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Toyota HiLux SR5 2016 review: long term

The Toyota HiLux, Australia's favourite workhorse for more than three decades, has been among the Top Three sellers outright for the past four years.

But it's facing its biggest challenge yet, under fire from a revamped Ford Ranger and a long list of renewed rivals.

The HiLux is managing to stay ahead of the competition, buoyed by the arrival of the first all-new model in 10 years in late 2015. Sales are up but rivals are closing the gap.

If we exclude the two-door tradie models and tally only sales of the more popular four-door 4WD utes, the HiLux has the slimmest year-to-date margin yet: 6911 deliveries versus the Ford Ranger's 6638 in the first three months of 2016.

With such a fierce battle under way it was time to get reacquainted with the HiLux and live with the new edition for a while. The 2.8-litre turbo diesel engine's barely run-in but we're already appreciating its refinement and its fuel efficiency.

The steering is heavier than on earlier models but the new HiLux also sits more planted on the road than before.

The HiLux hasn't skipped a beat (no surprises there)

Unladen, the rear end can be a bit bouncy but that's because all new HiLuxes come with heavy duty suspension.

Other items from the notebook: we like the $55,000 flagship SR5's sensor key, super-bright headlights and high-beams. The standard rear camera has saved us from denting the chrome bumper but we'd be happier if the guiding lines turned with the steering.

We also wish the HiLux SR5 had a tray liner and courtesy lights under the sports bar (as the Ford Ranger XLT does) as standard. A digital speedo also would be handy to keep up with the ever changing speed zones.

So far, though, the HiLux hasn't skipped a beat (no surprises there) and we're enjoying rediscovering what the fuss is all about.

Part 2: 20/5/16

It's time to hand back the keys to our Toyota HiLux SR5 after living with it over the extended summer.

We have a long list of things we like about Toyota's tough truck, and an equally lengthy "to do" list.

The good news first: it's extremely economical (for a two-tonne pick-up) if you don't thrash it. We averaged 8.8L/100km over the life of the loan. It was always unladen, but often towing.

The LED low beam headlights are superb; the high beams are ok but could do with a boost.

The (new, larger) brakes have a sharp, reassuring bite compared to rivals (and significantly better in feel than the Ford Ranger).

The quality of the HiLux overall impresses, from the "thwack" sound as the doors close on their double-sealed rubbers, to the tough doors trims that can handle an accidental scrape of a boot.

I also became accustomed to the SR5's firm suspension after a while, although it would be better if Toyota could iron out the bumps -- if it doesn't detract from its off-road ability.

The HiLux rides better with a couple of hundred kilos in the back; even a jet ski and trailer (about 500kg combined) was an improvement.

The audio unit needs a volume dial; you can mute the sound with a button on the steering wheel, but sometimes you just want to change volume quickly, not turn it off.

The audio screen can be hard to see in daylight.

We'd still take a HiLux hands down over the competition.

We wish the power window and door lock switches were illuminated as soon as the car is unlocked, so you can find the lock switch at night (I live in a dodgy area).

The audio unit needs Apple Car Play and the digital radio antenna needs to be moved from directly in front of the driver.

This will be tricky to fix: the radio and AC displays reflect in the rear window at night, very distracting.

Extendable sun visors would take the side glare out of long country drives; add a vanity mirror while you're at it.

The last thing we noticed: to save money Toyota has simply painted the grain-finished front bumper off the base model. Previous SR5s had a smooth finish to its painted bumper.

We'd still take a HiLux hands down over the competition -- especially if owning beyond the three-year warranty.

But with the competition closing in, Toyota needs to make these and other changes (radar cruise control, emergency braking) if it is to stay on top.

Toyota HiLux SR5 dual cab 4x4 auto specifications

List price: $55,990
Fuel consumption: 8.5L/100km (official combined), 10.86L/100km (tested)
Fuel tank: 80L
ANCAP safety rating: 5 stars
Seats: 5
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km
Service intervals: 6 months/10,000km
Engine size: 2753cc single turbo diesel
Cylinders: 4
Fuel type: diesel
Power: 130kW
Torque: 450Nm
Transmission: 6sp torque converter auto, four-wheel drive
Spare wheel: Full-size alloy
Turning circle: 11.8m

Which do you think is the better ute: the HiLux or Ranger? Tell us in the comments below.

Click here to see more 2016 Toyota HiLux pricing and spec info.

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