- Credit: Toyota NZ

The New Toyota Hilux and All New Hilux Mako, Land in NZ, Literally.

The Toyota Hilux is back. While it may look the same as before, there is more than meets the eye. Especially as the range now contains a predator.

42w ago

The Toyota Hilux and the Kiwi motorist go hand in hand. Never has a single model of vehicle become so intrenched in the minds of New Zealanders. You need only look at the sheer number of them getting stuck in on farms and crossing riverbeds with a plethora of gumboot wearing bushmen.

With 18 million Toyota Hilux sold globally, and more than 142,000 residing in NZ, the Hilux is for many Kiwis, their favourite work tool or family truck. Toyota revamped the Hilux in 2015 and for 2021, there have been styling tweaks and an engineering overhaul to keep the old warrior in contention with the likes of the Ford Ranger and Mitsubishi Triton. I was invited to the national launch of the 2021 Hilux in Palmerston North and New Plymouth, and was in for a treat.

Toyota New Zealand’s take on the 2021 Hilux has been shaped around the special relationship between Kiwi buyers and their truck. “The Hilux legacy is built on the unbreakable bond between owner and truck,” says Toyota New Zealand CEO Neeraj Lala. “The 2021 truck is no different. It is our most technologically advanced truck ever, and with its performance improvements, this is a truck that is in its element everywhere,” he says.



The range starts with the 2WD Hilux Workmate. With a 2.7 litre four-cylinder engine and 122kW/245Nm. Mated to a six-speed automatic, the single cab Workmate is designed for tradesman, or tradies if you prefer, who want a low-cost practical truck which can lug stuff around without the need of heading into the rough stuff.

The biggest changes have been with the 2WD and 4WD Double and Extra Double Cab SR, SR5 and SR5 Cruisers. The 2.8L four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine now produces 15% more power, 130kW is now 150kW, and torque has gone up by 11%, equating to 500Nm from 450Nm. Toyota now also claim a more linear torque curve, with most of its 500nm kicking in low in the rev range at around 1400 to 3400 rpm. The choice of six speed manual or six speed automatic transmissions are still available. If you opt for the manual in the SR Double Cab, you get Down Hill Assist Control.



Underneath the Hilux has been enhanced with longer leaf springs, retuned spring rates, bushes and shocks. The emphasis on the surface is to make Hilux handle better than ever. The SR, SR5 and SR5 Cruiser get two additional drive modes, ECO and Power. The former dials down the grunt for economical driving, while power, as the name suggest, dials it up for a spirited drive. Towing capacity remains the same at 3.5 tonnes, while the base Workmate sits at 2.5 tonnes.

Styling wise, the Hilux still looks very much the same, but with a bit of automotive nip and tuck. Models from SR5 up get LED headlights which give a more menacing glare. The SR5 gets polished chrome-esque detailing around the gril akin to Toyota’s US spec Tundra, while the SR5 Cruiser gets the same but with dark grey accents, a la Toyota Tacoma.

The Workmate gets 16-inch steel wheels while the SR 2WD and 4WD get 17’s. SR5 and SR5 Cruiser get 17 and 18 inch blacked out alloys respectively. It’s sort of obvious Toyota is trying to emulate the styling of its American products, and I think it looks great.



Inside there have been more subtle changes. A new 8-inch infotainment screen replaces the old 7-inch system and a new dial display screen takes centre stage. All models are now standard with Toyota’s Safety Sense Package which incorporates Pre Collision Warning, Autonomous Emergency Braking, Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert, Yaw Assist and Road Side Assist.

The SR5 has the advantage of parking sensors all around, Sat Nav, LED taillights and push button start. The SR5 Cruiser gets this and Ambient Lighting, Auto Dimming Rear Mirror, and a thumping JBL stereo system. Oh, and finally, the whole range gets Apple CarPlay/Android Auto as standard.



Our launch took us from Palmerston North, across the North Island to New Plymouth, by way of a number of farm paddocks and tight twisty hilltop roads. I spent most of my time in the SR5 and SR5 Cruiser. On first impressions, it becomes quickly apparent the tweaks underneath have produced the most comfortable Hilux to date.

Also, carrying speed through any given corner is met with compliant body roll and turn in. Another aspect to the new Hilux worth mentioning is that more linear torque curve. That extra low-down torque makes a difference, especially when getting up to speed.

Off road and onto a privately owned 2,000-hectare farm, it becomes blindingly obvious the Hilux is still a made devourer of farm tracks and muddy inclines. I managed to have a wee play with Hill Start Assist, which holds the car in place for a few seconds on a steep incline. After you start to roll back, you can get on the gas and power up the hill. Most impressive.



The biggest reveal was yet to come. After stopping for a bite to eat a Boat Club outside New Plymouth on the West Coast, Toyota New Zealand unveiled the toughest variant of the new Hilux, the Hilux Mako.

Named after the Maori word for Shark, and the shark itself for that matter, the Hilux Mako has been built to take a bite out of the Ford Ranger Raptor’s share of the extreme ute segment. Airlifted to us by a Black Hawk helicopter, I kid you not, the Mako will be built to customer order at Toyota’s Thames Vehicle Operations. “We have taken a great truck and added some Kiwi muscle and flair,” says Neeraj Lala.

At first glance the Mako looks somewhat similar to the shark which inspired it. Its square jawed front bumper and nose actually do have a whiff of squalus about it. The Mako gets 18-inch matte black alloys wheels with Maxxis Razr off road tyres, more muscular fender flares, tinted windows, steel bulbar, and a more aggressive rear bumper.

Underneath the Mako gets upgraded ARB Old Man Emu BP-51 shocks with combine adjustable compression and rebound damping control, allowing the Mako to tow and eat up the bumps easier. You also get beefed up brakes with braided lines, increasing hydraulic brake pressure. Under the bonnet sits the same 2.8L four pot turbo diesel found in the 4WD SR5 Cruiser.



Inside, its there is plenty of leather, hip hugging Mako embossed sports seats, and the same level of toys and safety gear. The base price for the bespoke customer ordered Mako is $79,990 NZ TDP, or Toyota Driveaway Price, with the only option being the $1500NZ towbar/rear tow hook kit.

Sadly, I wasn’t able to have a spirited jaunt in the Mako, but after a good amount of time in the SR and SR5 variants of the 2021 Toyota Hilux, I have found these little tweaks to comfort and refinement while on the move have brought Toyota’s old warrior back into the fold as one of the best utes in this segment. Looking forward to spending more time it over the coming months, though whether or not a Mako will be fished out too, remains to be confirmed.



2021 Toyota Hilux NZ Toyota Driveaway Price (TDP) list

2WD 2.7P WorkMate Single Cab Chassis AT $28,990

2WD 2.7P WorkMate Double Cab Ute AT $29,990

2WD 2.8TD PreRunner SR Extra Cab Ute AT $39,990

2WD 2.8TD PreRunner SR Double Cab Ute MT $39,990

2WD 2.8TD PreRunner SR Double Cab Ute AT $41,490

2WD 2.8TD PreRunner SR5 Double Cab Ute MT $40,990

2WD 2.8TD PreRunner SR5 Double Cab Ute AT $44,490

2WD 2.8TD PreRunner SR5 Cruiser Double Cab Ute AT $47,990

4WD 2.8TD SR Single Cab Chassis AT $44,990

4WD 2.8TD SR Extra Cab Chassis MT $44,990

4WD 2.8TD SR Extra Cab Chassis AT $46,990

4WD 2.8TD SR Double Cab Chassis MT $45,990

4WD 2.8TD SR Double Cab Chassis AT $48,490

4WD 2.8TD SR Double Cab Ute MT $47,990

4WD 2.8TD SR Double Cab Ute AT $49,990

4WD 2.8TD SR5 Double Cab Ute MT $51,990

4WD 2.8TD SR5 Double Cab Ute AT $53,990

4WD 2.8TD SR5 Cruiser Double Cab Ute AT $58,990

4WD Hilux Mako AT $79,990

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