The Toyota HiLux has been Australia’s top-selling car for the past four years in a row, and is on track to notch up its fifth win in 2020.
It has been the top-seller outright in Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory for more than a decade, driven largely by mining, farming and associated industries.
In recent years, most of the sales growth has come from small businesses and family buyers who are increasingly using utes as getaway cars on weekends. Many HiLux buyers are substituting SUVs.
Which is why the updated Toyota HiLux has received a few more mod cons, uprated power, a fresh look, and more comfortable, locally-tuned suspension.
NOTE: Video included with this review is a pricing-and-specs rundown. A full review video will come soon.
The update has also brought with it a substantial price rise. The most popular model – the Toyota HiLux SR5 double-cab pick-up – has increased from an RRP of $55,240 plus on-road costs to $57,920 plus on-road costs when equipped with a six-speed manual transmission. At full price, this eclipses $61,000 drive-away.
The 2021 Toyota HiLux SR5 double-cab pick-up automatic, which accounts for the majority of sales, has increased to $59,920 plus on-road costs – or more than $63,000 drive-away. For most of the past two to three years, this model has been available from $53,990 drive-away.
A transaction price hike of close to $10,000 isn’t exactly small change. As this article was written, Toyota was yet to announce any 'launch' pricing or a return to its long-standing $53,990 drive-away offer. It could pay to be patient if you’re paying retail. Fleet buyers might also feel the pinch, but haven’t been hit as hard.
We’ve tested the popular Toyota HiLux SR5 model grade, which accounts for close to half of the nameplate’s sales. It’s the flagship of the range until the top-of-the-line Rugged X and Rogue return to showrooms in late 2020. Pricing for these two flagship models is also yet to be released.
The HiLux SR5 tested was equipped with optional leather trim and a power-adjustable driver’s seat; RRP is $62,490 plus on-road costs, or more than $65,000 drive-away. It wasn’t that long ago this sort of money could buy a top-of-the-range Toyota HiLux Rogue and leave you with some change.
Key changes inside the cabin are a new, larger infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – as well as volume and tuning dials to make it easier to adjust settings when you’re on the move (especially helpful on bumpy back roads).
As a result of the changes, the CD player is no longer available. The instrument cluster now has a digital speed display.
The new infotainment system and digital speed display are standard on every model from the basic Workmate 4x2 'traffic controller' model to the top of the range.
These features join radar cruise control, speed sign recognition, lane-departure warning and autonomous emergency braking that were added in mid-2019. Seven airbags protect occupants should the worst happen.
However, the updated Toyota HiLux still lacks other advanced safety features such as rear cross-traffic alert, blind-zone warning, lane-keeping assistance (it has lane-wander warning only), and a centre airbag between the front seats (standard on the new Isuzu D-Max).
That’s because these additional safety aids became a requirement for a five-star safety score in 2020, but the Toyota HiLux was reassessed in 2019 before the more stringent protocols came into force.
With a five-star rating from 2019, the Toyota HiLux remains one of the safest pick-ups in the segment in terms of occupant protection; however, the criteria have expanded its focus to preventing crashes in the first place.
Toyota will likely advertise a five-star safety rating for the remainder of this HiLux’s model cycle (to 2024 or 2025 is our best guess). Any utes released from now on will need to come with the works, such as the Isuzu D-Max, if they want to earn top safety marks.
The HiLux's cabin is the same as before. Not everyone is a fan of the hard plastics and the swoopy dash design, but I like its modern look, quality fit and finish, and functionality.
Oddly, Toyota didn’t use this opportunity to increase the number of charging ports in the connected age. There is still only one USB port inside the cabin, and two 12V sockets (which you could use with a USB adaptor if necessary). There’s also a household power socket (220V, 100W) in the centre console to run a laptop if necessary.
Also conspicuous by its absence: dual-zone air-conditioning (available on premium versions of the Isuzu D-Max, Ford Ranger, Mitsubishi Triton, Nissan Navara, and Volkswagen Amarok), although the HiLux SR5 is at least one of the few double-cab utes with air vents to the back seats.
As before, standard fare on the SR5 includes a sensor key with push-button start, height- and reach-adjustable steering, and factory tinted rear windows.
The HiLux still does not have a driver’s vanity mirror, even though most modern utes come with this added convenience. This is presumably because buyers – and the HiLux – are built so tough they’re not fussed with keeping up appearances.
That said, the 2021 Toyota HiLux comes in for a new look, led by Toyota Australia's design centre in Melbourne.
All high-rider and four-wheel-drive models get a bold new nose with a 'shield-style' grille, said to be inspired by the Toyota Tundra in the US. Base models (Workmate and SR) come with halogen lights; SR5 and higher grades come with new bi-LED headlights, and LED tail-lights.
The SR5 also gains front and rear parking sensors; a sign of their increasing use in the daily grind. A tow bar and a full-size spare on an original alloy wheel are also standard.
The low-rider Toyota HiLux 4x2 tradie models stick with the old grey nose and halogen headlights.
The big news for hardcore HiLux 4x4 fans is under the bonnet. The 2.8-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder introduced in 2015 has had a power boost from 130kW/450Nm to 150kW/500Nm when paired to a six-speed automatic transmission, and is now rated to tow 3500kg.
Six-speed manual versions of the 2.8-litre turbo diesel rise to 150kW too, and retain their original 420Nm output, but are still rated to tow 3500kg.
Toyota insists it is on top of the diesel particulate filter issues that have plagued this engine in the HiLux, Prado and Fortuner since 2015. We had no issues on test, but the vehicle had barely done 2000km. That said, we witnessed an automatic DPF burnoff during a freeway run, and of course there is a button if you want to activate a burnoff manually.
Warranty is five years/unlimited kilometres for private buyers and five years/160,000km for businesses and fleets.
Service intervals remain at six months/10,000km whichever comes first. Most rivals have 12-month/15,000km service intervals. The first four routine visits are capped at $250 each, but that program runs out after two years or 40,000km. After that, you're on the open market when it comes to service costs. It's worth noting most HiLux rivals give service price certainty to five years and beyond.
On the road
This generation of Toyota HiLux copped a bit of a hammering when it came out in 2015 because of its firm suspension versus the more compliant ride in the Ford Ranger and Volkswagen Amarok, both of which by that stage had been on sale for close to four years.
The assumption was that Toyota would have seen the new levels of comfort that Ford and VW brought to the ute segment, and tried to inject some of that into the then all-new HiLux.
But Toyota historically doesn’t pivot quickly in response to competition. The company prefers to engineer its cars its own way and will assess and reassess any changes, seemingly without being rushed by anyone.
Toyota’s priority was also the HiLux’s load-carrying ability, which is why the SR5 at the time was better and smoother to drive if it had 150–200kg in the tray. (The payload on this model is 995kg and the gross combination mass is 5850kg).
Toyota did eventually make a subtle but worthwhile change to the HiLux SR5's suspension about 18 months later, as part of its philosophy of continual improvement.
Unfortunately, Toyota didn’t get much credit for this minor update, and nor did it announce the changes from the rooftops. We noticed the revised suspension completely by accident after picking up a test car one day. I rang Toyota within minutes to ask if there had been a change. They called back a few moments later to confirm that indeed was the case. It appeared to be news to Toyota, too.
Now we have yet another round of suspension changes, but Toyota appears to have gone a few steps further with this one.
The unladen ride is much more comfortable than before and, although not quite in the same league as the Ford Ranger XLT or Volkswagen Amarok, it’s the softest the HiLux has ever been – without losing its load-carrying ability.
The power steering has been revised but is still hydraulically assisted. It feels better than before but heavy versus newer rivals that favour electric power steering set-ups. The front-end grip and turn-in are good – for a double-cab ute.
The brakes still have a precise pedal feel, assisted in no small part by the four-piston calipers clamping 319mm front discs. Drums remain at the rear, as per most rivals.
The engine is quieter than before, but you’re not going to mistake it for a luxury car. More impressive is the extra grunt from lower revs and a more decisive shift from the six-speed auto. It’s a welcome improvement, but still not in the same league as the twin-turbo 2.0-litre in the Ford Ranger or the single-turbo V6 in the Volkswagen Amarok.
The bi-LED headlights are highly capable at night, and among the best in the double-cab ute class in our opinion, though nothing compares to the daylight produced by the extra candles on the Rugged X.
Overall, the Toyota HiLux SR5 has received numerous welcome refinements and improvements to keep it fresh among newer competition.
Has Toyota done enough? We will have to wait and see how the updated model rates against its closest sales rival, the Ford Ranger.
This generation of Toyota HiLux still has about four of five years to run according to our calendar. An all-new Isuzu D-Max goes on sale locally next month (our local launch review will go live this Friday), and the next-generation Ford Ranger is due in the second half of next year.
In the meantime, there is much to like about the updated Toyota HiLux. Now it’s just a matter of waiting for prices to settle back to where they’ve been for the past few years.
2021 Toyota HiLux SR5 specifications
|EQUIPMENT / SPEC||Toyota HiLux SR5 MY21|
|Year of platform introduction||2015|
|Country of manufacture||Thailand|
|ANCAP safety rating||5|
|ANCAP safety rating year||2019|
|Forward crash alert||YES|
|Autonomous emergency braking||YES|
|AEB with intersecton detection||NO|
|Radar cruise control||YES|
|Lane wander warning||YES|
|Lane keeping assistance||NO|
|Blind spot warning||NO|
|Rear cross-traffic alert||NO|
|Speed sign recognition||YES|
|Speed sign control||NO|
|Trailer sway control||NO|
|Digital speed display||YES|
|Individual tyre pressure monitors||NO|
|Emergency assistance ‘000’||NO|
|Remote engine start||NO|
|Auto headlights (dusk sensing)||YES|
|Daytime running lights||YES|
|Front parking sensors||YES|
|Rear parking sensors||YES|
|Rear camera guiding lines turn with steering||NO|
|Auto dimming rear view mirror||NO|
|Power folding side mirrors||YES|
|Push button start||YES|
|Sensor key opens both front doors||YES|
|Sensor key opens driver door only||NO|
|Turn-key start with remote fob||NO|
|Auto-up power window (driver only)||NO|
|Auto-up power window (all four)||YES|
|Volume and tuning dials||YES|
|USB front cabin||1|
|12V front cabin||2|
|USB rear cabin||NO|
|12V rear cabin||NO|
|Household power socket||220V, 100W|
|12V power to ute tub||NO|
|Single zone air-conditioning||YES|
|Dual zone air-conditioning||NO|
|Rear air vents||YES|
|Illuminated central locking switch in both front doors||NO|
|Extendable sun visors||NO|
|Height only steering adjustment||NO|
|Height and reach steering adjustment||YES|
|2 x Isofix child seat mounts||YES|
|2 x top tether mounts or straps||NO|
|3 x top tether mounts or straps||YES|
|Rear seatback tilts forward||NO|
|Tow bar fitted as standard||YES|
|Tray length, floor (mm, our tape measure)||1425|
|Tray depth (mm, our tape measure)||480|
|Wheelhouse to wheelhouse (mm, our tape measure)||1100|
|Tray width (mm, our tape measure)||1470|
|Tie down points||4|
|Spare wheel||Original alloy, full size|
|Roller shutter ute cover||NO|
|Remote control roller shutter ute cover||NO|
|Wading depth (mm)||700|
|Hydraulic power steering||YES|
|Electric power steering||NO|
|Towing capacity (kg)||3500|
|Kerb weight (kg)||2055|
|Gross combination mass (kg)||5850|
|Fuel tank capacity (litres)||80|
|Engine||2.8-litre four cylinder diesel|
|Automatic transmission ratios||6|
|Off-road only 4WD system||YES|
|Rear differential lock||YES|
|Euro V emissions||YES|
|Fuel consumption average claim (L/100km)||7.9|
|Fuel consumption average tested (L/100km)||10.7|
|0 to 100kmh (unladen, tested on GPS equipment)||10.4 seconds|
|100kmh to 0 (unladen, tested on GPS equipment)||41.9 metres|
|Front disc size (mm)||319|
|Rear drum brakes (mm)||295|
|Tyres fitted to test vehicle||Bridgestone Dueler HT 684 II|
|Unloaded tyre pressure front and rear||29psi, 200kpa|
|Loaded tyre pressure (front)||33psi, 230kpa|
|Loaded tyre pressure (rear)||36psi, 250kpa|
|Warranty||Five years/unlimited kilometres|
|Service intervals||6 months/10,000km|
|Routine capped price servicing over five years||$1000 (2 years/40,000km)|