First Impressions

The Toyota Hilux has to be one of the most recognisable vehicles in New Zealand’s history, since 1976 the utility vehicle has been a standard tool for farmers and tradesmen for generations. The ute has also become a more common sight in the cities, amongst growing families and weekend adventurers. Toyota has continuously provided the benchmark for a robust and durable brand. But has the Hilux’s market dominance come to an end?


For the review on the Hilux, we were fortunate to be given the opportunity to have both a v6 petrol and the turbo diesel models. For the most part, comments about the Hilux will represent both the petrol and the diesel models. If it is model specific I’ll yell out. Adding to the uniqueness for this review I had Auto Clique’s video guy and fellow offroad enthusiast Rob to give his thoughts on the Hilux.

Rob’s Thoughts. As a previous Hilux veteran of 9 years I had a fair familiarity to form an opinion with this latest model. It’s a model that’s always proven to be tough and from past experience this has been true.

The Test Drive

We organised a little 4WD adventure into the local forest park in the company of the Wellington Family 4X4 club. Early on the Saturday morning we met up at the gates to the forest. It was a calm winter’s Saturday, where everything was rather quiet, the sun somewhat warm and the wind armed with a chilly bite. An excitement was brewing in the air, with both engine types at our disposal, we were looking forward to seeing first hand the differences in performance would be.

I felt this test drive with the Hilux got the best of both worlds; something that I could drive daily around town with the family and then also as an off road recreational vehicle. This would be putting the New Zealand proven Hilux to its test at what it claims to do best with its “go-anywhere, do-anything” ethos.


With the hype around the new generation of Hilux breathing fresh air into the old beast, I was looking forward to seeing what Toyota had produced in response to what VW and Ford have brought into the ute market. Revitalized aesthetics, strong design and modernised functions for safety, driver aids and technology. The exterior has been resculpted in a positive direction, nice strong hard edges and a heavier masculine stance. Especially the diesel with its intercooler hood scoop helps with the cool factor. A good amount of ground clearance at 222mm, allowing it to wade through 700mm of water. Everything you need to get to that fishing spot X or get to the back of the farm. Open the door and sit inside and all hope went out of the window. The lack of cohesion in design elements showed indecision of clarity in the assembly of the dash. Climate controls vs media cluster and the drivers instrument cluster all felt as if they were designed by three separate teams, with no communication as to which look to go for. The climate controls look like they’re leftovers from past models made in the 90’s. The drivers instruments felt like the only pieces to have a bit of modern form put into them.

Rob’s Thoughts. At a glance I think Toyota this time have hit a winner with the exterior styling. The strong lines and curves really fit the model well for my taste and remind me what I initially enjoyed about the look of the early model Hiluxes, while also having a sporty tone. I’m quite a fan of the appearance of the outside. The headlights and taillights also work well to retain the hilux feel with an update. A few years ago I think Toyota went into straight territory with the new body style and lost something of the Hilux toughness, but I’m glad they have continued the styling of recent years. Personally if I had the choice I’d add the bonnet scoop as standard to all models as it just adds more interest to the blank bonnet.



The mode display, instead of being in the driver’s dash, was in the centre dash. Making it difficult to see the range, time, direction, temperature and fuel usage. So every time I wanted to see trip information I had to take my eyes off the road and turn to face the screen, not very practical I thought. Once you get over the odd dash controls, there really isn’t much more to the interior. For a working tool utility, it really is a no frills piece of machinery.



With the direction Toyota have been going with the likes of the Highlander and Prado, I was expecting some of what they’re putting into those to have dripped down into the Hilux. Setting aside the comparison to more of the city orientated SUVs and competitor utes. Toyota are still positioning their Hilux primarily at the trades and farming, and for this purpose the interior comforts and functions are perfect. Nothing you don’t need and everything you do. Great audio clarity and chunky buttons/dials, navigation and auxiliary inputs, even bluetooth and USB come standard. Manual seat adjustments, no electronics to go wrong, easy cleaning materials and tough seat fabrics. Though rubber floor mats to catch the mud and dirt don’t come standard, that’ll be an extra $76 for front only. Steering wheel controls are nicely positioned and are easy to figure out and use, same goes with the cruise control. Safety is the best it has ever been with all 4WD models having a 5-star ANCAP rating and has a host of safety features.

Rob’s Thoughts. I had high hopes for the interior, but was immediately let down and expected much more for a 2014 model vehicle. Disappointingly it’s like 3 different groups designed the dashboard separately without consulting each other. The speedo is a new style bright white/orange combination, which by itself I didn’t mind. The media/radio area seems to resemble a design from a few years ago with the integration. Although quite capable, the media system really didn’t seem to have a refined menu and screen settings that I would expect of a large manufacturer, but more of a cheaper aftermarket addition. The air conditioning controls are reminiscent of 80’s greenback lcds which were the biggest disappointment of all. The surrounding buttons ugly and clunky. It seemed the shelves were checked for spare parts and these were the leftovers. It’s far from being a well thought out cockpit and very much a missed opportunity to stamp its authority in the current market with a design that makes any positive impact. Rudimentary at its best that would only satisfy those with lesser expectations.

I felt the cockpit was also quite cramped for this size vehicle. The steering column had no telescopic adjustment which really bugged me. It limited movement in the seat and I found it hard to get an ideal combination. If you then wanted to wind down the window for some arm resting on the door action, it just made it plain uncomfortable as the seat was then too low, also making things like reaching for a car parking ticket machine a challenge.


The 3.0 litre, four cylinder, in-line Turbo Diesel engine has great fuel efficiency of 8.7L/100km, while also delivering 126kW of power and 343 Nm of torque. Efficient, but I was expecting a bit more in the torque figures for the diesel, especially when towing capacities of over 3tonne are becoming more common, both the petrol and diesel models only have a max braked towing rating of 2800kgs. We entered the forest on a full tank of diesel, and left with practically a full tank. I was amazed at it’s economy. The Hilux drives very smoothly on the motorway thanks to its fully independent front suspension that softens out the ride noticeably. The rear suspension has a leaf spring rigid design to allow the vehicle to be multi-purpose, for the city driving and back country. The cab is well insulated from road noise, and running the road tyres you don’t really hear much of it at all. I can see this being quite a comfortable vehicle to drive on a long distance trip.

Rob’s Thoughts. The power of the petrol was noticeable when doing a river crossing where I could get instant purchase on the loose gravel footing, where the diesel hesitated at the lower end of the spectrum before any turbo could kick in. For me I also tend to prefer a petrol. I like the instant response and fact it feels like it wants to be a sports car. The diesel certainly went as well as can be expected though both did generally lack equivalent power of similar vehicles. I’m not a huge fan of the siren sounding turbo wind-up without the pounce of the diesel, though that’s a personal preference. It’s really just each to their own in this situation.


Out on the field the Hilux 5 speed auto offers a L2 option, which is great for that better control in 4WD when navigating down a steep descent or towing heavy loads around the paddock. The difference between the diesel and petrol ute really showed its true colours when climbing up some of the muddy hills. They have noticeably different levels of ability in traction and allocating power to the wheels. Our diesel ute moaned and groaned as she struggled to get the blocked tyres spinning fast enough to clear mud from them. Whereas our V6 Petrol Velocity Red ute roared up the hill, effortlessly. Both utes had road tyres on, not even AT’s so we understand that it was a big ask for any vehicle really to make it up the hill. The traction in the petrol was much better and the power to the wheels helped it claw its way up the hill and clear the tyres (what it could) of mud. All this while members from the Family 4×4 club were having a good chuckle at us from the sidelines.

The 23 degree departure angle on these vehicles was very reasonable too despite its length. On one of the shortcuts we took up a hill, we had a few failed hill climbs where we had to reverse back. We have seen utes before us on previous trips that have dented their back bumpers or their tow balls getting in the way when on their way back down from a failed hill climb. A failed hill climb perhaps is one of the fidgety things about 4wding. Braking in the mud means you lock your tyres and slide back downhill, often with very little control. As opposed to just letting the ute go down in a controlled roll with the engine braking doing the work while you do the steering. Just make sure you turn your body and look behind when going back, don’t rely on the mirrors, sometimes your panicking brain might make things difficult. The Hilux came back down without any damage (phew!) and after another attempt the diesel was up the hill. Unfortunately the petrol Hilux was second to last, after the slippery clay was well polished which made it much more difficult to get up. So despite the diesel ute getting up alright, the verdict is that it was more the track and tyres, not the vehicle (or the driver).

Rob’s Thoughts. Not surprisingly these machines handled themselves well off road and we sure footed as expected. Unfortunately running road tyres is less than ideal to really stretch the capabilities through dirt and mud, regardless they were strong performers and I was impressed with capabilities of each at different points. At no point did I feel they were incapable as an off-road machine.

On the road these big 4wds handled far better than they deserve to. The petrol especially was very responsive and simply a lot of fun to drive around town. For me it was a reminder of my love for driving a Hilux and the stiffer suspension. They do however show the signs of the tight suspension that Hiluxes are renowned for, which for some might not be ideal around town with a slightly bumpier ride, though I feel was an ideal setup for off-road driving or towing.


The Hilux came fitted with some luxuries to make you feel at home whilst out in the country. The driver and passenger had their own personal cup holders, there were phone holders and a USB slot in the centre which are all very handy. The storage was very minimal with a small glove box and centre console storage. There is a tailgate mounted reversing camera with a full-colour display screen. However the camera has no grid lines which I find very useful when reversing down long narrow driveways. I can see this little gem being great for parking and them tricky trailer hitching manoeuvres. The steering wheel had no telescopic option, which was rather disappointing for a modern car. Finding a comfortable driving position was challenging, it ended with the seat being pushed all the way back and then tilted forward to reach the wheel. Which was a unique position that I haven’t been in before. Something which the telescopic function would have resolved this for me.

Rob’s Thoughts. I do question some of the finishing in this range. Although the reverse camera was quite clear and a welcome addition to such a big vehicle, the way in which it’s been ‘stuck’ on was less than impressive. Not only was it not centered for whatever reason, but it really felt flimsy and a cheap aftermarket thought, which I would have liked to have seen better integrated. The paint on the camera cover also didn’t seem an exact match. Likewise the front bumper seemed a different style of finish, with a rougher texture than the rest of the vehicle. This was far more noticeable on the red vehicle and slightly disappointing to notice..

There are a range of useful Toyota accessories. One of them I would definitely get is a canopy ($3,109) to be able to better utilise that space in the back on a rainy day. Rubber floor mats ($76) are also a must if this truck is to every make that transition from farm to city and vice versa. Also a full tough tray liner is essential as well.


What’s it up against.

Brand / Model Engine Power Fuel L/100km Max Towing Capacity (braked) kg Price Highest to Lowest
Toyota Hilux SR5 turbo diesel 3.0 litre 4 cylinder in-line Turbo Diesel 126kw/ 343 Nm 8.7L/100km 2,800 $65,290
Toyota Hilux SR5 V6 petrol 4.0 litre V6 Petrol 175kw/ 376 Nm 13.0L/100km 2,800 $65,290
VW Amarok TDI Dbl Highline 2.0-litre Twin Turbo Diese 132kw / 420Nm 7.8L/100km 3,000 $62,990
Holden Colorado LTZ Crew Cab Sports Auto 2.8-litre Turbo Diesel 147kw / 440Nm 7.9L/100km 3,500 $61,990
Ford Ranger XLT Dbl Cab 3.2-litre Turbo Diesel 147kw / 470Nm 9.4L/100km 3,500 $61,540
Mitsubishi Triton Utility 4WD Double Cab GLS 2.5-litre Turbo Diesel 133kw / 356Nm 9.6L/100km 3,000 $59,490
Isuzu D-Max LS Double Cab 3.0-litre Turbo Diesel 130kw / 380Nm 8.1L/100km 3,500 $56,990
Great Wall V200 Utility 2.0-litre Turbo Diesel 105kw / 310Nm 8.3L/100km 2,000 $29,990


Pros Cons
  • exterior styling is refreshed
  • on road tyre, good road noise and quiet cabin
  • great safety features
  • on road handling and comfort
  • interior was lacking cohesion
  • low engine power and towing rating compared to competitors
  • reversing camera looked tacked on, no factor finish look or feel
  • pricing not as competitive


What do we think ?

We took the Hilux up wet clay hill climbs, through mud bogs and down dusty logging trails. They did what we needed them to do and more, but in the end, these are not dedicated off roaders. But it is one very multi-purpose ute that has proven itself on road and off road through many years of being New Zealand’s favourite ute. But I am now having difficulty finding things that would keep Toyota ahead in the ute market. With rivals such as Ford and VW offering alternatives that beat the Hilux in terms of raw grunt, technology, and even styling. The only thing keeping Toyota near the top might only be their long history in NZ. But how long can they rely on this as their safety net? Having fierce competition can only be a positive things for us the buyers, and the ute market is only getting more crowded every year with new manufacturers wanting a slice of one of New Zealands largest selling sectors.


3 out of 5

Rating – Chevron rating 3 out of 5


Toyota Hilux SR5

Vehicle Type Utility vehicle
Starting Price $39,990 NZD
Tested Price $65,290 NZD
Engine 3.0L, 4 cylinder diesel & 4.9L V6 Petrol
Transmission 5-Speed Super Electronically Controlled automatic Transmission
Kerb Weight 1850kg
Length x Width x Height 5260 x 1835 x 1860 mm
Towing Capacity – unbraked/braked (kg) 750/2800
Fuel Tank 76 Litres
Fuel Consumption – diesel/petrol 8.7/13 L/100km
ANCAP Safety Ratings 5 stars


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Tom Lo
Filthy tidiness is probably how I would describe my passion for anything with a motor. I enjoy the perfection, purposefulness, and thought put into the design and assembly of cars....but I do love to see them been thrashed and covered in brake dust, dirt and blood. You gotta use it to love it in my books.


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