Isuzu D-Max 2021 review: X-Terrain
The Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain is a new nameplate. But trust us, it'll be a household name before you know it.
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The 2021 Toyota HiLux has arrived, and we’ve spent a fair bit of time in a number of different variants. But this one is possibly the most important of all.
It’s the new Toyota HiLux SR5 - or, if we’re even more specific, it’s the SR5+, which is the flagship model in the ‘standard’ range of Lux models, before you get to the Rogue and Rugged X versions.
At the time of writing, we hadn’t gotten a chance to drive either of those models, so we were taking this as a range-topper.
But with stiff competition in the all-new Isuzu D-Max, not to mention the Toyota’s arch-nemesis in the 4x4 ute segment, the Ford Ranger, has Toyota done enough with its latest update to keep the HiLux near the top of the segment?
Let’s find out, shall we?
The SR5 line-up is actually pretty big now. You aren’t just confined to dual cab automatic pick-up, as is the case in some other utes out there. Read all about how the prices have changed here.
In fact, you can get the SR5 in 4x2 Hi-Rider ute guise (from $53,690 MSRP), and if you prefer 4x4 there’s an extra cab ute (from $58,400), or a dual cab-chassis tray back SR5 (from $58,240 manual), or dual cab ute 4x4 (from $57,920 manual).
Then there’s the SR5+ variants, which add a couple of what we deem to be 'non-essential' additions… unless you’re after a semi-luxury experience in your dual cab ute.
The SR5+ models are available in the double cab-chassis body style (auto only, $60,920), but if you choose the tub version of the 4WD SR5+, you have the choice of six-speed manual ($60,420) or automatic, as tested here ($62,420).
Yep, $62,420 plus on-road costs for this SR5+ dual cab auto 4x4 is expensive, and that’s the list price, which doesn’t include on-road costs, and a glance at the Toyota site suggests a drive-away price of about $68K. Indeed, SR5 prices are up across all variants by between $2680 and $3160 as part of this facelift.
Wondering what you get in the SR5, and what the SR5+ models add? SR5 standard equipment includes LED headlights, two-tone 18-inch alloy wheels, a sports bar (pick-ups only), model specific tail-lights, GPS satellite navigation, DAB digital radio and a leather-trimmed steering wheel and gear selector. There’s single-zone climate control, push button start and smart key entry, too.
By choosing the SR5+ version you’re spending $2500 to be treated to single-stage heated front seats, an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, and leather-accented upholstery.
Even in the SR5+ there’s no auto-dimming rear view mirror, nor is there passenger seat electric adjustment available on any grade. And in the safety section there are a few things missing when you compare it to some of its contemporaries. Read that section below for more detail.
If you’re ute shopping, then you might be wondering about accessories, and you can choose to fit a bull bar or nudge bar (which are designed to cooperate with all the safety tech systems), or you might need a roof rack, canopy, tub liner (yep, it’s still optional on the top-grade!) window tint, headlight protectors, bonnet protector, or a snorkel.
And if you bundle them at the time of purchase, you can include them in the total financed amount. That’s not so easy if you add items on after purchase.
Colours (or colors if you’re not down with the English way of spelling it) for the SR5 and SR5+ models include a no-cost white finish, while there are also metallic options in black, grey, silver, blue and pearl white (all $600).
After a red HiLux like the old TRD one? Or a green one like the historically awesome SR5s of old? No chance, sorry. And there’s also no maroon for this facelift version, nor brown, purple, or yellow.
Like, this isn’t really the sort of ute you could think of as a Wildtrak or X-Terrain rival, because it’s just so plain compared to those competitors. The average punter mightn’t even pick it over an SR.
Admittedly, if you want a Wildtrak or X-Terrain competitor you might be considering the Rogue or Rugged X model instead of the SR5 or SR5+.
Those new versions now have the looks to stand out in the crowd, much more than the sedate take the brand took with the previous versions. But still, in terms of show pony-ism, the SR5 just isn’t as eye-catching as it should be. And you can’t tell an SR5+ from the outside, either.
Toyota Australia claims the facelifted HiLux is “better-looking” than ever. I mean, the grille is more aggressive, the headlights look pretty good, and it’s a bit more macho than before. It has a bit more of the Toyota tough trucks look that you see on the Tacoma and 4Runner models sold in the US.
Tell us your thoughts in the comments below, but otherwise, the SR5 model is largely unchanged.
Now, prepare to get your measuring tape out. It’s time to tell the tale of the tape, starting with SR5 body dimensions across the extra cab and dual cab models - but just note, these are for the pick-up versions; the cab-chassis models vary depending on tray fitment.
First, body dimensions for each of the types of HiLux - obviously this varies a bit for cab-chassis models as the tray body fitted may change the length, width or height, but we’re using the figures provided by Toyota for the pick-up models as guidance.
|SR5 Extra cab ute||SR5 Dual cab ute|
Need a longer tub? The extra cab model will be the pick for you. But remember, you can now get the SR5 as a cab-chassis, meaning you can BYO tray or get a custom one built. The figures below are for the pick-up versions of these utes.
|SR5 Extra cab ute||SR5 Dual cab ute|
|Cargo floor length||1840mm||1555mm|
|Width between wheel arches||1109mm|
And you’ll need to go for the cab-chassis version if you want to fit an Aussie pallet (1165mm by 1165mm) between the wheelarches.
Payload capacity, gross vehicle mass (GVM), gross combination mass (GCM) and towing capacity is next up.
|SR5 Extra cab ute||SR5 Dual cab-chassis||SR5 Dual cab ute|
|Payload capacity||1045kg||1105kg||1065kg (4x2 Hi-Rider)|
1000kg (4x4 manual)
995kg (4x4 auto)
|Gross vehicle mass (GVM)||2980-3100kg, depending on version|
|Gross combination mass (GCM)||4x2 Hi-Rider 5650kg|
|Towing capacity||All models: 750kg unbraked |
4x2 Hi-Rider: 2800kg braked
4x4: 3500kg braked
Right, what about off-road dimensions and potential? Clearly if you’re weighing up between a 4x2 and 4x4, the figures might make you think you’ll be fine!
|Ground clearance mm||216mm|
|Approach angle||29 degrees|
|Break over/ramp over angle||Not listed by Toyota|
|Departure angle||4x4 dual cab-chassis: 26 degrees|
4x2 Hi-Rider and 4x4 dual cab ute: 27 degrees
That’s a lot of stuff to digest. Next up we’ll take a look at the practical considerations in the cabin.
If you get excited about touch screen infotainment systems, this is going to be big news. There’s finally a new 8.0-inch multimedia unit in the HiLux, and yep, it finally has smartphone mirroring tech by way of USB-connect Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
And even more excitingly, there are hard buttons either side of the interface, and knobs for the volume and tuning functions. Hooray!
It’s so much easier to use than the existing system, and a welcome change. Also welcome is that SR5 and SR5+ models still get GPS sat nav, as well as DAB and AM/FM radio. No CD player, though.
The new instrument cluster design - with a different bezel that looks like cogs, new dials and a new digital 4.2-inch driver display with digital speedometer and detailed trip computer - is another highlight.
Storage is also a strong point in the cabin. There are dual glove boxes, dual outboard pop-out dash-mount cup holders near the air vents, decent cup holders between the seats, a storage section in front of the shifter and between the seats (with a 230-volt power outlet!), and in the back you get cup holders in a fold-down armrest, map pockets, shopping bag hooks on the seat backs, and all four doors have bottle holders in the dual cabs.
Sadly, though, there are still plenty of things that could be better.
The HiLux’s cabin design hasn’t changed all that much, and it's looking a bit old. The dashboard with a fake stitching effect across the top and hard plastic, and nothing to designate the SR5 as being as expensive as it is really lets it down.
I mean, even if you get the SR5+ with the leather accents and seat heating, you’re hardly going to get the same level of wow-factor that you get in a Wildtrak - it rocks a completely different design that really lifts it above other Rangers. And the Raptor is another story altogether.
The SR5’s leather steering wheel is a bit coarse, the buttons and controls are a bit function over form, and it just generally doesn’t feel that special. Even the seat heating is on/off - there’s no multi-stage adjustment - and you don’t get an auto-dimming rearview mirror, either.
There’s still only single-zone climate control, and while the rear seat gets vents, the space back there isn’t as good as rivals. As a 182cm/6’0” adult, I found the knee-room a bit tight, and head room to be cramped, too.
There’s only one engine choice in the HiLux SR5, and it’s been tuned up for 2021 and beyond.
That motor is the four-cylinder turbo-diesel 2.8-litre unit, known as the 1GD-FTV in Toyota land.
Peak horsepower (in metric chat) is now 150kW of power at 3400rpm, and the torque output depends on the transmission you choose: manual models produce 420Nm from 1400-3400rpm, but the bigger-selling automatic transmission versions have 500Nm from 1600-2800rpm.
Auto SR5s previously had 450Nm - that’s what the new D-Max and BT-50 are launching with. And you can feel the extra pulling power. We’ll discuss it further, below.
As mentioned, there’s a 4x2 SR5 Hi-Rider dual cab (RWD/2WD). The majority of buyers, though, will be lured to the 4x4 models, which feature selectable four-wheel drive (4WD/4x4) with high range (2H and 4H) and low range (4L).
Official combined cycle fuel consumption varies a little depending on the drivetrain (be it 4x2 or 4x4) and the transmission.
The 2.8-litre engine in 2WD guise is claimed to use 8.1 litres per 100km (auto only), while the 4WD extra cab auto claims 7.9L/100km, the 4x4 manual dual cab is TBC, and the auto 4x4 dual cab claims 7.9L/100km.
On test, we saw a return of 8.3L/100km at the pump, which is better than in previous SR5 drives where we’ve been more likely to hover in the low 10s.
Worried about driving range? The fuel tank capacity for the HiLux line-up is 80 litres and there is no long range fuel tank option.
We’ve reported that Toyota is keen for a HiLux hybrid, but it’s not here yet. Let’s just say that for Australia, a hybrid is a lot more likely than an LPG, plug-in hybrid, full electric or petrol V6!
All models in the Toyota HiLux line-up run with the maximum five-star ANCAP crash test rating awarded in 2019. However, some new competitors have overtaken the HiLux for safety technology - though the Toyota still has a strong standard safety tech equipment list.
All models have auto emergency braking (AEB) operational between 50km/h-180km/h, pedestrian and cyclist detection operational from 10km/h-80km/h, and lane departure warning with lane keeping assist (but it doesn’t steer for you - instead, it can brake the wheels it needs to in order to pull you back in your lane). There is speed sign recognition and warning, and adaptive cruise control on both manual and automatic models, too.
HiLux models have seven airbags - dual front, front side, driver’s knee and full-length curtain - and dual cab models have rear child seat anchor points (two ISOFIX attachments and two loop-style top-tethers for baby seats - you can’t legally fit three child seats across the back).
5 years / unlimited km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
Every HiLux sold in Australia comes with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which is extendable for the powertrain if you keep it serviced by the logbook - it reaches out to seven years/unlimited kilometres.
But service intervals are still pegged every six months/10,000km, whichever comes first - meaning you could be making two or even three trips in a year to get it serviced. Many - indeed, most - rivals offer 12 month/15,000km intervals.
And while the per-service price isn’t too bad - $250 for the diesel HiLuxes - that means you could be up for $500 a year at a minimum for maintenance. Rivals are cheaper. And there is no roadside assistance cover, either.
So, what about Toyota HiLux issues, complaints, concerns, reliability, recalls, or even just that diesel particulate filter (DPF) situation? You can read more at our Toyota HiLux problems page.
The warranty is the key here, though. It might save you money in the long run.
The changes made to the updated HiLux are noticeable, but they don’t quite push it to the top of the class in terms of on-road driving manners.
The engine is considerably more eager, and you can certainly feel the extra push from the 50Nm added to the equation. It revs nicely, builds momentum with satisfying linearity, and the transmission (six-speed auto in our test vehicle’s case) is mostly very well sorted.
It can be busy at higher speeds as it tries to keep the engine in its sweet spot, but it really does it well if you can ignore the shuffling and the noise that comes with it.
And there is some noise to contend with. There’s still an audible rumble at a standstill, and it’s hardly the most hushed engine as it builds pace.
Plus if the grade logic control comes into play, where it downshifts when you’re going down hill in an engine-braking style fashion, it can be extremely raucous.
I’ve mentioned the Wildtrak and X-Terrain a few times in this review, and the driving section is where those two models standout even further over the HiLux.
The Toyota is just rougher riding, never as composed over lumps and bumps when the tub is empty. I know the rear end settles down with about 600kg over the rear axle, but if you’re not fully loaded at all times, you will feel the sharpness of the rear suspension. It isn’t as fierce as before, but it’s still not as good in terms of ride comfort as its competitors.
And for me, the steering system ‘upgrades’ have actually made things a little worse. There’s a new variable flow power steering pump that is supposed to make things more driver-friendly, but it’s no longer as accurate to steer, with a vagueness at higher speed and a heaviness to the steering action when parking or performing three- or five-point turns.
But that steering system is deactivated when you engage low-range, as we found during our hill climb and descent test out the back of Ulladulla on the NSW south coast. That’s where the HiLux felt at home - in some of the most treacherous terrain we could find.
Indeed, the steering allows you extra feel in low range, and with the diff locked it’s simple to place yourself where you need to be and push yourself up the hill without much fuss. There’s heaps of wheel/axle articulation, and really good ground clearance to allow you to investigate ruts and ramps.
It was also impressive to see how the SR5+ model we had drove downhill - with the hill descent control ('Downhill Assist Control', or DAC, in Toyota land) activated, we trundled back down to the base of the hill climb at a friendly 2.0-3.0km/h, with no pedal work required at all. Just point and it will take you where you need to go, slowly and securely.
In fact, there was only one real issue in the serious off-road stuff: the tyres. The Bridgestone Dueler H/Ts (265/60R18 110H) are made for cruising first and foremost, not punishing up tracks that modified rigs would struggle to negotiate. So if you’re considering an SR5, maybe think about a better set of rubber if off-highway adventures are on your to-do list.
And if you are keen for off-road trips, just be aware that the ride is still pretty harsh over corrugated gravel tracks on placard tyre inflation. It just isn’t as comfortable as it could be.
If you think you need a Toyota HiLux SR5 or SR5+, I would thoroughly recommend checking out the SR grade. You’re not missing out on much, and you’ll be spending less money. Makes a fairly strong case, really.
But if you need to have something that stands out from the crowd, it has to be a HiLux, and money isn’t as much of an issue, then perhaps hold off until the Rogue and Rugged X arrive.
Or just buy a Ranger or D-Max… ?
|Price and features||7|
|Engine & trans||8|