22 January 2021

Toyota Hilux 2021 Car Review

The Toyota Hilux has always been a Kiwi favourite, and 2021 brings a more powerful turbo diesel engine, with enhanced capabilities and a much tougher and sharper look.

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Toyota Hilux 2021
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Toyota Hilux 2021
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Toyota Hilux 2021
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Toyota Hilux 2021
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Toyota Hilux 2021
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Toyota Hilux 2021
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Toyota Hilux 2021

Since its global launch in 1968, the unstoppable Hilux has proved its strength time and time again, having conquered the North Pole, Icelandic volcanoes, the Antarctic and getting a win in the Dakar Rally in 2019. Some of us might also remember the Top Gear episode where the Hilux was torture tested but remained fully operational.

With a bamboozling selection of 18 different Hilux variants in the 2021 line-up, there really is something for everyone. From the no frills, no thrills 2.7-litre petrol WorkMate (starting from just $28,990), all the way up to the most expensive offering - the 2.8-litre turbo diesel SR5 Cruiser Double Cab Ute (from $58,990).

Bolder looks

We tested one of the higher end 2.8 SR5 4WD models, and looks-wise there’s a lot to admire.

There’s a large trapezoidal grille that dominates the front end and incorporates more pronounced horizontal elements to deliver a wider look. Incidentally, the SR5 now features self-levelling headlights, which make it easier if you are carrying a heavy load. The new-look front, combined with new slimmer headlights and 17-inch rims - in a shade of cool dark grey - help to deliver a more aggressive appearance than the previous gen Hilux.

The 2021 line up adds two new colours - Deep Sea Blue and Emotional Red. As we discovered with our test model, the latter really does pop, and even in a busy Bunnings carpark we felt like the car stood out significantly.

Standard Safety

Toyota has put safety first and the Hilux was tested extensively by ANCAP as recently as 2019. The five-star ANCAP rated Hilux come standard with driver and passenger front and side airbags, driver's knee, and curtain shield airbags.

There’s a full range of electronic braking and traction-control technologies, emergency stop signal, reversing camera, seven airbags, and seatbelt reminders for all seats. On all double-cab variants, the rear seats have two top tether anchors and two ISOFIX points.

All variants have the much revered Toyota Safety Sense package. This standard safety package includes a Pre-Collision System with Autonomous Emergency Braking for vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert with Yaw Assist and Road Sign Assist.

Trailer Sway Control also comes as standard on all variants, while Active Traction Control is standard on all 4WD variants.

Durable, functional and connected interior

The interior design is well balanced between the durability and functionality required for work use with the refinement of an SUV.

There’s now an improved multimedia system with a central eight-inch touchscreen display with Apple CarPlay® and Android Auto™ and voice recognition across the range. The SR5 and SR5 Cruiser variants come standard with satellite navigation. Interestingly, our test model had a 220v domestic power socket, which would be great for charging the laptop and perfect for the makeshift office space.

The updated speedometer and tachometer dials have a cleaner and more premium appearance with white numbers and pointers on a grey-metallic background. The twin dials sit either side of a high-precision 4.2-inch Multi Information Display (MID) that includes a convenient digital speed readout.

The SR5 Cruiser has premium two tone dark grey and black perforated leather accented seats. PreRunner and 4WD double cabs have a 60/40 split base for the rear seat and a generous armrest. In addition, SR5 and SR5 Cruisers are fitted with a premium shift knob, steering wheel and chrome door handles.

The Hilux features a large 3,500kg or (2,500kgs on WorkMate) braked towing capacity, perfect for hauling a caravan or boat to the bach. Should you choose to use an unbraked trailer, 750kg should be plenty for the weekend warrior.

The Drive

The Hilux has been blessed with the 2.8-litre turbo diesel, which now develops 150kW and 500Nm with an increase of between 15% and 11% on outgoing variants.

The updates result in stronger overtaking and towing on highway hills, with maximum torque now available across a wider range of 1600-2800rpm (auto) and 1400-3400rpm (manual). As you might expect from a large vehicle, the 2021 Hilux is not the best for inner city carparks, but it still gets the job done. We could feel this model craved being on more challenging terrains than what we subjected it to in Auckland’s CBD.

Toyota engineers improved performance and fuel economy simultaneously by adopting a larger, heavy-duty turbocharger with a ball-bearing cartridge for exceptionally crisp and strong throttle response. The fuel consumption in the diesel 2021 Hilux variants is up to 11% better than outgoing models, while CO2 emissions are down 5%. On the SR, SR5, and SR5 Cruiser models, drivers may choose either normal drive mode, or two extra modes – ‘ECO’, which reduces throttle response in favour of fuel economy and reduces power consumption for heating and cooling, and ‘POWER’ to provide snappier acceleration response for a more engaging drive on undulating and winding roads.


The Toyota Hilux is now more powerful, attractive and capable than ever before. Although it’s more of an incremental upgrade, it’s a welcomed member of the Toyota family due to increased competition from new kids on the block like the Mazda BT-50, and Isuzu D-Max.

Of course, we can’t review a ute without mentioning the car that shadows the entire segment - the ever-popular Ford Ranger. Perhaps with all the action in this segment, another manufacturer may take the lead in 2021. Toyota has been a big player in New Zealand over the years, and we hope this new refined model helps boost sales.

At a glance


Toyota Hilux 4WD SR5


2.8-litre turbo diesel


From $53,990 (TDP) 

ANCAP safety rating



150kW @ 3,000-3,400rpm


Six speed auto

Fuel economy

Combined 7.9L/100km

Towing capacity

3,500kg (Braked), 750kg (Unbraked). 150kg ball down force weight



Seating capacity


Luggage capacity/payload

950kg payload

Safety systems

  • Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD)
  • Pre-Collision System (PCS)
  • Brake assist
  • Active Yaw
  • Crash Avoidance with Braking
  • Parking Assist - Graphical Display
  • Pedestrian Avoidance with Braking
  • Trailer Stability

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