Toyota HiLux VS Toyota Hiace
- Solid safety spec offer
- Decent ownership prospects
- Good range of variants
- Harsh ride unladen
- Cab chassis models have no reversing camera
- Lacking some polish against newer rivals
- Hugely improved over predecessor
- Class-leading safety
- Better engines than before
- More expensive
- No barn doors available
- Could be too large for some customers now
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.
Read More: Toyota HiLux 2021 review
|Engine Type||2.4L turbo|
The Toyota HiAce has become a staple of Aussie culture. More than 335,000 of them have been sold here since 1979.
But no-one really wants to drive a HiAce, do they? It's a work van. A box on wheels, typically white, and often unwashed. And for the past 15 years the HiAce has barely changed - though that hasn't stopped it from being the go to option for tradies and couriers. It's been number one on the sales charts for pretty much that whole time.
So how does this all-new HiAce stack up? And why does it now have a bonnet? Read on to find out.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
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.
There is no doubt that the new Toyota HiAce has been worth the wait. Owners and drivers of the previous-generation model won't know themselves when they sit inside the new version, the improvements are that big and that plentiful.
It has been the number one seller in the segment for a long for a reason - and now there are even more reasons for it to retain its top spot... provided a compact body isn't one of your priorities, because it's considerably bigger than before.
We can't wait to see how it compares to its rivals - we'll aim to get all of the main names together for a comparison test later this year.
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).
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
Width between wheel arches
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.
Dual cab ute
Gross vehicle mass (GVM)
2700-3100kg, depending on model, engine, drivetrain
Gross combination mass (GCM)
4x2 low rider: 5200-5250kg
4x2 Hi-Rider: 5650kg
All models: 750kg unbraked
4x2 petrol: 2500kg 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
4x2 petrol: 23 degrees
All other variants: 29 degrees
Break over/ramp over angle
Not listed by Toyota
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
Like all new models that have seen a pretty dramatic front design change, it might take a while for you to come to grips with the new look of the HiAce, which now has a 'semi-bonnet'.
The protuberance at the front not only improves cabin comfort and ease of maintenance, it also helps improve the safety standards in the new Toyota van. There's a better frontal impact zone which this time doesn't include the driver's knees.
Look, I think the previous HiAce looked a bit mean. It was unapologetic in its boxiness, and it aged really well. It isn't often a vehicle lasts a decade and a half without any major changes.
Make what you will of the front design, which has halogen headlights (no LED daytime running lights or LED headlights, which is a bummer) and the choice of either the hard-wearing black bumpers, or colour coded bumpers if you option them.
In a first for the segment, there's a digital camera monitor rearview mirror that is optionally available - it uses a camera on the back of the van with a live link to the switchable rear-vision mirror, which means that if you've got a full load of people or parcels obscuring your view, you can use the live feed from the camera instead. It's brilliant.
The good news for buyers is that there's still plenty of choice when it comes to size and spec. There's the existing 6.2-cubic-metre LWB (long wheelbase) version, or the SLWB (super long wheelbase) with 9.3 cubic metres of cargo space.
The dimensions are dramatically different, though. No longer is this the sort of van that'll slot into a tight city parking space.
In LWB guise it now measures 5265mm long, 1950mm wide and 1990mm tall (compared to 4695mm long, 1695mm wide and 1980mm tall). And the wheelbase has been stretched by a massive amount - up from 2570mm to 3210mm.
The SLWB version is huge, at 5915mm long, 1950mm wide and 2280mm tall (compared to the existing model's 5380mm length, 1880mm width and 2285mm height). Likewise, the wheelbase has jumped from 3110mm to 3860mm.
There is no hiding the size changes, and there has been an impact inside the cabin, too. See the interior photos below to get an idea.
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.
Any mid-sized van has to put practicality at the forefront, with enough storage and cabin smarts to make living with it day to day not just amenable, but enjoyable if possible.
Not only that, it should be easy to get in and out of. The ingress and egress of the existing HiAce was hampered by the fact you sat on top of the engine and had to climb over the wheel arch. That's not the case this time around, and the seat height has been lowered by 50mm, with a much, much better driving position as a result.
The seat itself is comfortable for the driver, with six-way adjustment and a level of support and comfort that the previous model was nowhere close to - trust me, I drove it back-to-back, and the difference is night and day. Plus that lower hip entry point makes for a much easier entry and exit if you happen to do that a lot in your day to day use of the van.
The materials used are all of a decent quality, and Toyota has thought of storage options, too, with a number of cup and bottle holders across the dash and in the doors as well. There's no centre storage area or arm rest unless you buy the Crew van or the Commuter bus.
There are two seats up front in all models sold here, but you can get a Crew Van model with a second row seat setup consisting of three positions (with two ISOFIX child-seat anchor points and even curtain airbag protection).
As for infotainment, there's Toyota's 7.0-inch touch screen media system with FM/AM/DAB digital radio, a CD player, a single USB input, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming and voice control. This screen is able to be retrofitted with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which will be offered from the fourth quarter of 2019. Purchasing before then? It'll be free to add those smartphone mirroring apps.
That's the front of the cabin - in the rear there's a bit to talk about, too.
All HiAce van models come with dual sliding doors, including glazing on the passenger side. Lots of rivals ask you to pay extra for a sliding door on the driver's side.
The rear door situation isn't as impressive - at launch, and for the foreseeable future, there won't be barn doors available. That could rule this vehicle out for you, especially if you typically fork loads in - the side door apertures are 990mm wide on the LWB model, but there's a 1250mm door gap on the SLWB, meaning you can side-fork a pallet in.
Here are the cargo dimensions for each of the different versions of the HiAce van - remember, the SLWB model also gets a high roof as standard:
|Cargo length||Cargo width||Width between wheel arches||Cargo height||Cargo volume|
|HiAce LWB Crew||N/A||1760mm||1268mm||1340mm||N/A|
Payload capacity varies depending on the model. Here's a weight table - I promise it's easier than trying to read the figures.
|Kerb weight||Gross vehicle weight||Payload|
|LWB petrol manual||1720kg||3200kg||1080kg|
|LWB petrol auto||1735kg||3200kg||1065kg|
|LWB diesel manual||1835kg||3300kg||965kg|
|LWB diesel auto||1845kg||3300kg||955kg|
|LWB Crew diesel auto||1925kg||3300kg||875kg|
|SLWB petrol auto||1905kg||3200kg||1295kg|
|SLWB diesel auto||2025kg||3200kg||1175kg|
|Commuter diesel auto||2215kg||3250kg||1035kg|
All van models come with six tie-down points, while the Crew model has four tie-downs.
Price and features
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.
|Drivetrain||Body type||Engine and Transmission||List pricing (Before on-road costs)|
|4x2||Single cab-chassis- low rider||2.7L petrol, five-speed manual||$23,590|
|2.7L petrol, six-speed auto||$25,590|
|Single cab shassis Hi-Rider||2.4L turbo diesel, six-speed manual||$28,830|
|Dual cab ute low-rider||2.7L petrol, five-speed manual||$33,070|
|2.7L petrol, six-speed auto||$35,070|
|Dual cab ute Hi-Rider||2.4L turbo diesel six-speed manual||$40,160|
|2.4L turbo diesel six-speed auto||$42,160|
|4x4||Single cab-chassis||2.4L turbo diesel six-speed auto||$39,520|
|Extra cab-chassis||2.4L turbo diesel six-speed auto||$45,220|
|Dual cab-chassis||2.4L turbo diesel six-speed auto||$47,290|
|Dual cab ute||2.4L 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).
Prices are up on all models in the HiAce range, but as we've covered up above, you're getting more metal for your money.
Here's a price list to make it easier to figure out the model range, and an indication how much the model range has increased in cost this time around.
|Variant||Petrol manual||Petrol auto||Diesel manual||Diesel auto|
|LWB||$38,640 (up $4170)||$40,640 (up $3110)||$42,140 (up $4610)||$44,140 (up $4060)|
|LWB Crew||-||-||-||$47,140 (up $5020)|
|SLWB||-||$48,640 (up $2950)||-||$52,140 (up $2880)|
|Commuter||-||-||-||$67,140 (up $4110)|
|Commuter GL||-||-||-||$70,140 (new)|
All LWB and SLWB van models come with dual rear sliding doors (passenger side glazed), 16-inch steel wheels with a full-size spare, auto headlights (with auto high beam), as well as halogen headlights, tail-lights and daytime running lights.
The interior gear consists of a 4.2-inch multi-info display with digital speedometer and trip meter, a leather-accented steering wheel with reach and rake adjustment, fabric seat trim, sunglass holder, two 12-volt DC sockets, USB and auxiliary ports, a two-speaker stereo system and the aforementioned 7.0-inch media screen with sat nav.
The LWB Crew model adds halogen front fog lamps, body coloured front and rear bumpers with colour-coded door handles, chrome garnishes front and rear, and dual sliding rear doors with opening windows. Of course, this version also gets a second-row three-seat bench with 60:40 folding and two ISOFIX points, along with a rear step light and a centre console tray for extra front cabin storage that also includes rear seat air vents. The Crew model also gets the digital rear view mirror with auto-dimming function as standard.
The Commuter model is a 12-seat bus, a passenger-side sliding door, full-length windows, a roof escape hatch, interior lighting, a four-speaker stereo, air conditioning vents for all positions. It misses out on front side and full-length curtain airbags, though.
There's a GL version of the Commuter which gets LED daytime running lights, halogen fog lights, body coloured bumpers and door handles, chrome finishes, a power side door, increased insulation and acoustic glass, 16-inch alloy wheels, fake leather seat trim, six rear USB ports, eight reading lights, a rear air-con panel, a six-speaker stereo and the digital rear view mirror.
Customers who wish to have colour-coded bumpers can option them for $600, and the digital rear view mirror and front fog lamps can be had for $1000, or the lot can be bundled for a cost of $1600.
Of course there are dozens of accessories for the new HiAce, most of which have been designed and developed in Australia. Items like the internal ladder rack, exterior ladder rack, floor mats, aluminium interior panels, aluminium window protectors, and there's a conduit caddy for the roof rack system, too.
Colours for the new HiAce range are limited by class standards. There are three options for the work van models - French Vanilla (white), Quicksilver Mica (not for the Commuter model) and Goldrush Metallic (champagne - only for SLWB). The Commuter GL versions have Light Blue Armour and Goldrush (champagne) metallic options. For context, you can choose from more than 100 colours if you're buying a Ford Transit Custom.
So for this section the HiAce scores a 6/10, but it makes up for it when you consider the standard safety equipment - see the section below.
Engine & trans
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?
Things have changed under the bonnet for the new-generation HiAce - there's a choice of two new engines.
The most popular will be the 2.8-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine, which is familiar from the HiLux, Fortuner and Prado. In this application it has a diesel particulate filter with a manual burn-off switch, and - for the first time for this diesel engine - there's start-stop technology that shuts the engine down in traffic to save fuel.
With the six-speed automatic transmission in the van range the diesel motor produces 130kW of power (3400rpm) and 450Nm of torque (1600-2400rpm). With the six-speed manual the power is still 130kW, but torque is lower, at 420Nm (1400-2600rpm).
The Commuter version of the HiAce has a detuned diesel-auto drivetrain, with 120kW (at 3600rpm) and 420Nm (1600-2200rpm).
The other powertrain is the horsepower hero - a 3.5-litre petrol direct-injection V6 with the choice of a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic. It offers up 207kW of power at 6000rpm and 351Nm of torque at 4600rpm.
For context, that puts the petrol engine at an advantage of 75 per cent for power and 44 per cent for torque compared to the existing 2.7-litre four-cylinder... but there is a price to pay in terms of fuel economy. See below for more on that.
Braked towing capacity is rated at 1900kg for the manual diesel van, 1500kg for the diesel-auto and petrol-auto models, and 1400kg for the petrol manual. The unbraked capacity is 750kg on all models.
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.
Diesel vs petrol - you may not even consider weighing up the options, because there's something to be said of diesel fuel economy compared to petrol fuel use.
The diesel manual LWB model uses a claimed 7.5 litres per 100 kilometres (previously 8.1L/100km), and the most popular version - the diesel auto LWB - has claimed combined cycle fuel consumption of 8.2L/100km (previous model: 8.7L).
Choose a LWB Crew or SLWB van - both of which are diesel-auto only - and claimed fuel use is 8.4L/100km (previously 9.2L).
As for petrol consumption, the figure is 12.4L/100km for the manual, and 12.0L/100km for the auto. The existing four-cylinder petrol had consumption of 9.8L (auto) and 10.1L/100km (manual).
Fuel tank capacity is 70 litres, no matter which model you choose. There's no long range fuel tank available.
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.
It's so, so different to the previous model. And so it ought to be.
You sit in a much more comfortable position, and the ease of getting in and out is going to make for fewer sore backs.
And when you turn the key, there's less rumble, vibration and clatter from the engine... partly because you're not sitting on top of it, but partly because of the inherent refinement that the new diesel (and petrol) engine offers.
I got to drive the petrol manual, the diesel auto and the previous-generation version over the same test track at Toyota's Centre of Excellence in Melbourne, and it gave a great indication of how the new model performs.
If you're the kind of driver who is always in a hurry, the petrol could be perfect for you. It gathers pace with ease, easily out-accelerating the diesel. The auto will be even better than the manual, which has a rev-matching system and offers truly compelling range-opening model.
The diesel auto - which is the one about 90 per cent of customers will buy - is markedly better than its predecessor. It revs more smoothly, the transmission is smarter (six gears vs four will help!), and it's so, so much quieter in the cabin, too.
From the driver's seat you feel the extra width of the new model - not just because of how planted it feels on the road, but just the general airiness of its roomier cabin makes you feel like you've got room to move.
There's less thinking required when it comes to driving it, too. There's still hydraulic power steering, but its a bit lighter and more direct than before, meaning less arm work - a welcome change, as the existing version was a tiring thing to drive.
The turning circle has been increased - it was 10.0m for LWB models and is now 11.0m, while the SLWB versions were 12.4m and are now 12.8m - that's just physics, though, because the wheelbase has been stretch by roughly half a metre!
But it is very easy to manoeuvre, and no longer is there that odd “sitting in front of the turning wheels” feeling that the existing cab-forward version had. The visibility from the driver's seat is great, and on test, the safety systems worked a treat.
In terms of ride comfort, we might have to reserve judgment to a degree. Almost every model on test had a ballast over the rear axle of between 200 and 300 kilograms. The real test might come when its running around town with nothing in the cargo zone - but all indications suggested that the level of comfort and compliance is a great improvement over the previous model, and even up there with the best riders in the segment.
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.
That's right - it gets 10 out of 10 for safety, because this model clearly sets the benchmark in the van segment.
The new-generation HiAce range has been awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP crash test rating - and it's the only van to have been tested under the safety watchdog's strictest criteria ever.
Standard on all models is forward collision alert with full-speed auto emergency braking (AEB) including day and night pedestrian detection and daytime cyclist detection. Plus there's lane keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, road sign detection and alert, auto high beam headlights, and a reversing camera with front and rear parking sensors.
This thing is absolutely loaded - about the only thing it's missing is adaptive cruise control, which is arguably a convenience feature more than a safety nanny.
The airbag count is seven - dual front, front side, curtain and driver's knee protection included. The Commuter and Crew models also get curtain airbag protection.
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.
Toyota is now offering a five-year/160,000km warranty plan on all HiAce models used for commercial purposes, while private buyers enjoy five years/unlimited kilometres. That's good, but not great for the segment.
What gives it a bit of an advantage is that the drivetrain is covered for up to seven years if you have evidence of logbook servicing.
On that topic, the HiAce retains its shorter-than-expected six-month/10,000km maintenance intervals, which could mean a few days out of action if you cover a lot of kays in a year.
But the service costs are competitive: the petrol versions cost $180 per service, and diesel models are $240 per visit. That is for the duration of the three-year/60,000km capped price service plan, and Toyota has a widget on its website that allows you to calculate what the costs will be once that period is over.
If you have resale concerns, you really ought to forget them - the previous version had the best resale in its segment, according to Glass's Guide, with 68 per cent of retained value after four years.
Got questions over general faults, problems, concerns, reliability, durability, engine problems, transmission problems, clutch issues? Check out our Toyota HiAce problems page.