Car Reviews

2016 Toyota HiLux SR5 Review

Isaac Bober’s 2016 Toyota HiLux SR5 review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict, rating and video.

2016 Toyota HiLux SR5

Pricing $55,990 (+ORC) Warranty three-years, 100,000km Safety five-star ANCAP Engine 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel Power/Torque 130kW/450Nm Transmission six-speed automatic (on test) Body 5330mm (long); 1855mm (wide); 1815mm (high) Weight 1775-2080kg (kerb) Angles 31-degrees (approach); 26-degrees (departure) Fuel Tank 80 litres Thirst 7.8L/100km combined

For more detailed specifications see Car Showroom.

In a Nutshell: The new eighth-generation Toyota HiLux allows the Japanese car maker to take the fight back up to the newer players in the market, with off-road ability that’s right at the top of the class.

Editor's Rating

2016 Toyota HiLux SR5 rating
Practical Motoring Says: The new Toyota HiLux has been revised enough to put it right back in the mix with the latest crop of 4x4 utes. It’s got a stronger body, improved off-road angles and a clever traction control system that conquers the rough easily. Our HiLux SR5 test model is well equipped and should find favour with those looking for a rugged work and play vehicle for the family.

What is it?

THE EIGHTH-GENERATION Toyota HiLux launched in September last year (2015) a staggering 10 years since the launch of the seventh-generation model. While the new-look nose and the improved cabin are the most noticeable visual changes, it’s the changes that took place beneath the skin that are most significant.

Toyota has made everything tougher, starting with the frame which is now thicker (offering 20% more torsional rigidity), the body, which is stiffer thanks to higher-strength steels and a 45% increase in weld spots. The underbody protection has also been beefed up and is both 40% thicker and 30% larger to make it more resistant to damage in off-road situations.

2016 Toyota HiLux review

Ground clearance for 4×4 variants is 225mm while approach (31-degrees), departure (26-degrees) and wheel articulation (520mm on both sides) are all improvements over the seventh-generation model. Our test model is the HiLux SR5 and it comes standard with a rear-differential lock.

Interestingly, there are now, globally, two specifications for HiLux. The South-East Asian market gets a softer suspension set-up due to the vehicle being used mainly on bitumen, while markets like ours, South Africa, South America, the Middle East and Russia get the HiLux running a tougher Australian-developed suspension set-up. Follow this link to read more about the key changes for eighth-generation Toyota HiLux.

Key Standard Equipment for HiLux SR5

  • 18-inch alloy wheels
  • Intelligent manual transmission (turbo-diesel SR5)
  • Premium shift knob and steering wheel
  • Auto-levelling LED headlamps, LED daytime running lamps, Fog lamps
  • Stainless-steel sports bar
  • Smart entry and start
  • Chrome power-retractable exterior mirrors
  • Privacy glass
  • Chrome radiator grille, Chrome rear step
  • Climate-control air-conditioning
  • Auto up/down – all windows
  • Adjustable intermittent wipers
  • Satellite navigation,Toyota Link added features
  • 4.2-inch thin-film transistor colour MID
  • Additional 12V socket, 220V accessory socket
  • Alarm
  • Downhill Assist Control (4×4 SR5 auto)

Design

The aim with the new HiLux, originally, according to Toyota, was to make it look tough and rugged, but that that was changed during the design process to focus on developing a design that would create an emotional connection between the vehicle and owner… Sounds like Hipster talk.

Beyond the design of the thing, we’re pretty sure the HiLux was already capable of generating a ‘connection’ between it and the driver via its practicality and off-road ability. So, maybe the design ‘thing’ was just an internal decision to keep the crayon twirlers feeling as important as the engineers. Just saying…

Anyway, the HiLux has always been a vehicle where function was placed ahead of form, and I think, that’s still true of this new model. Put this SR5 side-by-side with, say, a Ford Ranger Wildtrak and the HiLux will definitely look underdressed, but look deeper and you’ll realise it just does away with unnecessary cosmetic fripperies. And if you’re after a bush-able 4×4 ute then having less tacked on bits that are likely to fall off is probably more important than how your truck looks parked outside the local hipster cafe.

2016 Toyota HiLux review

That said, there is some method to the styling of the new HiLux, indeed, it’s as if the engineers told the designers what they wanted to do and then the designers had to design it in a way that it wouldn’t jar when you looked at it. For instance, the turned up corners of the snout mean greater clearance and thus less likelihood of damaging the thing when driving off-road. Still at the front end, and the LED daytime running lights standard on the SR5 give the HiLux an instantly recognisable signature, and the head-lights themselves are excellent offering, even on standard beam, a good spread and long reach.

Other changes include making HiLux double cabs 70mm longer and 20mm wider than the old model, recessing the windscreen wiper blades, while around at the back, the step on the rear bumper has been made a little lower to make it easier to get into the tray. A standard fit revering camera is tucked away in the tailgate.

2016 Toyota HiLux review

Our test HiLux SR5 is offered with 18-inch alloys as standard and while we didn’t have any problems off-road, even on highway tyres most buyers looking to spend more time off- than on-road will most likely swap them for 17-inch alloys, which the SR comes standard with. The SR also offers all-terrain tyres.

On the Inside

Climb inside the HiLux and the biggest change owners of previous generation models will notice is the tablet-style touch screen on the dashboard. While some people we showed the HiLux to felt the touchscreen looked like an afterthought, I like it.

The touchscreen is a similar unit to the one Subaru uses, and offers voice recognition, Bluetooth connectivity with audio streaming, sat nav and digital radio, but there’s no Apple Carplay or Mirrorlink connectivity. Instead, Toyota uses its own Toyota Link system, which we didn’t test.

The touchscreen infotainment system is easy to use on the fly and the screen itself is both more responsive and easier to use than that in the current-generation Camry which is fiddly to use.

2016 Toyota HiLux review

To me, the interior of the HiLux follows the theme set by the current-generation Corolla and it looks much more stylish inside than the current Camry. While this is the top-spec HiLux, yes, there’s a HiLux SR5+ but it only adds a powered driver’s seat and leather accented trim, there are no soft-touch plastics or cosmetic fripperies (although there are some subtle silver accents around the cabin).

Rather, scattered around the cabin is an assortment of hard, scratchy plastic designed to endure the hardships of bush/work/family. And, so, the trade off is that while there’s plenty of gear as standard in the SR5 it never feels like $56k vehicle.

2016 Toyota HiLux review

The SR5 gets keyless entry and start (Ford Ranger Wildtrak is still a key start) as well as automatic climate control, auto headlight levelling, which is handy when towing.

Room and Practicality

There are numerous hide holes and cupholders for stashing gear around the cabin, but while the front cup holders will hold a 600ml bottle of water or takeaway coffee cup, the fit isn’t as snug as I would like. Although the centre glovebox will hold two 600ml bottles and offers a cooling function.

2016 Toyota HiLux review

The front seat offers more height adjustment than the old model (60mm vs 45mm) but my old man, who helped on this test and is only 5ft 8in complained he couldn’t get the seat high enough to be comfortable. For me, however, there was more than enough seat adjustment and the fact the steering wheel offers adjustment for reach and rake means just about everyone should be able to find a comfortable driving position. Hear that, Dad.

2016 Toyota HiLux review

The seats themselves are clad in a “tough” material, according to Toyota and while it feels a little 1980s, I’d have to agree, after our time with it, that the material should resist general wear and tear well. Although, if you were going to be taking your HiLux SR5 off the beaten track regularly, then an aftermarket seat cover might be the way to go. While the seats are quite flat and broad they’re reasonably squishy meaning they provide good grip when rocking about off-road. And the lack of thigh bolsters on the base of the seat means you can swing in and out without knackering yourself.

2016 Toyota HiLux review

The back seats offer a 60:40 split fold with a stowable armrest. And, getting in and out is pretty easy thanks to the good size door opening. I didn’t fit my daughter’s harness-style child car restraint to the HiLux, but I did install my son’s booster seat but removed it again as the seat back forced the booster seat to push forwards slightly. He’s tall enough and heavy enough to sit in the back seat without a restraint, but research shows that the longer a child stays in a restraint the safer they will be in a collision. Anyway, he could sit in the back of the HiLux comfortably and said he had enough legroom; he thought the armrest was great, although he said he couldn’t see out of the front very well, despite the stadium-esque rear seating set-up (meaning the back seats are mounted slightly higher than the front seats).

2016 Toyota HiLux review

On the topic of child seats in the HiLux, if you have a look into the back of a double-cab model you’ll notice there’s only one top tether point but that both outboard seats have ISOFIX mounts, meaning you could theoretically fit three child seats. The law in Australia requires you to use a top tether strap on all child car restraints, including ISOFIX compatible seats, but with only one top tether point in the HiLux, both outboard seats need to have their top tether straps fitted to the middle tether point via a routing strap…

I also tested out the back seat with the front driver’s seat set in position for me, and the measurements I got were 71cm from the seat back (of the back seat) to back of the driver’s seat which is scalloped, as is the front passenger seat. From the seat base to the ceiling measured 94cm. I had plenty of room and would have been happy to travel in the back on longer journeys. There’s a 12V outlet with a little ledge to hold a phone easily accessible to back seat passengers which is a nice practical touch.

2016 Toyota HiLux review

The tray is a little bigger in the new-generation HiLux, measuring 1569mm long (up 19mm), by 1645mm (up 79mm) at its widest point and 1100mm between the wheel arches. Side panel height is 481mm which is up 20mm. The loading height has been reduced by only 4mm to 861mm, which isn’t much but at least it’s not higher. There are solid looking tie down points in each corner (four, obviously) although more would be handy, and Toyota claims the new rib-style construction of the tray floor makes it stronger -without getting an old model and a pallet of bricks and then dropping them into the tray of each generation, we’ve got no way of confirming this… We’d recommend fitting a tup liner to keep the tray from scratching up.

Speaking of the tray, unlike its competitor in the Ford Ranger Wildtrak, the HiLux SR5 doesn’t offer a tray-mounted 12-volt socket, but there is a dedicated fuse box in the engine bay, so, fitting one after-market shouldn’t be impossible.

Performance

Under the bonnet of the HiLux SR5 is a 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel which offers more more torque, use less fuel and be quieter inside the cabin with less vibration. The tweaked engine offers 130kW at 3400rpm and 450Nm of torque between 1600-2400rpm which, in our auto-equipped model is a 25% increase in torque compared with the previous generation’s 3.0L engine.

Toyota claims a swag of tweaks have helped reduce weight and friction in both the new 2.8L and 2.4L engines, but it’s noise and vibration suppression that’s most impressive. For instance, Toyota says a noise-insulation cover for the oil pan and a resin head cover have reduced noise, and it’s right. But the Japanese car maker also added “improved” insulation to the engine bay and a 50% bigger outer dash silencer on diesel models. There are also improved weather seals used to further improve noise suppression. And it’s worked, because this is easily the quietest HiLux I’ve ever driven.

The combined fuel consumption for the new engine is 8.5L/100km (auto), but in our week of testing the best we saw was 9.1 and after 150km of off-road testing returned an average of 10L/100km. Mated to the 2.8L is a six-speed automatic, or a six-speed manual, which replace the previous generation’s four-speed auto and five-speed manual; we haven’t tested a manual HiLux yet.

2016 Toyota HiLux review

The automatic transmission in the HiLux SR5 offers some clever electronics, boasting Deceleration Downshift Control, which times the downshifts to suppress a rapid decline in engine speed; Accelerator Immediate Close Control which is intended maintain the current gear when the accelerator pedal is suddenly released, supposedly enhancing engine braking and responsiveness when accelerating again. Accelerator Immediate Open Control which downshifts the transmission when the accelerator pedal is suddenly depressed; and High-speed Gear Effective Utilisation Control which, say, when you’re actively accelerating up a long hill, the system might lock-out sixth gear to maintain momentum, but if you’re simply cruising up the hill and throttle application is only light then the system will allow the transmission to shift into sixth gear for fuel economy.

At least that’s the theory.

On light, constant throttle applications, the six-speed is nice and smooth stepping up and down the gearbox without fuss. But, put it under some pressure, say, when accelerating from an even speed to overtake, or braking hard and then accelerating hard, the transmission can feel a little clumsy, ending up feeling like an old-school four-speed unit… when being pressured.

2016 Toyota HiLux review

The transmission also offers an ECO and POWER mode, but both are mostly useless and either dull the throttle response (ECO) or add more revs (POWER, when compared to standard mode) for a sharper feeling response to throttle inputs. Unlike the name suggests, it doesn’t give you any extra power.

Ride and Handling

On the highway and around town, the HiLux SR5 performs pretty well with light throttle openings able to access that thick seam of torque which is at maximum from 1600-2400rpm. It’ll take a little while to get a ‘feel’ for the throttle because it’s totally dead feeling which means, until you learn to listen to the engine when you’re using it, you’ll probably find yourself getting a little too heavy with it to provoke a response. And while there’s a manual shift option, there’s not really any point in using it around town.

That said, out of town and on the highway, or on long hills where you want to accelerate to overtake, say, a slow-moving caravan, then dropping through the cogs manually might make sense. Or, you could just press the throttle a little faster and harder…

The HiLux is only a part-time 4×4 and, so, pushing it on wet roads with no load in the back will see back end break traction quite easily but, then, so do all utes and particularly so when unladen. The suspension, even without a load, does a pretty good job of ironing out bumps and ruts in the road without trying to bump steer or shake loose your fillings. Indeed, my old man, who drives a Range Rover everyday thought the ride was “very impressive”, but he’s getting on a bit and I wouldn’t quite go that far. It’s good and much better than the previous generation, but it’s not the best-riding 4×4 ute on-road on the market; that title goes to both the Ford Ranger and Volkswagen Amarok.

2016 Toyota HiLux review

On dirt, like on wet bitumen, the HiLux will get a little scrabbly in the back end if you get too silly with it. But the stability control (VSC in Toyota speak) does a good job of keeping everything straight, although it’s quite intrusive and all but tries to bring the car to a halt, which isn’t great when you’re trying to make your way up/across a damp intersection…

Across rougher surfaces the suspension remains quiet and unfazed, and the additional insulation, 100mm longer leaf springs which now have revised attachment points, and the fact the dampers have been tuned to maintain a flat(ter) ride and dial out all of a sudden impact harshness, mean the HiLux is a nice place to be across broken and corrugated surfaces.

I’m not a fan of the steering which, despite Toyota saying it has retuned the power steering assist, lacks any weight or feel through the wheel. That said, there’s almost no kickback or vibration through across broken surfaces, which is good.

The brakes have been beefed up, and on 4×4 models are now 319mm ventilated discs at the front and 295mm drums at the back. They stop well, but the pedal feels like you’re putting your foot into soggy porridge and requires a decent shove.

The track leading into our off-road loop is pretty rough, strewn with tyre-eating rocks and corrugations. Yet the HiLux managed it without breaking a sweat. As I’ve mentioned, at the same time as we were testing the HiLux we were also testing a Ford Ranger Wildtrak which didn’t feel as comfortable or quiet as the HiLux, but we’ll explore this in more detail in that vehicle’s review. Stay tuned.

2016 Toyota HiLux review

The HiLux has long been considered the go-to 4×4 ute to take off-road, but its mantle has taken a good knock from recent, more modern rivals, like Ford Ranger and Volkswagen Amarok. But the new HiLux has allowed Toyota to get back on an even playing field.

Ground clearance is 225mm and not the 279mm you’ll read in some places around the web (Toyota has updated its specs but some websites and magazine articles will still carry the old measurement, after we discovered the difference with the Fortuner). Articulation is now improved over the old model (520mm on both sides; it was uneven before) and even with the side steps in place (you can take them off easily enough by removing six bolts on each side) we didn’t touch a step on any of the tracks we drove across (there’s 33.5cm of clearance from the ground to the bottom of the step).

2016 Toyota HiLux review

Toyota might have stiffened the damper rates to improve on-road handling, but the HiLux is still soft enough that it can clamber up and over rocks, but not so soft that you get any wobble through the body when crawling over rocky terrain. And the suspension flex is pretty good, indeed and without trying to spoil our comparison, the HiLux was able to maintain contact with the ground in places the Ranger couldn’t. You can watch the video below to see the HiLux climbing up and then crawling down a hill; going up the vehicle is in 4×4 Low without the rear differential lock engaged and, going down the HiLux has downhill descent control (or DAC in Toyota speak) engaged.

While using DAC to crawl down hills was easier than riding the brakes in a manually selected low gear it’s not as sophisticated feeling as the equivalent in key competitors with a tendency to lurch-brake-lurch-brake-lurch-brake and so on down the hill.

2016 Toyota HiLux review

The HiLux’s Active Traction Control (A-TRC) which is different to stability control is a stand-out in the segment. As proof, one hill we drove up which had required 4×4 Low on the other vehicle being tested, and then, in one place the rear differential lock to be engaged, the HiLux which followed the same line as the “other’ vehicle had been accidentally left in 4×4 High and it crawled up beautifully. And that’s the genius of A-TRC which works by detecting wheelspin and then braking that individual wheel to maintain forward momentum and, in most cases it will negate the need to engage the rear differential lock, so, whatever you do don’t disengage it… but, if you do engage the rear differential lock, just be aware that it disengages A-TRC.

2016 Toyota HiLux review

To switch between 2H, 4H is as difficult as turning a dial; the rear locker requires you to press a button as does activating DAC. The transmission must be in neutral to select low range. And accessing the spare wheel wheel winch (the are is slung under the back and could probably be relocated to improve clearance at the back) is done by inserting the jack handle through a hole above the rear bumper.

2016 Toyota HiLux review

We didn’t get a chance to either drive on sand with the HiLux or tow with it, so no comment will be rendered as to its performance, although our Robert Pepper did test the Fortuner in sand and you can read what he thought here.  That test was also a manual Fortuner so will give a good indication of how the manual Hilux would fare.

Safety

The new Toyota HiLux gets a five-star ANCAP rating realising a score of 34.45 out of 37. Across the range it gets seven airbags, including driver, front passenger, driver’s knee, front-seat side and side curtain-shield airbags. The HiLux has emergency locking retractor three-point seatbelts for all seats, with front seatbelt pretensioners. There are seatbelt reminders on all front seats and for the rear seats of double cab models.

All pick-up variants get a reversing camera as standard as well as stability and traction controls, hill start assist for use on- or off-road, the SR5 variant gets downhill assist control, an electronically controlled rear differential lock, and low range. The HiLux also features Trailer Sway Control which works by using brake control and engine output control to help minimise sway from a trailer/caravan. 

Main Changes on New Toyota HiLux:

Variants:

•31 (v 23)

•Introduction of Hi-Rider

•Reintroduction of 4×4 Workmate

•More double cabs, 4×4 variants, diesel options

Engines:

•2.8-litre 1GD-FTV turbo-diesel, up to 130kW and 450Nm

•2.4-litre 2GD-FTV turbo-diesel, up to 110kW and 400Nm

◦1GD torque higher by up to 25%

◦2GD torque higher by up to 16.6%

◦Low-friction timing chain (life of vehicle service)

◦Turbo-charger – 30% smaller, 50% faster response

◦Significantly quieter, more fuel-efficient

◦Diesel particulate filter with automated regeneration

•Improved 2.7-litre 2TR-FE, 122kW and 245Nm

◦More power & torque, better fuel economy & emissions

•1GR-FE 4.0-litre petrol V6

◦More fuel-efficient, lower emissions

•All engines Euro 5 compliant

•Radiator core – 10.4% better heat dissipation

Transmissions:

•Six-speed manual

•Six-speed intelligent manual (SR5 2.8 TD)

•Six-speed super electronically controlled automatic

◦Blipping downshift in sequential mode

◦Lightweight transmission oil cooler – 18.6% better heat dissipation

•Power and eco drive modes (not on SC or EC Workmate manuals)

•New propeller shafts, differentials

•Stronger output shaft

Body features:

•Access door (extra cab)

•Rear bumper with step (pick-ups; previously SR5 only)

Wheels and tyres:

•16-inch steel wheels with highway tyres (4×2)

•17-inch steel wheels (2 sizes) with all-terrain tyres (Hi-Rider, 4×4 Workmate, SR)

•18-inch alloy wheel and highway tyre (SR5)

New, stronger frame:

•Torsional rigidity increased by 20%

•Side & cross-members up to 30mm thicker

Stronger tub:

•Revised ribbing, new cross-members

•Reinforced header board, thicker outer panels

•Steel-plate brackets on tailgate struts

•Double-cab 4×4 deck dimensions:

◦Length 1569mm (+19mm)

◦Width 1645mm (+79mm) – widest point

◦Side panel height 481mm (+20mm)

◦Loading height from ground 861mm (-4mm)

Stronger, more rigid body:

•More upper body weld points (388 v 268)

•Maximum 590MPa high-tensile steel (v 440MPa)

•Wider use of galvanised steel

•Wider use of anti-corrosive wax and chip-resistant coating

Revised suspension:

•Developed and tested in Australia

•Thicker front stabiliser bar, larger diameter shock absorbers

•Rear suspension attachment moved forward 100mm, lowered 25mm

•Rear leaf springs 100mm longer (1400mm), mounted 50mm wider

Enhanced off-road ability:

•Rear differential lock (4×4 SR and SR5)

•Approach angle 31 degrees (v 30) – EC, DC pick-ups

•Departure angle 26 degrees (v 23) – EC, DC pick-ups

•Improved wheel articulation (up to 20%)

•Ground clearance 225mm (4×4 EC & DC pick-ups)

•Electronic transfer case dial (4×4)

•All-terrain tyres (17-inch)

•A-TRC (traction control – all)

•Improved crawl ratios (4×4)

•Ability to turn off electronic aids

•Locally developed underbody protection (4×4, Hi-Rider)

◦40% thicker, 30% larger

Brakes:

•Larger front ventilated disc brakes and larger booster

Steering: Fewer turns lock to lock (4×4); reduced effort (all variants)

More comfortable and convenient cabin:

•Front seat height adjustment 60mm (+15mm on SR, SR5)

•Driver’s hip point raised 10mm (879mm from ground)

•Air-conditioned cool/heat box (SR, SR5)

•Telescopic steering column (except 4×2 single cabs)

•Hard-wearing fabric seats (Workmate)

•10mm more rear knee clearance (104mm)

•60:40 split-fold rear seat base with central armrest – SR and SR5 double cabs

•Two ISOFIX child restraint anchors (double cabs)

•Top-tether anchor (double cabs)

•Seatbelt reminder – front seats (all variants); rear seats (double cabs)

•Additional 12V sockets (SR5), 220V socket (SR5 double cabs)

Dedicated fuse box for accessories (bank of 10) – Hi-Rider, 4×4

More than 60 new locally developed accessories:

•Three airbag-compatible bull bars

Seven exterior colours:

•Five for single cabs (white, silver, graphite, black, blue)

•Six for extra cabs, Workmate & SR double cabs (adds red)

•Seven for SR5 double cabs (adds crystal pearl exclusive)


Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober