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Car reviews - Toyota - Hilux - SR5 d/cab tdi 4x4 utility

Our Opinion

We like
Excellent cabin comfort, gutsy, economical turbodiesel
Room for improvement
Donut tyres squirm on the bitumen, lack of adequate tie-downs, tonneau cover

12 Apr 2006

GoAuto 13/04/2006

TOYOTA'S HiLux has been an integral part of the Australian workhorse fleet for so long it's little wonder that it inspires so much local buyer confidence.

First produced in Japan in 1967 - as the then local Toyota manufacturer and distributor, Australian Motor Industries, was introducing the original, rear-drive Corolla - the HiLux found its way here in 1971 and has been a significant light commercial player ever since.

Today, 450,000 local HiLuxes later, we have the Thai-built, seventh generation version.

In the manner of just about any new model, it adds to capabilities, safety (it has been tested at 64km/h into a 40 per cent offset deformable barrier, full frontal impact at 56km/h and side impact at 55km/h), sophistication and, particularly in the case of the new-generation version, overall size.

Straddling the gap between the previous HiLux and the likes of Ford's gargantuan F150, the Toyota has had its wheelbase bumped by 235mm to measure 3085mm, while the front and rear track measurements have been increased to 1510mm from 1395mm and 1410mm.

This has helped give the single cab versions an extra 155mm in load length, and double cab versions and extra 165mm.

Pitted against the other significant, recently-arrived one-tonne workhorse, the new Nissan Navara, the HiLux, in double cab 4x4 turbodiesel form, trades blows to score a virtual draw when the overall balance of tray size, carrying capacity and engine specs are averaged out.

The reality is that although the HiLux double cab is longer overall than the Navara equivalent, it's wheelbase is shorter, its tracks are narrower and it weighs less all-up. But its payload is slightly more than the Nissan, at a fraction under one tonne, where the Navara 4x4 diesel is quoted at 820kg.

The HiLux is available as a cab-chassis, extra cab or double cab, and offers the choice of two petrol engines - a 4.0-litre V6 or a 2.7-litre four-cylinder - or a 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel.

It is as a turbodiesel that the HiLux 4x4 makes the most sense, because the oil-burner is not just impressively economical, but also has significant torque at very low rpm, making it an excellent performer in low-speed off-road situations.

New to Toyota and winding out 120kW at 3400rpm and 343Nm at a just-off-idle 1400rpm, it produces more power and torque than the previous 3.0-litre, 85kW turbodiesel.

It's also replete with most current generation diesel technology, including an alloy head with twin overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder, common-rail direct fuel injection, variable-vane turbocharger, drive by wire throttle and twin balance shafts.

Toyota tells us the manual transmission single-cab turbodiesel 4x4 returns an average 8.5L/100km, a close to 20 per cent improvement on the previous model. Our test vehicle, a top of the range SR5 manual double cab, averaged 9.9L/100km on an extended trek that included plenty of freeway work as well as a decent stint off-road.

With its fuel tank capacity of 76 litres, this gives an entirely workable cruising range and largely disposes of any need to carry extra fuel unless you're going on an extended off-road tour.

The HiLux 4x4 system is just your basic hi-lo range transfer case mated to either a five-speed manual or a four-speed auto. High and low ranges are activated by a second shift lever to the left of the gear lever, and the front hubs lock automatically when needed.

It's not as sophisticated as the push-button or dial-in controls used in Holden's Rodeo and Nissan's Navara, but it does the job without fuss and will appeal to 4WD traditionalists. And there's no electronic traction control system either - just a limited slip rear differential to maximise off-road traction.

The big thing to notice about the new HiLux is the significant new styling, and the much larger cab.

This, even though it's not actually any bigger overall than its major competition, is a double cab boasting the passenger space of a big sedan, with 2130mm of cabin length and a 900mm "couple distance" - the distance from the front to the rear hip point.

Forget, too, about the basic workhorse interior with the upright rear backrest and lack of legroom customary in most double cabs - the HiLux offers a sedan-like dash with thoughtful, Yaris-style receptacles either side of the centre console, plenty of drink-bottle storage in the console and door pockets, adult-friendly rear legroom and a comfortably inclined backrest suited to extended periods on the road.

And extended periods on the road are a distinct possibility, because the HiLux handles long trips with sedan-car ease.

With 45 per cent more torsional rigidity, an increase in bending rigidity by 50 per cent and 45 per cent in the vertical and horizontal planes, new suspension with double wishbones at the front (replacing torsion bars), rack and pinion steering in place of the previous model's recirculating ball system, and a redesigned, load-carrying leaf spring rear suspension, the HiLux gains new levels of on-road composure that make you forget at times what you are actually driving.

The Euro III compliant turbodiesel is about as smooth as you could expect of a large-capacity four-cylinder, and the noise levels are reasonably muted - particularly on the highway where most of the usual chatter is somewhere in the background.

But the accelerator response is never in the background, with plenty of surge available either at cruising speeds, or idling along a bush track. Where some other turbodiesels tend to die at low rpm, the HiLux can virtually drop to 1000rpm and still respond gamely to a little accelerator pressure. Very handy when you're clambering over a threatening off-road moonscape.

Like all other current HiLux models, the turbodiesel SR5 tends to look a little short-changed in wheel dimensions - but this does introduce some good, as well as bad points.

On the positive side is the compensation for the small 15-inch wheel diameter with donut-like 255/70R15C tyres. These give plenty of squish for dealing with off-road work.

But they also have a negative side that leaves the HiLux wallowing a bit on the open road. The tyres will squeal in complaint when loaded up even slightly through the bends.

Arrowing down a 110km/h freeway though, the HiLux is stable, comfortable and quiet in a way you'd once never have expected from a one-tonne double cab. The height-adjustable driver's seat is good for a three-hour stint and the ride, even unladen, is quite acceptable, although it's wise not to expect too much in terms of passenger comfort or rear-end traction.

Off-road, the HiLux gains a bigger footprint and increased wheel travel, which makes it more capable of dealing with yawning ruts and precipitous spoon drains, although there are times when it will be left scrabbling as a wheel loses contact. But the easy torque of the engine, and its inherent abilities mean a touch more momentum will generally carry the HiLux through places where other one-tonne 4WDs will be left struggling.

The tray area is pretty good too, 165mm longer than the previous twin-cab HiLux and quite competitive with the smaller-cab Navara. If only two are travelling, the rear seat cushion can be folded up to create a large, unimpeded space for extra luggage you'd rather not carry in the exposed tray area where, even in the top-spec SR5, a tonneau cover is an option.

And, even though the SR5 gets a meaty aluminium "sports bar" which is fine for looks and extra rollover protection, there are only four tie-down points to hold a load securely in place.

Considering the SR5 brings items such as dual airbags, ABS, running boards (cosmetically okay but vulnerable in the bush), alloy wheels, Lexus-style Optitron gauges, a trip computer (including things like ambient temperature, fuel consumption, a compass, average speed and cruising range), a four-speaker AM/FM radio with six-disc MP3 compatible CD player, air-conditioning, power windows and, in auto transmission versions, cruise control, you'd reckon a tonneau and a few more tie-down points would have been pretty easy to factor in.

If you're spending $50,000 or more on your one-tonne double cab, maybe the extra dollars are not a problem.

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