Toyota’s latest ute is better, but is it good enough? – Delivery reviews the 2.4 WorkMate crew-cab auto
At the time of launching its new HiLux, Toyota aimed at mass exposure on the web where the writers of the various blogs have relatively little experience of the light commercial market. The rationale could well be explained for this in the form that rather than show their ignorance, many of the bloggers simply put praise where they thought praise should be, rather than analysing whether the new model is actually better or worse than its predecessor or its current competition.
Delivery started its appraisal of the 31 new variations on a HiLux theme with a week spent in the dual-cab, 4×4 WorkMate version powered by Toyota’s 2.4-litre diesel matched to a six-speed automatic transmission.
Throughout the HiLux range, Toyota is offering a 2.4-litre and a 2.8-litre turbo diesel alternative with 110 kW and 400 Nm, or 130 kW and 450 Nm respectively. For those that want more performance there’s 4.0-litre V6 petrol or a 2.7-litre, four-cylinder petrol alternative. The V6 produces 175 kW at 5200 rpm with 376 Nm of torque at 3,800 rpm, while the 2.7-litre produces 122 kW and 245 Nm. For those that think about the environment, the entire quartet is classified as Euro 5 compliant for exhaust emissions.
At $45,990, the WorkMate 4×4 dual-cab is an entry level into the HiLux range, but at that high cost it’s not unreasonable for the purchaser to expect more than they currently get for the money.
Yes, the new HiLux is more refined than the previous version, it’s quieter on-road, the six-speed transmission shifts smoothly between ratios and its suspension is well sorted, showing it’s at its best with 400 kg in the tray out of a maximum payload of 955 kg. But when compared to the plethora of top-level competition in this segment, is it capable of maintaining market leadership? No, we don’t think so.
We’ll start by looking at the option of petrol engines, where combined fuel consumption results show the V6 using 11.5-12.0 l/100 km, which rises when in the city to 16-16.4 l/100 km. The 2.4-litre petrol isn’t much better, offering a combined level of 10.4-11.1, rising when in town to peak at 14.0 l/100 km.
Many of the HiLux competitors are offering diesel versions only, and, frankly, Toyota should have followed suit, reducing model complexity and providing better average fuel economy in the process. The 2.4-litre combined fuel consumption figure ranges from 7.1 to 7.7 l/100 km (dependent on body and driveline), and in town this rises to peak at 8.8 l/100 km. The 2.8-litre turbo diesel ranges from 7.3 to 8.1 l/100 km for the combined result, rising to 9.0-10.4 l/100 km in the city.
None of these fuel consumption figures are class leading, and we found when driving the 2.4-litre WorkMate the overall impression was of a rather doughy engine, despite the promise of 400 Nm of torque in the 4×4. Buyers of the 4×2 version with this engine will find the torque output restricted back to 343 Nm at 1400-2800 rpm.
With our immaculate white WorkMate 4×4 dual-cab we did the rounds of local tradies for an off-the-cuff comment and found that first up was the view that the “Trout Snout” pointy nose was considered ugly. Next up came a criticism of the central info display that controls audio, phone and Bluetooth connections. Back came the comment: “Too confusing and too involved. All tradies want is a radio with a big on/off and volume knob on one side and a tuning knob on the other. Forget the touchscreen”.
In defence of the WorkMate version, the spec does stack up well in terms of safety, featuring seven airbags – driver, front passenger, driver’s knee, front-seat side and side curtain-shield airbags. Active safety features include vehicle stability control, active traction control, anti-skid brakes with brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution, and trailer sway control. All of which contribute to it claiming a five-star ANCAP crash safety rating.
A reversing camera is standard equipment on all pick-ups and optional on cab/chassis versions. The display on the WorkMate, through the centre touchscreen rather than as an adjunct to a centre-mounted rear-vision mirror, is bold, sharp and very clear.
Active traction control (ATC) cuts in early when on dirt roads and prevents any thoughts from developing where the driver might consider it the right time to practise for selection by the Toyota rally team. ATC is designed to prevent the wheels from spinning when starting or when driving on low-friction surfaces, including mud and snow, and it does its job well.
Trailer sway control uses brake control and engine output control to suppress any lateral trailer movement of the trailer that may be caused by cross winds, variations in the road surface or driver steering operations. All HiLux models have hill-start assist control to prevent the vehicle rolling downhill when taking off on an incline (off-road or on-road).
All the above are excellent features, but Delivery expects the market leader to push the envelope of development out further than just matching some of the competition. Consequently, with Ford offering adaptive cruise control and lane departure assist on its Ranger, why are these advanced safety features missing from all of the HiLux spec sheets?
The centre-mounted transfer lever for shifting from low to high ratios in 4×4 models has been discarded in favour of an electrical switch on the lower right of the dashboard, in line with the general trend of the competition.
All HiLux utes have double-wishbone front suspension and leaf-spring rear suspension. The front suspension features a new, thicker front stabiliser bar to increase roll stiffness.
The rear suspension has been redesigned, with long leafs, wider spacing of the springs and revised attachment points. At 1400 mm the new rear springs are 100 mm longer to better suppress road vibrations. The front attachment point has been moved forward by 100 mm and lowered by 25 mm to improve steering stability. The leaf springs are now mounted 50 mm further apart. This change, in conjunction with increased roll stiffness, increases stability when the vehicle is cornering, especially when it is loaded.
In addition, new HiLux has larger-diameter dampers and a new location for the rear dampers, for increased durability and stability, and more effective control of small vibrations. The dampers, previously rear-facing and located behind the axle, are now forward-facing and located in front of the axle, to improve straight-line stability.
The damper curves have been calibrated for a flat ride and reduced impact harshness. Larger-diameter cylinders enable the dampers to generate increased force with a shorter stroke to better control small vibrations.
As we mentioned earlier, the ride and handling when empty and with our test load of 400 kg is predictable and safe. What was surprising though is that HiLux does not live up to the expectation that its build quality is somehow tougher, stronger and relatively unbreakable, as per the advertising slogans of the past.
Despite having a new chassis with 30 mm thicker side rails and cross members, increased torsional rigidity of 20 percent, 45 percent more spot welds and greater use of high tensile steel, the new HiLux does not feel as well put together or as robust as the Ford Ranger or Mazda BT-50.
Hopefully, as Delivery works its way through other variants of the new HiLux we will find our enthusiasm levels rising to match the marketing hype currently being dished out by Toyota Australia. Right now, that enthusiasm on the part of Delivery Magazine can only be said to be severely lacking for a product that should have been outstandingly superior but that just didn’t quite make the grade.