The Toyota HiLux is becoming ever more popular in Australia, with a long list of variants and gaining critical acclaim in Australia and other countries. The introduction of the new model will only cement its reputation in the highly competitive pick-up segment of the market. It was only logical therefore, that living in Thailand, I went ahead and purchased a variant that isn’t available in Australia – a brand new HiLux Revo PreRunner Smart (Extra) Cab.
Now before you scoff at the name (dare I throw in the names that other manufacturers come up for some of their models – Stavic, Touareg (toe-rag), e-tron), you should know that the HiLux PreRunner is historically one of the most popular picks here in Thailand and rightly so. I paid 864,000 Thai Baht (approx. $AUD38,230) and the dealer threw in a bucket load of accessories including a dash cam, window tinting and car cover. The equivalent in Australia is probably the SR5 Hi-Rider.
The Revo PreRunner sits above the Standard and Z Edition, but below the overly expensive (in my opinion) Revo Rocco, which the Oz Rugged is based on.
The PreRunner is a 2x4 but has the same 216mm ride height as the 4WD. It’s powered by the economical 110kW 2.4-litre diesel, as the bigger 2.8-litre is only mated to the 4WD variants here.
I opted for the 6-speed manual to go with it, mainly due to it being 50,000 Thai Baht ($AUD2,270) cheaper, and I’m old school. However, in hindsight, the auto would have been nice given the congested metropolitan roads, the fact that you have to look in seven different directions at intersections, and that many Thais drive with reckless abandon (and don’t get me started about them on motorbikes). I’m lucky to get out of third gear around town and have only slipped it into sixth on a trip out to the Chonburi countryside on a good highway to visit some caves - note that the Motorway speed limit here is 130km/h.
The Smart Cab is the same as an Extra Cab in Oz, and comes with a padded bench seat behind the front seats, though has no seatbelts in the back. It’s okay for the kids and for short trips with adults, but forget it if you’re over 6-foot tall and packing a pot belly! The missus claims I didn’t pick the double cab so that we couldn’t pack in the parents, cousins, nephews, nieces, the nosey neighbour, resident soi dog and fighting cook. I genuinely wanted the longer tray for payloads (but up to six of them could go in the tray anyway – no seriously, legally a maximum of six people can travel in the tray here).
There’s a lot to like about the PreRunner. I opted for the High Spec (as opposed to Entry and Mid) which comes with the Bi-LED headlights and LED taillights, Theft Deterrent, Immobiliser, Rear Camera, VSC, Brake Assist, Hill Start Assistance control, Cruise Control and Toyota Park Assist. Entry is with the Smart Key (push start and entry) and inside, the any-colour-you-like-as-long-as-it’s-black cabin is appointed with leather steering wheel, leather/synthetic seats (driver’s seat has electrical adjustment), 8-inch touchscreen with 4-colour display, 6 speakers, auto air and a handy cooler storage glove box.
The steering wheel has controls for audio and information and you can choose what you want to display on the instrument cluster, including a digital speedo readout. The Multimedia System is a cinch to use, but oddly, only Apple CarPlay is featured. For some reason, Toyota Thailand doesn’t want to enable Android Auto, even though it’s there - I can hook up my Android phone but only via an app and it won’t display apps or maps on the touchscreen. For long trips we hook up the wife’s iPhone. Hopefully, Toyota Thailand will update the software to enable Android Auto as it’s my only grumbling point.
Outside, the PreRunner sits high on 18-inch wheels giving it excellent visibility from behind the wheel, except for the thick A-Pillars which makes it hard to see how many motor-scooters are taking shade at the side or coming at you around corners when you’re on the move.
The new aggressive front makes it stand out from its predecessor, especially with the new grille design and the horizontal bar design daytime running lights. All Revo HiLux models have a vertical fog light design, with one cousin in law naming it “moo-pah” claiming that the tapered molding made it look like it has the tusks of a wild boar. Hmmm, okay, I can see his point and I have refrained from naming it “Gul’dan”, as trying to explain the orc from an online role-playing game to my Thai wife (who maintained a deadpan wtf-are-you-talking-about-face) was risking temporary insanity.
What’s not to love? Well, navigating down the narrow side streets - or "sois" as they are called here - can be nerve wracking, as is trying to park it. Even at the larger shopping centres, the car spaces don’t seem to be quite big enough to accommodate the 5.325m length and 1.855m width. All hail reversing camera and Toyota’s Park Assist. The 6.4-metre turning circle is also pretty ordinary, which has led to some anxiety when attempting a (legal) U-turn at a break in traffic on a dual-lane highway as I wasn’t sure whether the wheels would end up in the gutter before completing the turn and resulting in me being run down by approaching traffic.
Overall, driving the PreRunner is effortless, though around town on some of the (ahem) less well-maintained streets of Chonburi makes it a little jittery at low speeds. With a load in the back this jitter disappears and the ride becomes as smooth as an iced beer Leo on a tropical summer’s eve. I do like it when I need a burst of speed for overtaking, and while the 2.4-litre turbo diesel packs less punch than the 2.8-litre it does have some kick-ass, though not of Tesla proportions. I have no complaints about the economy either, which I can check constantly on the touchscreen display.
I’m looking forward to a long, contented relationship with my HiLux Revo PreRunner and have just had a 1000km check done through the local and super-efficient Toyota dealership. I would certainly recommend picking this model specification to my fellow ex-pats here, and that the SR5 Hi-Rider in Australia is a worthy option. Unfortunately, Toyota Australia’s website doesn’t go into detailed specs for it, so perhaps an editorial footnote may clear the air.