New Toyota Hilux Ute Review 2016

The Toyota Hilux ute is the top-selling ute in Australia. Some months, one month in five, on average, it’s the top-selling vehicle in the entire country. (We love our utes.)

In total, 16 million Hiluxes have sold around the world since the debut in 1968. In total, 850,000 Toyota Hilux utes have been sold in Australia - and this 2016 model is the first all-new Hilux for a decade.

Two key competitors have entered the market recently. My new Mitsubishi Triton review is here >>. It's certainly a huge improvement on its predecessor. See how the new top-spec Triton Exceed compares with the 2015 Toyota Hilux SR5 >> The other key entrant is the 2015 Nissan Navara (review here) >> (It's the platform that Mercedes-Benz will use to produce its ute, which is slated to launch in 2018. Video version of the Navara review >>


Toyota’s schtick is increasingly ‘mediocrity plus marketing equals success’, and, they’re very good at it. So, the 2016 Toyota Hilux ute is a really interesting proposition. 

Philosophically, the options were: a) get out in front, and actually lead the market in objective criteria (take command of the segment again), or b) do just enough to keep up, then drop megabucks on the marketing - seize control (or retain it at least) by dumping wads of cash on marketing and PR.

It's pretty clear Toyota has gone with option b).

This new 2016 Hilux is a 10-year investment into the future (if history repeats). It won’t be on sale until October, and already, it seems, the all-new Toyota Hilux ute struggles to keep up with today’s Holden Colorado, Mazda BT-50 and Ford Ranger - which were all minted about three years ago, and currently due for a refresh.


The Holden Colorado delivers a maximum of 500 Newton-metres from 2.8 litres of turbocharged VM Motori diesel. The 2016 Toyota Hilux ute manges 50 Newton-metres less from the same engine capacity. And, OK, the new Toyota Hilux ute matches the new NP300 Nissan Navara - in automatic (on 450 peak Newton-metres). The Ford Ranger and BT-50 beat the new Hilux, however, offering 470 peak Newton-metres.  Triton lags slightly, on 430Nm.

With manual transmissions, the same 2.8-litre Toyota Hilux diesel engine has to be de-tuned by seven per cent. (Are we seriously suggesting a company as big as Toyota couldn’t magic up a gearbox that could handle 450 Newton-metres. It’s just a bad look. A cheap, nasty, expedient engineering solution - and Colorado de-tunes its engine when a manual gearbox is installed, too.

The new Toyota Hilux ute is the least grunty among the leading utes - in manual powertrain - and frankly that’s just undignified. We’re talking about the king of utes here, not the court jester, allegedly. And obviously, the way product evolutions work, the time to get overtaken is well after you launch a vehicle, usually by newer entrants with better technology. Not before you launch it, by existing vehicles just starting to show their age.


This move to six-speed transmissions in the Toyota Hilux ute is nice. The 2.8 diesel Hilux comes with either a six-speed manual and six-speed auto. Big tick there for playing catch-up with the class leaders.

Hoever, if you tick the box for one of the 31 new flavours of Hilux, and that flavour comes with the 2.4-litre diesel (as I understand the range) the manual transmission there is a five-speed (if you want a manual). If you do that, that 2.4 diesel Toyota Hilux engine is also de-tuned, but this time by a massive 14 per cent, compared with the auto. (Presumably to cope with a similar ‘transmission of expediency’ scenario, in the ‘court jester’ of powertrains in the alleged ‘king’ of utes.)


Fuel economy is up - non-specifically. The cat is still officially in the bag on the new Toyota Hilux ute's fuel economy numbers, until closer to launch, but the smart money is suggesting an improvement of something like 10 per cent. And, together with an 80-litre fuel tank (that’s up from 76 litres), that could translate to a handy 15 per cent boost to cruising range - something the 4x4 dual-cab outback touring types will enjoy. And the Toyota Hilux ute is certainly a very popular vehicle there.


Also on the plus side of the ledger - a reversing camera comes standard on every new Toyota Hilux ute. Toyota will be the first manufacturer to offer that from the base model up, effectively no longer making the cheap Hilux owner a second-class citizen on safety.

Obviously the standard installation of reversing cameras like the one seen below right is for pick-ups only. (The ones with the integrated, body-coloured rear tubs.) Tray-backs are custom installations, and Toyota says a dealer-fit reversing camera will be available for these.

(It’s worth remembering that getting run over in the driveway is the second-highest cause of accidental death in children, after drowning in the backyard pool. Even more tragically, the person who causes the injury is generally a parent - and if not, they’re likely to be a close relative or a friend. This kind of tragedy changes many lives for ever.)

So I can’t praise Toyota highly enough for taking this long-overdue positive step. It will save lives, and hopefully it will catalyze other manufacturers to follow suit. Reversing cameras are also excellent for precision parking, and for getting the damn towball precisely under the hitch on a caravan, ute or trailer. Especially if you’re doing it solo.


Toyota is the second major manufacturer - after Mitsubishi - to shift the emphasis on the ute from work to play. Or at least family. Toyota Oz big cheese of marketing Tony Cramb is very keen to talk up the Hilux’s family-friendly side, telling journos who didn't immediately succumb to narcolepsy, that instead of being a work vehicle you can drive home, the new Hilux is a family-oriented vehicle you can take to work.

This will be an extreme communications balancing act - pumping up the family without letting the tyres down on the workhorse. So you’ll see plenty of passenger car and possibly even Lexus-like touches on the upmarket Hiluxes in the near future. Big screens, rear air vents, proximity key, connectivity up the wahzoo - stuff like that. And so you would want to: the price range is expected to top out at $60,000, or near enough. That's an expensive vehicle. Full interior details - except for leaked spy shots - are as-yet unreleased.


The new Toyota Hilux ute is right up there for towing. Equal with the best in class performances there from the Holden Colorado, Ford Ranger, Mazda BT-50 and NP300 Nissan Navara. Frankly, I’m still pretty skeptical about towing a 3.5-tonne trailer with a vehicle that weighs just two tonnes. Seems like the tail wagging the dog to me, at least potentially. Especially as there are no special licensing requirements to do that. You can get your licence in a Yaris and then jump straight behind the wheel of one of these real men’s (family friendly) utes, and tow three hot pink Yarii, all humping each other on a trailer, right across the desert. Move over Priscilla. It just doesn’t seem very smart.


If you jump under the new Toyota Hilux rear end, you’ll see a little piece of the industrial revolution. It’s got drum brakes and leaf springs - remember those? Specifications first carved in clay... Hilux is not alone there, but it’s certainly not out in front.


The lead-up to 2016 Hilux has been a case of ‘sex with a supermodel’ syndrome. The fantasy - or at least the prospect of a new king of utes jumping out of the blocks and upsetting the segment, instantly becoming the must-have ute among 4X2 and 4X4 buyers is an attractive, alluring concept. I give the fantasy 13 out of 10. It's Miranda Kerr in a low-cut little black dress, whispering 'take me'. But the reality … the reality bites. Quite simply, you expect the new king of utes to be better. I know I did. It's going to ride in the peloton, but not in the front.

If you want to save thousands on a new ute (or any other vehicle), click the red link below. And don’t forget to leave a comment below, to let me know what you think.

Earlier reports: