There’s absolutely no doubt that Australians love the Toyota HiLux, and while the 2020 Toyota HiLux SR 4x2 Hi-Rider might not be the most popular variant, the model range itself shows absolutely no signs of slowing down.
That’s despite the fact that the brand seems to do as little as possible to retain the incredible groundswell of brand loyalty it owns in this country. You can look at that two ways. Either Toyota doesn’t need to dramatically revise models in order to appease buyers, or buyers are happy to trade build quality and longevity against premium pricing.
In the face of all-new models, for example, the HiLux plugs along with only small changes, revisions and additions. Minor updates, small changes, rising prices, you name it, Toyota rarely reinvents the wheel unless it is deemed absolutely necessary. And yet, Australians keep buying the HiLux specifically in record numbers.
There is some good news, though – some of the changes we’ve been asking for, for some time now, have finally been added to the HiLux equation. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now standard, as well as a digital speedo (inside the 4.2-inch driver screen), and revised styling.
Yes, you can argue that they are small things and that we might nitpick in our demands that Toyota include them, but they should be par for the course.
In addition, there’s a larger (8.0-inch) infotainment screen, improved driver-assist tech, and increases in power and torque, all designed to make the HiLux more appealing, but also more competitive in a segment that is getting more crowded by the month.
So, with the majority of the conversation surrounding the 4WD, dual-cab variants, who should be looking at a RWD extra-cab Hi-Rider? Firstly, anyone who isn’t planning on going off-road, as obvious as that might seem.
Once you work out whether you actually ‘need’ 4WD, the argument then moves to the flexibility afforded by the extra-cab body style.
Tradies look at both RWD and Space Cabs, Club Cabs, King Cabs (each brand has its own label) quite often, and with good reason. If the vehicle is not a default family conveyance, you don’t need the second-row seating.
The suicide rear door does, however, afford easy access to the section behind the seats for overnight, laptop or lunch bags, small toolboxes, and whatever else you might want to secure safely.
Secondly, the longer tray delivers much more useful space compared to a dual-cab. If you intend to leave the stock tray as we’ve tested here, it’s longer, meaning you can more easily stow things like motorcycles. It’s why the weekend dirt bike crew have long favoured extra-cabs.
If you want to fit an aftermarket canopy to suit your work or touring purposes, you also get more real estate to work with, adding to the flexibility.
So, while dual-cab and 4WD will attract most buyers, there’s definitely a case to be made for the RWD Hi-Rider we’re testing here. Even if you’re towing, mostly on-road as many Australians do, you’re spending all that time on the highways around the country doing it in RWD in any case – if you own a 4WD HiLux.
That said, we’ve had instances towing our car trailer specifically out of some pretty slippery situations in the rain, and 4WD has come in handy. However, if you do all your towing on-road, RWD will be no problem.
The 2.8-litre turbo diesel has been upgraded to produce 150kW at 3400rpm and 500Nm between 1500–2800rpm. That’s a lift of 20kW and 50Nm, crucially with peak torque available right in the middle of the rev range where it’s most handy.
There’s no doubt that while the HiLux doesn’t feel like the powerhouse of the segment, the upgraded engine feels much more responsive than it did previously. With less throttle input, you feel like you get more immediate response in other words.
The oiler is neatly matched to the six-speed automatic, too, which is both smooth in give-and-take situations in traffic and quick enough in all open-road driving situations. As we’ve said plenty of times before, too, six ratios still ask the question of why you need 10. The six-speeder never feels like it’s hunting through ratios merely for the sake of it.
Toyota claims a fuel return of 7.5L/100km on the combined cycle, and on test largely around town, we used an indicated 9.2L/100km. We’d expect that to drop down if you spend a fair bit of time on the freeway, but that’s pretty decent in traffic. Pricing for the SR Hi-Rider we're testing here starts from $44,210 before on-road costs.
|2020 Toyota HiLux 4x2 SR Hi-Rider|
|Engine (capacity, cylinders, type)||2.8-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder|
|Power and torque (with RPM)||150kW @ 3400rpm, 500Nm @ 1500–2800rpm|
|Drive type (FWD, etc)||Part-time four-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||7.5L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||9.5L/100km|
|Boot volume (rear seats up / down)||N/A|
|ANCAP safety rating (year tested)||Five stars (2019)|
|Warranty (years / km)||5 years / unlimited km|
|Main competitors||Isuzu D-Max, Ford Ranger, Nissan Navara|
|Price as tested (ex on-road costs)||$44,210 (plus ORC)|
Slipping into the driver’s seat of a HiLux is like pulling on an old jumper. Not so much in the ‘old’ sense, but more in the familiarity sense. The cloth trim on our tester looks rugged, long-wearing and utilitarian. Forget that there are seats in the second row and think of that section as storage.
There are small storage bins underneath the second-row seat bases. We’ve seen plenty of custom fit-out options for small fridges, toolboxes and the like back there, too, so the aftermarket is catering to the idea of practically using the space.
Vinyl floor covering and robust rubber mats hint at the utilitarian nature of the SR HiLux. Useful door pockets (with bottle holders), console cupholders, and a decent centre console bin mean there’s enough storage for the day-to-day items we all carry around.
You get two additional smaller cupholders that retract into the outer dash edges and are handy for regular-size coffee cups.
One thing that does grate is the positioning of the USB port and the annoying rubber dust cover. Yes, the cover keeps dust out and protects the port somewhat, but it will almost certainly end up broken, removed or lost. They are frequently missing on the test vehicles we see.
The positioning of the port means the cable for your smartphone is always in the way, too. Putting it inside the console bin, for example, would be a much smarter idea. Countering that argument is the fact that Apple CarPlay worked faultlessly for us on test, and the HiLux is all the better for its inclusion.
The Hi-Rider we’re testing here is running on Toyota’s heavy-duty suspension, which is more job-site-ready than it is luxury cruiser. In that sense, then, it’s pretty bouncy around town unladen.
Not sharp enough to be jarring or uncomfortable, but it definitely needs a few hundred kilos in the tray to settle it down. Keep this in mind if you do intend to run around town unladen most of the time.
However, if you’re fitting the tray out with the usual camping gear like fridges, tents and the like, you’ll almost certainly weigh the SR down to the point of it being more comfortable.
Toyota explains that the suspension has been revised and upgraded, and while in this spec we can’t feel a huge improvement in unladen ride comfort, we can report a step forward in terms of handling and steering ability.
The steering, which isn’t right at the top of the segment, is pretty damn close, and it doesn’t matter what sort of road you’re driving on, the HiLux feels direct and reassuring. That’s especially the case at city speeds, manoeuvring into and out of driveways, and parking.
The general consensus in the CarAdvice office was one verging on ‘fanboy’ for the 17-inch steel wheels and 265/65 R17 Bridgestone Dueler AT tyres. Both in terms of appearance, the chunky rubber toughens the appearance up, but also in regard to the way the tyres performed on-road.
Safety-wise, the HiLux is better than it’s ever been and gets a five-star ANCAP rating from its 2019 testing results. Standard safety equipment includes seven airbags, active cruise control, lane-departure assist, road sign assist, a rear-view camera, AEB (works up to 180km/h), and pedestrian and cyclist detection between 10km/h and 80km/h.
Private buyers also get a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty (or 160,000km for commercial use) with a further two years available on the powertrain if scheduled services are met.
Services are required every six months or 10,000km, which is a deciding factor for some potential owners, but the average cost of a service is cheap – $250 each for the first six visits, but higher from there stacking up to $3455 over five years.
While we like some of the smaller additions to the spec sheet, it’s the engine's increased punch that really brings the HiLux closer to the competition. In this specification grade, it’s more about worksite durability than it is interior refinement in any case, and as always, the HiLux looks like it’s fit for purpose in that regard.