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Car reviews - Toyota - Hilux - SR5 Dual Cab

Our Opinion

We like
Manual gearshift, infotainment, seat comfort, cabin space, steering wheel
Room for improvement
Ride quality, standard features list could be better for safety and towing, sluggish and grumpy transfer case and diff lock

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Toyota logo30 Jan 2017

By STUART MARTIN

Price and equipment

THE flagship of the HiLux range is this SR5 dual-cab which in manual guise is priced from $54,390 plus on-road costs – that’s around $2000 cheaper than the 132 kW/420Nm 2.0-litre turbo VW Amarok Highline and $5000 below both the 147kW/470Nm Ranger Wildtrak and the new 165kW/550Nm V6 Amarok.

The Ranger XLT is a closer price rival at $55,415, Holden’s revamped 147kW/500Nm Colorado Z71 is $600 more than the SR5 at $54,990 and the top-spec 133kW/430Nm Triton Exceed is a substantial $6000 less.

The features list is well-stocked for infotainment purposes, with digital radio reception (although ABC and SBS digital radio stations are elusive in Toyotas for some reason and overdue for an easier remedy), as well as Bluetooth compatibility and USB and auxiliary inputs for the very nice six-speaker sound system.

There’s built-in satellite navigation and some integrated apps, all controlled by a touchscreen that sits too far out from the dash and suffers under direct sunlight other than in those conditions it’s easy enough to see.

The same can be said for the well-cowled instruments, which are always clear and quickly read, with the exception of a centre display that needs a digital speed readout among its myriad choices.

The SR5 sits on 18-inch alloys with 265/60 profile Dunlop Grandtrek PT tyres (and has a full-sized spare), while single-zone climate control and folding power-adjustable exterior mirrors also make the list, but there is only a manual seat adjustment compared to electric systems on many of its opposition.

There are also some options that should be standard – the leather-accented “premium” interior adds $2000, but rear parking sensors are a $407 add-on while the towing receiver is standard, the tow bar itself is an extra $580, something that is fast becoming standard on its rivals.

Interior

The interior of the HiLux has come in for as much attention as the snout, with a far more usable dash and centre console, as well as reach and rake adjustment for the decent leather-wrapped steering wheel which is a welcome feature, and still not part of the Ranger or BT-50 features list.

The cabin is comfortable if not vast for space, but there’s enough good-sized and well-cushioned seats make longer journeys no chore, although the unladen ride might take care of that.

Less easy to utilise is the 240-volt three-pin power outlet, buried within the centre console – in many vehicles there’s a USB similarly placed which is not easy to use either, so wrestling a larger-diameter domestic version into place is no picnic.

In-cabin storage is taken care of reasonably well with two small gloveboxes (upper and lower spaces ahead of the front passenger), the centre console, door pockets and under-seat storage beneath the rear seat.

Cupholders beneath the front outboard vents work well to keep drinks at the appropriate temperature, with further drink stowage in the centre console.

The rear seats are as good if not better than the front, with just enough headroom for a 191cm occupant to sit behind a similarly-sized driver legroom is just enough too, although taller folk may get a numb backside happening earlier with their knees up.

The rear tray is useful without being cavernous – there’s the aesthetically interesting sports bar that’s not a load-bearer and there’s no standard tub-liner for the 495mm deep cargo bay.

It measures 1520x1540mm (across the top) and 1550x1515mm (along floor of deck), 1540 mm wide at the top (25 mm narrower at the floor), with a 1110 mm stretch between wheel arches along the floor, dimensions which will point those looking for a bigger tray toward a Ford or VW dealership.

Engine and transmission

The 2080kg (regardless of transmission) HiLux shares the engine from the Prado and Fortuner – a 2.8-litre double overhead camshaft common-rail 16-valve intercooled turbo-diesel four-cylinder producing 130kW at 3400rpm and 420Nm of torque from 1400rpm through to 2600rpm when teamed with a six-speed manual gearbox.

That’s 30Nm down on the output released from the power plant when $2000 extra is spent on the six-speed auto, where 450Nm is on offer, albeit across a narrower range – 1600 to 2400rpm – while the braked towing capacity drops from 3500 to 3200kg.

An 80-litre tank is drained at a claimed rate of 7.6 litres per 100 km by manual models on the legislated combined cycle laboratory test – 9.2L on the city cycle and 6.7L on the highway – although our time in the six-speed manual resulted in a not-unworthy 8.8L/100km at a 34 km/h average speed, without a lot of heavy towing or off-road work to increase its thirst.

The power plant is a willing worker but doesn’t mind telling you it’s toiling – the chuggy soundtrack isn’t overly harsh but is apparent when under load recent drive time in both the Triton and VW’s new Amarok V6 put its aural aptitude in perspective.

Ride and handling

In LCV terms, the HiLux is one of the more wieldy load-luggers to drive briskly, with well-weighted steering that feels a little sharper than many – but not all – of its opposition.

It does still get a jiggle up on small ripples and uneven bitumen, dealing better with larger bumps even before it gets a load on it’s not the worst of the segment and half a tonne of gear and passengers makes a difference.

The front suspension is an independent, double-wishbone coil spring set-up with an anti-roll bar, while the rear has leaf springs to shoulder the tray or tow bar loads and for the most part it does the job well, although it has to be said the progress from a model update wasn’t as much as some expected.

The manual is rated for a 3500kg braked towing capacity – 300kg more than the automatic – while both get 925 kg payloads within a gross combined mass of 5850 kg.

Measuring 5330mm in length, 1855mm wide and 1815mm tall, and with a 3085mm wheelbase, the HiLux is a decent-sized ute, tipping the scales at 2075 kg.

The six-speed manual is a reasonable manual to use, cleaner and quicker in action than the Triton but not as sharp as the Ranger’s newly-upgraded shifter.

Where the SR5 scores is the intelligent manual transmission function, which matches the revs on down changes to smooth out the downshifts if you’re a lifelong manual driver and used to doing it yourself, thankfully it’s not a default-on function.

You don’t have to turn it on at all, but the system is useful when towing heavier loads, leaving the braking as the main focus for the driver.

The 4WD system is old-school part-time although able to be shifted from RWD to 4WD on the run, but there’s no on-road AWD option, putting it behind the Mitsubishi and VW’s constant-4WD Amarok.

That’s something offered by the Triton’s flexible RWD/AWD system to good effect the HiLux doesn’t suffer greatly for the absence of on-road 4WD capability in most driving situations, although once it gets wet and slippery the stability control earns its keep.

Pushing hard on fast dirt roads or slippery wet bitumen can result in the stability control stepping in if the tail is provoked, a demonstration of why prevention is better than cure.

There’s low range which is a bit sluggish and a similarly slow but standard rear diff lock for more serious terrain and two modes – power and economy – to tailor throttle response.

Good throttle control is needed or leave power mode alone – it significantly sharpens everything up, which can result in passengers whinging about less-than-smooth driving patterns.

Safety and servicing

Toyota took the lead with a standard rear camera range-wide, as well as stability control that incorporates trailer sway control, anti lock (front disc and rear drum still) brakes, a standard rear diff lock for more serious terrain and seven airbags – front, side, curtain and driver’s knee.

The manual misses out on hill descent control and there’s no active emergency auto-braking system yet, something that Ford’s Ranger leads the pack on – albeit at a price.

There’s also auto-levelling and dusk-sensing LED headlights but no rain-sensing wipers, and the warranty is three years or 100,000km, which is also a little behind the market leaders.

Capped-price servicing is part of the HiLux program but the intervals are on the short side pricing currently sits at $180 for up to the first six services, for three years or 60,000 km at intervals of six months or 10,000km.

Verdict

The unbreakable reputation has been well-developed by Toyota and the Japanese giant has been making plenty of hay on the back of its broad shoulders – the HiLux remains a well-equipped, capable and comfortable ute and one of the vehicles that is an automatic inclusion on any LCV ute test drive list, but it’s no longer an automatic choice for purchase.

Rivals

Ford Ranger XLT, from $55,415 plus on-road costs
Not nose-to-nose with the top-spec Ranger on price, it’s the XLT that’s priced up against the SR5 and it still packs the 147kW/470Nm five-cylinder engine, a standard 3500kg-rated tow bar and a much-improved manual shift quality. But doesn’t get all of the safety fare on offer – there’s some features exclusive to the Wildtrak (Ford did initially drag its feet on standard safety fare and likes to charge for it too). It finally relented with a standard rear camera and the XLT also gets rain sensing wipers, tyre pressure monitoring, front and rear sensors making it a big, brawny yet civil beast.Mazda BT-50 GT, from $51,790 plus on-road costs
The forgotten half of the engineering program that spawned the new Ranger, Mazda’s twin was a little like DeVito to Ford’s Schwarzenegger – wrought from the same drivetrain but with vastly different aesthetic features and (as a result) sales figures. The BT-50 is a worthwhile test drive for anyone looking at this segment, with standard rear camera among its safety features, but falls short on warranty and even with the facelift it’s still far from handsome. If you can handle the looks, it’s a good bet.

Mitsubishi Triton Exceed, from $48,000 plus on-road costs
Not punching with the same outright brawn of the other two here, it’s still packing worthwhile capacities and streets the field on price and refinement (save for the more expensive V6 Amarok). It matches the HiLux for airbags and the features list has had an infotainment upgrade to further tip the balance in favour of the solid if unspectacular Triton, although the auto is a five-speeder and there’s no manual offered in the flagship.

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