IN 2016, the Hilux was Australia’s best-selling new car overall, the first time ever a commercial vehicle has held that honour in this country.
At the same time, the Hilux marked 12 years as Australia’s best-selling 4x4.
Read more of 4X4's 2017 Most Popular Report Cards
However, it’s a new story this year. Despite Hilux 4x4 sales continuing to climb (up nearly 10 per cent year-on-year), the rate of growth is declining, and the Hilux has been knocked off pole position by the hard-charging Ford Ranger.
For better or worse, Toyota decided to downsize from a 3.0-litre diesel to a 2.8-litre in this latest Hilux, and while this new engine is notably quieter, more refined and more economical than the Ranger’s 3.2 five, it falls short in grunt.
Pedal to the metal, it’s initially more responsive than the old 3.0-litre, but gives much more when fully stretched, as sweet as it is and regardless of how hard it tries. At least the new six-speed auto is a nicer proposition than the previous five-speed, even if it’s over-geared in sixth for most highway driving, especially on undulating roads.
There’s little to complain about when off-road, thanks to the best-in-class wheel travel at the rear and an extremely effective traction control system. Up-spec Hilux models also have a driver-switched rear locker, but it doesn’t enhance matters as it cancels the traction across both axles.
The Hilux’s cabin isn’t as big as most others in the class, but it does offer tilt-and-reach steering adjustment, while the high quality interior fit-and-finish is mirrored in the Hilux’s ‘well-built’ feel – something that should bode well in terms of longevity and durability, both attributes synonymous with the Toyota brand.
Buyers looking for something unique in the ute class also have the option of a petrol engine – a smooth 4.0-litre V6 – although, perhaps not for long given the lack of buyer interest in petrol utes.
2017 (to June): 13,202
2016 (to June): 12,099
Cabin & Equipment: B
Towing & Practicality: B
Final word: Toyota could and should have done more with the Hilux.
*Scored against class competitors. A= Excellent. B= Very Good. C= Good. D= Fair. E= Poor. F= Fail.