The Toyota HiLux pickup is one of Australia’s most popular choices, in fact the most popular for the last five years in a row. Of course, that figure is boosted by mining, farming and fleet purchases but more than ever, families too are taking the dual-cab route.

It makes sense, to have a vehicle that can be used for work during the week and adventure on the weekends, that can carry tools and prams with equal aplomb and is at home at school drop-off as it is on rugged forest tracks.

So, it was exciting news to have the new Toyota HiLux dual-cab manual SR5 living with us for three months. I was looking forward to embracing the nostalgia but generally speaking my husband and kids are a discerning lot. The new Ranger and Isuzu D-Max are currently sitting at the top of the family dual-cab totem pole but this was a chance to really get acquainted with an old favourite.

The new HiLux has updated looks, increased power and improved technology but it still feels a little underwhelming.

Ok, so first impressions. I like the new nose and grille on the SR5 – it sits prouder more business-like and is altogether much more interesting. There are some new bi-LED lights which as an aside, work really well, and a chrome sports-bar that breaks things up at the tray end but also provides a good anchor point when you are tying down bulky items. There is no tub liner as standard though which seems a bit cheeky for a vehicle costing in excess of $60,000 driveaway.

There is little pomp and ceremony here but the interior remains clean-cut and functional with a modern twist and quality fit and finish. It is a little dark with brush metal highlights offering the only reprieve but there is also a reassuring solidness about it too so you know that it will deal well with the scrapes of everyday life.

It copes well enough with five passengers, both tall and small. It feels tighter for taller passengers in the rear than it does in some competitors but you don’t need to be a contortionist to fit. Seats are supportive enough, upfront anyway, with the driver getting a heated and power-adjusted pew.

Storage is pretty decent with pop-out dash mounted cupholders, dual glove boxes, compartments between the front seats and in front of the gear shifter and deep door bins. There are two cupholders in the rear fold-down armrest and back seat passengers also get map pockets and hooks for their bits and bobs and air-vents – a feature you don’t often see in dual-cab pickups.

The HiLux boasts a larger infotainment touchscreen and finally, finally, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There are large dials to make it easier to adjust on the go and system itself is intuitive even if the graphics are not fabulous.

There is only one USB port which can be a pain but you can use a USB adapter on one of the two 12V outlets. There is also a 220V (100W) socket if needed.

Our SR5 is powered by a 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel unit. It can now drum up 150kW of power at 3400rpm with peak torque in our six-speed manual transmission at 420Nm from 1400-3400rpm. Automatic transmissions can manage 500Nm from 1600-2800rpm.

With a five-star ANCAP rating from 2019, the HiLux SR5 features seven airbags, lane departure warning with lane-keep assist, autonomous emergency braking, digital speedo with speed sign recognition and warning.

The pre-collision safety system has day and night pedestrian detection and daytime cyclist detection.

There are two ISOFIX attachments and two top tethers (loops) for their car seats. There are a few features missing like blind-spot alert, rear cross traffic alert or even a centre airbag now standard in the new Isuzu D-Max.

This HiLux is better for the nudge in power and of course the suspension tweaks made at the latter end of the previous iteration. It feels confident and sturdy and reliable. The gears shift sweetly, the clutch takes just at the right height (even for more delicate feet) and the brakes when needed are sound.

So far it has been an able companion at the school drop-off, at sporting activities and on green runs to the dump. Sometimes it doesn’t feel very composed over bumps especially with little in the tub, sometimes it feels like it is tip-toeing around corners or lumbering through roundabouts. But mostly, it just works hard.

Kilometres travelled – 1178km
Fuel Consumption – 9.2L/100km

Having access to dual cab pickup when you are moving house is like all your Christmases have come at once. Until now our Toyota HiLux SR5 has hardly broken a sweat with nary a stray off the beaten path and nothing but garden clippings to test its load-carrying prowess.

Well, we certainly remedied that this month. The HiLux dual-cab manual is rated for 3500kg with a 350kg tow ball download maximum. As an aside it’s good to remember Gross Vehicle Mass. This is how much the vehicle can safely weigh under full load – so the weight of the people, the load in the tray, any accessories and the weight of the vehicle itself. So basically, it means that realistically you can’t carry a full payload and tow the full 3500kg at the same time.

This month the HiLux made 11 trips to the storage shed, eight trips to the dump and about 23,000 trips to the charity shop as we tried to declutter our lives in preparation for the move to our tiny new renovator. Here in the flesh was the fabulous versatility of a dual-cab pickup in action – family chariot by day and all-time action hero the rest of the time.

The HiLux, I think, still drives best under load, so confident and settled. A tray liner would have been nice though.

Kilometres travelled – 1375km
Fuel Consumption – 9 L/100km

After the Hilux’s uncomplaining workhorse performance last month, we are giving it a chance to stretch its legs and have some fun. This month’s highlight was a family camping trip, a six-day adventure at a 4×4-only accessible camp spot.

The HiLux has always been a more than capable off-roader and the latest edition is no exception. It has excellent underbody protection and the rear diff lock and electronic traction control are a keen help when the going is slow. We found the 310mm ground clearance rather useful over a rutty part of the track.

The Toyota HiLux has made itself at home over the last three months and it’s easy to see why it remains a favourite. It is not perfect of course – it could be a touch more luxurious at this price point, the ride can sometimes be bumpy and it can hard to see over the nose when sliding into a carpark. But there is a lot to like too, versatility and work ethic among them. This is an easy vehicle to live it and we will miss the Toyota HiLux SR5.

Kilometres travelled – 1502km
Fuel Consumption – 9.5 L/100km

Capacity: 2.8 litres
Configuration: Four-cylinder turbo-petrol
Maximum Power: 150 kW @ 3400 rpm
Maximum Torque: 420 Nm @ 1400-3400 rpm
Fuel Type: Diesel
Combined Fuel Cycle : 8.1 L/100km
Warranty: 5 years unlimited kilometre
Service intervals: 6 months or 10,000km

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