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2021 Toyota HiLux SR5+ review

Australia’s best-selling Toyota HiLux has recently been updated and now has more power and suspension improvements to tame its bouncy unladen ride.

So is a four-wheel-drive dual-cab SR5+ really suitable as a daily driver? Our family of testers lived with one in all conditions to find out.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Iain: The HiLux is an automotive rock star. It’s been our best-selling vehicle for the past five years.

Jules: Incredible. We’re a nation of truckers.

Iain: Feels that way. HiLuxes are far larger, heavier and more capable than the ones tradies drove when we were kids.

Jules: Because they can do everything, right? Work site, mine site, off-roading, the commute, school run and towing the caravan. We should all have one.

Iain: Except they’re too massive to park anywhere, don’t enjoy corners or wet roads, aren’t terribly economical or great at coming to a stop quickly in an emergency. Otherwise, they’re perfect.

Jules: Our HiLux SR5 is the pretty one. The one the P-platers go nuts for. How much?

Iain: About $63,000 drive-away. Ours is manual, but most pay $2000 more for an auto. You can pay another $2500 for a leather-lined Premium Interior.

Jules: No wonder half the country’s in debt.

Iain: You can pay more. HiLux Rogue and Rugged X versions are about $75,000 on the road.

Jules: What about rivals?

Iain: They include the Ford Ranger XLT ($58,990), Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain ($59,990) and Mitsubishi Triton GSR ($57,240).

Jules: I hope buyers use them as they were intended. You can buy loaded large SUVs for that money.

THE LIVING SPACE

Iain: I’m glad you mentioned SUVs. Their cabins, at this $60k price point, are normally very luxurious, feature-packed and chockers with safety. The HiLux remains utilitarian.

Jules: With some nice touches. Heated leather seats are comfy, and the driver’s is electric.

Iain: An 8-inch screen runs wired Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and is placed for easy access in the dash centre. Other positives are sat nav, DAB+ and, finally, a digital speedo.

Jules: But?

Iain: For the money, you’re not spoiled. Door and dash-top plastics are hard and scratchy, while the manual gear shifter looks like something out of a 1980s Corolla. The cabin feels very well built, though.

Jules: Plus I love how high you sit, and the vastness inside.

THE COMMUTE

Iain: Toyota’s engineers have revised the shocks, springs and bushes to improve ride quality when there’s no load in the tub. Good.

Jules: It’s definitely less bouncy than before but it’s still a work truck. I really slowed for corners, and in the wet it slid a bit on roundabouts. I wouldn’t want one for my daily commute.

Iain: It’s not ideal, but it’s tolerable. It cruises well, and the cabin’s quiet. The diesel engine only feels gruff when you floor it.

Jules: It’s amazing this thing has a manual gearbox, but you can’t get one in a Toyota Corolla. Weird.

Iain: Some people who tow and go off-road still want manuals. The HiLux’s has a rev-matching feature for downshifts so it’s really easy to use. But reverse and first gear are too close together. I miss-selected reverse on a few occasions.

Jules: Me too. Radar cruise control is handy, the audio’s decent and the engine has loads of low down shove but I found it hard to relax when driving. It’s just so big and cumbersome.

THE SHOPPING

Iain: Despite the cost, there’s no tonneau cover or tub liner on the SR5+. Factor on a few grand more to put that right.

Jules: I had to put shopping in the front seat footwell. In the tub it just rolls around, and gets too hot in the sun, or soaked in the rain. A tonneau cover is a non-negotiable.

Iain: Unlike some other utes, the tailgate isn’t soft-open, so can bash down unless you’re careful. A reverse camera and front and rear sensors prevent parking bingles.

Jules: Except when someone opens a door on your HiLux. It’s so big it barely fits in supermarket park spaces.

SUNDAY RUN

Iain: Suddenly it all makes sense. On a family camping trip the HiLux is a superhero.

Jules: Loads of space in the tub for camping gear and I can’t believe how brilliant this lump of a truck is on soft sand. Effortless.

Iain: Putting it in low range is smooth; not a clunk to be heard. Over sandy bumps the suspension came into its own. Incredible control over this lumpy, often deep sandy terrain.

Jules: I can see why people want a ute if they’re regularly adventuring. The lifestyle possibilities are vast.

THE FAMILY

Iain: There’s decent rear space and the kids had high-up visibility for long journeys.

Jules: It felt risky leaving the kids’ bikes exposed in the tub, although at least they both fitted in easily.

Iain: Safety is only average. You get auto emergency braking, lane departure alert and road sign assist, but no rear cross-traffic alert or blind-spot warning. Some ute rivals have these and they can be lifesavers.

Jules: Fuel economy wasn’t bad at 8.7L/100km, including our beach trip. But services are every six months?

Iain: Yep. Most rivals have annual services, so a HiLux is pricey to run across five years, unlike other Toyotas. Those ten visits equals $3537. Five years in a Kluger is $1250.

THE VERDICT

Jules: I love the HiLux as an off-road lifestyle toy, but its size, weight and work truck interior make it hard to love as a daily driver.

Iain: Fair call. The HiLux feels better than ever in its ride comfort and refinement, and its abilities as a work and lifestyle ute aren’t up for debate. It’s an impressive machine.

But if that tub won’t be dirtied and it’ll rarely leave the bitumen, seriously consider something like a Kluger instead.

TOYOTA HILUX SR5+ MANUAL VITALS

Price: About $65,900 drive-away

Warranty/servicing: 5 years/unl’td km (average) $3559 for 5 years

Engine: 2.8-litre 4-cyl turbo-diesel, 150kW/420Nm

Safety: 7 airbags, auto emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, reversing camera, front and rear park sensors, downhill assist control, radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, road sign assist

Thirst: 7.7L/100km

Spare: Full size

Payload: 1000kg

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