2019 Toyota HiLux Rugged Review

2019 Toyota Hilux Rugged Road Test Review

Toyota’s marketing machine swung into action last year and came up with a trio of high-end Hilux utes based on dealer intel’ on the most popular accessories fitted by Hilux buyers.

Based on this, they turned out the Rugged, Rugged X and Rogue.

Having driven the Rogue and Rugged X autos at length, I was seriously interested in the Rugged manual, subject of this review.

At $54,990 MLP* it sells for $6500 less than the other two and misses out on very little in real terms.

The Rugged is based on a lower spec’ SR Hilux and not the SR5 like the other two.

But hey, who cares about the flash stuff when you’re plonking along some remote bush track pushing down saplings in your path.

As the name suggests, the Rugged is a rugged off road dual cab ute with more of a traditional off road focus.

The steel bull bar is bolted to the front chassis and not integrated into the body work like the Rugged X and Rogue. It has cloth upholstery, rock rails down the side and a snorkel among the generous features list.

Power comes from the same 2.8-litre, turbo diesel, four cylinder with chain driven overhead camshafts but the Rugged driven had a six speed manual which dictates a reduction in peak torque from 450Nm to 420Nm.

From what I could see, about the only thing the Rugged misses out on that matters is a light bar.

Toyota Hilux Rugged


A tough looking truck for sure with that imposing bull bar, side rock bars, sports bar in the tub and rear steel bumper bar with a tow bar.

No holds barred eh?

Rugged doesn’t get the pretty new face of the Hilux Vogue but with a bull bar, does it matter?

Black plastic body mouldings and black panted components are dotted about the body and the new 17-inch alloys have a  generic look to them. Personally, I would have put black or white painted steel Sunraysias on Rugged if I was Mr Toyota.

Anyhoo, the whole package looks fit for purpose and ready to go bush bashing at the drop of a hat.

And the good thing is all the exterior accessories have been properly integrated here in Australia by Toyota engineers and are fully covered by the factory warranty. Has to be a better bet than accessorising the Hilux yourself….

Toyota Hilux Rugged


Inside, Rugged looks just like the other two except for leather inserts in the seats and a little bit less sexy instrumentation. It scores a big control screen in the centre of the dash and decent audio to boot.

But Rugged still has that annoying satnav that can only be programmed with the car stopped.

The cloth is comfortable and serviceable and rubber floor mats make much more sense in a work vehicle

The colours are overwhelmingly tones of grey but again, it’s a work vehicle… supposedly.

I really liked the hissing sound coming through the snorkel when you get Rugged on full boost.  But other than that, the interior is dead quiet most of the time.

It’s easy to drive, has plenty of seat adjustment in the front and excellent all round visibility. The reverse camera has a wide view with handy marker lines.

Toyota Hilux Rugged


  • Integrated satnav
  • DAB (useless in the bush)
  • 17-inch alloys
  • Black body mouldings
  • Snorkel
  • Traditional steel bull bar
  • Steel rear bumper with integrated tow bar
  • Tub liner
  • Proper selectable 4×4 with H and L range
  • Side rock rails
  • Steel sports bar
  • Recovery hooks

Toyota Hilux Rugged

Drive and Engine

I took the Rugged on a long drive on the highway and off road with a big tow thrown in.

While the auto is preferable in all applications, the manual acquits itself well apart from some clutch abuse getting it off the line when towing a heavy load.

The overall fuel economy with general driving was 8.2 litres/100km while that went up to an impressive 10.7 when towing 2.0 tonnes.

The manual Hilux is by far the most economical vehicle I have towed a car trailer with…. ever.

It has plenty of get go and strong torque despite being 30Nm under the auto. You can’t feel any difference really.

The engine is smooth and relatively quiet and feels strong all the time, even lugging down to less than 1500rpm.

Ride quality is equally impressive offering comfort and control and with half a tonne in the tub, little changes, infact, it feels a bit more supple.

The steering is fine as far as one tonne utes go and the brakes feel strong even when towing downhill.

No complaints about the shift action of the gearbox, clutch action or the ratio selection.

Not much to complain about at all really.

Toyota Hilux Rugged 1


Hilux gets five stars with multiple air bags and all the requirements for a top ANCAP rating but not much by way of advanced driver assist technology. Very little actually.

The rear brakes are still drums but some people prefer that.

No AEB or lane keeping assist etc. But again, some people prefer that, me among them especially in a working truck like this.

The reversing camera is handy and the bull bar is almost mandatory if you’re going to drive out in the bush.


Good Bits

  • Impressive fuel economy for a heavy dual cab ute
  • Impressive ride and handling for a one tonner
  • Tows like a beauty
  • Adequate amount of features
  • Like the rugged exterior treatment with all the protection bars
  • Really does feel unbreakable

Not So Good Bits

  • Would buy the auto every day
  • Steel Sunraysias more appropriate wheel for this model
  • No light bar
  • Annoying satnav
  • Minimal advanced driver assist technology (if that’s an issue)
  • Weighs over 2200kg


Yep, my drive of the Toyota Hilux Rugged served to underline why Hilux is the most popular vehicle in Australia.

Apart from being the best value for money among the three new models, Rugged ticks nearly all the boxes and just does everything that little bit better than the competitors.

I like the looks too especially with that new honeycomb grille behind the traditional bull bar.

Then there’s the Toyota dealer network.

Enough said.

Toyota Hilux Rugged

Also look at:

Facts and Figures: 2019 Toyota Hilux Rugged manual

  • Engine: 2.8L four-cylinder turbo diesel producing 130kW/420Nm
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual
  • Warranty: 5 years/ unlimited km
  • Safety: Five stars
  • Origin: Thailand
  • Price: from $54,490 MLP*

*MLP – Manufacturers List Price includes GST and LCT but excluding statutory charges, dealer costs and dealer delivery. See your dealer for RDAP. Does not include price of any options.


  1. Hey Peter,

    Great review of a Manual Hilux Rugged / x, which not many people seemingly have done.

    I just noticed that you had one or two positives about the manual rugged/rugged X transmission, however you still would buy it in an Auto at the end of the day in your summary.

    I have been a manual driver my entire life, I never particularly loved auto. I just had a Subaru Levorg in it’s CVT for the last 3 years which, while was a great car I secretly swore to return to manual.

    Finding a Rugged / x manual to test drive is hard so I was given a manual SR5 to test drive and told “It’s the same albeit smoother in the rugged due to the extra weight”

    Loved the pick up speed of the manual and found the clutch really easy.

    Did you have any other specifics that really still steered you to the Auto? I’m in the process of about to buy the Rugged X and going for a manual but the wait time and pressure from dealers to push me to an auto is making me wonder if its worth it.

    I live in the city (traffic in manual doesn’t bother me) but want to take a 1 x Tonne off road camper trailer away on weekends etc yet look a little stylish at the same time.

    Appreciated any extra thoughts you have.

    Merry Christmas as well!


    • Hi Rob

      Thanks for the comment and the feedback. I go for an auto simply because im getting old and lazy. The manual in the HiLux is easy to use and smooth yet robust for a Ute. With the Intelligent manual system as well it allows more control with choices between sport and eco etc.

      The main reason dealers would be pushing you towards an AT is possibly because of stock. Im not sure how prevalent the MT are, especially in this top end spec. Also resale value would be dramatically reduced from an AT as not many buyers want the manual.

      Cheers Rob (Editor).

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