Toyota’s venerable HiLux ute has come a long way, offering sedan-like features and levels of comfort in its latest twin-cab model.
Toyota first released the current-shape HiLux in 2005 and with it came a new philosophy in one-tonne utes, cementing the inexorable move towards more passenger-car-like comfort and features in the recreational dual-cab ute market.
Yet it was still a surprise just how more car-like it had become: its cabin could easily be mistaken for one you’d find in a medium-size sedan. It was almost plush. The new 3L diesel was also welcomed, but with the softening of the looks came some softening of the HiLux’s legendary toughness.
The HiLux had lost some of its underbody strength, and the 15in wheel choice was not universally welcomed by offroaders either, as it didn’t help ground clearance and it limited the offroad tyre options at the time (though this has since improved).
Its lesser offroad ability and diminished bush-touring strengths haven’t hurt sales one bit, though: the HiLux is the top-selling 4WD commercial and sits among the top-10 vehicles sold in Australia.
The HiLux has a 2250kg towing capacity with 225kg maximum on the ball, which is trailing the field in its segment, with the class-leading towing capacity up at 3000kg. Even though it’s arguable whether you’d want to regularly tow three tonnes behind any of these utes, the HiLux doesn’t allow much of a margin if you want to tow many of the tandems available.
The test caravan, with its 146kg towball download, dropped the rear of the van only marginally when hitched up, and when towing, the HiLux felt pretty stable and performed very well with two tonnes towed behind.
On our test hill, the HiLux steamed up with no problem, barely dropping speed as the incline became steeper. Engine braking was more acceptable than remarkable coming down hills, though. Top-gear cruising saw the tacho sitting on around 2000rpm, but the transmission preferred to downshift and sat at 2800rpm on even a slight incline.
We used accessory towing mirrors, but the broad HiLux mirrors are so good we were tempted to rely on them alone.
Read the full review in the August 2009 edition of Caravan World magazine with Motorhome World, on sale July 8. In this issue, Phil Lord also looks at the VY Commodore in Towing used.