The ute is a common sight in New Zealand and the Hilux is among the most common. You see many generations, from old to new, every day. This shows that they are a hard working and reliable truck. It’s hard to break new ground in the ute market however, as they are constantly moving from being just a work truck into a family truck, and manufacturers need to consider different lifestyle aspects. 

Utes are still weird for me; I don’t fully understand the need for utes, but the great thing about the lives we lead is that it only has to make sense to you. I don’t have a lifestyle where a ute would be that beneficial, this means they get ticked off my list of possible options pretty quickly. However that is not to say that there are many people who just couldn’t live without them and the flexibility they bring to their lives.

If it’s a work truck you are after, the new SR5 will be one to have a look at, sharp pricing has made this new Hilux almost $10k less than the older model. When it stacks up against the competition, that is a massive difference, bringing great value. 

Toyota has recently released the latest generation of Hilux, and we got to spend a bit of time in the new SR5 Cruiser 4WD variant. Does this new generation of Hilux have what it takes to stay ahead of the rest of the growing Ute market in New Zealand?

The Range

The evidence of the ute’s proliferation is shown within the 2021 Hilux range. There are 18 models of Hilux available in the standard line-up! 

The range starts with the entry-level, petrol-powered Hilux workmate starting at $28,990. This climbs up to the range-topping diesel-powered SR5 Cruiser, from $58,990. The range stretches out to 19 models with the inclusion of the Kiwi-modified, Ranger-Raptor scrapping Hilux Mako, which will set you back a whopping $79,990.

Although there’s plenty to take in, the Hilux range can be distilled down to a handful of core trims once you’ve eliminated the choice of 2WD or 4WD, body style and transmission. Doing this, you’re left with the core trims of the WorkMate, SR, SR5 and SR5 Cruiser. 

To avoid going into an unnecessary amount detail on each model, here’s a table to keep it simple;

2WD
EngineModelBodyTransmissionPrice
2.7L PetrolWorkMateSingle CabAutomatic$28,990
2.7L PetrolWorkMateDouble CabAutomatic$29,990
2.8L DieselPreRunner SRExtra CabAutomatic$39,990
2.8L DieselPreRunner SRDouble CabManual$39,990
2.8L DieselPreRunner SRDouble CabAutomatic$41,490
2.8L DieselPreRunner SR5Double CabManual$40,990
2.8L DieselPreRunner SR5Double CabAutomatic$44,490
2.8L DieselPreRunner SR5 CruiserDouble CabAutomatic$47,990
4WD
EngineModelBodyTransmissionPrice
2.8L DieselSRSingle CabAutomatic$44,990
2.8L DieselSRExtra CabManual$44,990
2.8L DieselSRExtra CabAutomatic$46,990
2.8L DieselSRDouble Cab (w/o tray)Manual$45,990*
2.8L DieselSRDouble Cab (w/o tray)Automatic$48,490*
2.8L DieselSRDouble CabManual$47,990
2.8L DieselSRDouble CabAutomatic$49,990
2.8L DieselSR5Double CabManual$51,990
2.8L DieselSR5Double CabAutomatic$53,990
2.8L DieselSR5 CruiserDouble CabAutomatic$58,990
2.8L DieselHilux MakoDouble CabAutomatic$79,990 

*Price does not include tray

We’ve got the 4WD SR5 Cruiser with an automatic transmission, which starts at $58,990. 

Being at the top of the standard Hilux range, the 4WD SR5 Cruiser is pitched more towards your weekend-warrior characters, as opposed to the Waikato’s finest cattle hands. 

As a result, the SR5 Cruise comes has a fairly extensive list of bells and whistles, including 18’’ alloys, 8’’ infotainment with Bluetooth, Apple Carplay and Android Auto, sat nav with SUNA Traffic channel, 9-speaker JBL Premium Audio with rear subwoofer, Smart Key Entry and Push Button Start, 8-way powered drivers seat, heated leather seats, leather steering wheel, auto-dimming rear vision mirror,  1 x 220V Power Outlet, 2 x 12V Power Outlets, an SR5 Cruiser unique instrument cluster, Single-zone Climate Control, exterior mirror heaters, front and rear parking sensors, LED lights and DRLs, rear privacy glass, a welcome lamp, an SR5 Cruiser unique instrument cluster, plus several matte black details and plastic fascias lift the SR5 Cruiser’s aesthetics.

Our Hilux is powered with Toyota’s 1GD 2.8L turbo-diesel engine, producing 150kW of power and 500Nm of torque, paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission.

This combination allows for a tow rating of 3500kg braked, 750kg unbraked, which is consistent for the entire diesel Hilux range. Tray payload varies model-to-model. For the SR5, tray payload is 950kg, whereas other models can offer up to 1225kg.

It also wouldn’t be a Hilux without a list of off-roading goodies.  The new range includes a Rear Differential Lock, Rear Auto Limited Slip Differential, Down-hill Assist Control and an Automatic Disconnecting Front Differential, plus the usual gearing ratios of 2H – 4H and 4L controlled via Switch Knob.

All Hilux’s are equipped with 7 airbags, plus Toyota Safety Sense (TSS) package.  This includes Pre-Collision System with Autonomous Emergency Braking, Lane Departure Alert with Yaw Assist and Vehicle Sway Warning, Adaptive Cruise Control and Road Sign Assist. Other safety items include Drive Start Control, Trailer Sway Control, Vehicle Stability Control, Emergency Stop Signal and a Reverse Camera. 

There are seven core colours available for the Hilux range. These are Glacier White, Silver Sky, Graphite (Dark Grey), Eclipse (Black), Olympia Red, Nebula Blue and Deep-Sea Blue (Darker Blue).  The SR5 and SR5 Cruiser range gain two unique colours, substituting Olympia Red for Emotional Red (a brighter Red), plus Inferno Orange.

For more information on the Hilux range, visit the Toyota New Zealand website.

First Impressions

The Ute market is getting tough, which means you not only have to have a great performing vehicle, you have to have a pretty nice looking vehicle too. I am not much of a fan of the Hilux current design, there seem to be far too much going on. When compared to something like the VW Amarok and the all new Mazda BT-50, the new Hilux is lacking in the style department and has a lot of cheap looking plastic parts. 

Looks aside, the SR5 appeared to be packed with features, making it clear this is not an entry level Ute at all. It was time to take this truck on the road and see if the legend still runs true.

The Inside

With all the efforts visibly going into enhancing the exterior look, the inside of the new Hilux has not changed as much. The standard Toyota feels run through the cabin, with the already outdated big rectangle display in the middle of the dash. There is still a digital clock in the dash between the air vents that’s not even linked to any other systems, just a basic digital clock, really!

The steering wheel was well-appointed with a range of controls, for the media, driver’s displays, cruise control and mobile phone. No issues here, not too cluttered, and just the right amount of features that you need at hand. 

The front seats are good, comfy and well ventilated, important for any in heavy duty workwear clothes. Adjustments was great and I was able to get comfy quickly. My only gripe about this, and it’s probably my biggest gripe about the entire vehicle; The 4WD control dial has been moved to the dash under the display panel and right where my knee rested. This was very uncomfortable within minutes of driving the vehicle. The only fix I could find was to push the seat back further, which left me in an awkward driving position. I tested this on multiple people to see if it affected them, and it seemed to only affect people above 6ft. That dial alone would stop me buying this vehicle. I would love to know why they moved it, as it was fine near the gear stick as in previous models.

I don’t know who made the call for the stuck on JBL speakers on the dash, it’s a big thumbs down from me. Not only do they look like a last minute afterthought, they also have a silver ring around them with the JBL brand on them. This ring is always visible on the driver’s side of the windscreen and it’s rather distracting. If the sound was really good, I might cut it some slack, but the sound was very average.

Cabin noise has improved over the previous Hilux, with that effort to make it every day usable. These changes are great on a Ute, as high road noise can lead to fatigue and other distractions. The overall change has helped to make the inside of the SR5 more comfortable and easy to use for long trips away to the bach. 

The rear seats had a good amount of space and legroom. It was a bit tight behind the driver’s seat due to how far I needed to push the seat back because of the aforementioned 4wd control dial. My daughter’s child seat can be positioned well and she had really good visibility out of all windows, which is key for a 3-year old in the back seats. The rear seats could also fold up to allow you to get larger items in the back on the floor. One thing I would have liked to have seen was some sort of secured storage compartments in the back, as it’s one major thing Utes generally suffer from. 

Overall the cabin feels tough and should stand the test of time for any tradie, however I fear it will also age faster and look much older than the vehicle is. With the recent release of the new Mazda BT-50, Toyota is going to have to lift their game on the interior. What they have now is just not cutting it for top-end spec or comfort. 

The tray is well appointed and finished. There are a plethora of poorly finished tray liners on the market and I am happy to report that the Sports Guard Liner is not one of them. It’s not so hard that it’s like steel itself – it has a bit of give to it – which is great for a wide range of sports and outdoor equipment. There are four tie downs, one in each corner. I would suggest getting the Tailgate Easy Down as it’s a heavy bit of kit and has a tendency to instantly drop open.

The Drive

From the lack of change to the inside, the engine and running gear saw major changes to the latest model. 

I found the upgraded engine to be very good; the 2.8-litre diesel turbo paired with a 6-speed automatic creates 150kW of power and 500Nm of torque. You can also have selectable 2-WD, 4-WD-H and 4-WD-L. The power range for this engine versus the weight of the truck was balanced very well. You never felt like you required more power, it always picked up and went better than expected. A very sprightly engine, without any real dead zones that will leave you wanting another burst of power.

Changing from the different drive modes was super easy, while on the go you can move from 2-WD to 4-WD-H, and to switch to 4-WD-L you need to be moving slower, under 20km per hour.

Fuel consumption appeared to be good too. Even though the manufacturer’s advertised combined figures were 9.4 L/100Km, our real world test figures were 12.2 L/100Km, which is not bad for what this vehicle is. My own 2014 Land Rover Discovery has a twin turbo diesel 3.0L V6 engine and it gets around the same figures. So for an engine that’s running one less turbo and that was tested with maybe a more aggressive foot, means you should see something closer to the manufacturer’s figures.

Like most utes the ride can be firm until you have at least 100kg-200kg loads in the back. This allows it to take up some pressure on the suspension as it is set to take heavy loads. Once it’s out of the full extension (empty tray) there is more travel for the springs thus making the ride a bit smoother.

The ute of today has to be good on several fronts; not only does it have to be able to do the heavy lifting during the day, but it’s got to be able to take the family home at the end of the day. More and more utes are being pushed towards being easier to use and live with. The Hilux is no exception and the SR5 Cruiser can proudly attest to that. I found that overall this Hilux handled well in multiple environments, while still being easy to drive and leave the driving feeling safe as houses.

The Competition

This range is a mix of petrol and diesel utes, with the sharp pricing Toyota have managed to go from one of the more expensive in this range down towards the bottom for price, offering far better value for money. 

Brand / ModelEnginePower, kW/NmTransmissionFuel L/100kmPrice Highest to Lowest
Ford Ranger FX42.0 litre 4-cylinder turbo diesel157/5006 speed sports automatic7.4$68.990
Isuzu D-Max LS Double Cab3 litre 4-cylinder turb odiesel140/4506 speed sports automatic8.0$65,990
Volkswagen Amarok Comfortline2 litre 4-cylinder twin turbodiesel132/4208 speed sports automatic8.5$63,000
Mazda BT-50 Limited3.0 litre 4-cylinder turbodiesel140/4506 speed sports automatic7.7$60,990
Toyota Hilux SR5 Limited2.8 litre 4-cylinder turbo diesel 150/5006 speed automatic9.6$58,990
Nissan Navara ST King Cab2.3 litre 4-cylinder twin turbo diesel140/4507 speed sports automatic7.0$58,590

PROS

  • So practical
  • Go-anywhere drivetrain
  • Comfortable
  • Good performance
  • Great tow vehicle
  • Sports tough deck
  • Wide range of accessories
  • Sharp pricing

CONS

  • Rear a bit “jiggly” when empty
  • Not ideal for tall people
  • 4WD selection dial placement
  • Plastic two-tone arches look cheap
  • Lacking storage space inside the cabin
  • JBL speakers on dash
  • Cruise control

2021 Toyota Hilux SR5 Cruiser 4WD

Vehicle TypeDouble Cab Utility Vehicle
Starting Price$58,990 + on-road costs
Tested Price$61,166 + on-road costs
Engine2.8 Litre Turbo diesel 4 Cylinder, 16 Valve Double Overhead Cam
Power, Torque150kW/500Nm
Transmission6-speed automatic transmission
Towing Capacity3500kg braked
750kg unbraked
Kerb Weight2000-2030kg
Length x Width x Height5325 x 1900 x 1815 mm
Fuel Tank80 litres
Fuel Economy, L/100kmAdvertised Spec – combined – 7.9
Real World Test – combined – 9.2

Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+
ANCAP Safety Ratings5 stars
Warranty3 years/100,000km warranty
3 years/45,000km servicing
3 years AA Roadside Assistance
REVIEW OVERVIEW
Economy
7
Interior
6
Performance
8
Safety
8
Styling
6
Value
7
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It started at a young age with bedroom posters, the Countach of course. This slowly grew into a super car die-cast model collection, fifty five 1:18 models at the last count. At which point it had almost taken full control, the incurable Mad Car Disease ran deep though my veins all the way to the bone. And things for my loved ones just got worse as the cars where now being bought at 1:1 scale, after a BMW, HSV, and couple of Audi's, the disease reached my brain, pushing me over the edge and down the rabbits hole into the world of the bedroom poster.

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