The Australian Ute landscape is undergoing a colossal shift, with the trend swaying towards larger, American-style trucks. However, a recent reveal of the Toyota HiLux Champ in Thailand, a vehicle primarily released for the Asian market, suggests a refreshing alternative direction for Utes in Australia.
Historically, Australians have cherished smaller utility vehicles, with icons like the Ford Falcon Ute and Holden Commodore Ute being prime examples.
These vehicles encapsulated a perfect balance of practicality and convenience, embodying the true spirit of Australian Utes. Their versatility made them ideal for both carrying significant loads and maneuvering through city landscapes.
The current market trend, however, leans heavily towards larger models. This is evident with the introduction of mammoth models such as the Ford F-150, Toyota Tundra, and RAM's 1500 and 2500 in Australia.
While these vehicles have their merits, they represent a departure from the classic Australian Ute concept, prioritizing size over the agility and simplicity that once defined this segment.
Enter the Toyota HiLux Champ, a vehicle that might just redefine the Ute landscape in Australia. With its release in Thailand, this vehicle stands as a testament to Toyota's expertise in crafting utility vehicles that are both functional and aesthetically appealing.
The HiLux Champ, or "mini HiLux" as some affectionately call it, offers a return to the Ute's roots, combining functionality with a sleek design and the ability to handle significant loads.
The HiLux Champ starts at approximately 19,300 AUD, a competitive price point considering the features it offers. It comes in standard and long wheelbase versions, catering to different space requirements. Its design is minimalist yet functional, featuring a black grille, bumpers, mirrors, door handles, and a choice of four paint colors.
The interior follows a similar theme with vinyl seats, manual window winders, and basic instruments - a nod to the Ute's utilitarian roots.
Under the hood, the HiLux Champ does not disappoint. It offers a range of engine options: a 2.0-litre petrol engine perfect for daily tasks, a more powerful 2.7-litre petrol engine, and a 2.4-litre turbo-diesel engine ideal for heavier loads.
These engines are paired with either a five-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission, catering to different driving preferences.
The Champ remains a rear-wheel drive, a deliberate choice by Toyota to maintain the Ute's traditional driving experience. It might not have a 4x4 system, but it ticks essential boxes in safety with airbags, ABS, EBD, and seat belt pretensioners.
Moreover, its versatility allows it to be transformed into almost anything - from a van to a food truck, making it ideal for work and play.
Despite its appeal, Toyota has been non-committal about introducing the HiLux Champ to the Australian market. This hesitance comes amid some criticisms of the current HiLux models, which some argue feel outdated compared to their rivals.
The introduction of the HiLux Champ could offer a much-needed refresh to Toyota’s Ute lineup in Australia.
The debate is now open to the public. If Australians see the value in bringing this compact, versatile, and efficient Ute to their shores, their voices need to be heard.
The HiLux Champ represents more than just a vehicle; it symbolizes a return to the essence of what Australian Utes stand for - simplicity, functionality, and adaptability.
What are your thoughts? Should the Toyota HiLux Champ be brought to Australia? Share your opinions below, and let's see if we can sway Toyota to introduce this potential game-changer to the Aussie Ute market.
Matt Brand, the esteemed car critic from Car Sauce, offers unparalleled expertise on all things automotive. From new car releases to pre-owned options, he provides in-depth analysis and honest evaluations to guide readers through the car-buying process. Join us as he delves into the exciting world of motoring.