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4x4 Dual Cab Comparison: 2021 Isuzu D-Max LS-U vs Toyota HiLux SR5+


Matt Campbell
Reviewed & driven by

28 Aug 2020

It’s not every day this happens. It’s not even every decade, based on previous form. But here it is: the all-new Isuzu D-Max 2021 model, which we’re putting up against one of its fiercest competitors and one of the most popular utes in Australia - the just revised 2021 Toyota HiLux.

Specifically, we’re pitching up the new Toyota HiLux SR5+ against the Isuzu D-Max LS-U - both utes that are close to the top of their respective model trees, and that offer a great balance of equipment for the cash and good stuff you need.

There’s a bit to consider between these two in terms of price, but we’ll get to that soon. We’ll also cover off all the stuff you want to know about - safety, tech, ownership, driving on-road and off-road, and fuel use. All of those criteria are covered in this comparison test, and at the bottom of this review you’ll see a breakdown of the scores that we’ve deemed for these two utes. You might have certain preferences, and we’re sure you’ll be able to figure out what suits you best.  

The big question here is whether the all-new D-Max stacks up against the heavily revamped HiLux? Let’s get to it!

Pricing and specs

Take note: this comparison isn’t covering off each ute’s entire price list, nor every single model or variant in each respective ute range.

Instead, we’re looking at two high-end dual-cab four-wheel drive diesel-auto models that are reasonably close on price - the Isuzu D-Max LS-U and the Toyota HiLux SR5+.

There’s been a lot of commentary around the D-Max’s price hikes for the new-generation model, but the fact is that the new model is comprehensively kitted out for the cash - primarily in the safety stakes, and we’ll get to that in the safety section below.

The D-Max LS-U is priced at $56,900 and the HiLux SR5+ has a list price of $62,420. The D-Max LS-U is priced at $56,900 and the HiLux SR5+ has a list price of $62,420.

Further, this LS-U 4x4 dual cab auto comes in at a lower price than its competitor in this test, with a list price of $56,900 (MSRP). That’s the price before any on-road costs, but we know Isuzu is already doing drive-away deals, so be sure to check what discount you can get off the RRP.

The HiLux SR5+ is a new addition that sits above the SR5, but pushes the price up by $2500. It adds stuff that doesn’t impact the drive experience, but you might like - such as electric driver’s seat adjustment, front seat heating and leather-accented seats. The HiLux SR5+ has a list price of $62,420 (MSRP) - so it’s a bit pricey. You could opt for the SR5 at $59,920, with cloth, un-heated seats with manual adjustment, and that would be a better match against this spec of D-Max… but it’d still be $3000 more.

Okay, so what about standard equipment inclusions? Here’s a table to make it easy to break down what’s included across these two dual cabs, starting with the media systems - both of which have taken big steps forward for the update/new models.

 Isuzu D-Max LS-UToyota HiLux SR5+
Sat navYY
Apple CarPlay/Android AutoY - with wireless Apple CarPlayY
Touch screen size9.0-inch8.0-inch
USB ports2 (one front, one rear)1 (front)
RadioAM/FM/DABAM/FM/DAB
CD playerNN
Sound system speakers86
Wireless phone charging (Qi)NN

With a larger screen, additional speakers and wireless Apple CarPlay, the Isuzu looks the goods for infotainment. But the Toyota does have volume and tuning knobs, where the D-Max’s system has buttons only. 

Let’s take a look at some interior elements:

 Isuzu D-Max LS-UToyota HiLux SR5+
Interior trimClothLeather appointed
Front seat adjustmentManualElectric (driver only)
Leather steering wheelYY
Heated front seatsNY
Air conditioningDual zone climate controlSingle zone climate control
Directional rear air ventsYY
Keyless entry / smart keyNY
Push button startNY
Cruise controlAdaptiveAdaptive

Clearly the HiLux is aiming for a slightly more luxo vibe inside, with nice bits like leather accented trim, front seat heating and driver’s electric seat adjust. Both have carpet flooring and digital driver info displays with digital speedometers, too. 

Okay, are there other considerable spec differentiators? 

 Isuzu D-Max LS-UToyota HiLux SR5+
Alloy wheels18-inch18-inch
Tyres265/60/18 H/T265/60/18 H/T
Spare wheelFull size alloyFull size alloy
Roof railsNN
LED headlightsYY
LED daytime running lightsYY
Fog lightsLEDLED
Auto headlightsYY
Auto high-beam lightsYN
Auto rain sensing wipersYY
Auto dimming rear view mirrorNN
Side stepsYY
Sports barNY
Rear differential lockYY

Pretty close on spec, then, really.

Does it seem like you’re getting $6000 more value by choosing the HiLux over the D-Max? Arguably not. And the case on standard inclusions for the D-Max is even stronger in the safety section… but some potential customers may lament that Isuzu doesn’t offer a luxury pack equivalent on the LS-U, meaning you need to step up to the X-Terrain to get the extra niceties the SR5+ gets.

Isuzu D-Max LS-U8
Toyota HiLux SR5+7

Weight and dimensions

You will make up your own mind about the look of these two utes. You might like one a lot more than the other, and that’s totally fine. But in this section of the test we’re going to look at how these utes make use of their size - that’s right, we’re going deep on dimensions. 

 Isuzu D-Max LS-UToyota HiLux SR5+
Length5265mm5325mm
Wheelbase3125mm3085mm
Height1790mm1815mm
Width1870mm1855mm

The longer, taller and narrower HiLux doesn’t have the wheelbase length that the D-Max offers, with the Isuzu’s smaller headlights and broad grille treatment making it look wider, too. As mentioned in the spec section above, both models have 18-inch wheels, though the dish-style rims of the D-Max look a bit more retro-futuristic than the new two-tone spinners on the HiLux.

  • The Isuzu’s smaller headlights and broad grille treatment making it look wider. The Isuzu’s smaller headlights and broad grille treatment making it look wider.
  • The D-Max wears retro-futuristic 18-inch wheels. The D-Max wears retro-futuristic 18-inch wheels.
  • The longer, taller and narrower HiLux doesn’t have the wheelbase length that the D-Max offers. The longer, taller and narrower HiLux doesn’t have the wheelbase length that the D-Max offers.
  • The HiLux wears two-tone 18-inch wheels. The HiLux wears two-tone 18-inch wheels.

Now let’s consider the tub dimensions, because there’s a bit of difference between these two.

 Isuzu D-Max LS-UToyota HiLux SR5+
Tub length1570mm1569mm
Tub width/between wheel arches1530mm/1122mm1645mm/1109mm
Tub depth490mm470mm

As you can see, the HiLux has a little extra width and depth to its wellback, and both of these bakkies (that’s for you South African fans!) have four tie-down points to secure your load. Neither has a charge point/12-volt outlet in the tub, though the HiLux has a 230-volt powerpoint in the front centre console. 

  • The D-Max tub measures in at 1570mm long, 1530mm wide and 490mm deep. The D-Max tub measures in at 1570mm long, 1530mm wide and 490mm deep.
  • The HiLux tray measures in at 1569mm long, 1645mm wide and 470mm deep. The HiLux tray measures in at 1569mm long, 1645mm wide and 470mm deep.

Neither of these utes comes as standard with a tub liner at this price point, but you can accessorise to suit (the D-Max tested here has an optional accessory fit unit, as well as optional roof racks). There are plenty of genuine accessories available from both brands, including hard tonneau/hard lid covers, roller cover, soft tonneau, and of course items like a tow bar. Speaking of which.... 

We’ll cover off payload capacity and weights next. You might want to note in this next section that there is some difference in terms of payload, with the Isuzu taking a slight advantage.

 Isuzu D-Max LS-UToyota HiLux SR5+
Payload1055kg995kg
Kerb weight2045kg2093kg
Gross vehicle mass (GVM)3100kg3050kg
Gross combination mass (GCM)5950kg5850kg
Towing capacity750kg unbraked, 3500kg braked750kg unbraked, 3500kg braked

Excellent to see both models offer the maximum towing capacity of 3.5 tonnes. We didn’t get a chance to do a towing review this time around, but stay tuned as we plan to look at their capabilities with a caravan or camper trailer in tow in the near future.

We also plan to do a load test, but that wasn’t part of the plan for this comparison, which is focused on assessing these two utes primarily for what they are - dual-purpose trucks that families might choose to live with day-to-day and head off-road for weekends or holidays.

Now, what about off-road angles and dimensions, because that’s a critical part of the design of utes like these:

 Isuzu D-Max LS-UToyota HiLux SR5+
Approach angle30.5 degrees29.0 degrees
Departure angle24.2 degrees27.0 degrees
Ramp-over / break-over angle23.8 degreesTBC N/A
Ground clearance mm240mm216mm
Wading depth800mm700mm

Aside from the departure angle, it seems as though the D-Max has a lot of advantages over the HiLux in terms of off-road specs - the most surprising of which are ground clearance and wading depth. 

All told, it’s a slight advantage to the D-Max LS-U over the HiLux SR5+ across the board for weight and dimensions. 

Isuzu D-Max LS-U9
Toyota HiLux SR5+8

Interior and practicality

There’s a big difference between these two in terms of instant impressions, and that’s because while the HiLux hasn’t changed all that much at a cursory glance, the D-Max has jumped the fence and kept running.

With a class-leading 9.0-inch media screen in the LS-U and X-Terrain models, the game has moved on thanks to the Isuzu - and that’s saying something, because the multimedia screen in the old model was terrible. Not so this one, which also debuts wireless Apple CarPlay in the dual-cab ute segment, though you still have to plug a USB cord in for Android Auto.

The HiLux has finally added Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, too, both of which are USB-connect, and the new HiLux has stepped up to an 8.0-inch touchscreen, too. What’s a win for the HiLux in terms of usability is that it has volume and tuning knobs, rather than buttons, and that means it’s just easier to turn down and change channels quickly. Oh, and the D-Max has a default beep/bing noise for every button press, including volume… suffice to say that after an hour of driving, I found the menu to silence that!

While we focused on the connectivity and ease of use of smartphone mirroring for this test, if you’re not up to date or choose to use the in-built maps instead, both have GPS sat nav. The Toyota’s system is a little simpler to use, but that could be more to do with the fact it hasn’t changed in years, where the D-Max’s multimedia controls and menus are more colourful, and perhaps a little more confusing, too - but after a few days, you get used to it.

  • The HiLux has a dual glovebox setup, cup holders between the front seats, pop-out cup holders on the outer edges of the dashboard, covered centre console bin, and door pockets with bottle holders. The HiLux has a dual glovebox setup, cup holders between the front seats, pop-out cup holders on the outer edges of the dashboard, covered centre console bin, and door pockets with bottle holders.
  • Clearly the HiLux is aiming for a slightly more luxo vibe inside, with nice bits like leather accented trim. Clearly the HiLux is aiming for a slightly more luxo vibe inside, with nice bits like leather accented trim.
  • The HiLux now has a an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The HiLux now has a an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
  • The HiLux makes do with single zone climate control. The HiLux makes do with single zone climate control.
  • If you plan to put three adults across the back, it’s going to be a bit tight in the HiLux. If you plan to put three adults across the back, it’s going to be a bit tight in the HiLux.

But even with the HiLux’s leather-accented seats and electric driver’s seat adjustment and seat heating (which is either on or off, there’s no multi-stage adjustment), the D-Max’s more modern dashboard design is more eye-catching. It’s a huge step up for the brand.

Plus the D-Max’s materials are considerably better, including soft-touch plastics on the doors and dashtop, while in the HiLux it’s hard plastic all around. The D-Max also has one of the nicest feeling leather-trimmed steering wheels in the ute segment, while the HiLux’s leather tiller trim is coarse and, while presumably hard wearing, not overly nice to grip.

Both are equally clever for interior storage options. Each has a dual glovebox setup, cup holders between the front seats, pop-out cup holders on the outer edges of the dashboard, covered centre console bin, and door pockets with bottle holders. The Isuzu carries over its covered centre bin on top of the dash, which actually works well this time around - the previous one was poor. 

Both utes have height adjustment for the driver’s seat, reach and rake adjustment for the steering wheel, steering wheel audio and cruise control buttons, and conventional stalks for lights and wipers. Both have auto lights and auto wipers, but the D-Max betters the HiLux with auto high-beam lights. And both have a digital driver info screen - Toyota has finally added a digital speedo, and there’s one in the D-Max, too. The controls and display are easier to get used to in the HiLux, where the D-Max’s will take a bit of learning. 

  • The D-Max’s materials are considerably better than what's in the HiLux. The D-Max’s materials are considerably better than what's in the HiLux.
  • The D-Max’s seats are comfortable and well sculpted. The D-Max’s seats are comfortable and well sculpted.

The consensus on the test was that the D-Max’s seats were more comfortable and better sculpted, while the HiLux’s were a bit hard. 

Rear seat occupants receive twin map pockets in the seatbacks, a flip down armrest with cup holders, rear seat directional air vents, bottle holders in the doors, and a takeaway bag hook (x2 for the ‘Lux). 

Space in the second row is better in the D-Max. With the driver’s seat set for my position - I’m 182cm/6’0” tall - I had more space for my knees (an extra 4cm) and above my head (an extra 2cm), where in the HiLux the toe room was marginally better, but the brand has persisted with the hard-mounted grab handles which could be head-buttable off-road for taller occupants. The Isuzu’s grab handles fold into the headlining, which is a neater solution.

If you plan to put three adults across the back, it’s going to be a bit tighter in the HiLux, as it feels a touch narrower. And if you have children, keep in mind that both of these utes have two ISOFIX child seat anchor points, and a centre-mount top tether point that requires you to loop through behind the outboard headrests. So, legally, you can’t fit three baby seats across the back.

This section is close, but the D-Max just pips the HiLux, even when you consider the “+” part of the equation. 

Isuzu D-Max LS-U9
Toyota HiLux SR5+8

Drivetrains

These two new utes have seen increases and improvements to their engines. We’re talking more horsepower, more torque, and - in the case of the D-Max - it has an all-new engine.

The D-Max is powered by a 3.0-litre turbo-diesel four cylinder making 140kW/450Nm. The D-Max is powered by a 3.0-litre turbo-diesel four cylinder making 140kW/450Nm.

But it’s the tweaked HiLux motor that has the advantage on paper despite its smaller engine capacity, as you’ll see in the engine specs breakdown below:

 Isuzu D-Max LS-UToyota HiLux SR5+
Engine3.0-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder2.8-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder
Power output140kW at 3600rpm150kW at 3400rpm
Torque output450Nm at 1600-2600rpm500Nm at 1600-2800rpm
TransmissionSix-speed automaticSix-speed automatic
DrivetrainSelectable four-wheel drive (4WD/4x4)Selectable four-wheel drive (4WD/4x4)

The HiLux hits harder for grunt numbers, there’s no doubt about that. In fact, for four-cylinder diesels, the HiLux is now hitting at the top of the class, where the D-Max appears to continue with the pursuit of a low-strain engine. The new engine in the D-Max is paired to a new auto transmission that is said to offer faster shifts - we’ll assess that in the driving section.

The HiLux has a 2.8-litre turbo-diesel four cylinder with 150kW/500Nm. The HiLux has a 2.8-litre turbo-diesel four cylinder with 150kW/500Nm.

Both utes have some emissions-focused items like a diesel particulate filter (DPF) but neither meets Euro 6 standards, so there is no AdBlue required. 

Isuzu D-Max LS-U7
Toyota HiLux SR5+9

Fuel consumption

The fuel-consumption battle between these two is close on paper - but we didn’t just trust the official combined cycle fuel consumption claimed by each of these brands. 

We took our own figures at the pump to see what you can expect in a mix of on-road and off-road driving, including low-range hill climbs and descents, water crossings and gravel tracks. And it’s safe to say that both performed better than we expected!

 Isuzu D-Max LS-UToyota HiLux SR5+
Official combined cycle fuel consumption8.0L/100km7.9L/100km
Actual fuel use on test8.9L/100km8.3L/100km
Difference between claim and actual0.9L/100km / 9 per cent0.4L/100km / 5 per cent
Fuel tank size76L80L
Theoretical driving range853km based on actual fuel use963km based on actual fuel use

We’ve gotta give it to the HiLux here - more power, more torque, and better fuel use? That’s an important advantage for a lot of customers out there.

Isuzu D-Max LS-U8
Toyota HiLux SR5+9

Driving

This part of the test was close, too. Closer than you might think, on balance.

The reason we need to stipulate that is because one was notably better on-road, while the other was more impressive off-road. Any guesses? Well, I did the on-road portion of the test, while our Adventure Editor, Marcus Craft, took care of the off-road impressions. 

Read on for the full rundown - but please note, the score at the bottom of this section is a combination of on- and off-road driving. And it was close...

 

On-road - by Senior Editor, Matt Campbell

Isuzu D-Max LS-U

What an improvement! The new D-Max is vastly better than the previous model, in almost every imaginable way.

The most stand-out feature of the driving manners for the new model for me is the steering. It is now considerably lighter and more user-friendly at all speeds than the predecessor model, and this new electric steering setup has clearly been to the Ford Ranger school of feel and feedback, because it is absolutely great at high speeds and - arguably more importantly - at low speeds, where it requires bugger all effort to turn the ute around in tight spaces. Yes, it still has a large turning circle (12.5 metres vs 12.6m in the HiLux) but it doesn’t feel anywhere near as big as that figure suggests.

Now you might think steering isn’t that big of a deal, but after a big day on the tools you’d likely want to have an easy drive home, not be fighting the tiller. More on the HiLux’s re-tuned steering below...

The suspension - independent front and three-leaf rear - is subtle and well sorted in most situations, though you can still tell it’s a ute. Isuzu is all about work and play, and this time around it feels like the emphasis is on the play part, with a more comfortable ride that is less jittery and fidgety, and not as kidney-bruising over sharp edges as what is served up in the HiLux.

The engine isn’t as zesty or quiet as the HiLux, but it still pulls hard enough to get away from a line with ease. There’s a fair bit of engine clatter and noise, and it’s evident at low and higher speeds, too.

The six-speed automatic shifts smartly and quickly, but it’s also a bit busier than you might expect. At highway pace you’ll notice it will shuffle between the higher gears to keep the engine in its torque sweet spot. That’s no bad thing, but to those who expect a diesel engine to stick in a higher gear and rely on rumble to keep things going, it can be a little unexpected.

Another consideration for the on-road driving component is the safety technology and driving aids, which are more helpful in the D-Max than in the HiLux - partly because the Isuzu has additional tech like active lane keeping assistance, as it uses a camera system to monitor the road ahead and can control the electric steering to ensure you don’t leave your lane, instead of just brake-force lane departure prevention like the Toyota.

The Isuzu also gets blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert, and they’re helpful in all sorts of situations. The HiLux doesn’t get either of those items. 

Toyota HiLux SR5+

Changed, yes. Dramatically different? Not quite.

The claims about the updated HiLux are bold, with Toyota Australia’s local team assisting in “retuning the HiLux chassis, achieving a significant improvement in ride quality when driving without a load, along with more responsive handling and even greater stability when towing”.

We can’t comment on the towing element just yet - stay tuned, we’ll do a towing test at a later date - but the ride quality without a load was a focal point of this test, and while it is improved compared to the pre-facelift model, it’s not “significantly” better. You still feel more of the lumps and bumps in the road surface in the HiLux than you do in the D-Max, and it still feels more workmanlike as a result. And off-road it remains very, er, connected to the surface below, with some punishing parts of the drive experience on gravel tracks. More on that from Crafty below

As for the steering, Toyota reckons the new “variable-flow control power steering pump” offers a “more connected and confident feel at any speed” while also “making parking easier”. 

We disagree. 

The old HiLux had pretty good steering. In fact, it was one of the ute’s highlights when it came to driving. But this time around, there’s actually additional vagueness on-centre at speed, while at lower speeds the amount of wrist work is beyond that of the previous model. Seriously, we had a 2019 HiLux with us on this shoot, and the steering difference was remarkable - the old one was considerably easier to twirl at lower speed. 

But the big news here is really the engine, which retains the same capacity, but takes a big step up in terms of power and torque. With 150kW and 500Nm, it’s now among the most powerful four-cylinder diesel engines in this part of the ute segment, and it feels it.

There’s plenty of pulling power, and the recalibrated six-speed auto does a nice job of harnessing the grunt on offer. Like the D-Max, it can be busy - and the grade logic control, where the gearbox will downshift to use engine braking to take a bit of pressure off the brakes, is alarming in its aggression at times. It’s also really bloody loud when you’re downshifted to 3rd or 4th gear at 80km/h down a lengthy steep hill (for Aussies, we’re specifically calling out Mt Ousley near Wollongong here!).

Both offered good braking performance in a mix of situations, though, and while the HiLux wasn’t quite as comfortable or easy to drive on-road, when it came to the rough and tumble, things were a little different.

 

Off-road - by Adventure Editor, Marcus Craft

Isuzu D-Max LS-U 

The D-Max has always been a decent 4WD ute, but a lack of actionable power and torque, its less-than-ideal 4WD set-up (including a weak off-road traction control system) and the absence of a rear diff-lock have always let it down.

Well, all of those problems have been addressed in the 2021 D-Max and, bloody hell, it shows. 

But before we get to that, here’s some good news: the new D-Max’s suspension is much better than the previous generation’s as demonstrated by the very comfortable and controlled drive to one of our unofficial 4WD testing and proving grounds.

The track leading to our hill-climb test is mostly well-maintained gravel and dirt, but it is peppered with shallow corrugations here and there, and there are deeper surprise potholes lurking along the route as well. 

The D-Max’s showroom-standard Bridgestone Dueler H/Ts are no good for 4WDing. The D-Max’s showroom-standard Bridgestone Dueler H/Ts are no good for 4WDing.

The D-Max soaked most of it up without any bother. The ride was very comfortable, for a ute, and is the nearest the D-Max has ever been to being smooth and refined over rough terrain at speed.

It was much better than the rough-riding HiLux.

You want more good news? When it comes to low-speed and low-range 4WDing – the fun, tough stuff – the new D-Max is much better than the old one.

Whereas the previous D-Max’s 4WD shortcomings used to be quite rapidly exposed when tackling hardcore terrain, this time it took a climb up most of our set-piece hill, using controlled momentum off the back of the new tweaked off-road traction control system, before we had to even think about using the new rear diff-lock*. The D-Max’s off-road performance has improved that much. (* Note: when you engage the diff lock, the off-road traction control is disengaged.)

The D-Max has always been a decent 4WD ute. The D-Max has always been a decent 4WD ute.

Remember though: a rear diff lock – or any diff lock for that matter – is not the cure-all some people might assume it is, but it certainly helps – and the fact you at least have the option of using it when crunch-time comes is a real bonus.

The LS-U’s ground clearance is a claimed 240mm, and while that’s 24mm more the HiLux has, it always feels a little too low, too vulnerable to underbody-scraping (partly thanks to its 40mm longer wheelbase) on sharper-angled obstacles or bellying out coming out of deeper ruts and ditches. But, with patience and considered driving, progress can be easily maintained. 

The D-Max’s showroom-standard Bridgestone Dueler H/Ts (265/60R18 110S) – are no good for 4WDing and a weakness in its off-road efficacy that can be easily rectified with a set of new more aggressive all-terrains. 

The ute’s wheel travel is also still less than ideal, but the reworked 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine is a cracker so if you can get a tyre to the dirt, there is plenty of usable torque to tap into.

The D-Max also has 100mm more claimed wading depth than the HiLux at 800mm. The D-Max also has 100mm more claimed wading depth than the HiLux at 800mm.

I did have some difficulty engaging the D-Max’s hill descent control before I took on the first of several downhill runs but, once engaged, it proved up to the task: yielding a smooth, controlled descent at a sustained 2-3km/h or so, even on short steeper sections; it only ever reached 5-6km/h – not ideal – on very steep declines. 

The D-Max also has 100mm more claimed wading depth than the HiLux at 800mm.

So, a lot of the pieces of the off-road-improvement puzzle are all there – tractable engine with more accessible torque, effective traction control, diff-lock – and with those elements combining nicely, the D-Max seems more ‘on the money’ in terms of its all-round capability in difficult 4WDing conditions than it ever has before. 

But that doesn’t mean it was the best in this match-up though.

Toyota HiLux SR5+

The drive to our hardcore hill-climb is, overall, a nice cruisy country drive, especially in favourable conditions, as was the case on our off-road testing day.

But the HiLux proved to be the roughest rider of these two utes over this sort of surface, seemingly finding any irregularity in the track and jarring, jumping and thumping through every single one of them. Spine-rattling to say the least, but firmly in keeping with true ute tradition.

The track up our steep hill-climb was even more deeply rutted and washed-out than usual due to recent heavy rains and so, with a fallen tree across the track here and there, and some nasty ruts which forced our utes into severe whole-vehicle tilts almost into trees and/or rocks, the route had become even more treacherous to drive up.

The HiLux feels the most composed, the most comfortable capable of most contemporary dual-cab utes. The HiLux feels the most composed, the most comfortable capable of most contemporary dual-cab utes.

At low revs, with plenty of ground-level dirt-grabbing torque to call on, the HiLux allowed for steady, even-handed progression up this serious challenge. 

There was ample control, minimal wheel-spin, and the HiLux simply kept trucking along, even when pushed into severe whole-vehicle tilts.  

I’ve said it before, but the HiLux simply feels like it’s ‘dialled in’ to the terrain; visibility is good all-round, accurate wheel placement is easy to achieve, and, as a result, so is finding your line up or down a tricky route and sticking to it.

The HiLux is the more appealing 4WD touring platform of these two.  The HiLux is the more appealing 4WD touring platform of these two. 

On the downhill run, the HiLux’s downhill assist control (i.e. hill descent control) was simple enough to activate and it then helped to produce a smooth driving experience at a controlled low-speed pace, about 2-3km/h. None of the overly-aggressive abrupt ‘biting’ of some systems, and no graunching either. 

As with the D-Max, the HiLux’s road-suited tyres – Bridgestone Dueler H/Ts (265/60R18 110H) – are the weakest link in its off-road characteristics – but, again, they’re easily replaced with a set of aggressive all-terrain tyres, and should be.

The HiLux simply kept trucking along. The HiLux simply kept trucking along.

But in low-range 4WDing, the HiLux still feels the most composed, the most comfortable capable of most contemporary dual-cab utes – and being able to now draw on even more torque – up from 450Nm to 500Nm – adds another layer of ability to its off-road arsenal.  

The fact the HiLux also produces more power and more torque and yields better fuel use, and so has a greater driving range in between tank-fills than the D-Max makes it the more appealing 4WD touring platform of these two. 

Isuzu D-Max LS-U8
Toyota HiLux SR5+8

Safety

Updated 17/07/2020: The Isuzu D-Max has scored the maximum five-star ANCAP crash test safety rating under the safety watchdog's strict new 2020 criteria - and it's the first ute to claim that honour. It even shows up the HiLux in a few ways - and that's no small feat, as the Toyota ute has been considered among the best in the class for advanced safety technology, even scoring a five-star ANCAP rating when it was retested in 2019.

But it's the D-Max which gets extra items like front-centre airbag tech (designed to protect occupants in the event of a side impact), and it even has additional tech like Turn Assist, which can activate the AEB system if the computer thinks you're about to cross the path of oncoming traffic. That tech was previously reserved for German luxury brands!

 Isuzu D-Max LS-UToyota HiLux SR5+
Reversing cameraYY
Park assist sensorsRearFront and rear
Airbags8 - dual front, driver’s knee, front centre, front side, full-length curtain7 - dual front, driver’s knee, front side, full-length curtain
Auto emergency braking (AEB)Y- speeds above 10km/hY - 50km/h to 180km/h
Pedestrian detectionY - all speedsY - 10km/h to 80km/h
Cyclist detectionY - all speedsY - 10km/h to 80km/h
Auto high-beam lightsYY
Adaptive cruise controlYY
Lane departure warningYY
Active lane keep assistY - with active steering assistance (between 60km/h and 130km/h)N - lane departure system can brake wheels, but won’t steer
Turn assist (stops vehicle turning in front of oncoming traffic)Y - between 5km/h and 18km/hN
Blind spot monitoringYN
Rear cross trafficYN
Speed sign recognitionYY
ANCAP safety rating (year tested)5 stars (2020)5 stars (2019)

The safest ute in the segment - that’s the label we’re giving the D-Max.

Where is the Toyota HiLux made? Where is the Isuzu D-Max made? The answer is the same - both are built in Thailand.

Isuzu D-Max LS-U10
Toyota HiLux SR5+8

Ownership

Ownership could be among the most important considerations for you if you’re shelling out sixty grand on a new ute, and we totally understand that.

While we can’t speak for each of these utes in terms of long-term ownership and reliability, we’ve covered off their respective ownership programs below, and there are some interesting considerations.

 Isuzu D-Max LS-UToyota HiLux SR5+
Service interval12 months/15,000kmSix months/10,000km
Annual service cost (avg over three years)$469$500
Capped price servicing planSeven years/105,000kmThree years/60,000km
Prepay servicing available?NoNo
Warranty coverSix years/150,000kmFive years/unlimited km *
Roadside assist included?Seven yearsNo

You may have noticed the asterisk in the warranty section above: that’s because the Toyota HiLux has a standard five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, but if you’ve maintained logbook servicing the powertrain is covered for seven years/unlimited kays. It doesn’t need to have been serviced at Toyota - you can maintain it at any registered mechanic. 

But the Isuzu has longer service intervals, cheaper servicing, you don’t need to take it in for maintenance every six months, and it only has one year less warranty - plus there’s seven years of roadside assistance to put your mind at ease. Wow. It smashes the Toyota here.

If you’re still worried about common problems, complaints, issues, recalls, DPF problems or any other potential worries, you can always take a look at our Toyota HiLux problems page or our Isuzu D-Max problems page.

Isuzu D-Max LS-U9
Toyota HiLux SR5+7

Verdict

This was close, and we would understand why you might choose one of these utes over the other. It could all come down to preferences.

You might want more power and torque, better fuel consumption or more impressive off-road ability, and for that you might go for the Toyota HiLux SR5+. Or maybe you just want seat heaters…! 

Or you might prioritise a more modern cabin, a better day-to-day driving experience, or additional safety tech - and in that case, the Isuzu D-Max LS-U would be your best choice. It has a better ownership plan, too, and is a vastly improved ute in most major ways - and in this test, against our scorecard, it’s the winner… just.

So which would you choose, and why? We’ve put the scores for these two utes across each of the criteria, which will hopefully help you figure out which is a better choice for you. Be sure to tell us your thoughts in the comments section.

 Isuzu D-Max LS-UToyota HiLux SR5+
Pricing and specs87
Weight and dimensions98
Interior and practicality98
Drivetrains79
Fuel consumption89
Driving88
Safety108
Ownership97
Overall (average of the above)8.58.0


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