The Toyota HiLux SR5 ute is popular with recreational buyers. Picture: Supplied.
The Toyota HiLux SR5 ute is popular with recreational buyers. Picture: Supplied.

Australia’s favourite set of wheels

So you want a Toyota HiLux? Seemingly half the country does, as these one-tonners clog not just worksites but also our highways, suburbia and school car parks.

The HiLux has been Australia's best-selling vehicle the past three years and is odds-on to repeat the feat in 2019. Why? The talented all-rounder has a solid reputation, loyal repeat customers both fleet and private and buyers have a huge choice and excellent dealer network coverage.

Away from the Big Smoke, HiLuxes are native as the flies. Locals trust these utes, in the knowledge parts and service are never far away, but there's also a touch of the tall poppy syndrome.

Problems with the Toyota HiLux are quickly and widely documented. Picture: Supplied.
Problems with the Toyota HiLux are quickly and widely documented. Picture: Supplied.

With so many on our roads - more than 50,000 sold last year - any problems are quickly and widely documented. Detractors regularly finding ways to shoot the bestseller down, some of them unjustified, but there's no hiding some harsh truths.

There's a class action relating to the HiLux 2.8-litre engine's clogging diesel particulate filter (DPF), for which Toyota Australia has brought in a free fix. Other causes for concern are tailshaft clunks and dust sneaking past the air filter, affecting the mass air flow sensor and sending the engine into limp mode.

Owners complain about the four-cylinder engine lacking power and using too much fuel. There's also the bouncy ride when the HiLux doesn't have load in the tray.

Research any dual-cab ute and you'll find dissatisfied customers regardless of brand. First and foremost work trucks, they are built accordingly and are massively capable off-road.

The HiLux can get a little fidgety without a load in the back. Picture: Supplied
The HiLux can get a little fidgety without a load in the back. Picture: Supplied

We can't overlook the large cohort of satisfied HiLux customers and how relatively good a modern ute cabin is (even if the Toyota's is quite plasticky).

Popularity is reflected on the used market. Looking at the eighth-generation HiLux, introduced in September 2015, there are hundreds in the classifieds but values remain stubbornly strong.

That can make used examples less appealing. If you can stretch to a new ute, Toyota's doing HiLux deals, plus you get five-year warranty (since the start of this year) and the latest specification.

At launch there were a mind-boggling 31 versions of the HiLux. You'll have to do your specification homework to see which suits you best.

Four-wheel-drive dual cabs are the most popular with leisure buyers. Picture: Supplied.
Four-wheel-drive dual cabs are the most popular with leisure buyers. Picture: Supplied.

The runaway bestsellers was the 4WD dual-cab diesel, while manual gearbox examples are out there but pretty rare. It's worth noting these three-pedal HiLuxes are rated to tow 3500kg; autos manage 3200kg (or 3000kg with the petrol engine version nobody bought).

We'll focus on the bestsellers. The entry Workmate grade used a 2.4-litre turbo diesel and SR, SR5 and SR5+ versions had the 2.8-litre turbo diesel or unicorn 4.0-litre V6 petrol.

Standard across the range were seven airbags, airconditioning, basic touchscreen audio, Bluetooth, cruise control, rear camera and power windows.

Workmates got vinyl floors, basic fabric seats and 17-inch steel wheels with all-terrain tyres. The SR added chrome door handles, floor carpet, better seat trim, airconditioned cooler/heater box, larger display audio screen, Toyota's connectivity tech and rear differential lock.

SR5s got fancy with 18-inch alloys, LED daytime running lights, fog lamps, stainless steel sports bar, smart entry and start, chrome for the grille, mirrors and rear step, satnav and climate control.

The SR5+ added leather trim and power driver's seat.

More expensive models have leather trim. Picture: Supplied.
More expensive models have leather trim. Picture: Supplied.

There was no Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, nor the latest active safety kit such as autonomous emergency braking.

In October 2017, the V6 was dropped and the SR+ arrived with satnav and alloy wheels.

In April last year came the Rogue, Rugged and Rugged X range-toppers with factory accessories such as snorkel, side rock rails, hard tonneau cover and LED light bar.



Acrid white smoke from the exhaust suggests DPF dramas and is caused by failed regeneration (where the filter burns off its soot contents).

The engine has to reach a certain temperature to trigger regeneration and if the HiLux is only used for short trips (think city use) it can get clogged and ultimately fail at huge expense.

Owners were contacted to take their HiLux, if potentially affected, back to Toyota for an engine control module reprogram and DPF check - if the filter was deemed not working efficiently, it should have been replaced. Look for vehicles with a DPF given a recent clean bill of health.

The Rugged X comes with extra offroad gear. Picture: Supplied.
The Rugged X comes with extra offroad gear. Picture: Supplied.

Favour HiLuxes with full Toyota service history. They need servicing every six months, which for the first three-years/60,000km cost $240 each - the four-year/80,000km service is a heftier $720.

In regular services, the air intake and filter should have been closely monitored, cleaned or replaced, considering the known problems. Check carefully if the HiLux you're considering was used in dusty environments.

Reset the fuel economy computer before your test drive. Toyota quotes a combined figure of 8.5L/100km for a dual-cab auto. If your mixed test drive returns dramatically more than this it could signal trouble, as well as potentially high fuel bills.

Listen for any clunks or thumps from underneath. Some owners have had tailshaft issues and report such noises and jolting from take-off or when shifting gears.

The Rugged X. Picture: Supplied.
The Rugged X. Picture: Supplied.

As with all utes, favour those from private owners who've pampered them. Many HiLuxes have been used by governments and fleets and may not have been as well cared for.

Many will have been hard worked, so check underneath for bashes and scrapes, plus any signs of rust suggesting beach work and not being cleaned properly. Some owners have reported signs of rust around the windscreen.

If typically you won't have a load in the tray, test the vehicle unladen. The ride is bouncy - for some, intolerably so, especially in the rear seats. It's worth considering if you're planning putting kids back there.


3 stars

Owners are generally happy with these hugely capable utes. However, reported problems are testing the "Unbreakable HiLux" claim. There are plenty of pampered ones out there but don't pay too much. These utes hold their value so well it may be worth stretching to a new one with five-year warranty.



As Australia's best-selling vehicle, the HiLux tallied more than 157,000 sales from 2015 to the end of 2018 - the peak year with 51,705 examples sold. Combined sales of HiLux 4WDs and rear-drives amounted to nearly 25 per cent of all pick-up and cab-chassis sales in 2018.

Among used listings, 99 per cent are diesel variants and manuals account for about one on five. The SR5 dual-cab is the most popular.

For 2015, the most affordable HiLux, the Workmate dual-cab 4x4 manual ($43,990 new) variant is now valued at $35,490. The SR5 dual-cab 2.8-litre auto (55,990 new) is now worth $44,950.

For 2018, the Workmate (price unchanged) is worth $40,800. The new flagship Rugged X 2.8-litre auto dual-cab 4x4 ($63,690 new) is $57,450.

Among rivals, the HiLux from 2015 has significantly stronger resale value, and even 2018 models generally hold their value better than the likes of the Ford Ranger, Mitsubishi Triton, Holden Colorado and VW Amarok - the Ranger in particularly is closing the gap.




PRICE NEW $43,990-$,63,690

SAFETY 5 stars

ENGINE 2.8-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 130kW/450Nm; 2.4-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 110kW/400Nm; 4.0-litre V6, 175kW/376Nm

TRANSMISSION 6-speed auto, 6-speed man; 4WD

THIRST 7.3L-11.5L/100km

TOWING 3000kg-3500kg