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Toyota HiLux 2019 review: Rugged X


For our family, the dual-cab ute signals fun and adventure. It means camping and fishing, a day in the hills or powering (carefully) along the sand.

Of course, it can also mean taking those dreaded palm fronds to the dump and disused furniture to the Salvos or even being able to pick up that soil for the garden, but those things sound so much less exciting.

In any event, Toyota’s Rugged X HiLux was a welcome sight on our driveway. It is the Japanese manufacturer’s answer to the list of super rough and tumble utes like the HSV SportsCat and the Ford Ranger Wildtrak and Raptor and we were keen to see if it lived up to its name.

What does it look like?

Rugged in name and in nature, this Toyota HiLux wears its meanness with consummate ease. The chrome of the SR5 gives way to black metal with a solid bash plate, imposing front and rear bumpers and proper sliders (rock rails) paving the way for the Rugged X’s off-road intent.

The Rugged X makes for a satisfyingly substantial package. The Rugged X makes for a satisfyingly substantial package.

The two red recovery points, fore and aft, are an invaluable companion on off-road adventures and look good, too, while the LED light bar just below the grille is fabulous at night.

This Toyota HiLux wears its meanness with consummate ease. This Toyota HiLux wears its meanness with consummate ease.

Add the height of the snorkel, the decorative decal on the bonnet and the chunky sports bar on top of the tub and the Rugged X certainly makes for a satisfyingly substantial package.

Black is the colour of choice on the inside of the Rugged X and although it satisfies the go-hard, no-nonsense theme it does make for a slightly heavy feel.

Black is the colour of choice on the inside of the Rugged X. Black is the colour of choice on the inside of the Rugged X.

The sweeping dash helps to break things up a bit and the switchgear is somewhat interesting, but like the rest of Toyota’s dual-cab range functionality wins out over form.

How does it drive?

The Rugged X is built for the outdoors and if your family is the adventurous type or just starting to explore that possibility, then the Rugged X will serve you well.

Heavy rain before the dual-cab came to stay had churned up our regular 4WD test tracks in the Sunshine Coast hinterland but hardly testing for the Rugged X.

Although disappointed that we would not be able to see its true capabilities, the improved clearance was noticeable and the sturdy steel reassuring.

Anyone who has had to be pulled out after being bogged or has done the pulling, will understand the importance of having unbreakable points on which to anchor and the solid bar work offered by the HiLux is a real advantage.

The Rugged X is surefooted and nimble and made light work of mud and awkward outcrops. The rear diff can lock, too, which while helpful, means you forego traction control, not so helpful.

On the road, and let’s face it despite its Rugged nature, that is where this HiLux will still spend most of its time, the ride is quite firm and lacks the real finesse to be found in some competitors, like the Volkswagen Amarok, for example.

Added gear in the Rugged X means you can carry less in the tray. Added gear in the Rugged X means you can carry less in the tray.

Still, the Rugged X is pretty easy to drive whether you are dropping the kids off or using it for work. It seems like it would be cumbersome right, but isn’t really, and we found it easy enough to park or negotiate tight roundabouts.

The Rugged X is a little noisy, but that’s not unexpected, and can feel a bit heavy at lower speed. The HiLux is a more than able tower but the added gear in the Rugged X means you can carry less in the tray so make sure you account for that.

The Rugged X has a four-cylinder engine. The Rugged X has a four-cylinder engine.

The four-cylinder engine (130kW/450Nm) is assured and will keep you on point at highway speeds but can sometimes feel under-powered when towing.

How spacious is it?

Front seat occupants will have little problem relaxing in some comfort, helped of course by wider, supportive seats. The tall cabin affords good headroom and the surrounds feel very roomy.

The front has wider, supportive seats. The front has wider, supportive seats.

Adults in the back seat would find their accommodations a tighter fit but the kids found no reason to complain, even the straighter back not raising their ire.

Adults in the back seat would find it a bit tight. Adults in the back seat would find it a bit tight.

There are two ISOFIX points and three top tethers, and it is easier to fit kids’ car restraints than in the Nissan Navara, for example. It’s good to see adjustable rear air vents fitted as well.  

There is useful under-seat storage in the back and the tub will hold everything including the kitchen sink. Our test ute didn’t have a tub cover which made carrying stuff a little trickier and meant I had to store the groceries in the front seat, but that’s easy enough to remedy.

How easy is it to use every day?

Look around and you will notice that dual-cab utes have become as much a part of the Australian family fabric as the mid-sized SUV.

With the comforts now found in dual-cabs, even one which is intended for rugged pursuits, they slip easily from a work into a weekend family vehicle.

The Rugged X has the requisite cup and bottle holders, front and back, as well as a chilled compartment, a smaller console box and space in front of the gear stick for incidentals. Not fabulous storage, by any means, but adequate.

This top-of-the-range dual-cab also features dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and push button start, satellite navigation and auto headlights and wipers.

How safe is it?

Toyota has a reputation for safe, reliable vehicles and the Rugged X is no different. Interestingly, it retains a maximum five-star ANCAP rating despite the lack of autonomous emergency braking, but does have cabin-length side curtain airbags, downhill assist, emergency brake assist and trailer sway control.

What’s the tech like?

The 8.0-inch touchscreen that fronts Toyota’s multimedia  system seems a little small for the Rugged X’s large dash but that is a small disappointment compared to the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The 8.0-inch touchscreen seems a little small for the Rugged X’s large dash. The 8.0-inch touchscreen seems a little small for the Rugged X’s large dash.

You can have smartphone mirroring via the Toyota Link app but anyway… The media system itself is not very intuitive and graphics are more functional than impressive.

There are telephone steering wheel controls and voice controls for safer use. There are telephone steering wheel controls and voice controls for safer use.

Bluetooth pairing is easy and there are useful telephone steering wheel controls and voice controls for safer use. It would be good if there was more than a solitary USB point though and perhaps a 12-volt in the tub.

How much does it cost to own?

The Rugged X’s 2.8-litre diesel unit hints at frugal fuel use and although we didn’t match the claimed 8.5L/100km, our figure of 10.2L/100km is pretty decent for a vehicle of this size.

At $63,690 (plus on roads) for the auto, the Rugged X is at the very top of Toyota’s ute range. Warranty cover is now five-years/unlimited km, putting paid, finally, to the previous three-year variety.

A capped-price servicing schedule will see you pay $240 per service for the first three years or 60,000km, with service intervals at six months or 10,000km. You also have the advantage of the widest dealer network in the country. 


The Wrap

We loved our time in the Rugged X, the mix of menacing looks, everyday usefulness and off-road possibilities, was great for a family like ours that prefers the outdoors. And the kids loved turning heads in the school carpark, too.

The tech could be better, and it does miss out on features it shouldn’t, like AEB, but it is still a formidable unit. Our guess is that we will still see more on road than off but that’s how things go.

 Is this car this or that? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

Likes

Rugged looks
Off-road capability
Steel barwork

Dislikes

Poor tech
Lack of AEB
Short servicing intervals

Scores

Vani:

3.5

The Kids:

4

$63,690

Based on new car retail price

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