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Datsun 720 ute - Were they better than the HiLux?

Asked by Lee

My parents had a Datsun 720 ute when I was a kid, and I'm thinking of buying one myself. They seem to be rarer than a HiLux, but was the Toyota a better ute?

Answered by CarsGuide

21 Apr 2021 Byron Mathioudakis

If you find a good Datsun 720 ute, then go for it. Like most vehicles from the late '70s and '80s, they rust away.

Is it better than the contemporary HiLux? Probably not, judging from what Wheels magazine had to say in its August 1981 4x2 single-cab diesel comparison by esteemed road tester, Brian Woodward, featuring the HiLux against the Datsun 720, Ford Courier and Holden Rodeo:

"Datsun has radial tyres as standard but they don't do handling much good; ride is choppiest of the four. Bench seat makes best use of space but cabin is claustrophobic. Engine gives most power but is truck-like with plenty of diesel clatter. Column shift works well. Load space and access is good."

Of the HiLux: "Toyota feels most car-like, is quietest of four and has most practical gear ratios. But it doesn't set standards for suspension control. Cabin is light and airy. Engine gives HiLux best performance and economy. Dash controls are easy to use. Deck is as for others."

"None of the four is a worthwhile alternative to a car or a serious rival for the good old Aussie ute, but the Toyota comes close. It is the one we would choose..."

Wheels then went on to compare the same new 1981 HiLux against the Holden WB Kingswood 3300 ute, with the following conclusion:

"The Toyota has plenty of ground clearance, useful low gearing and fine economy – a very different picture to that of the Holden and one which gives the Japanese a clear advantage as a practical workhorse. But utes are not only workhorses – they may have to carry pigs in the back on Friday but on Saturday they are expected to be able to take the missus to the shops (this was 1981, remember, Ed.). And it's here that the Toyota falls down. It's too commercial."

That all said, we'd buy on condition. If you find a HiLux that's in better shape than the 720, we'd go for that. But as you said, the Datsun is a rarer thing, and a delightfully period piece of engineering in its own right.

We hope this contemporary perspective of the Datsun 720 and Toyota HiLux helps.

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