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

Our Opinion

We like
Solid feel, quality fit and finish, tractable engine, good on and off-road performance
Room for improvement
Lap seatbelt for centre rear passenger, low towing capacity, part-time 4x4 system, value for money when compared to competition

11 Nov 2010

OUR HiLux drive was in an SR5 double-cab turbo-diesel with automatic transmission so it came with the new safety features including traction and stability control.

You’ll be hard pressed to know it’s the latest model from the outside, however, as the only change, the 17-inch wheels, are the same design as the 15s it came with previously.

Once inside, the button to switch the stability control off is located at the front of the console, while closer inspection reveals labels locating the side and curtain airbags as well.

The HiLux feels like a truck despite the carpeted floors, cloth trim, leather steering wheel and well appointed cabin of the SR5. It rides high and narrow with a good view over the bonnet and via the side windows. The side mirrors give a good indication of the rear corners for reverse parking.

Getting comfortable is easy with height adjustment on the driver’s seat but the steering column is adjustable for angle not reach, which is par for this class of vehicle. In typical Toyota fashion, all controls are familiarly located and easily operated even syncing a mobile phone via Bluetooth can be done in seconds without needing to resort to the owner’s manual.

Unacceptable in any new vehicle is the lack of full three-point seatbelts for all occupants and the HiLux falls short here with just a lap belt for the centre rear seat. With the SR5 being aimed at the family buyer this is even more of a problem.

The rattle of the common-rail diesel engine is more evident in HiLux than it is in Prado, which uses the same engine, indicating the commercial ute doesn’t have the same level as insulation as the wagon. But it’s not obtrusive and lessens as you get in motion.

The four-speed auto might be missing a ratio by modern standards but it is smooth and intuitive and we never felt the need for a fifth gear. This is helped by the fact that the 3.0-litre engine is very tractable and makes its modest torque from just 1400rpm.

The engine is down on power and torque when compared to some of its key competitors, yet it is less peaky and more relaxed than those that are of smaller capacity. Like the auto transmission, the engine offers sufficient if not earth-shattering performance.

On this test, which involved driving on mountain highways and a bit off off-roading in low range - all with a load on board - the HiLux consumed 13.6L/100km of diesel.

The ute shows its working-class purpose, as the rear-end is stiff and jiggly when unladen. It did settle considerably when loaded to about one third of its GVM and coped reasonably well when loaded to full capacity.

Gross vehicle mass is 2780kg, which gives a payload of 855kg. None of the double-cab utes live up to their ‘one-tonne’ tag due to the inherent extra weight of their four doors and five seats. Many single-cabs offer full one-tonne load capacity.

Towing a caravan or boat for recreational use or trailer full of trade tools for weekday work will be a prerequisite ability for many 4x4 ute buyers and the Hilux offers a 2250kg braked trailer capacity. This is down on its competitors, many of which allow 3000kg.

Intentionally throwing the HiLux hard into corners on gravel roads revealed the new stability/traction control system to be effective without being overly sensitive. The valuable safety feature can be switched off for low-speed driving in sand, deep mud or snow, where the intervention of ESC could hinder progress.

HiLux displays its seven generations of experience as the tracks get rougher and you head off-road. The high ride height leaves abundant ground clearance so you’re not scraping over every rock or obstacle and the good all-round vision makes it easy to place on the track.

The addition of electronic traction control gives the SR5 the off-road ability to match similarly equipped 4x4 wagons and utes. On a steep test track that had in the past stopped all the utes in this class, the SR5 drove up relatively unfazed.

The solid, well-built feel of the HiLux makes it easy to drive on tough tracks with confidence. It’s just as easy to punt around town and happy with a load in its tray.

More than 40 years of development have created a vehicle that does its job extremely well, and is let down only by its relative low towing capacity and that centre rear lap-belt. Two minor blemishes on an otherwise polished performance.

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