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Toyota HiLux 2020 review: SR5

King of Australia's most competitive segment: does the HiLux earn the crown?
EXPERT RATING
7.4
I bet Toyota couldn't have predicted in its wildest dreams the HiLux's runaway success in Australia in the last few years.

When Toyota launched its HiLux ute in the late ‘60s, there’s no way the brand could have predicted predicted using it to own the Australian sales charts month after month in 2019.

Then again, I suppose a few years ago it would have been a laughable idea that dual-cabs rather than SUVs would have been snapping up the leagues of driveway spots once occupied by Falcons and Commodores.

Toyota was on to more than just a winner with the HiLux. Toyota was on to more than just a winner with the HiLux.

But here we are. Toyota was on to more than just a winner, with the HiLux – the only production vehicle to have reached both of the earth’s poles – now synonymous with reliability and versatility.

The ute segment is one of the most hotly contested in Australia, though, so was the HiLux’s most recent rolling update and expanded range enough to keep it front of mind for Australia’s buyers? We took the popular SR5 4x4 spec for a weekly test and ran our eye over the rest of the range to find out.

Toyota HiLux 2020: SR5
Safety rating
Engine Type2.8L
Fuel Type
Fuel Efficiency8.5L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$57,240

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   8/10

To say the HiLux range is “expansive” is an understatement of epic proportions. There is a HiLux to suit almost any ute buyer – whether it’s for a fleet of stripped-down workhorses or a pre-packaged bells-and-whistles recreational off-roader.

This is a cornerstone of the truck’s success, for sure, but results in a range of 36 HiLux variations which can be overwhelming for consumers.

To break it down, there are now six HiLux trim levels consisting of (in price-ascending order): Workmate, SR, SR5, Rogue, Rugged, and Rugged X.

The entry-level Workmate has the most complicated range, as it is the only HiLux still available with either a 2.7-litre petrol or 2.8-litre diesel. It can also be had with either a six-speed manual or six-speed auto with the option of 4x4.

To complicate things further, it can be ordered with a body-matching tray, or as a cab-chassis.

The Workmate range alone stretches from $21,865 through to $46,865. It manages to undercut primary entry-level rival versions of the Mitsubishi Triton, Ford Ranger and Isuzu D-Max, although the latter two come with diesel powertrains as standard.

Those looking for further bargains will have to venture into the relatively murky waters of Chinese alternatives.

Standard equipment on this truck is a 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen. Standard equipment on this truck is a 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen.

Importantly, the 2020 HiLux update brought auto emergency braking (AEB), active cruise control, and lane departure warning (LDW) to all variants, a significant addition to entry-level versions.

Stepping up to the SR ($40,285 - $50,740) offers the choice of extra- or dual-cab bodystyles in 2.8-litre diesel automatic high-rider only and adds an improved list of equipment.

To save you from reading a short essay, we won’t outline the spec of every HiLux grade in this review, but our test car is the most popular SR5 variant, which is available only as a 4x4 hi-riding automatic in dual-cab form.

Standard equipment on this truck is a 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with built-in nav (but not with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto yet… ), 18-inch alloy wheels, a colour display screen in the dash, body matching bumpers, a rear chrome step bumper, LED auto-leveling headlights, LED DRLs, privacy glass, side-steps, steel sports bar, cloth seat trim, carpeted floors (as opposed to vinyl), an air-conditioned console box, 220-volt accessory socket, single-zone climate control with rear air vents, and all-weather floor mats.

The SR5 has a steel sports bar. The SR5 has a steel sports bar.

Our SR5 was fitted with the 'Premium Interior Package' which adds hardy leather interior trim with heated front seats and a power-adjustable driver’s seat ($2000), and the fetching 'Olympia Red' colour ($600).

On the technical front, the SR5 has disc brakes at the front, drum brakes at the rear, “heavy duty” suspension consisting of double wishbones at the front and leaf springs at the back, as well as a tow pack and rear locking differential as standard.

It has a low-range transfer case, downhill accelerator control, hill start assist, and underbody protection to round out its off-roading gear. We’ll look at capacities and dimensions later in this review.

The total cost (MSRP) of our truck came to $59,840 with the options fitted. A cool sixty thousand is significantly more expensive than the similarly-equipped Mitsubishi Triton GLX Plus ($43,490), or Nissan Navara ST-X ($55,250), and for the same money you can have the marginally better equipped Ford Ranger Wildtrak ($56,340) with the older 3.2-litre five-cylinder engine.

It’s a nice bit of kit, sure, plus you’re buying into the HiLux badge and the “rugged” reputation that goes with it, but it’s worth at least cross-shopping its rivals in such a competitive market.

Keep in mind that you’ll need to fork out extra for a tub-liner, as the SR5 doesn’t come with one.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

The HiLux isn’t pretty. It’s tough, almost industrial looking.

The 2020 model year brought with it a mild aesthetic nip and tuck for the exterior that included a new grille full of black gloss plastics.

I don’t like it. It looks all clunky now, I found the previous truck with its thin chrome grille was a little more resolved. My opinion aside, the HiLux looks undeniably ready for action, with its raised bumpers putting its approach and departure credentials on full show.

The extra chrome on the SR5 in its grille, door handles, bumpers, flashy 18-inch alloys, and sports bar really lift it above the rest of the HiLux range to give it that ‘top-spec’ look from a distance.

Featuring flashy 18-inch alloys. Featuring flashy 18-inch alloys.

As mild as those tweaks seem, it’s part of what’s drawing customers to such highly-specified trucks.

The HiLux forgoes the American-truck look being popularized by its main rival, the Ranger, instead leaning into its cropped dimensions that have helped it lead the segment for so long in Australia.

The inside is unchanged from the pre-MY20 model, with a great many hard plastic surfaces and a little design going into the swept dashboard.

Unlike the Amarok or Ranger Wildtrak, though, the SR5 isn’t so plush you’d feel bad sullying it with work equipment.

The wheel feels great under hand, and the dash has a traditional layout that will please most, but there are a few annoyances here.

The first is that my knee would smack into the housing for the 4x4 transfer switch, and the second is that there’s no dial for volume control on tech.

The system itself is clunky, with old, difficult-to-navigate menus and a lack of the latest phone connectivity tech. Don’t expect that to change any time soon, either. The HiLux’s media suite is too outdated to receive the connectivity updates on the way for much of Toyota’s refreshed passenger car range.

Aside from some poorly placed hard plastics and the jiggly suspension explored elsewhere in this review, the leather seats and padded trim for the driver on the doorcards make the cabin a decent place to be for long journeys.

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

Toyota knows its target audience for the HiLux and has provided them with massive cupholders all around the front seats for gigantic bottles, meat pies and sausage rolls (and wallets, and phones…).

There are a few extra spaces around, a small trench under the air-conditioning controls, a double glove box set-up on the passenger’s side and a deep centre console box for everything else.

The back seat is decent on space. The back seat is decent on space.

The back seat is decent on space, but not stellar. My 182cm frame can fit behind my own driving position with only a little airspace for my knees. A very welcome addition for the Australian summer at the SR5 grade is the presence of air vents on the back of the centre console stack.

The rear seat bases are on a 60/40 split and can be swung up to turn the rear portion of the cab into a more practical storage area.

The SR5’s tray won’t fit a standard Australian pallet, although few utes do. The dimensions come in at 1550mm long, and 1520mm wide (although this crops down to 1110mm between the wheel arches).

The SR5’s tray won’t fit a standard Australian pallet.
The SR5’s tray won’t fit a standard Australian pallet.

Toyota notes that the steel sports bar is not to be used for securing loads, leaving that task to four tie-down points around the edges of the tub. Those wanting to use the tray for more than recreational purposes will probably be saying goodbye to the sports bar before long.

In high-riding 4x4 trim, the HiLux has a payload of 955kg and a towing capacity of 750kg unbraked and 3200kg braked.

Those are just the figures stated by Toyota on paper, for a more in-depth look at the HiLux’s capacities, check out Mark Oastler’s TradieGuide review

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   8/10

The HiLux continues with its well-regarded 2.8-litre turbo-diesel engine in the SR5. Outputs are nominal for the segment, at 130kW/450Nm.

There’s nothing flashy about it. Not like the Ranger’s engines (which will get you more power from either an extra cylinder, or an extra turbo), or the Navara (extra turbo), or the D-Max (it’s literally a truck engine).

But the HiLux’s engine seems to pull it along at a fair pace for recreational duties. In terms of towing, a recent tow comparison had the HiLux falling behind the Ranger in terms of available torque, although ahead of the Mercedes-Benz X-Class which shares its powertrain with the Nissan Navara.

The SR5 has the typical well-regarded 2.8-litre turbo-diesel engine. The SR5 has the typical well-regarded 2.8-litre turbo-diesel engine.

The six-speed auto was super compliant on my freeway and unsealed road tests and has performed the same way on previous comparison tests. The SR5 has a low-range transfer case with a rear differential lock as part of its drivetrain arsenal.

This truck’s ‘unbreakable’ visage was shaken lately with recent diesel particulate filter (DPF) issues, however Toyota claims those days are behind it with the introduction of a manual burn-off switch.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

My freeway/unsealed/daily grind test week produced a fuel consumption figure of 10.1L/100km. That’s 1.6L/100km more than its official claimed/combined figure of 8.5L/100km.

Given the amount of freeway driving on our test, we think you’d be hard pressed to get below 9.0L/100km on any given day.

4x4 HiLuxes are diesel only and have an 80-litre tank.

This test week produced a fuel consumption figure of 10.1L/100km. This test week produced a fuel consumption figure of 10.1L/100km.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   8/10

The 2020 HiLux updates brought with them a significant increase in standard safety gear.

Active items that make up Toyota’s 'Safety Sense' suite include auto emergency braking (AEB – with pedestrian and cyclist detection), lane departure warning (LDW), road sign assist (lets you know what the speed limit is), and active cruise control. That last one is more than welcome for long freeway trips.

Notably absent are blind spot monitoring (BSM), rear cross traffic alert (RCTA), and driver attention alert (DAA).

On the side of expected safety refinements, the HiLux has seven airbags, stability, brake and traction controls, a reversing camera and hill start assist.

There are two ISOFIX child-seat mounting points on the outer two rear seats and three top-tether points.

This HiLux (from July 2019 onwards) has a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating.

There are many utes on the market that still do not have the level of safety refinement now offered by the HiLux and this resonates down through its range.

This HiLux (from July 2019 onwards) has a five-star ANCAP safety rating. This HiLux (from July 2019 onwards) has a five-star ANCAP safety rating.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   7/10

On the face of it, the HiLux looks promising. Strong dealer network, capped price servicing, and at long last a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty was introduced by the brand early in 2019.

Delving into the details a little proves the HiLux to be a bit frustrating, however. Although services are capped at an incredibly cheap-sounding $240, you’ll have to visit twice (maybe even three times) a year with intervals set at six months/10,000km.

Affordable, sure. Annoyingly frequent nonetheless.

What's it like to drive?   7/10

On the road, the HiLux backs its tough look with a tough feel. Visibility is great from the driver’s seat, and with the range of adjustability in the seat and wheel its fairly easy to find a driving position suited to most.

The ride is stiff to a fault on the road when unladen though, and after being on the road for three or so hours you’ll be well and truly sick of its ladder-chassis jiggle. It’s particularly bad around the rear where those leaf springs will transmit bumps and jolts to the passengers with impunity.

The HiLux has firm but not unduly stiff steering. There’s plenty of feedback from the front wheels, so it’s easy to feel out where they are in lower-speed off-road environments, too.

The HiLux has firm but not unduly stiff steering. The HiLux has firm but not unduly stiff steering.

Lighter, more car-like steering can be had in the Ranger or Amarok, which benefit in the ease of maneuvering tight city environments, although the compromise is less feedback.

At least the HiLux’s steering isn’t as heavy as the Triton which can, at times, be genuinely unpleasant.

The 2.8-litre turbo-diesel chugs along about mid-way through the segment in terms of outputs and it feels it behind the wheel. Refinement is about what you’d expect. Not as quiet as the Amarok or Ranger, but also not as industrial as the D-Max.

The SR5 feels at home the moment you take it off the tarmac and onto an unsealed surface. The suspension feels much better here, chugging over bumps, rocks and clambering over obstacles with relative ease.

At higher speeds, those stiff rear springs can have the rear fishtailing around over corrugated surfaces, although this can be reined in a little by driving in 4H.

While my test was limited to a few unsealed trails in regional NSW, the more hardcore off-road test segment in our six-ute comparison test (which featured this exact truck) had the SR5 come first place over its direct rivals.

Make sure to read it for more on the HiLux’s off-road performance.

As it is, the SR5 is a capable dual-purpose truck on and off the road, although unlike some rivals it prioritises ability over day-to-day comfort.

Unlike some rivals the HiLux prioritises ability over day-to-day comfort. Unlike some rivals the HiLux prioritises ability over day-to-day comfort.

Verdict

Not as car-like as the Ranger, but not as industrial as the D-Max, the HiLux provides a middle ground that will be ideal for a great many buyers looking for a truly capable dual-purpose ute.

There are some compromises in its expansive range, not least of which is its multimedia offering, but with an updated warranty and safety package the HiLux rightfully remains a formidable force in Australia’s dual-cab market.

EXPERT RATING
7.4
Price and features8
Design7
Practicality7
Engine & trans8
Fuel consumption7
Safety8
Ownership7
Driving7
Tom White
Journalist

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Pricing Guide

$57,240

Lowest price, based on new car retail price

This price is subject to change closer to release data
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