Australians love their utes. They’re the trusted sidekicks of our hard-working tradies, who not only rely on them to do honest work during the week, but also for weekend trips to Bunnings or for pulling the tinny to the local boat ramp. For this reason, the ute and dual-cab market is currently one of the hottest new car segments in Australia, and also the most fiercely contested. Their ability to perform dual roles is one of the reasons they have been so successful with Australian buyers and most of the major manufacturers have jumped on-board, all fighting for their own slice of the pie. Buyers are faced with a gamut of models to choose from, including the Ford Ranger, Holden Colorado, Isuzu D-MAX, Mazda BT-50, Mitsubishi Triton, Nissan Navara, Volkswagen Amarok, and the granddaddy of them all, the Toyota HiLux.
The Toyota HiLux is a truck which needs no introduction. It has long held a reputation for not only being the toughest ute on the market, but also for being one of the most reliable and indestructible vehicles ever made. Jeremy Clarkson once tried to kill a 1988 HiLux diesel by crashing it into a tree, hitting it with a wrecking ball, setting it on fire, and even leaving it on a slipway to be washed out to sea on the high tide – all to no avail. HiLux’s are vehicles with an enviable reputation for being tough, no-nonsense workhorses with bulletproof reliability. With that in mind, Toyota could have easily rested on their laurels for the new 2016 version, but instead they decided to invest six years and some 650,000 kilometres worth of testing to ensure the finished product is a step up from the top-selling model it replaced.
The HiLux is now available in 31 variants (the old model had 23), which includes both 2WD and 4WD, three cab styles (single, extra and dual) and 3 equipment grades (WorkMate, SR and SR5). The one we’re testing here is a WorkMate 4×2 Single-Cab Cab-Chassis, 2.4L turbo-diesel 5-speed manual, available for $28,990 drive-away with alloy tray included. In times gone by, entry level vehicles in this segment have a history of feeling a bit ‘bare bones’ when it comes to the list of standard equipment, so let’s see what you’ll get for your money.
When you approach the new HiLux, the first thing that strikes you about it is how ‘built for purpose’ it looks, with its simple yet clean bodywork and tough looking black steel wheels. Compared to the competition, we’d also have to say it is probably one of the better looking cab chassis utes currently on the market. We were particularly impressed with the build quality and how rigid the body panels and bumper are on it. It just feels like a solid and well-built truck, and that’s the most important thing here.
Step inside and the first thing you’ll notice is the interior is a big step up from the previous model HiLux, both in terms of the general presentation and also the quality of the materials used. The steering wheel feels nice in your hands, plus the overall fit and finish of the dashboard is excellent. Despite being a single-cab, the HiLux feels quite spacious inside, with plenty of head room for people like me who are just over 6ft. The seats have plenty of adjustment for those with long legs, plus there’s some handy storage space in the twin-level glovebox and also behind the seats.
The interior as a whole feels almost car like (in a good way) with comfortable and well supported fabric trimmed seats, clear dash gauges and an excellent 6.1″ floating touchscreen fitted as standard. Whilst the screen is mainly used to operate the digital radio and audio streaming features, it also has Bluetooth phone pairing, a USB input and a nifty fuel economy screen built-in. Air-conditioning and cruise control both come as standard, which is a nice touch. Most importantly, the fabric used on the seats and the materials used on the dashboard both feel hard-wearing, and the vinyl floor should make cleaning the HiLux out a breeze.
Hit the road in the HiLux Workmate and the first thing which is apparent is just how powerful and smooth the 2.4L turbo-diesel engine is. While the 110kW power figure doesn’t sound that high, the engine has a meaty 343Nm of torque available from just 1,400rpm – and in the real world this means you have a nice solid band of power from 1,500rpm upwards, which begins to tail off slightly beyond 3,500rpm. The 5-speed manual gearbox shifts smoothly and the clutch feels nicely weighted. Being a 4×2, there’s no low-range gearbox here, but the 5 gear ratios on offer are configured to make good use of all the torque the engine has to offer. The 2.4L turbo-diesel is officially rated at 7.7L/100km, and on test we achieved 8.1L/100km with a mixture of urban and country driving. Choosing a 4×2 model HiLux over the 4×4 alternative means there are definite savings to be had in both fuel and maintenance costs, simply because you’re not carrying around the extra weight of the 4WD system and there’s less moving parts to service.
Like all other cab chassis utes with leaf-sprung rear ends, the HiLux Workmate is a little stiff in the rear when driven unladen, but that’s the trade-off you pay for a high load carrying capacity. It seems to behave itself more once you’re driving at speed, where you’ll also find it to be a fairly quiet and refined drive. The way the steering rack isolates bumps and road imperfections from the steering wheel (and therefore your hands) also deserves some praise, plus it is one of the lightest hydraulic steering setups on the market, meaning your tired arms have an easier time twirling the wheel after a long day. We were also surprised to find the HiLux also has a handy hill-hold function, meaning you’ll never roll backwards on an uphill standing start. The dash itself, including all the dials, vents and cabin plastics feel like they’re well screwed together, with no rattles or squeaks evident during the test. This is typically one of our biggest gripes with commercial vehicles, so a big thumbs up here.
Speaking of load carrying, this is what the HiLux Workmate cab chassis has been designed and built to do – and it does it very well. The alloy tray fitted is huge, measuring in at 1780mm wide by 2560mm long internally. That’s wider and longer than you’ll get on any of the pick-up bodied models, plus you have the added benefit of not having to deal with the rear wheel arches protruding into the load area. This means it’ll easily handle two standard pallets, and thanks to the heavy duty rear leaf-spring suspension you can also carry a payload of up to 1225kg – the highest of any HiLux variant. There’s also plenty of tie-down points running along the inside of the tray and also externally.
As an ownership proposition, the HiLux makes a compelling case. It is covered by a 3-year / 100,000km warranty and Toyota has Australia’s biggest network of dealers, so no matter where you go there shouldn’t be any problems finding parts for it. Servicing costs are also cheap, capped at $180 for the first six visits, or 60,000km. That’s less than all of its rivals, plus it is worth mentioning that HiLux’s have always held the highest resale value of any ute – something to bear in mind for those who update their vehicle every few years.
So that’s the new Toyota HiLux WorkMate 4×2 cab chassis. We feel it is a honest, hard-working ute which should stand the test of time and is worthy of your consideration. It’s all new and its a big step up on the old model in terms of cabin refinement, build quality and value for money. For those looking for a dependable workhorse which will continue to serve them day in and day out without ever putting a foot wrong, you couldn’t do better.
Specifications: 2016 Toyota HiLux WorkMate 4×2 Single-Cab Cab-Chassis
Price: $28,990 drive-away (including alloy tray as tested)
Warranty: 3 years / 100,000km
Service Intervals: 6 months/10,000km
Safety Rating: 5-Star
Spare Tyre: Full-size steel
Engine: 2.4-litre 4-cylinder turbo-diesel 110kW/343Nm
Transmission: 5-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Body: 5400mm (L), 1860mm (W), 1690mm (H)
Weight: 1570kg (GVM: 2810kg)
Thirst: 7.7L/100km official combined (Diesel)
Vehicle Supplied By: Llewellyn Motors