It was the best-selling model in 2016 and for years has helped Toyota stay at the top of the charts. But when compared to the current crop of today’s fashionable, flashy alternatives it doesn’t rate a mention, at least in the critic’s eyes. Chris Bowen spent a week in the top of the range Hilux SR5 and came away pleasantly surprised.

Make: Toyota

Model: Hilux

Variant: SR5

Engine / Transmission: 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel. 6-speed manual

Vital Stats: 130kW/420Nm

Toyota Claimed Fuel Economy: 7.5L / 100km

EFTM Claimed Fuel Economy: 8.5L/ 100km

Price: From $53,990

Wow Factor: I firmly believe that the interior of the new Hilux is close to class leading. Toyota hasn’t gone for a car-like wrap around cockpit like the Nissan Navara for example, but rather a uniquely-styled dash that simply works. Its horizontal design features good use of decent materials and convincing satin look inlays. The multifunction steering wheel feels substantial and classy, plus the instrument cluster has just enough modern blue lighting and a clear smaller middle screen to hold its head high.

The Hilux does indeed feel rock solid, when you drive over a hundred new cars each year you inherently know when a vehicle is well put together. This Toyota trait has been the cornerstone of the brand’s success for decades, the Hilux simply continues to fly the flag in that regard.

Most Impressive: A manual, diesel dual-cab may furrow the brow of many, but the six-speeder found in our test model was a breeze to use, dare I say even fun. A button labeled iMT (Intelligent Manual Transmission) allows for downshift rev matching, kind of like blipping the throttle. This provides for extra smooth gear changes and theoretically better fuel economy. Despite being down on power compared with much of the competition, the 2.8-litre diesel is hardly a slouch, a power button allows for some extra gusto should the mood arise. It almost acts like a sport mode, making the engine extra energetic under a more sensitive throttle.

I drove the Hilux SR5 much like many of its owners will, on the bitumen, highways and around shopping centre carparks. While maneuvering it is hardly SUV-like in terms of finesse, the array of sensors, reversing camera and well-weighted steering made navigating the urban jungle easy enough.

The optional hard tonneau cover and lined tray with bright LED interior light certainly made trips to IKEA a satisfying event.

Least Impressive: Toyota really seems to struggle with infotainment displays, check out one in a brand new Toyota Landcrusier GXL and you’d think Strathfield Car Radios had installed it, in 1995. The newer 4.2-inch iPad style screen is ok, it certainly integrates much better into the overall scheme of things but it’s the interface behind it that causes a lot of “eyes off the road” time.

The ride is flat enough and certainly not ungainly, but it can be a tad harsh at times. A decent load in the rear would probably help soften the blows, but this is not unusual for any dual-cab.

The 4×4 system is switchable on the fly into 4H mode, while 4L and locking the rear diff is performed while stopped. This means for the majority of the time the Hilux is purely rear-wheel driven. An on-demand system is available on more sophisticated offerings such as the Volkswagen Amarok and Mitsubishi Triton. This makes driving on wet roads that little bit safer.

The Sweeping Statement: It may not have nice face, but hey a bull bar would fix that right? Overall the Toyota Hilux SR5 stacks up better than I thought against the others purely as a day to day drive. It’s also now no longer the most expensive dual-cab around. So it’s simply a matter of doing the sums, considering the reliability factor and perhaps putting aside the inevitable judgments made about Toyota drivers in general.