2020 Toyota HiLux SR5+ review
This is an important update for the HiLux as its competitors close in. Has Toyota done enough?
The Toyota HiLux offers a smooth diesel engine, carries big loads comfortably, and tows very well. You can get it with two-wheel drive or dual-range 4WD, and in 4WD trim it is very good off-road. The HiLux comes in a big variety of models, among them comfortable, family-friendly Double-Cabs. Toyota’s remote-area service is second to none and all versions are equipped with autonomous emergency braking.
The workaday appearance of the popular HiLux SR. It comes with black steel wheels and looks like a working ute for a farmer or tradie - but it’s certainly not priced like one. Aluminium alloy wheels and satellite navigation are available as an extra-cost option.
The HiLux comes in Single-Cab, Extra-Cab and Double-Cab variants, and as both a Pick-Up (with a factory tub at the back) and just a cab on a chassis.
Getting a cab-chassis HiLux lets you fit the tray of your choice at the rear, including designs tailor-made for specific applications. Single-Cabs come only in this form. But you can have an Extra-Cab or Double-Cab as either a cab-chassis or a Pick-Up.
Single-Cabs seat two. The extended Extra-Cab models can seat four, adding two rear jump seats accessed via rear-hinged, rear-opening doors that open only when the front doors are open. Double-Cabs have a conventional four-door arrangement with seating for five.
The HiLux comes as a two-wheel drive vehicle (driving just the rear-wheels), or with dual-range gearing and part-time four-wheel drive. Dual-range gearing allows you to drive comfortably at very slow speeds off-road. Part-time 4WD allows you to drive all four wheels on slippery or soft surfaces off-road, but not on normal sealed roads.
The 2WD models come with standard ride height or as Hi-Rider versions that have the extra ground clearance and under-body protection of the four-wheel-drive models.
The HiLux is classified as a Light Commercial Pick-Up/Cab-Chassis.
The HiLux range features three engines; two four-cylinder diesel turbos and four-cylinder petrol.
The diesel-powered HiLuxes are the most fuel efficient. There is a 2.4-litre four-cylinder for the Workmate work trucks and a more powerful 2.8-litre four-cylinder for the rest. The two diesels return similar fuel figures in official test conditions, but it’s likely the smaller 2.4 unit in the Workmates will be thriftier in real-world use.
The 2.8 diesel is the most widely available in a HiLux. On the official test (city and country combined) it consumes between 7.3 and 9.0 litres/100km, depending on body style, equipment level, driveline and gearbox. Manuals use less fuel than the autos.
The same 2.8 diesel powers the Toyota Fortuner wagon, and a version of it also powers most Prado wagons. It’s a nice engine, if less powerful than the bigger diesels in some other utes though it did receive a power boost in the second half of 2020 that Toyota claims improves overtaking and towing ability.
The 2.7-litre four-cylinder petrol engine is reserved for 2WD Workmates and drinks a not-so frugal 11.1litres/100km.
The auto gearboxes are all six-speed units. The bigger diesel also comes in six-speed manual form. Manual gearboxes on Workmates have either five or six speeds.
The HiLux Workmate spec comes with 16-inch steel wheels for all 2WD versions except the Hi-Rider pickup, which has 17-inch steel as do the 4WD versions.
Spending more on a HiLux SR gains Sidesteps (which help you get in and out), a driver’s seat that can be adjusted for height, 17-inch alloy wheel and a sound systems in most SRs have a few more speakers, for a total of four in SR Extra Cabs and six in SR Double Cabs.
HiLux SRs with 4WD have a rear differential lock, which helps you maintain drive in difficult off-road conditions, and downhill assist control which automatically controls the brakes to maintain a constant slow speed when negotiating steep descents to allow the driver to concentrate on steering.
Satellite navigation and alloy wheels are available with SR Double Cabs as an extra-cost option.
HiLux SR5s also look very flash, and different from Workmate and SR models, thanks to lashings of chrome in places such as the front grille, door handles and rear bumper. There is also a chromed sports bar behind the cabin. Tubs and tailgates on SR5s are smooth-sided, rather than carrying the external tie-down hooks and rails of the Workmates and SRs.
All SR5's come with satellite navigation and the pick-up versions have front- and rear-parking sensors.
A premium interior with leather seat trim and a power-adjusted seat for the driver is available as an extra-cost option.
The SR5’s rear tub is less useful for carrying big, tall and wide items than those on Workmates and SRs, because it does not have external tie-down points.
The HiLux dashboard is more like a passenger car’s than a commercial vehicle’s, and even Workmate models get a tablet-like touchscreen. Workmates are still somewhat spartan with their vinyl floors, basic cloth seats and scanty features, and are a far cry from the SR5 4WD Dual Cab with its optional leather seats, carpets and more extensive feature set.
The SR, which sits between the Workmate and SR5 in terms of features and comfort, had its carpet flooring replaced with more durable vinyl in October 2017.
In typical Toyota fashion, all the buttons and controls are clearly labelled and easy to use.
The 2021 model now has knobs in lieu of buttons, which Toyota says are faster responding, more tactile and easier to use, particularly when driving over rough terrain.
The tilt and reach steering wheel adjustment (on all but the 2WD single cabs) is an unusual and most welcome comfort feature in a ute.
Even with the previous models, the diesel engines and the V6 petrol are smooth and offer easy-to-use power. Both diesels are notably quiet by commercial-vehicle diesel standards. The automatic gearbox changes gear smoothly and unobtrusively – it is the best choice with the diesels and the only choice with the V6 petrol.
The 2021 facelift has resulted in retuning of spring rates, shock absorbers and suspension bushes as well as revised cabin mounts. These improvements are designed to deliver a more agile handling response and improving ride comfort, particularly when unladen on country roads and over speed humps.
With seven airbags, electronic stability control, trailer-sway control and a reversing camera, all HiLuxes have excellent safety. The good news is that even the less costly single-cab 2WDs don’t scrimp on safety compared with the more expensive models, missing out only on the SR5’s auto-levelling LED headlights.
In June 2019 Toyota introduced its Safety Sense driver assistance package to all Hilux versions, which includes a pre-collision safety system with day and night pedestrian detection and day cyclist detection. The system uses camera and radar sensors which detect a possible collision and reacts with visual and audible warnings, braking assistance or autonomous emergency braking if the driver fails to heed the warning.
Safety sense also features high-speed active cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assistance, and road sign recognition that displays the current speed limit.
The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded current HiLux models five stars, its maximum safety score, in September 2015.
There’s no escaping the fact that the HiLux is a ute and is not a sporty drive, so you’re more likely to enjoy it in 4WD guise, and as an off-road adventure machine in particular.
The SR5 4X4 Double Cab, in particular, feels quite nimble for a modern-day ute, due in part to the fact it’s now one of the smaller utes in most dimensions.
The HiLux has always been extremely capable off-road, thanks to its long-travel suspension, especially at the rear, and its very effective off-road-tuned electronic traction control.
For 2020, Toyota updated the HiLux's suspension with softer rear springs and new shocks, as well as variable-feel steering, with an aim of making the HiLux more comfortable to drive on the road without a payload in the rear.
It backs that up with excellent under-body protection and – for additional peace of mind – Toyota’s industry-leading remote-area service.
The Extra Cab’s two jump seats are good only for extremely short drives, even for kids.
The Double Cab rear seat isn’t as comfortable as those in as a mid-sized 4WD wagon such as Toyota’s own Prado, and isn’t as wide as seats in bigger utes such as Volkswagen Amarok, Ford Ranger or SsangYong Musso. But still it isn’t bad for two adults and a child, or three bigger children.
There are two ISOFIX child seat restraints in Double-Cabs. Four-wheel drive and Hi-Rider 2WD models are a good height for getting small children in and out.
The SR5 4WD and 2WD Hi-Rider Double Cabs have rear air-conditioning vents.
Excellent - it’s a ute. And the HiLux is also very good at towing.
How much you can carry depends on which Hilux you get. Fewer seats in the cab means more length in the tray and more weight you can put there (because there’s less weight in the cab).
Legally, a HiLux is rated to carry less than many similar utes. Even so, the HiLux with the least capacity – the SR5 Double Cab four-wheel drive – can carry 740kg in the tray (37 bags of cement) and a driver and passenger, and still be legal. All other variants can carry more.
In practice, you can pack a HiLux SR5 to the legal limit and it handles the weight quite easily. Its robust chassis still feels stable with that sort of load, and the 2.8-litre diesel – the pick of the engines for carrying heavy loads – has no trouble with the weight.
When it comes to towing, some HiLuxes are rated for braked trailers of 3500kg – but that is only those that have the 2.8 diesel, a manual gearbox and four-wheel-drive.
The more popular HiLux models with the 2.8 diesel and automatic transmission are rated to tow 3500kg. That is less than most similar vehicles but would easily let you haul legally a 20-foot tandem-axle road caravan, or a double float carrying two large horses.
All other HiLuxes are rated lower, with some as low as 2500kg.
In practice, the HiLux tows this sort of load well and feels stable and composed on the road, thanks to its robust chassis. The 2.8 diesel is also up to the task. It is noticeably quieter under load than engines in other utes, even if some are more powerful and don’t feel steep hills as much.
In any ute, extreme care should be taken when carrying or towing big loads.
All variants of the HiLux sold in Australia are built in Thailand.
A four-wheel drive system that you can also use on sealed surfaces. Full-time 4WD comes with Volkswagen Amarok V6 automatics and the more expensive of the Mitsubishi Tritons, for example. It is easier to operate and potentially safer than the HiLux’s part-time 4WD system.
A more powerful diesel: diesel versions of the Ford Ranger and Amarok offer more performance than the most powerful diesel HiLuxes.\
The most expensive Amaroks and Rangers and SsangYong Mussos have heated front seats, while the top-spec Nissan Navara and Musso has those and a sunroof.
Other utes you might consider include the Mazda BT-50 and the Isuzu D-Max.
This all-new, eighth-generation HiLux arrived in late 2015 and won’t be replaced until about 2025.
Toyota withdrew the poor-selling V6 petrol engine models in October 2017 and added extra diesel variants including the SR+ and an automatic SR5 Hi-Rider Double Cab.
2016 Hilux SR5
In April 2018 Toyota added three new variants to the HiLux range called the Rogue, Rugged and Rugged X that featured additional equipment and enhanced styling. All three were developed in Australia to better meet the demands of tough Aussie roads and tracks.
In June 2019 Toyota introduced its Safety Sense driver assistance package to all Hilux versions, which includes a pre-collision safety system autonomous emergency braking, high-speed active cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assistance, and road sign recognition that displays the current speed limit.
At the same, the 2.4-litre diesel Workmate 4x2 single-cab cab-chassis and WorkMate double-cab were discontinued and replaced with WorkMate Hi-Rider versions featuring the same ride height and 2.8-litre diesel powertrains of the 4x4 Hilux models.
2019 Hilux Rugged X
Another update arrived in August 2020 that brought a front-end facelift, power-boost to the 2.8-litre engine, revised suspension, 300kg increase in towing capacity to 3500kg and improved infotainment including a bigger 8.0-inch screen and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. The SR+ and SR5+ deleted from the range but their extra available as extra-cost options. The Rugged, Rogue and Rugged X were also dropped, with updated versions of the Rogue and Rugged X due later in 2020.
The SR5 diesel automatic 4WD Double Cab is the pick as a family vehicle for both day-to-day transport and weekend recreation, especially for those wanting off-road ability. If you want sharper looks you might like the SR5-based Rogue and Rugged X, the latter of which has a host of extra features for more off-road practicality.
If you like the SR5’s rugged looks but are unlikely to negotiate anything rougher than dirt tracks you could opt for the more affordable 2WD Hi-Rider Double Cab versions.
However, given the HiLux comes in 31 variants that range from basic work vehicles up to well-equipped family utes, there should be a HiLux for everyone. No other manufacturer offers such a wide range in utes.
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