capped servicing costs on this model are $190 for the first six visits up to 40,000km or 24 months, whichever comes first. Beyond these limits, the cost of servicing is negotiable, but likely higher than the capped-price program that is subsidised by Toyota.
On the road
If you haven’t driven a proper workhorse ute before, the first thing you’ll notice is how firm the rear suspension is. That’s because it’s designed to carry up to a tonne (it varies depending on the weight of the tray itself) and tow up to 2500kg.
However, by workhorse ute standards, the Toyota HiLux Workmate 4x2 is pretty comfortable. The front suspension and the heavy-duty road tyres do a fair job of dealing with bumps and thumps.
The steering is light and precise, and the turning circle is tighter than its bigger HiLux 4x4 siblings (11.8m versus 12.7m) even though the wheelbase is the same length, because the skinnier front tyres can turn at a sharper angle than the wider off-road rubber and there are no CV joints to accommodate.
The 2.7-litre four-cylinder petrol engine is relatively refined (122kW/245Nm); however, the fuel economy average on the rating label is comparatively high at 11.1L/100km. We didn’t do extensive fuel economy testing of this model because uses and loads vary greatly. The heavier the traffic, the load or the trailer, the more fuel you will use.
Unladen, it should return fuel economy numbers in the 8–9L/100km bracket – around town it will be closer to 11L/100km or higher.
The clutch action is light and precise, and the shift action of the five-speed manual is relatively smooth and it’s easy to grab reverse (down and to the right, below fifth gear, and no collar to lift).
The engine revs a bit high in fifth gear at freeway speeds, so a sixth ratio would improve fuel economy and cut engine noise.
The quality of the materials on the dash and doors seems hard-wearing, even if not everyone is a fan of the design. The seats are comfortable and are covered in a durable trim. Heavy-duty Toyota seat covers (that allow for side airbags) are available as an accessory if you don't want to get the seats dirty.
The steering wheel may be rubber-rimmed rather than leather, but it has a good grip and all the controls are well placed and easy to use.
We didn’t get a chance to test this Toyota HiLux Workmate 4x2 petrol manual with a load, but previous experience with an earlier example showed the ride gets more comfortable once there is about 200kg or so in the ute tray.
Rearward visibility is good, though we would opt for the rear camera accessory, as it can be hard to judge from the driver’s seat where the tray ends, even with an empty load.
As part of the genuine Toyota tray, a section of mesh helps protect the back window from being accidentally smashed when loading. There are ample tie-down points on both the inside and outside of the tray, and plenty of scope for personalisation.