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Toyota HiLux 2019 review: SR auto

The HiLux holds its ground because it's a formidable all-rounder, with benchmark load-carrying and off-road ability. (image credit: Mark Oastler)

Daily driver score

4/5

Tradies score

4/5

It seems the only thing as unbreakable as the HiLux is Toyota's herculean grip on Australia's new vehicle car market. Familiarity and trust in the brand, along with solid resale values and unwavering customer loyalty, are sizeable factors in the Japanese giant's continued dominance.

And those same qualities, along with the peace-of-mind that comes with the support of a vast dealer network in regional and rural areas, contribute to the HiLux's endless reign as the nation's top-selling ute.

Several rivals now offer more powerful engines, more turbochargers, more gears in their auto transmissions, superior unladen ride quality, larger cabins and more user-friendly multimedia hardware.

Even so, the HiLux holds its ground because it's a formidable all-rounder, with benchmark load-carrying and off-road ability plus a large number of variants designed to fulfil every need.

These include the popular mid-range SR and SR5 models which have recently received some 2019 upgrades in styling, fuel economy and emissions equipment. We put the latest SR to the test to see how it compares with its ever-increasing competition.

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

The HiLux SR, which is available in a variety of 4x2 and 4x4 ute and cab-chassis configurations, is a work-focused model like the base-grade WorkMate but with some extra bling that gives it a higher grade appearance.

Our test vehicle was the SR dual cab 4x4 ute, which is available only with the premium 2.8-litre turbo-diesel but with a choice of six-speed manual or in our case six-speed automatic transmission for $48,640. This compares favourably with Ford's Ranger equivalent, the XLS dual cab 4x4 auto, at $51,090.

Regardless of its employer this is a good-looker thanks to chunky 17-inch alloys with 265/65R17 tyres. Regardless of its employer this is a good-looker thanks to chunky 17-inch alloys with 265/65R17 tyres.

The durable vinyl floor and fabric trim look more suited to workers in muddy boots than suits, but regardless of its employer this is a good-looker thanks to chunky 17-inch alloys with 265/65R17 tyres and a full-size spare, side-steps and body-coloured front bumper with halogen fog lamps and daytime running lights.

There are other useful features which lift the SR above its WorkMate sibling, like a larger 7.0-inch colour touchscreen for the six-speaker multimedia system with 'Toyota Link' and optional sat-nav/DBA+ digital radio, driver's multi-information display, steering wheel controls for telephone and voice recognition, 60/40 split-fold rear seat with cupholders in the centre armrest, plus an air-conditioned dashboard cooler box. Safety is also a cut above with variable intermittent wipers, downhill assist control (auto only) and a rear diff lock.

It comes with a full-size spare. It comes with a full-size spare.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

The most noticeable change in the 2019 SR and SR5 is the new grille and bumper design first seen on the top shelf HiLux Rogue, launched earlier in 2018 with the Rugged and Rugged X premium models.

The large trapezoidal grille has a neat honeycomb insert and both the grille surround and bezels for the new outboard fog lights have a stylish chrome finish, resulting in a stronger visual presence and more upmarket look.

We ran a measuring tape over the cargo tub which, with the tailgate closed, has load floor dimensions of 1550mm long, and 1520mm wide. We ran a measuring tape over the cargo tub which, with the tailgate closed, has load floor dimensions of 1550mm long, and 1520mm wide.

However, we were disappointed the 2019 upgrades didn't extend to Nakajima-san's infamous media touchscreen, which not only turns opaque due to fingerprint smudges but can also be as distracting as a mobile phone when trying to perform basic functions like volume adjustment  while driving. We hope this maddening device will follow the fidget spinner into extinction before the next generation HiLux.

And although our test vehicle was not fitted with a protective cargo tub-liner, we would strongly recommend it. The floor and tailgate paint can be easily scratched and dented when using the cargo bay as intended, which not only looks bad but also throws out the welcome mat for corrosion.

However, we were disappointed the 2019 upgrades didn't extend to Nakajima-san's infamous media touchscreen. However, we were disappointed the 2019 upgrades didn't extend to Nakajima-san's infamous media touchscreen.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

The (1GD-FTV) 2.8-litre four-cylinder variable vane turbo-diesel has proven to be a solid and reliable unit with impressive refinement and the right set of numbers for this application. It produces 130kW at 3400rpm and (with auto transmission) 450Nm of torque served at full strength between 1600-2400rpm.

New for all 2019 diesel HiLux models is a diesel particulate filter (DPF) switch to manually initiate a 'burn' to cleanse the exhaust system of fine exhaust particles trapped in the filter. This should happen automatically of course, but if the vehicle is not driven long enough at high speeds to enable this burn process to take place, the DPF can get clogged. So now a warning is given to the driver who can flick a switch to clean it manually.

The (1GD-FTV) 2.8-litre four-cylinder variable vane turbo-diesel has proven to be a solid and reliable unit with impressive refinement and the right set of numbers for this application. The (1GD-FTV) 2.8-litre four-cylinder variable vane turbo-diesel has proven to be a solid and reliable unit with impressive refinement and the right set of numbers for this application.

The addition of this feature is a sign of the times and shows how diesel dual cab utes have largely assumed the role of suburban family cars, involving lots of cold-start short drives each day to schools and shops for which their engines are clearly not well suited.

The (AC60) six-speed torque converter automatic is a competent and intelligent device, with overdriven fifth and sixth gears for economical highway cruising and a choice of full automatic operation or manual sequential shifting in sport mode. There's also a choice of 'Eco' or 'Power' driving modes.

The 4x4 drivetrain is dual-range part-time with a rear diff locker, both with electronic engagement. There's also a well calibrated traction control system which self-cancels when the diff lock is engaged, plus downhill assist control (auto trans only).

How much fuel does it consume?

Toyota's official combined figure is 8.4L/100km and at the end of our 527km test, which included a sizable road run at maximum GVM, the trip computer's display was showing a 10.8L/100km average. That wasn't far off our own number, calculated from fuel bowser and trip meter readings, of 11.2. So, based on our figures, you could expect a 'real world' driving range of around 700km.

How practical is the space inside?

The HiLux SR dual cab auto 4x4 ute has a 2045kg kerb weight and 3000kg GVM, resulting in a maximum payload rating just short of a tonne at 955kg. It's also rated to tow up to 3200kg of braked trailer but, like so many dual cab utes we've tested, when you drill down into the numbers it's not practical for real world driving.

For example, if you deduct the 3200kg braked towing capacity from its 5650kg GCM (or how much it can legally carry and tow at the same time) the 955kg payload limit is more than halved to 405kg - a huge reduction of 550kg or well over half a tonne of payload..

The HiLux SR dual cab auto 4x4 ute has a 2045kg kerb weight and 3000kg GVM, resulting in a maximum payload rating just short of a tonne at 955kg. The HiLux SR dual cab auto 4x4 ute has a 2045kg kerb weight and 3000kg GVM, resulting in a maximum payload rating just short of a tonne at 955kg.

At the risk of sounding like a scratched CD, our best advice is to set a braked trailer rating at least 500kg below the manufacturer's limit (in this case 3200kg becomes 2700kg) to claw back some realistic payload capacity and increase your towing safety margin.

We ran a measuring tape over the cargo tub which, with the tailgate closed, has load floor dimensions of 1550mm long, and 1520mm wide (with 1110mm between the wheelarches, meaning it can't carry a standard 1160mm-square Aussie pallet).

The 60/40 split-fold rear seat base, beneath which are two small underfloor storage compartments, can be swung up through 90 degrees and strapped into a vertical position if more internal cargo space is required. The 60/40 split-fold rear seat base, beneath which are two small underfloor storage compartments, can be swung up through 90 degrees and strapped into a vertical position if more internal cargo space is required.

There are chunky tie-down hooks in each corner plus a pair of handy load retainers on top of the rear window protector frame, which swing up and lock into place for keeping long lengths of timber, electrical conduit, PVC pipe, etc in place.

Cabin storage includes a bottle holder and open bin in each front door, pop-out cupholders on each side of the dash, an overhead sunglasses holder and a dual-compartment glove box including an A/C-connected cooler in the top compartment.\

Although our test vehicle was not fitted with a protective cargo tub-liner, we would strongly recommend it. Although our test vehicle was not fitted with a protective cargo tub-liner, we would strongly recommend it.

The centre console has an open storage bin, two cupholders, a small oddments cubby and a lidded box which doubles as an arm rest.

Rear seat passengers get a drink bottle holder and storage pocket in each door, plus two cupholders in the centre fold-down armrest and flexible storage pockets on the front seat backrests. The 60/40 split-fold rear seat base, beneath which are two small underfloor storage compartments, can be swung up through 90 degrees and strapped into a vertical position if more internal cargo space is required.

What's it like to drive?

Toyota's engineering refinement results in a squeak-and-rattle-free zone. Most noise at highway speeds comes from disturbed airflow around the large door mirrors, but it's low volume and doesn't intrude on the quiet cabin environment which allows conversations without raised voices.

Although the cabin is a tight fit, particularly for adults in the rear seat, the driving position is comfortable for most shapes and heights even though there's no seat lumbar adjustment at SR level and the extendable steering column doesn't extend far enough for our liking.

The hydraulic power-assisted rack and pinion steering is nicely weighted and responsive and the front disc/rear drum brakes provide reassuringly strong braking.

For most city and suburban driving the gearing is well-matched to the engine's characteristics, usually keeping it within its peak torque zone in the 60-80km/h speed range. Fuel efficiency at highway speeds is also evident with only 1800rpm at 100km/h and 2000rpm at 110km/h.

Our only major criticism is the overly firm ride when empty, as you feel every little bump in the road through your lower back. However, that disappears under a big load as we discovered after securing 830kg in the cargo tub, which with our 100kg driver just snuck in under the 955kg payload ceiling. The rear leaf springs only compressed 55mm and the nose rose less than 10mm, resulting in a level ride height which belied the maximum payload it was supporting.

This is when the HiLux is at its best. The overly firm ride when empty becomes smooth and supple,  floating over bumps and dips on back roads without a hint of bottoming out while maintaining its excellent steering, braking and handling response.

In auto mode with a full payload, it also excelled on our 2.0km 13 per cent gradient set climb, self-shifting back to third at 2400rpm and using its 450Nm to easily climb to the top. Engine braking on the way down, in a manually selected second gear, started off well but started to run away from us on the steepest part of the descent, requiring a stab of the brakes to keep it under the 60km/h speed limit.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

The current generation HiLux achieved a maximum five-star ANCAP rating in 2015. Passive safety  includes two front airbags, two front seat-side airbags, driver's knee airbag and cabin-length side curtain airbags.

The rear seat gets ISOFIX child seat restraints on the two outer positions, plus three child seat top tethers, three headrests and three lap-sash seatbelts. There's also a reversing camera and halogen daytime running lights.

The electronic stability control menu includes traction control, downhill assist control, trailer sway control, hill start assist, emergency brake assist and electronic brake distribution, but no AEB.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

Toyota provides a three-year/100,000km warranty. Service intervals are six months/10,000km. Capped price servicing of of $240 for each of the first six services is available for three years or 60,000km, whichever occurs first.

The 2019 HiLux SR auto 4x4 ute is a good looking and competent worker with a touch of upmarket style about it. It has shortcomings like any vehicle but the HiLux's continuous sales leadership proves that loyal owners, be they private or fleet buyers, will continue to overlook them.

Is the HiLux your go-to tradie truck? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

$39,410 - $48,640

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

4/5

Tradies score

4/5
Price Guide

$39,410 - $48,640

Based on new car retail price