With in excess of 18 million utes sold globally and 142,000 (basically the population of Tauranga) of those sold here in New Zealand, it’s plain to see that we (the collective we) have a bit of a thing for the last seven generations of the Toyota Hilux. Well, get ready to let the affair continue as the 2021 Hilux has been launched with 18 models to choose from (basically one to suit everyone) and Toyota NZ let me try a few configurations out. The SR5 Cruiser AT 2WD Double Cab, SR5 AT 4WD Double Cab and two SR AT 4WD Double Cabs to be exact.
In common, the 2021 Toyota Hilux line-up features a larger trapezoid grille (with different surrounds to denote variant) and headlights that offer a mean ‘Eastwood’ squint. Most of the range comes with a 2.8-litre turbo diesel engine that offers 15% more power and 11% more torque than its predecessor – 150kW/500Nm. The suspension has been uprated across the board, making it a much more pleasant drive on the road when unladen and Toyota’s ‘Safety Sense’ suite of driver and safety aids (with the likes of Pre-Collision System (PCS) with AEB, Lane Departure Alert, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Road Sign Assist (RSA)) are standard – making them ANCAP 5-star all the way.
Although I was given the four models in no particular order, I think I’ll start at the base (in terms of spec) and work my way up.
The Hilux SR AT 4WD Double Cab Chassis sits at the lower end of the range (L2) but in truth it was one of my favourites. My review model came in a basic glacier white had an Alloy tray and a price tag of $48,490. As luck would have it, my son had a football tournament at Mt Smart Stadium during the review and a request was sent out for someone to transport the team’s marque – I willingly volunteered.
With three drop down sides and a maximum payload of 1065kg, the SR made light work of the heavy tent. What’s more, its lower loading height meant that I (ok we) didn’t get hernias when lifting it in. 17-inch steel wheels and a rugged attitude, the SR felt up to the task, even when the wife tried to load it with ‘necessary’ stuff for the two day event – the Swanndri came in handy though
The double cabin comfortably housed the three of us, with room for two more and although the finishing was leaning more towards ‘utilitarian’, it still came with an 8-inch infotainment screen, reversing camera and Apple/Android connectivity – we didn’t win the tournament in case you were wondering.
The Hilux SR AT 4WD Double Cab takes things up a notch and looks more in keeping with ‘civilised’ utes. My model came in silver sky, with steel wheels and had a price tag of $49,990. Look a little closer and you find a tailgate that comes with a more basic dual catch system, an absence of floor mats (making entry for the front passenger a little slippery) and a bonnet weight that would offer Charles Atlas a good work out. However, despite its manual A/C dials and tough plastic finishing, (it is a ute after all) the fabric seats are comfortable and the ride, as advertised, is vastly improved.
Being a city dweller and with absolutely nothing to tote around, I used the SR as I believe many others will, like a family vehicle. We headed to the store, day-tripped to the beach and generally just used it. The upgraded suspension felt firm on the tarmac, even the ones with potholes and venturing onto gravel just seemed to make things even better. And should I have had access to some ‘off-road’ terrain, the 2021 Hilux 4WD had Automatic Disconnecting Differential (ADD) and Differential Lock & Auto LSD would’ve got me in and out of trouble.
Up a level (L3) and into the Hilux SR5 AT 4WD Double Cab. Dressed in emotional Red, its steel wheels became alloys, keys became ‘smart’, trim was upgraded and price rose to $53,990. There’s more refinement throughout, particularly in areas that you touch and feel. The steering wheel is leather, as is the gear knob, carpet is added, as is navigation, it may all seem trivial but they combine to make the Hilux experience more upmarket and less rural.
Last but not least the (L4) Hilux SR5 Cruiser AT 2WD Double Cab. My model came in deep sea blue and thanks to its ‘only’ two-wheel drive set up, had a price tag of a mere $47,990. Aside from the Mako (and the extra 2WD), this model more or less ticked all the modern day ute boxes. The stereo system came courtesy of JBL, more leather throughout and more, well more of everything. Okay so fundamentally it drives more or less the same as the others, but I have to say that the added extras really do make a difference and just quietly, should you be someone that never really requires drive to all wheels but likes life’s luxuries, then this is the option to go for.
Over fifty years of experience, millions of sales and probably billions of miles have gone into producing this 8th generation Hilux and it shows. It’s a better ride, more powerful and better connected than ever before, and what’s more, whether you’re out on the farm or deep in the urban jungle, with eighteen models to choose from, there’s bound to be a Toyota NZ 2021 Hilux to suit your needs.