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Car reviews - Toyota - Hilux - utility range

Launch Story

Toyota logo7 Sep 2011

By RON HAMMERTON

TOYOTA has fired a shot across the bows of pretenders to its light truck sales crown by ramping up the value of its top-selling HiLux ute, adding seven new diesel-powered variants and culling four of the slowest-selling petrol V6 models while making ABS standard across the range.

Australia’s biggest car company also has taken advantage of a significant facelift to Australia’s biggest-selling light truck to drop the price of entry to the 4x4 HiLux range by a whopping $3650, from the current $35,640 to $31,990 for the cheapest 4x4 HiLux cab-chassis manual diesel ute, even undercutting rival vehicles from Nissan, Mitsubishi and Holden.

The prices of all carryover 4x4 variants have been cut by between $200 and $5650, while in the 4x2 range, prices of 11 of the 19 models have been increased by up to $900, with Toyota claiming new and upgraded features more than make up for the extra impost.

The new model gets fresh sheetmetal forward of the A-pillars, a new-look grille and front bumper, redesigned head- and tail-lights, revised interiors, tweaked suspension and an anti-lock braking system as standard on all models.

But contrary to moves by some key rivals to fit electronic stability control throughout their new-generation ute ranges – most notably Volkswagen with Amarok (which also has four airbags standard) and Ford’s soon-to-be-released PX Ranger – most of the HiLux line-up is still a curtain airbag- and ESC-free zone, with only four top-shelf models getting these life-saving features as standard equipment.

The ‘unbreakable’ HiLux has reigned as Australia’s top-selling ute for 14 years, selling almost 700,000 vehicles since 1968 and creating one of the most loyal customer bases of any vehicle in the country.

This year, the six-year-old HiLux has earned 24,498 sales to date, eclipsing the Corolla as the most popular Toyota model and trailing only the Mazda3 (28,736) and Holden Commodore (28,265) as Australia’s number-one seller to the end of August.

However, HiLux sales have fallen significantly this year – the 4x2 version is down 18.9 per cent, while the 4x4 is off 5.7 per cent – partly because of disruption to the manufacturing supply pipeline caused by the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in March.

While HiLux has lost some traction, the 4x4 version of Nissan’s Navara (also hit by supply shortages) has edged up by 5.8 per cent this year, garnering 13,921 sales – only 2076 short of 4x4 HiLux’s eight-month tally of 15,997 for 2011.

The major makeover for HiLux comes as Ford and Mazda are warming up their all-new Australian-engineered Ranger and BT-50 siblings for a showroom assault this year.

Holden and Isuzu also have new Colorado and D-Max ranges under preparation for a first-half 2012 launch, while Volkswagen is looking to expand offerings in its new Amarok range.

Toyota Australia senior executive director of sales and marketing David Buttner acknowledged that HiLux faced increasing competition from rivals looking to cash in on HiLux’s reputation for toughness and quality.



“Contrary to what some commentators are saying, there is plenty of fight left in the old HiLux,” he said.

Mr Buttner said the complexity of the HiLux range had made it impossible to add ESC and curtain airbags to all models at the facelift stage, but Toyota was committed to improving safety on all of its models.

So far, Toyota engineers have developed ESC for only HiLuxes with the 17-inch wheels, meaning all the others miss out for now.

The current HiLux is believed to have five years to run, making this midlife makeover critical for the top-selling ute.

HiLux powertrains are unchanged in the latest revamp – the second since the current seventh-generation arrived on the market in 2005 – with the Toyota ute retaining the 116kW 2.7-litre four-cylinder petrol, 126kW 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel and 175kW 4.0-litre petrol V6.

But the revised range has more emphasis on diesel, with 18 of the 35 models on the new-look list now getting the popular oil-burning four-cylinder engine – an increase of seven variants over the superseded range.

Bodystyles also remain constant, with Single Cab in cab-chassis and pick-up styles, Xtra Cab and Double Cab all being retained, but Toyota has expanded the spread of the entry-level WorkMate specification, adding WorkMate 4x4 variants for the first time.

Although all new 4x2 and 4x4 HiLux models get the latest exterior revamp, Toyota focused most of the price action on the 4x4 vehicles, which outsell their rear-drive counterparts by almost two to one.

The price axe has been swung hardest at the 4x4 Xtra Cab diesel, whose sticker price has been sliced by $5650, from $52,640 to $46,990.

The price of the SR cab-chassis model also takes a tumble, down from $43,040 to $38,490 – a drop of $4550.

The most affordable HiLux remains the four-cylinder petrol WorkMate cab-chassis with a manual transmission, at $18,990 – up $500.

The WorkMate models get ABS, newly designed heater controls and an upgraded audio system with Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity and audio streaming with voice recognition control.

A 4x2 turbo-diesel WorkMate variant is offered for the first time, priced from $24,490, but it is only available with a manual gearbox. The four-cylinder petrol WorkMate model gets an auto alternative to the five-speed manual, but only the old four speeder.

The mid-range SR variants receive an upgraded seat and door trim, new steering wheel and improved power windows with auto up/down function and anti-jam function on the driver’s side.

A limited-slip differential is now standard on the SR V6 models, while cruise control that previously was only available on auto variants is now standard on manual, too.

In 4x4 guise, SR models get sports seats that previously were standard fare on the SR5 variants, although at the expense of the three-person bench seat in the single cab.

The top V6 SR5 models get standard automatic air-conditioning, auto headlights and the improved power window controls, with sat-nav with a 6.1-inch screen is now standard as part of an upgraded audio system with six speakers (up from four). The steering wheel gets Bluetooth phone buttons.

All V6 4x4 SR5 flagship variants get the same safety package – ESC, traction control, electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist – that was previously only available on diesel models.

Outside, the SR5 gets a new-look alloy sports bar, wheelarch flares and alloy wheels.

More models now get cruise control, while up-spec models also get indicators mounted on the wing mirrors.

As previously reported by GoAuto, HiLux towing capacity has been increased from 2250kg to 2500kg, although that still falls short of the 3000kg rating of the Nissan Navara and upcoming Ranger and BT-50.

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