As part of the overhauled Toyota HiLux range, the two-pronged town ute and country ute Rogue and Rugged X approach continues.
While it’s no city car, the 2021 Toyota HiLux Rogue 4x4 is still very much a HiLux, but the equipment on board makes for an almost-sensible urban package… Almost.
The core is still 100 per cent HiLux, and that means it comes with the same body-on-frame construction, same dual-range 4x4 system, and same 2.8-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder engine with newly uprated 150kW and 500Nm outputs.
There's no choice of transmission, just a standard six-speed automatic. Perhaps a little oddly, there’s no 4x2 option for the HiLux Rogue either. If it’s not as adventure-driven as the Rugged X, why bother with 4x4?
That’s one for Toyota’s marketing department to wrestle with. For now, Joe Public can expect a starting price of $68,990 before on-road costs, options, or negotiations enter the picture. A step-up of around $6500 over 2020 stock.
To offset the difference, Toyota has done more to distance the Rogue from the SR5 than its direct predecessor with more body add-ons, like a unique front bumper and grille, wheel arch extensions, and a new sailplane behind the cabin.
|2021 Toyota HiLux Rogue 4x4|
|Engine||2.8-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder|
|Power and torque||150kW at 3400rpm, 500Nm at 1600–2600rpm|
|Drive type||Part-time four-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim, combined||8.4L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||12.4L/100km|
|ANCAP safety rating (year tested)||Five stars (2019)|
|Warranty (years / km)||5 years / unlimited km|
|Main competitors||Volkswagen Amarok V6, Nissan Navara Warrior, Ford Ranger Wildtrak|
|Price as tested||$69,590|
The previous hard tonneau cover has been swapped out for a new electrically operated roller shutter, under which lives a fully carpeted, and reportedly water- and dust-sealed, ute tub. Or maybe it’s just a plus-sized boot now?
With most of the SR5’s chrome deleted or swapped for darker treatments, the Rogue clearly has a Ranger Wildtrak aesthetic in mind.
On the inside, the revisions are perhaps a little less obvious, but still worthwhile nonetheless. There are tweaks to the instrument cluster design, some of the interior gloss finishes have been toned down with brushed black, and a new nine-speaker JBL hi-fi system takes over from the previous unbranded six-speaker unit.
The infotainment system also gets a spec-bump, its size is now 8.0 inches (previously 7.0-inch), and wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity are included along with AM/FM/DAB radio, Bluetooth and satellite navigation.
The standard system is a decent one, though it doesn’t particularly break new ground for user interface or graphics resolution. The old touch-slider volume has been replaced by a knob (which shouldn’t be a big deal, but it makes things so much easier to use), and the CD-player has finally gone to the great physical media pile in the sky.
Audio quality from the new sound system is decent, and you can go full volume without having it break up or distort. Not essential, but nice all the same.
Some things haven’t changed, though, like the 4.2-inch display in the cluster that delivers the basics, but doesn’t dual-screen or go fully digital. Climate control is still single-zone, seats are heated but not cooled, and the AC (including the chilled upper glovebox) is still the best in the business.
Toyota hasn’t tried to make the HiLux Rogue into an all-out luxury-spec ute, but it has packed in plenty of features for the class. Still, the interior favours robustness over richness, and while it might come with leather and a powered driver’s seat, there are still plenty of hard plastics and blanking plates for ancillary equipment.
Just one note to Toyota, though: The 220-volt socket in the console is a nice touch, as are the dual 12-volt barrels in the console, but in an age where absolutely everything is USB-powered, put a couple more in the cabin please. One single port just doesn’t cut it, and a mirror-mounted USB for a dashcam would be welcomed.
On the road, things are similarly evolved for the better, without binning any of the traditional HiLux strengths.
The 2.8-litre engine is the same basic 1GD-FTV engine as before, but overhauled. The headline claim is more grunt: 150kW at 3400rpm (compared to 130kW at the same RPM previously) and 500Nm of torque from 1600–2600rpm (up from 450Nm at 1600–2400rpm).
The difference is pronounced. No, the new HiLux isn’t swift and nimble with its bigger figure, but it now feels more robust than before.
The off-the-line acceleration is stronger lower, and the rolling acceleration has a bit more shove. Toyota may never admit to benchmarking competitors, but by the throttle, the new HiLux feels remarkably similar to the five-cylinder Ford Ranger – that can’t be a coincidence.
Behind that is the same six-speed automatic as before, but it too has been fettled. Toyota claims earlier torque converter lockup for improved acceleration. What you’ll feel is a transmission that feels more connected, less ponderous between gears, and smoother on part-throttle upshifts.
As before, there’s no real sense of urgency if you stomp the pedal. The downshift response is better in flowing traffic, but still dozy if you mash the pedal, and acceleration is hardly swift at highway speeds.
The changes aren’t going to turn the ute market on its head. The HiLux still feels like a HiLux to drive, only now it’s a bit better than it was. There’s still plenty of idle noise and vibration, and while highway cruising manners have been improved, every time you stop at the lights the engine rattles and vibrates through the cabin like it did before.
Toyota’s elephant under the bonnet, Diesel Particulate Filter (or DPF) performance, has been given an obvious rework, too. With less than 450km on the odometer and a DPF that indicated it was less than 25 per cent ‘full’, the Rogue we drove cycled a regen’ burn.
That feels a little overcautious, but signals Toyota’s done something about past problems, plus there’s a manual regen’ button, too. How the new strategy holds up in the long term remains to be seen.
Suspension changes create a more balanced unladen ute. While the HiLux has traditionally been firm foremost, in anticipation of a load in the bed, some of the bounce and jiggle has now been settled.
Longer leaf springs at the rear that are spaced further apart, along with new spring rates plus revised suspension and cabin mount bushings, are designed to increase stability and reduce vibration.
With a 2231kg kerb weight the Rogue is, somehow, 176kg heavier than an SR5 and runs the same suspension settings and tyre sizing (265/60R18 Dunlop Grandtrek PT highway terrains in this instance), so there’s every chance the extra bulk could help here.
By the seat of the pants, a Ford Ranger Wildtrak might still have the Rogue beat. As settled as it is in a straight line at speed, it still bounces over speed humps and driveway entrances, and shows disdain for mid-corner bumps or diagonal road joins, which shudder markedly through the whole car.
The hydraulic steering still carries a vague feel and wanders slightly at the dead-ahead, needing to be constantly twitched back into line on the freeway. It could probably stand to be lighter in town and heavier out, and tends to weight up oddly in fast lock-to-lock turns.
Given the turning circle is a back-street-unfriendly 12.6m, every Shoppo car park and tight cul-de-sac turns into a fast-paced, short-lived wrestling match.
Toyota claims a new variable-control steering pump contributes a more natural feel, but in isolation it’s hard to pick.
Safety and driver assist systems cover things like pedestrian- and cyclist-detection autonomous emergency braking, high-speed adaptive cruise control (that cuts out at under ~20km/h, lane-keep assist (via brakes, not steering intervention), lane-departure alert, rear-view camera, front and rear park sensors, seven airbags, and provision for up to two child seats (via ISOFIX and top-tether mounts).
That’s not a bad haul, though newer rivals claim 360-degree cameras, blind spot and rear cross-traffic monitoring, active steering assistance, and junction-assist braking. The HiLux does still carry a five-star ANCAP rating from 2019.
If the Rogue really is the street-smart SUV alternative Toyota says it is, the safety list is good without being great.
On test, the lane-control system threw a tantrum, too, sounding the lane-departure alert and pulling brakes alternatively on either side of the car for an uncomfortably long time, creating a shuddering, tugging mess. While the road margins were a long way off on either side, the tree-lined street and dappled sun at the time are the only contributing factors I could think of.
The powered lid wasn’t without fault either. It gets a real shake on as it rolls back and sounds like it's about to self-destruct.
At one stage it bounced enough to pull the inner cover off the sailplane hoop above it. Surely an alignment issue and nothing more, but as one of the star features on a near $70K ute, it should work every time, right?
On the other hand, points to Toyota for adding the tailgate to the central locking and letting the lid close independently, meaning you can set the roller to close, lock the car and walk away, and the tub will secure itself once everything closes so you don't have to stand and wait.
All that’s missing is a support spring for the tailgate now to provide damping as it opens and make hauling it closed a bit easier. As it is, it's not perfectly family-friendly.
Toyota claims fuel consumption in mixed use of 8.4L/100km, but this first drive was largely based in town where the trip computer settled on 12.4L/100km.
Servicing intervals are short, every six months or 10,000km, with capped pricing starting low for the first six visits at $250 each, but quickly jumping up after that (though still capped) to run to $3538 over the first five years.
The warranty is for five years with no kilometre limit on private use (or 160,000km for commercially used vehicles), plus an extra two years of engine and driveline coverage if everything is serviced on time to schedule.
Ultimately, Toyota knows its buyers well. The changes made to the new Rogue are surely those asked for by customers, and the things that haven’t changed probably didn’t need to.
With the more aggressively off-road-oriented Rugged X above it, the 2021 HiLux Rogue 4x4 doesn’t focus on outright ability, but still packs in the same selectable 4x4 and 3.5-tonne towing potential.
It’s hard to wonder why, then, the Rogue doesn’t switch to something like the Prado’s full-time on-road four-wheel-drive system (or at least a Triton-esque selectable system) – positioning it as an ideal touring and towing rig in all weather. A move that would boost the Rogue's fit-for-purpose credentials.
Even though it may not have surpassed the newest segment entrants from Isuzu and Mazda in terms of tech, and it can’t match the V6 Amarok for outright oomph, the new Rogue is a fitting and convincing flagship for the HiLux range.
For plenty of buyers, that’s more than enough.