The perennially popular Toyota HiLux SR5 surprised judges this year with a narrow victory over its Ford Ranger XLT arch-rival. Since the ute category’s inclusion in Australia’s Best Cars programs back in 2013, the Ranger has virtually made it its own, only succumbing once before in 2015 to the eighth-generation HiLux. Keeping the two sales heavyweights honest this year was the new and significantly improved Mitsubishi Triton GLS.
In one of the closest fought battles amongst all categories, the Triton proved to be a real dark horse, rising from a sixth-place finish last year to take the third spot only 10 points astern of the winner. The Ranger was closer still with only a six-point deficit to the HiLux. And that is after all 24 score lines have been tallied up for each vehicle.
The HiLux made up ground this year with its value for money compared to the more expensive Ranger, which has seen an increase in price against the HiLux, though overall both trail the cheaper and better equipped Triton. HiLux owners fare best on service department costs, too, and Toyota’s recent welcome move to a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty brings it in line with its adversaries.
Design and function wise, the three trade blows fairly evenly in most areas. However, the HiLux trumps its rivals for safety, carrying a five-star ANCAP crash rating to the latest and more stringent 2019 test protocols. The other two are five-star rated also, but still only to the earlier 2015 ratings.
These three load-luggers are all equipped with the expected quota of airbags, ABS brakes and ESC. In recent times all have gained a similar, though not identical, a raft of more advanced driver assistance tech to put them at the forefront of the ute class. For both the Ranger and HiLux, this list includes speed/road sign recognition and, just on the HiLux, an active cruise control system, while the Triton features rear cross-traffic alert and miss acceleration mitigation.
All seating positions in this trio offer good comfort levels, though the Triton’s new front seats were rated the best in the category. Rear passengers also benefit from its new mid-roof mounted cool air circulation system’s superior performance, compared to the HiLux’s console-mounted rear vents, which is a feature missing from the Ford.
The new Triton’s updated interior has a much more premium look than the old model, helping level its build and finish score with the HiLux and Ranger. The new interior is easy to interact with, and the recently added driver assistance tech carried the Triton to a leading ergonomics score. The Ranger’s switchgear, by comparison, felt a bit too fussy, though the judges liked Ford’s SYNC voice control system. There was praise, too, for the HiLux and Triton’s steering reach adjustment, along with the usual tilt-only adjustability generally found in most utes including the Ranger.
All three of these dual-cabs acquitted themselves well on the bitumen and second-class unsealed roads, whether unladen or lugging around four judges inside and a 500kg payload in the tray. Triton’s new six-speed auto and other mechanical revisions now make it a worthy competitor in this company. The HiLux’s 2.8-litre turbo-diesel offers a respectable level of performance, on and off-road, and like the Triton, it feels more refined, though the Ranger’s larger capacity engine does feel that bit stronger. All conquered our off-road test loop with ease, including some steep and badly rutted climbs. However, the judges noted the Ranger was more likely to rub its belly than the other two.
The fact the final scores for this intrepid trio are so darn close means whichever one of these you choose, you’ll be getting a great example of what the modern ute can offer. But the HiLux reigns supreme this year, confirming why it’s again the top-selling vehicle in Australia.
Toyota HiLux SR5 indicative driveaway: $61,545.
The Toyota HiLux SR5 4×4 dual-cab ute is priced from $55,240, while the auto version we’re testing here adds $2000. Any colour is other than white costs a further $600.
So what you’re looking at in these photos is $58K before you add on-road costs (although there are plenty of deals around). What you’re buying is a four-door, five-seat ute with the go-anywhere ability and substantial towing and carrying capability. It’s a versatile package that appeals to plenty of Aussies.
The SR5 used to be the flagship of the HiLux line-up until the Rugged, Rugged X and Rogue triple-banger arrived in 2018, adding more cost and choice at the top of the range.
What you get here is a well-known quantity that’s remained fundamentally the same since the eighth generation arrived in 2015. The engine was new, being a 2.8-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder that makes 130kW and 450Nm as a six-speed auto (the six-speed manual is limited to 420Nm).
It drives via a part-time 4×4 system that includes rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive high-range and low-range—off-road traction control, hill descent control and a locking rear differential complete the package.
The HiLux is based on a ladder frame, uses a double-wishbone front-end, leaf springs at the rear, hydraulic-assist steering and a disc/drum brake set-up.
For what was recently the flagship of the range, the SR5 isn’t exactly over-endowed with gear. The seats are cloth rather than leather, the driver’s seat has no power adjustment, the air-conditioning is single-zone, and there’s no liner or cover for the tub.
Like all Toyota HiLux models, there’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connectivity. Instead, for your sins, you have to put up with Toyota Link. There’s no sign of a digital speedo either.
What you do get includes LED headlights, 18-inch alloys, a stainless steel rear sports bar, tow bar, smart entry and start, 7.0-inch touch-screen with sat-nav and digital radio, six-speaker audio and a cooler box.
Logical 4×4 dual-cab rivals for the SR5 include the Ford Ranger XLT, Mitsubishi Triton GLS, Nissan Navara N-Trek and various Volkswagen Amaroks.
You can also chuck in the Isuzu D-MAX and Mazda BT-50 but – like the HiLux itself – they are both due for replacement in coming months. The upside is there will be attractive deals for all three models during their run-out.
The Toyota HiLux SR5 is backed by a five-year/unlimited km warranty. Service intervals are unfashionably short at six months or 10,000km. At least they are pretty cheap initially, costing $250 each out to three years or 60,000km. It starts climbing after that.
The Hilux double cab delivers you the power to get things done and the fuel efficiency to go further.
The easy way to switch to 4WD
All 4WD Hilux comes with part-time 4WD and an Automatically Disconnecting Differential (ADD), so you can switch to 4WD and back again at the switch of the dial. ADD also improves fuel consumption because there is less drag when the vehicle’s front wheels are not driving. H2 for on-road A to B travel, H4 for when the going gets a little tricker like on gravel roads and L4 is where the off-road adventure begins.
This workhorse can tow
Hilux 4WD Double Cab SR5 Cruiser ute can tow a maximum of 3500kg (braked).
Hilux’s diesel engine holds the torque, which is why it thrives when towing trailers, boats or horse floats. Even in town, the Hilux’s 450Nm of torque means it’s easier to accelerate away from traffic lights and sustain posted road speeds while carrying heavy loads in the tray.
Keeps your mates safe
Toyota Safety Sense is a package of active safety systems designed to help keep you protected in all types of traffic. Around town and at lower speeds Toyota Safety Sense can help prevent collisions, while on the open road and at higher speeds, it aims to reduce the severity of any impact by supporting your awareness and decision-making with leading safety technology.
Included in the Hilux TSS package is:
• Pre-Collision Safety system with Autonomous Emergency Braking and Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection
• Lane Departure Alert with Yaw Assist function (Brake Control)
• Dynamic Radar Cruise Control
• Road Sign Assist
Enhanced for Every Task
The bold individuality the Hilux SR5 Cruiser wears on the outside is continued within its spacious double cab interior.
Perforated black upholstery with leather accents is used throughout, while both front seats feature the comfort of heaters, and the driver’s seat is further augmented with power-sliding, height adjustment and reclining functions.
A distinct instrument cluster is unique to the Hilux SR5 Cruiser, where the gloss black theme is continued in the ornamentation, tachometer and speedometer.
Big safety boost
The Toyota HiLux SR5 received a big boost in mid-2019 when it was upgraded with a family of driver-assist systems dubbed Toyota Safety Sense.
The key addition was autonomous emergency braking (AEB), a feature common in passenger vehicles but is only now becoming more widespread in utes.
Proper AEB detects obstacles on the road ahead, warns the driver and then jumps on the brakes and pulls the vehicle up if necessary. Some systems – including some offered by Toyota – only slow the vehicle down.
Not in this case. HiLux AEB operates from 10-180km/h if a collision with a vehicle is detected ahead and 10-80km/h in the case of pedestrians and cyclists (in daylight).
Other parts of TSS include adaptive cruise control, which operates at 40km/h and above, lane departure warning and road sign assist.
All this helps bump the Toyota HiLux up to a maximum five-star 2019 ANCAP rating.
Other safety gear includes seven airbags, traction and stability control, a reversing camera and lap/sash seatbelts for all five passengers.
So let’s crunch some of the key numbers when it comes to the Toyota HiLux SR5 4×4 dual-cab auto.
The 1GD-FTV inline four-cylinder is a double overhead cam 16-valve engine with chain drive, common-rail direct-injection and a variable-nozzle turbocharger.
It makes 130kW of power at 3400rpm and 450Nm of torque over 1600-2400rpm. The claimed fuel consumption average is 8.4L/100km, but in the real world – without towing, carrying heavy loads or spending much time stuck in heavy traffic – we saw 9.8L/100km.
What has to be reported at this point are the issues the 1GD-FTV has encountered in Australia with both its diesel particulate filter (DPF) and dust leakage past the air filter.
Toyota says it has fixed the DPF problem – which causes excessive smoke and impacts performance – with a manual activation switch, but that’s not stopped a class action representing disgruntled Toyota owners.
Toyota has played down the ‘dusting’ issue, which forces the engine into limp-home mode and switches off safety features like stability control without warning. It says the fault impacts only a tiny percentage of vehicles used consistently in dusty environments such as mine sites.
The SR5 auto weighs in at 2045kg, has a 955kg payload, a 3000kg gross vehicle mass, a 5650kg gross combined mass and a 3200kg braked towing capacity. The manual version hits the 3500kg figure many HiLux rivals achieve.
In the tub, there is 1109mm between the arches, which means it can’t carry an Aussie 1165x1165mm pallet.
It’s not hard to see why the Toyota HiLux SR5 4×4 dual-cab attracts a strong buying audience. A test drive around the block from the local Toyota dealer would show off some of its biggest strengths.
In development there was a real emphasis for this generation of the HiLux was making it more car-like. An obvious way that is expressed is via the quietness of the cabin. Plenty of sound deadening keeps diesel engine clatter under control.
Then there’s the ride and handling. Leaf springs and rigid rear axles impose some limitations on ride quality, but the SR5 does an acceptable job of not getting too bouncy on corrugations when not carrying a load.
There’s also a certainty to the steering that’s reassuring. It goes where you point, and that’s pretty much the same story whatever ute your drive maybe Ford Ranger and Volkswagen Amarok owners might dispute that.
Get on to slippery dirt roads, and the SR5 appreciates 4×4 high-range. It just helps secure the rear-end that bit better.
Get seriously off-road, and the HiLux is capable. It has the 4×4 system, ground clearance, underbody protection, and wheel articulation to do well.
The SR5’s engine is a solid rather than inspiring performer. When you consider the Ranger Bi-Turbo and Amarok V6 can be had for the same money, it does drift into the background. It does get a fillip when power mode is engaged.
The engine works well with the auto, which will change down gears to assist with engine braking and even to slow the vehicle to keep it at its set cruise control speed. Hitting the power button on the centre console also means shorter gears are held longer, which aids acceleration. Go for the Eco mode, and everything becomes a bit stodgy.
There’s decent space upfront for passengers and OK space in the rear (some other utes are more spacious). The middle-rear seat is the short straw and for short people. The seats are quite generous in their size, and the rear seat flips up to reveal storage cubbies underneath.
Storage options are plentiful up front, where there are even two gloveboxes. There is only one USB outlet, though.
Which brings us to the infotainment system. The way it works by stabbing at small buttons on the screen and what it offers makes this an obsolete set-up. It needs Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for starters. A redesign of the head unit would also help.
The Toyota HiLux will finally get a digital speedo readout as well, thanks to an updated 4.2-inch multi-information display in the instrument binnacle.
The HiLux facelift will keep the top-selling vehicle fresh as a number of new or updated pick-ups are set to arrive in Australia this year, including all-new Isuzu D-MAX and Mazda BT-50 dual-cabs and a facelifted Nissan Navara., followed from 2021 by an all-new Ford Ranger and Volkswagen Amarok.
Toyota HiLux sales are down at least 20 per cent so far this year, but the Japanese brand’s best-seller is still on track to be Australia’s favourite new vehicle for the fifth successive year, while the Ranger appears likely to be the nation’s top-selling 4×4 ute for the second year running.
Current pricing for the Toyota HiLux ute starts at $21,865 for the Workmate single-cab petrol version and rises to $62,490 for the Rugged X and Rogue 4×4 diesel model grades.
Facelifted versions of the range-topping Rogue and Rugged X variants are yet to appear. Toyota will release more details and pricing information closer to the updated HiLux’s Australian launch in late August.
The Toyota HiLux SR5 4×4 dual-cab proves the biggest sales don’t always mean the best vehicle.
It’s a good operator around town where many examples will ply their trade. It’s also bloody impressive in the rough stuff off-road.
But it also costs plenty, misses out on plenty of gear and has had those unfortunate engine gremlins and infotainment issues.
If you want one now and can haggle a good deal, the Toyota HiLux SR5 4×4 dual-cab is a great all-rounder.
But if you’re prepared to wait a few months and pay top dollar, the upgraded model will bring more power, better infotainment and greater towing capacity, so maybe that’s the SR5 to wait for?