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GWM UTE


Toyota HiLux

Summary

GWM UTE

The Great Wall brand in Australia has a mixed reputation. But one thing has always stayed the same - it plays on value and affordability above all else.

This new 2021 GWM Ute - which may also be known as the 2021 Great Wall Cannon - might change that. Because not only is the new dual-cab 4x4 pick-up a value-focused offering, it’s also really quite good.

It takes the brand to a new level. In fact, it takes it to another world compared to the old models; the world of the big-name players. 

That’s because you could easily consider this as a closely priced competitor to an LDV T60 and SsangYong Musso - but likewise you might see it as a real budget alternative to the Toyota HiLux, Ford Ranger, Nissan Navara, Isuzu D-Max and Mazda BT-50. It even has some attributes that are more likeable than most of those utes, too.

Read on, we’ll give you the lowdown on the new 2021 GWM Ute.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency9.4L/100km
Seating5 seats

Toyota HiLux

There’s plenty to be said for the new-generation Toyota HiLux, and while a lot of customers will be shopping for the top-of-the-range variants, there’s plenty of value to be found in the work-focused Workmate models.

And that’s what we’re looking at here - a Workmate dual cab, which, while it may look like a 4WD, is actually a high-riding rear-wheel drive dual cab. Or, to be precise, the Workmate 4x2 Double Cab pick-up Hi-Rider.

We spent a bit of time with this updated version of the HiLux ute, and even chucked a bit of load in the back thanks to our mates in the mountains. More on that - and everything else you need to know about the Workmate range - below.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.4L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency8L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

GWM UTE7.8/10

The all-new GWM Ute, or Great Wall Cannon, is a very big improvement over any Great Wall ute that has come before it.

It’s good enough to worry the LDV T60 and SsangYong Musso, and with a long warranty backing it up, could also cause some customers considering mainstream, big-name utes to take a look at the reborn and renamed Great Wall Cannon. Talk about bang for your buck! Geddit? Cannon? Bang?

Anyway. Depending on your intended use, you probably don’t ‘need’ anything more than the entry-level Cannon model, though if I was after that more loveable ute experience - not just a work truck - I’d be tempted by the Cannon X, the interior of which is a marked step up in terms of desirability. 


Toyota HiLux7/10

It isn’t as polished as some of its rivals, and doesn’t have as much tech or flair to its offering either. But as a workhorse offering with a solid ownership promise and unquestionable resale value, the Toyota HiLux Workmate - no matter the derivative you choose - remains a compelling option for those who use their ute for work more than play.

Thanks to our mates at Lower Mountains Landscape Supplies for the sandbag load in the Workmate 4x2 Hi-Rider pick-up.

Thanks to our mates at IWP Training for putting 1000kg in the tray of the Workmate 4x2 cab-chassis low-rider.

Design

GWM UTE8/10

The all-new GWM Ute is a big unit. It has that truck-like stance thanks in part to its huge, high grille, and you have to love that all GWM Ute models come with LED headlights, LED daytime running lights and LED tail-lights, and the front lighting is automatic, too. 

To my eye, it appears to have drawn some inspiration from the likes of the Toyota Tacoma and Tundra models and it’s even reminiscent of the current-look HiLux, with that front-end design offering a bold appeal. And if you are wondering what that big symbol on the grill stands for, it’s the Chinese model branding for this vehicle - in its home market the Ute goes by the model name “Poer”, while other markets name it “P Series”.

The profile view is dominated by the eye-catching 18-inch alloy wheels, which are clad in Cooper tyres - nice. And it’s a pretty attractive side-on view - not too curvy, not too busy, just a conventional pick-up truck look. 

The rear has a neat and tidy look, though some might not be fans of the clear-look tail-light treatment.

My favourite features are at the back end, including the spray-in tub liner / tray lining, which is so much better than a rubber or plastic-shell lining - it offers better durability, protects the paint, and never looks shonkily fitted as some plastic liners do.

Plus the Cannon L and Cannon X models also get the excellent tailgate step, which pops out of the top of the strut-equipped tailgate and means you don’t have to do your yoga stretches before trying to get up in the tray. 

Now, it is large, this new ute. It measures 5410mm long on a 3230mm wheelbase, and also spans 1934mm tall and 1886mm wide, meaning it’s about the same size as a Ford Ranger, if you’re wondering. 

There is no off-road review as part of this early launch-loan test, but if you want to know the important angles, here they are: approach angle - 27 degrees; departure angle - 25 degrees; ramp / breakover angle - 21.1 degrees (unladen); ground clearance mm - 194mm (laden). Want to know how it goes off-road? Stay tuned, we’ll do an Adventure review soon.

The interior design has come leaps and bounds beyond what we’ve seen from the Great Wall models of the past. This is a contemporary cabin design, with a big 9.0-inch media screen dominating the design, and much better quality materials than before. The finishes aren’t as fetching in the low- and mid-grade models, but the top-spec Cannon X’s leather trim with quilting hits the nail on the head for those who want a bit of luxury for little money.

Read the next section to see how the interior stacks up from a practical standpoint, and check out our interior images below.


Toyota HiLux

The most interesting thing about some versions of the Workmate in terms of design is that they haven’t been changed at all.

For the exterior, the Workmate single-cab variants and the low-riding 4x2 dual-cab pick-up don’t see the visual changes of the 4x2 Hi-Rider and 4x4 extra- and dual-cab variants, which score a slightly more aggressive front fascia.

Toyota Australia says it was more important to address the higher grade models with the new look, and that keeping the same front end on the “narrow body” models would help keep costs lower.

That’s all well and good, but it does seem a little weird to do a “major overhaul” of the ute and keep it looking the same. I guess owners of early examples will be happy, as their utes won’t look as outdated?

But the important thing is that HiLux Workmate buyers have so many body styles available to them, and that’s arguably going to matter more than what the ute looks like for a Workmate customer. 

We’ll run through some of the important elements here, like dimensions and payloads. First up, let’s size up the versions of the HiLux Workmate (note - your dimensions may vary, depending on the tray body fitted).

 

Single cab

Extra cab

Dual cab

Length

5325mm

5325mm

5325-5330mm

Wheelbase

3085mm

Width

1800mm

1855mm

1800mm-1855mm

Height

1690-1795mm

1810mm

1700-1815mm

If you’re buying a pick-up over a cab-chassis, you’ll know that comes with limitations. The flat bed of a tray back cab-chassis model is always going to offer more practicality - and if you buy a 4x2 or 4x4 single cab, or the 4x4 extra cab, you’re getting a tray back. But we’ve covered off the load space dimensions for the dual cab ute/pick-up below - the figures are the same for the 4x2 and 4x4 models.

 

Dual cab ute

Cargo floor length

1569mm

Width

1645mm

Width between wheel arches

1109mm

Depth

470mm

As mentioned, the tub models will always suffer compromises that table-top models won’t, and that includes the inability to fit an Aussie pallet (1165mm x 1165mm) between the wheel arches.

Space is one thing, but payload capacity for the different body styles is another matter altogether. Don’t forget, payload will be affected by the tray body fitted if you’re choosing a cab-chassis. 

 

Single cab-chassis

Extra cab-chassis

Dual cab-chassis

Dual cab ute

Payload capacity

1210-1260kg (2WD)

1275kg (4WD)

1150kg (4WD)

1125kg (4WD)

1025-1160kg (2WD)

980kg-995kg (4WD)

Gross vehicle mass (GVM)

2700-3100kg, depending on model, engine, drivetrain

Gross combination mass (GCM)

4x2 low rider: 5200-5250kg

4x2 Hi-Rider: 5650kg

4x4: 5850kg

Towing capacity

All models: 750kg unbraked

4x2 petrol: 2500kg braked
4x2 diesel: 2800kg braked

4x4 diesel: 3500kg braked

Not everyone goes off-road. Both our test vehicles in Workmate spec were 4x2 rear-wheel drive (RWD) models, but that doesn’t mean you won’t consider things like ground clearance - especially if you’re weighing up between a low-riding version and Hi-Rider 2WD.

Here are the dimensions and figures for 4x2 and 4x4 models.

Ground clearance mm

4x2 petrol: 174mm

All other variants: 216mm

Approach angle

4x2 petrol: 23 degrees

All other variants: 29 degrees

Break over/ramp over angle

Not listed by Toyota

Departure angle

4x2 dual cab petrol: 20 degrees

4x4 single cab diesel: 25 degrees

4x4 dual cab diesel, extra cab-chassis, dual cab-chassis: 26 degrees

4x2 Hi-Rider, Workmate 4x4 manual dual cab ute: 27 degrees

Wading depth

700mm

Practicality

GWM UTE7/10

Big outside, spacious inside. That’s a good way to describe the GWM Ute.

In fact, if we start from the back seat, it’s fair to say the new Cannon range is among the roomiest in the class, with plenty of space for someone my size - 182cm or 6’0” - to have ample space. With the driver’s seat set for me, I had good toe, knee and head room in the back row, and there’s good width to the cabin as well - plus there’s no huge transmission tunnel intrusion, so three adults won’t be an issue.

If you’re going to use the ute for child transport, there are dual ISOFIX child seat anchors and two top-tether points as well. They’re not the fabric loop type, either - they’re a fixed steel anchor in the rear wall of the cabin. The Cannon X’s smart 60:40 rear-seat layout is something that could win some buyers over, especially those with kids.

Nice touches for rear-seaters include directional air vents, a USB charge port and 220-volt powerpoint to keep devices charged up, while there are map pockets and bottle holders in the doors, but no fold-down armrest in the lower two grades, and no rear cup holders in any grade.

Up front there is okay adjustment for the driver’s seat but, again, the lack of reach adjustment for the steering wheel on the Cannon and Cannon L models seems like crude cost-cutting, as it should be standard if you can get it. 

I found myself not being able to get my ideal driving position because of the lack of reach adjust on the Cannon L, and there are a few other ergonomic quirks, too. Things like the buttons for the driver info display - the OK button on the wheel requires a three-second-press to show the menus - and the actual usability of it is a bit hit and miss, with it seemingly impossible to get the digital speed readout to stay on screen when you have lane keeping active.

You also have to go through the screen to adjust those settings, and the lane keep system will be on as default every time you start the car. Plus a digital display for the set air-con temperature - rather than through the screen - would be nice, and the seat heating is activated by a button on the console but you have to adjust the level through the screen. Not excellent.

That said, the screen is mostly excellent - quick to react, clear in its display, and pretty easy to get to grips with, but it is especially good if you plan to use it primarily as a mirror for your smartphone. I had no issues with the Apple CarPlay connectivity across multiple drives, and that’s more than I can say for some rival utes. The sound system is only okay, too.

There is reasonable storage, with a pair of cupholders between the seats, bottle holders and trenches in the doors, and a small storage section in front of the gear shifter and a covered centre console with an armrest cover. That armrest is annoying in the Cannon and Cannon L models, as it moves forward too easily, meaning the lightest lean can jolt it forward. In the Cannon X, there’s a better, more sturdy console design. 

The glovebox is reasonable, there’s a sunglass holder for the driver, and overall it is fine for interior practicality but doesn’t set any new benchmarks. 

The materials are where things feel a bit cut-price, especially in the Cannon and Cannon L. The fake leather seat trim isn’t very convincing, while the leather trim on the steering wheel (Cannon L up) isn’t terrific either. I do like the design of the wheel, though - it looks kind of like an old Jeep or even the PT Cruiser. Not sure if that was intentional or not.


Toyota HiLux

The practicality you get depends on the body style you choose. That’s an obvious statement, sure, but you might be wondering how many seats are in the HiLux Workmate? Single cab models have two seats, extra cab models have four seats, and dual cab variants have five seats.

And the practicality of the respective body styles is unchanged up front, whether you choose the two-, four- or five-seater. Everything forward of the B-pillar is the same. 

That means that all HiLux Workmate models get the same dash treatment, including a newly redesigned cluster for the driver with a new digital display that incorporates a digital speedometer, which is a huge helper if your licence has seen better days.

Then there’s the new 8.0-inch touchscreen media system, with buttons and volume/tuning knobs that have been designed to work with heavy gloves, according to Toyota. The old screen - with touch-sensitive controls and no knobs - was lambasted by tradies, so it’s great to see Toyota has listened.

Plus the new screen includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so you can plug your USB cable in and mirror your phone onto the media screen. It really is a big step forward, and because no Workmate model comes with sat nav GPS, even as an option, this is the way to go if you’re frequently 'lost on the way to the job.' But there is only one USB port - many rivals offer two.

The materials and design are otherwise unchanged, meaning hard-wearing vinyl floors and hard plastic finishes everywhere, but excellent practicality - two cup holders between the seats, two pop-out ones in the sides of the dashboard, bottle holders in the doors (single and dual cab), and a dual glove box with other loose item storage caddies, too.

If you get an extra cab you could consider it a two seater with additional secure storage, and many of the newer utes coming out have actually deleted the seats due to apparent safety concerns. But the Toyota still has two extra seats in the back. 

The dual cab Workmate models don’t get the 60/40 split-fold rear seat base, but you can still fold up the entire seat base to allow additional storage - you don’t want to wreck the fabric on the rear seats with dirty tools, or grimy hardware. 

If you do happen to have people in the back, the space isn’t as good as some other double cab models out there. Knee room is tight, headroom could be better, and there are those fixed grab handles that eat into the space. You might need to keep your hardhat on, too, as they’re certainly heatbuttable.

The dual cab’s back seat has twin map pockets and bottle holders in the doors, but no fold down armrest, no cup holders and no air vents. 

Price and features

GWM UTE9/10

You used to be able to get a Great Wall ute for as little as twenty grand - drive-away! That’s not the case anymore, though… well, not with the GWM Ute, which has taken a big step up in price, but still remains one of the most affordable dual-cab 4WD utes on the market.

The three-tier GWM Ute range kicks off with the entry-level Cannon variant, which lists at $33,990 drive-away.

That price scores you 18-inch alloy wheels, body-coloured bumpers, LED headlights with LED DRLs and active fog lamps, side steps, powered mirrors, keyless entry, push-button start, and a shark-fin antenna.

Inside it comes with fake ‘Eco Leather' seats, manual air-conditioning, carpet flooring, and a polyurethane steering wheel with paddle shifters for the automatic gearbox. Even at this grade you get a 9.0-inch touchscreen media system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and the stereo has four speakers as well as AM/FM radio. A second 3.5-inch screen lives in the driver's binnacle, and it includes a digital speedometer and trip computer. 

The base model Cannon also has a USB power outlet for a dash camera, three USB ports and a 12-volt power outlet in the rear, and rear-seat directional air vents as well.

Step up to the Cannon L, which costs $37,990 drive-away, and you net a few desirable extras for your additional dough. The Cannon L is the vehicle you see in the video review.

The Cannon L can be picked from the outside thanks to its "premium" 18-inch alloy wheels (which it shares with the model above it), while at the back you get a spray-in tub liner, a sports bar, and easy-down-up tailgate, a deployable cargo ladder and roof rails. 

Inside, the front seats are heated, the driver's seat has power adjustment, there's a leather steering wheel, as well as climate control air conditioning (single zone), an auto-dimming rearview mirror, tinted rear glass, and the sound system jumps to a six-speaker unit.

The top-of-the-range GWM Ute Cannon X model overshoots the psychological barrier of forty grand, with a drive-away price of $40,990.

The top-spec model gets a pretty upmarket treatment, though, with quilted real leather seat trim, quilted leather door trims, power adjustment for both front seats, a wireless phone charger, voice recognition, and a 7.0-inch digital driver screen. The front also sees a redesigned centre console layout, which is cleverer than the lower grades.

Plus the back seat adds a 60:40 split fold setup, as well as a fold-down armrest. The cabin further gains reach adjustment for the steering (which really should be standard on all grades - instead, the lower specs had tilt adjust only), and the driver has selectable steering modes, too.

So, what about standard safety technology? It used to be that Great Wall models largely went without the sort of safety gear you found in mainstream utes. That’s no longer the case - see the safety section for the breakdown.

Colours available for the GWM Ute range include Pure White at no cost, while the Crystal Black (as seen in our video), Blue Saphire, Scarlet Red and Pittsburgh Silver add $595 to the price. 


Toyota HiLux

You will find the Workmate badge on the most bodystyles of any HiLux in the line-up. You can get it in single cab-chassis, extra cab-chassis, extra cab ute, and dual cab-chassis and dual cab ute body styles.

And then there’s the choice of petrol or diesel, manual or automatic, and whether you want it in low-riding or high-riding (Hi-Rider, as Toyota calls it) 2WD/4x2/rear-wheel drive versions, or in a more hardcore 4WD (or 4x4). 

The model mix for Workmate versions is as complex as it sounds, so here’s a neat table to make it a bit simpler! Just note, the price list you see below represents the cost of the ute before on-roads costs - that’s known as the MSRP or the RRP, and it’s not a drive-away price.

DrivetrainBody typeEngine and Transmission List pricing (Before on-road costs)
4x2Single cab-chassis- low rider2.7L petrol, five-speed manual$23,590
2.7L petrol, six-speed auto$25,590
Single cab shassis Hi-Rider2.4L turbo diesel, six-speed manual$28,830
Dual cab ute low-rider2.7L petrol, five-speed manual$33,070
2.7L petrol, six-speed auto$35,070
Dual cab ute Hi-Rider2.4L turbo diesel six-speed manual$40,160
2.4L turbo diesel six-speed auto$42,160
4x4Single cab-chassis2.4L turbo diesel six-speed auto$39,520
Extra cab-chassis2.4L turbo diesel six-speed auto$45,220
Dual cab-chassis 2.4L turbo diesel six-speed auto$47,290
Dual cab ute2.4L turbo diesel six-speed manual$46,790
2.4L turbo diesel six-speed auto$48,790

You get the same general level of specification on all the Workmate models, with standard equipment incorporating standard steel wheels - black 16-inch diameter for 4x2 models, while 4x4 single cab versions get silver 17-inch rims, and there are black 17-inch wheels with all-terrain tyres on 4x4 extra cab and dual cab variants. 

All Workmate models have standard auto halogen headlights, vinyl flooring and all-weather floor mats, cloth seat trim, a 4.2-inch digital display with digital speedo readout, and a new 8.0-inch touchscreen display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring. 

And while you get the choice of petrol or diesel, the latter models - across all trim lines - score a new variable-flow control power-steering pump. More on that in the driving section.

There are other accessories available from the Toyota parts catalogue as you’d expect, including: bull bar, tow bar, nudge bar, ladder rack, side steps, bonnet protector, tub liner, canopy, and more. 

You might be curious about safety technology - and it's great to see Toyota doesn’t pick and choose between the variants as to which model gets what. There’s a decent array of safety technology fitted for the most part, and we’ll cover that off in the safety section below.

What about colours? Workmate models can be had in white (no cost), while the premium paint choices are silver, grey, black or blue (all $600).

Engine & trans

GWM UTE7/10

Under the bonnet of the GWM Ute is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine. We know, that sounds small, and the power outputs aren’t enormous either. 

GWM says the diesel mill pumps out 120kW of power (at 3600rpm) and 400Nm of torque (from 1500-2500rpm). Those figures are below most rivals in the mainstream ute scene, but in practice the ute offers pretty strong response.

The GWM Ute is fitted only with an eight-speed automatic transmission, and all grades have paddle shifters. It has an on-demand four-wheel drive system (4WD or 4x4), with the drive mode selector essentially dictating proceedings. In Eco mode the ute will essentially run in 4x2 / RWD, while in Std/Normal mode and Sport mode it powers all four wheels. There is a low-range transfer case and a rear differential lock in all grades, too.

The GWM Ute has a kerb weight of 2100kg, which is heavy. But it has a towing capacity of 750kg for unbraked loads and 3000kg for braked trailers, which is below the standard in the segment of 3500kg.

The gross vehicle mass (GVM) for the ute is 3150kg, and the gross combination mass (GCM) is 5555kg, according to the brand.


Toyota HiLux

While there has been a lot of noise around the HiLux finally getting a big power bump - that up-spec 2.8-litre engine isn’t available in the Workmate models.

Instead, Workmate variants get a choice of a petrol motor or a smaller capacity diesel unit.

The engine in the range-opening Workmate 4x2 models is the 2.7-litre petrol four-cylinder, known as the 2TR-FE. It has outputs of 122kW of power (at 5200rpm) and 245Nm of torque (at 4000rpm), and is available with a five-speed manual gearbox or six-speed automatic transmission.

The diesel option in the Workmate 4x2 and 4x4 models is a 2.4-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine known as 2GD-FTV. Power is rated at 110kW (at 3400rpm) and torque is 400Nm (from 1600-2000rpm).

There is the choice of six-speed manual or six-speed automatic gearbox in 4x2 and 4x4 applications in the Workmate range.

So, no 2.8L, no hybrid, no electric… no nonsense, I guess?

Fuel consumption

GWM UTE7/10

The official combined cycle fuel consumption figure for the Great Wall Cannon model range is 9.4 litres per 100 kilometres, which is decent considering this is a two-tonne-plus truck.

In our testing, which comprised urban, highway, back road and country driving, we saw an at-the-pump real-world fuel economy figure of 9.9L/100km. 

The GWM Ute has a 78-litre fuel tank capacity. There is no long-range fuel tank option and the engine doesn’t have fuel-saving start-stop technology as some of its rivals do.

The GWM Ute runs at Euro 5 emissions standards, with a diesel particulate filter (DPF) fitted. Its emissions are stated at 246g/km CO2.


Toyota HiLux

Fuel consumption varies depending on the powertrain you choose. 

The fuel economy king isn’t the petrol, which has claimed fuel consumption of: 11.1L/100km (4x2 cab-chassis manual); 10.9L/100km (4x2 cab-chassis auto); 10.7L/100km (4x2 dual cab manual); and 10.4L/100km (4x2 dual cab auto).

On test in the 4x2 manual single cab-chassis, with a load, and without, we averaged 11.4L/100km. And it was only a short loaded drive test.

The diesel versions of the Workmate offer better promise of lower fuel consumption, with fuel use in the 4x2 diesel Workmate models pegged at 7.8L/100km for the single cab-chassis manual, while the 4x2 dual cab pick-up claims 6.9L/100km and 7.5L/100km for the manual and auto respectively.  

The 4x4 Workmate models claim: 7.4L/100km (single cab-chassis manual); 8.0L/100km (extra cab-chassis and dual cab-chassis auto); 7.1L/100km (dual cab pick-up manual) and 7.8L/100km (dual cab pick-up auto). 

When we tested the diesel auto 4x2 Hi-Rider dual cab, we saw a return of 8.4L/100km across loaded (600kg of sand bags) and unloaded testing.

Driving

GWM UTE7/10

The engine is a huge highlight here. In the old Great Wall Steed, the engine and transmission were its biggest negative. Now, though, the GWM Ute’s powertrain is a really strong offering.

It isn’t the most refined engine in the world, but it is punchier than its outputs suggest it probably should be. There’s strong pulling power across a broad spectrum of the rev-range, and in rolling acceleration it has enough torque to push you back in your seat.

It’s just that when you take off from a standing start, there’s plenty of turbo lag to contend with. It’s hard to get away from a traffic light or stop sign without having to think ahead about the lag you’re going to encounter, so that’s something that could be better - most of the mainstream utes have less turbo lag from a standing start.

The engine teams well with the eight-speed automatic transmission, which is pretty smart in the way it behaves, and mostly does what you’d expect of it. There is some tendency to rely on the engine torque and labour gears, to the point that there’s excessive vibration noticeable (you can even see the rearview mirror shaking), but I’d prefer that than an overactive transmission that didn’t rely on the grunt available to keep things moving.

There are paddleshifters if you want to take matters into your own hands, though I wish the actual gear selector had a manual mode, which would make it easier to manipulate the ratios when cornering, as the turning action is pretty laborious and you can get caught mid-bend wanting to change up or down a gear.  

Note - our drive loop for this launch test was primarily on paved roads, and we didn’t do a load test as part of this early preview drive. Stay tuned to see how the GWM Ute copes with a Tradie test where we push it to its GVM limits, and how it handles itself in the rough stuff when we do an Adventure review. 

I did, however, drive on some unsealed gravel roads, and was largely impressed by the handling, control and comfort on offer, aside from an overactive stability and traction control system that tends to chew away at your power when you’re accelerating out of a slippery corner, causing it to feel a tad bogged down at times.

But in other ways, the GWM Ute was great to drive on-road, with a comfortable and mostly composed ride, especially at higher speeds. It can still feel like a ladder-frame chassis ute with leaf-spring suspension and oversized wheels when you’re encountering lumps and bumps at low speeds, but it certainly felt better to drive and more comfy in that situation than a HiLux without weight on board.

The steering is hefty and fine to operate, with nice light weighting at lower speeds and, when the lane keeping assist system is disabled, there’s decent feel and heft at higher speeds. But that lane-keep system can otherwise be overly assertive, and I found myself wanting to disable the system every time I drove the vehicle (which you have to do by pressing a button, then finding the correct section on the menu on the media screen, then toggling the ‘switch’). I hope GWM can find a way to make this simpler and smarter.

Indeed, that was another criticism - the lane assist system seemingly overrules the ability to have a digital speed readout on the 3.5-inch cluster. I know I prefer to watch my speed as a matter of priority.

All in all the drive experience is a good one, considering the price of the ute. Sure, a five-year old Ranger or Amarok is still going to feel more refined, but you won’t be getting that ‘new car’ feeling, and you might be buying someone else’s problems… for almost the same money as you can buy a brand-new Great Wall Cannon model. 


Toyota HiLux

I first sampled the 4x2 Workmate Hi-Rider 2.4-litre diesel auto, and it came across as a really solid proposition for those who don’t need the bells and whistles or a 4x4 system.

In fact, I bet that this sort of ute would be as well suited to the majority of buyers who spend up big on an SR5 dual cab 4x4 but never actually go off-road.

Indeed, that’s the great thing about the HiLux Workmate range - if you know you don’t need 4x4, there are plenty of 4x2 options available.

And the Hi-Rider diesel model has the advantage that it is rated to tow the maximum 3500kg capacity, but the disadvantage for hard-working tradies - especially those shorter in stature - is that it’s a step up into the cab (no side steps), and a running jump into the tub - unless you option the new rear Tub Step accessory, which is mounted to the rear corner of the chassis and allows easier tub access.

And while this isn’t strictly a driving impression, the strangest thing about the HiLux is that you’re getting some really advanced features for a work ready ute.

It’s becoming the norm, but it does seem weird when you sit inside and see your digital speedometer, with the knowledge that there’s autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and a lane departure system - yet you’re gripping a polyurethane steering wheel, sitting on cloth seats and your feet are placed on rubber floors - there’s not even height adjustment for the driver’s seat, and the sound system only has four speakers.

Anyway, the diesel dual cab is pretty impressive. There’s nothing wrong with the 2.4-litre’s engine tune, and in some instances it actually feels almost as peppy as the 2.8L I sampled in the SR5+.

But it does have some noticeable engine noise, and just like the other powertrain there is some noticeable shuffling between gears - the six-speed auto seems to aim to keep things in the best torque band, which is no bad thing, but you can hear it doing so. It gets along pretty well, and I had no trouble keeping pace with traffic.

The transmission doesn’t seem to exhibit the same grade logic downhill downshifting as the SR5 does. And there's some turbo lag noticeable with 600kg of weight on board (from our mates at Lower Mountains Landscape Supplies). 

With that weight on board the brakes have a slightly soft feel to them, but they are progressive and easy to predict whether loaded or not. 

The steering is light but still has a bit of feel to it at lower pace, while at speeds above 80km/h there is a level of vagueness, which is  exacerbated when there's weight over the rear axle. 

The suspension is reasonable without a load on board. Not as good as Ranger or Amarok, but better than the last HiLux. And while you can still feel small inconsistencies and it gets the jitters at low speeds, the ride becomes spongier with weight on board. In fact it's very comfortable at higher speed with that much mass in the back.

Next up we drove the petrol cab-chassis, and it offered up a few surprises.

First, let’s consider the loaded up driving impressions - thanks to a load of 1000kg in the tray courtesy of our mates at IWP Training. 

The engine pulls harder than expected, and while it has a torque deficit compared to the diesels, there’s a decent drivability and rev-happiness that the petrol offers.

The smooth and short gearshift is a nice surprise, too (we also had a D-Max SX on site, and it had a longer, notchier throw). The gearing is pretty well suited to this type of hard work driving. 

It's surprising how urgent the engine response is. It's super easy to drive with that much weight on board, but I did keep going for a sixth gear that doesn’t exist in the manual Workmate petrol. 

It sounds like it’s working harder than it is - the engine is quite audible, and at times it can sound more asthmatic than its actual response.

In fact, if you were gonna be running around with this much weight in the back of your work ute you could be doing a lot worse than a 4x2 petrol Workmate cab chassis. It offers enough poke, and also has good quality  – both in terms of ride and comfort and control and general drivability. It is well and truly made for this job.

The lower centre of gravity assists in making the HiLux feel more planted and deal with the weight better than a high riding two-wheel drive, with less pitching fore and aft and nice feel on the road. 

The steering - which hasn’t seen the addition of that new variable control system, as it’s only fitted to diesel models - is quite good, and even the breaking performance is commendable with that much mass in the tray. 

But without weight in the back it’s still punishingly firm in terms of the suspension. The rear-end bucks and jumps over bumps, never feeling as though it’s as surefooted as it could be.

The D-Max we had with us showed up the HiLux hugely in that respect. If you don’t hit any bumpy sections, it’s smooth to drive in. But as soon as you hit a sharp edge or any sort of inconsistency in the surface below it can be quite violent in its response.

Safety

GWM UTE9/10

Safety has long been a key consideration for those in the market for budget-focused utes. It used to be that if you bought a cheap ute, you were deciding to forego advanced safety technology.

That’s not the case nowadays, though, with the new GWM Ute offering an extensive range of safety tech that is at the benchmark level for established ute brands.

The range comes as standard with autonomous emergency braking (AEB) that works between 10km/h and 130km/h for vehicle detection, while it can also detect and brake for pedestrians and cyclists from 5km/h to 80km/h.

The ute also features Lane Departure Warning and Lane Keep Assist, the latter of which operates between 60km/h and 140 km/h, and can help keep you in your lane by actively steering. 

There’s also blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, as well as speed sign recognition, and the usual array of braking and stability assistance systems. Also of note is the standard-fit four-wheel disc brakes (as opposed to rear drums, like most utes still have) and an electronic park braking with auto-hold system. There is also hill descent control and hill-hold assist.

The GWM Ute Cannon model has a reversing camera and rear parking sensors, as well as front kerbside cameras to help you see ahead. The Cannon L and Cannon X models have a surround view camera system - which is one of the best this tester has used - plus those grades add front parking sensors as well.

The GWM Ute range has seven airbags, with dual front, front side, full-length curtain and front centre airbag protection, the latter of which is designed to prevent head clashes in side-impact crashes.

That said, it hasn’t yet been awarded an ANCAP crash test rating. We’ll have to see if it can max out like the D-Max and BT-50, which this ute almost mirrors for safety tech.


Toyota HiLux

Toyota was at the front of the pack for safety tech in utes - for a couple of months. But it’s still impressive that the entire HiLux line-up has the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating as per 2019 criteria. And there’s a good reason for that.

All HiLux models come with standard fit auto emergency braking (AEB) that works at speeds from 50km/h-180km/h, as well as pedestrian and cyclist detection operational from 10km/h-80km/h. 

The HiLux gets a lane departure warning system with lane keeping assist that works by braking the wheels it needs to, in order to pull you into line - but it still runs hydraulic steering, so it can’t do full-scale lane keeping assistance.

Also standard is speed sign recognition and warning, and adaptive cruise control on manual and auto models. You can even just hit ‘set’ on the cruise control to raise or lower your speed to whatever the speed sign says.

While the spec is pretty good, there’s no blind spot monitoring or rear cross traffic alert, and - in a very disappointing continuation of the theme - Toyota still doesn’t offer a reversing camera on cab-chassis models. You get a rear-view camera standard on all pick-up models, though.

There are dual front, front side, driver’s knee and full-length curtain, for a total of seven airbags no matter the body style.

The dual cab versions have two ISOFIX outboard attachments and two loop-style top-tethers for baby seats.

Ownership

GWM UTE8/10

The Great Wall brand - now GWM - has pumped up its warranty cover to be seven years/unlimited kilometres, which makes it one of the best in the ute class for warranty. Better than a Ford, Nissan, Mazda or Isuzu, equal to the SsangYong, but not quite as good as the Triton (10 years).

The brand also offers five years of roadside assistance for free, which should put some potential customers’ minds at ease over potential reliability concerns.

There is, however, no capped price servicing plan. The first service visit is due at six months, before a regular maintenance schedule with intervals set every 12 months/10,000km, which could be a tad annoying for those who do a lot of mileage.

Got questions about Great Wall reliability, quality, issues, problems, faults or recalls? Head to your Great Wall problems page.


Toyota HiLux

Toyota has one of the strongest reputations in the Australian new car market when it comes to ownership and reliability. 

However, with the HiLux, there have been a few issues over its head, specifically around the diesel particulate filter (DPF). You can read more about it at our Toyota HiLux problems page, as well as any other Toyota HiLux complaints, concerns, reliability issues or recalls.

Suffice it to say, the brand says it has your back no matter what. And it has a strong ownership promise on paper, too.

All models have a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which can carry on to seven years/unlimited km if you maintain logbook servicing - it doesn’t even need to have been at a Toyota dealer, either. So long as you maintain it on schedule, the brand will back it for that extended period. 

The bad news is that you need to service the HiLux more regularly than most of its competitors. The brand says it has no plans to increase service intervals to meet the current standard of 12 months/15,000km.

Instead, HiLux owners have to take their ute in to get serviced twice a year, with maintenance intervals set every six months or 10,000km, whichever happens soonest. 

Diesel services are $250 a pop. That means you’ve got an annual $500 bill for maintenance for diesel models, which is higher than many rivals (Triton: $299/year). Petrol versions cost $220 per visit, so $440 a year.

Further, Toyota doesn’t include no-cost roadside assistance, either. You’ll have to sign up for it, at about $100 a year.

Strong on warranty cover, yes, but you may have to pay over the odds in order to sustain it.