We've been busy at the Kiddie household.
There’s new timber on the house, new windows are going in, there’s fresh paint, and in readiness for the painters to give the fences a tidy-up I’ve had to trim back a succession of shrubs and small trees.
That on top of some landscaping work I needed to do after a drain was repaired. Throughout all of these enhancements, I’ve put two new Toyota Hiluxes to good use. I took the foliage to green waste processing, building debris to the transfer station, and I’ve also been to the garden centre to uplift two loads of pebbles to finish the landscaping.
That’s the versatility today’s double cab pick-up/utility offers, it is the quintessential vehicle for the everyday role, yet doubles as a versatile carry-all when tasks need to be completed, not to mention it’s towing ability and payload capacity – 3500kg and around one-tonne respectively.
This evaluation focuses on the SR specification Hilux, I had two double cab variants in a row – one a cab-chassis with an aluminium flat deck, the other was a standard wellside.
Toyota has done considerable work on the Hilux, there’s been an extensive change of look, it is bolder and more aggressive on the outside, while major interior changes incorporate new display graphics and the addition of a larger touch screen in the centre of the dashboard proper.
Mechanically, the mainstream turbo diesel engine has had a big boost in power, thanks to a larger turbocharger. Toyota now claims 150kW and 500Nm a 15 per cent increase for power and 11 per cent increase in torque.
Of course, you can still buy the Hilux with petrol power if you so wish, but that option is limited to two entry-point Workmate models, both with just two-wheel-drive.
The other 16 variants are all diesel-powered, but you do have the choice of manual transmission in some of those, along with just 2WD options.
Both variants I drove were four-wheel-drive capable and fitted with a six-speed automatic gearbox.
While the Hilux is destined for a working role, what Toyota have done on the inside is to keep it family-friendly, there are all the features and there is as much comfort as you can expect for something built over a ladder chassis and load-bearing suspension.
There are many car-like features fitted to the Hilux and, of course, the Toyota suite of SafetySense technologies contribute to a five-star Australasian New Car Assessment Program rating.
I can also safely say the new Hilux is smoother, while the power is boosted remarkably, it hasn’t lost its finesse, the engine throbs away in typical diesel fashion, but it isn’t loud and doesn’t seem stressed when building towards the top part of the rev band.
Interaction between the engine and gearbox is fluid, shifts are clean and smooth. Drive, of course, is normally channelled rearwards, electric switching will engage the front axles in both low and high ratio depending on the driver’s preference.
It must also be mentioned that the SR Hilux gets all of the four-wheel-drive trickery that is demanded in the working role. I only used it for a short evaluation purpose, and there are no surprises there, even without deep-treaded tyres the Hilux ute will scale humps and mounds without fear of getting stuck nor becoming grounded thanks to 286mm of clearance underneath.
On that subject little has changed in terms of suspension, the rear axle is still located by leaf springs, while a civilised independent wishbone system is fitted up front.
My loads didn’t measure up to anything that would challenge the payload rating of the two utes, but I can report both laden and unladen the ride is perfectly acceptable, so for those who need to travel long distances recreationally it’s good to know the family will be well looked after, even those seated in the back will find there is satisfactory rake on the seats.
I took both SR variants on a long high country run, with the boost in engine outputs the Hilux feels free and doesn’t require much energy from the driver to keep relaxed motion, and if you need that mid-range boost for a highway overtake, it fairly scampers when the accelerator is given a nudge.
Toyota also claims an 11 per cent decrease in fuel usage, the Hilux in SR form is rated with a combined cycle average of 7.9-litres per 100km. At 100km/h the engine is loping over at just 1800rpm, returning a 7l/100km instantaneous figure, resulting in around 9l/100km for both models when I took them back to the dealership.
One of the most notable features about SR specification is that it arrives with steel wheels. This is something Toyota has done with Hilux for a few years now, if you want alloy wheels you’d need to upgrade. I’m a big believer in steel, they are stronger and lighter and don’t detract much from the aggressive look of the new model. However, it is something buyers might consider.
I’m due to drive two SR5 variants soon, and that is the high grade specification rounding out the series at $58,990. If SR-only form is preferable you’ll save around $9000, and with the cab-chassis model listing at $48,490 there are a wealth of considerations.
It’s always been that way with Hilux, there is a ute for every purpose and that’s why it’s so popular, there are choices that easily fill the working or recreational role.
Check out our full range of Hilux here.