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Tradie's Five Alive: Toyota HiLux SR5

Toyota’s HiLux is a nameplate that’s been with us for quite some time, 1968 in fact. It’s been available in two and four wheel drive, hi rise and low rise configuration, two and four doors, diesel and petrol with one constant: a utility tray at the back. I look at the latest model SR5, with two doors, four seats and a diesel manual drive train.HiLux profile

HiLux engineIt’s a grunty 3.0L diesel under the broad intake scooped bonnet, a low revver at that, with 126kW peaking at 3600rpm whilst torque is a sizeable 343 torques. What’s important here is the rev point: just 1400 rpm. This allows short shift as there’s little point goint past 2000 and it’s borne out by how rapidly the engine HiLux gear leversfeels breathless. The gearbox is a five speed manual with transfer case. The lever for the manual is long, mostly intuitive but there were times when it refused to play ball, with reverse or third occasionally simply refusing to acknowledge its presence. The transfer case lever was the same; down and to the right and up again to go from 2WD to 4WD high range to 4WD low range. A hefty shove was required to move it back to 2WD position. Clutch pressure was ideal, balanced, with the pickup point also ideally positioned in the travel rather than lightswitch on/off.

On the road the 4WD suspension is taut, tight, jiggly, with speedbumps sending the rear end skywards and sideways easily; the front is also tight but not quite so. Turn in is tight, with a touch of understeer as the tyres (mounted on stylish 17 inch alloys, at HiLux wheel265/65 profile) understandably, with an offroad tread, squeal their way through corners however there’s no noticeable lift off understeer at speed, especially on a downhill run. It’s a hard call; soften the rear to deal with roads better (knowing it’s tight due to presumed usage for workers) or leave it for a purchaser to decide if it’s too much IF they’re using it for family usage.

During a freeway run the HiLux rolls along nicely, as expected from such high torque at low revs HiLux right rear(somewhat surprised only a five cogger though) but the drone from the body/intake is tiresome on the freeway. The audio system, adequate at best, needs to be turned up to the proverbial eleven in an effort to mute the sound. It’s noisy, unpleasant and wearisome. Acceleration is leisurely, progressive rather than being thrust back in your seats fast, with gear ratios in mind for the more intended loaded up usage, I suspect. The tautness of the suspension is noticeable here, with smaller undulations coming across as the pea in the princess’ bed. The higher ride height also plays havoc, at night, with smaller cars in front, with the headlights ideally placed to beam straight into the rear vision mirror.

HiLux dashInterior comfort levels are good, with the driver’s seat feeling, initially, somewhat short in the seat squab and feeling as if under thigh support wasn’t there all the time. It took a day or two for that to be of no consequence; what was noticeable was the chintzy silver plastic garnish around the audio system and central airvents and on the tiller. Cheap, cheap cheap, yuck. It sits atop a simple, graphic based, aircon system, with a monochrome display. Foolproof. The rear seats are, ostensibly, for HiLux rear seatsthree people. That’s possible if they’re small. With two sub seven year old kids and with the requisite child seats, it’s a tad squeezy. The cushions are flat, unsupportive and wouldn’t be great for runs HiLux cabinof more than a couple of hours, if that long. Nor would they be suitable for two adults as: 1) only the passenger seat flips forward for rear seat entry and 2) leg room is a compromise.
The dash is elegant in its own simplicity; two major dials and two sub dials, giving you speed, revs, fuel and HiLux traywhat temperature to cook the eggs at. A soft red backlight at night adds to the lustre.
HiLux tailgateIt’s a bluff, no nonsense look on the outside; it’s an upright centre grille rolling either side to a gentle slope towards the windscreen from the headlights. Being the XTra Cab and two doors, there’s a bit of extra sheetmetal abaft the doors before leading into the tray, fitted (in this case) with a floor only liner (full tub liners should be available via Toyota spare parts) with the rear ‘gate sporting the reverse camera, somewhat oddly positioned off to the left. Sidesteps, a solid step rear bar and dual pipe sportsbar HiLux intakecomplete the picture.

At $50K or so driveaway (pricing can be found at: for the diesel SR5 manual, it’s a bit of an ask for a vehicle that, on the face of it, doesn’t appear to offer much different to interlopers of recent times. On the face of it…Toyota has built a reputation on a few things, including almost bullet proof four wheel drive vehicles (witness the Top Gear UK episode which featured a HiLux) and that is something that sits almost subconsciously with buyers. This HiLux isn’t for me, but I’m not its intended market.