RAC Cars News


Just how tough is the Toyota Hilux?

By raccars Published


The Toyota Hilux has a rough and tough reputation but is becoming more and more sophisticated.

The Toyota Hilux has a cockroach-like ability to survive seemingly anything. While it's still an incredibly tough machine, Toyota is adding some comfort and convenience features to the latest version of the pick-up. The Hilux now comes with plenty of technology, better fuel economy and smoother driving dynamics.

The Toyota Hilux as a family car?

The Japanese company risks making the pick-up a jack of all trades and master of none, but hopes that its considerable knowledge and experience will be enough to make the Hilux 'all cars to all people'. It's always been indestructible but the Hilux hasn't always been that usable or easy to live with. The updates could even earn it the covetable SUV tag, with all the associated profit making opportunities that implies for its manufacturer.

The Hilux is sold in 172 countries world-wide, and Toyota's chief engineer has visited 110 of them to speak to owners of the pick-up and ask them how they feel the vehicle could be improved. The results suggested that the Hilux could do with being more user friendly, allowing owners to use it as their personal vehicle as well as a workhorse. A number of other big name pick-ups have already gone down this road, including the Nissan Navara, VW Amarok and the Mitsubishi L200, while the PSA Group, Renault and Mercedes are preparing similar models of their own.

A more modern Hilux

The previous Hilux has been on the market since 2004, during which time it has been overtaken by its rivals in terms of quality and sophistication, even if they can't quite match its performance. The new model boasts added rigidity for extra strength and better handling. The suspension has been given a little more flexibility to improve both its off-road behaviour and its on-road manners. The cabin is now a more attractive place too, with leather upholstery and a modern infotainment system, although it's still furnished with practical plastics which are both hard wearing and easy to clean.

Toyota has been careful not to go too soft, however, and has enlarged and reinforced the cargo area so that it can haul loads of 1,055kg and tow 3.2 tonnes. By the end of this year towing ability will go up to 3.5 tonnes. The pick-up is available as a two seater Single Cab, a four seater Extra Cab (albeit with a rather limited rear seat allocation) and a five seater Double Cab, which will be the best-seller in the range.

The mechanicals

Under the bonnet Toyota has provided a 2.4 litre diesel engine with 148bhp instead of the old 2.5 litre and 3.0 litre diesel units. There's added torque available too and fuel economy has risen to 41.5mpg. Buyers can choose from six speed manual or automatic transmissions and can self-select two and four wheel drive and a low range option in both for all models. It's not the most refined of mechanical set-ups but is pretty willing and is certainly an improvement upon the previous power trains.

While the Hilux is undoubtedly a big machine, it's surprisingly easy to drive thanks to the raised position of the driver's seat which, with some big old wing mirrors provides excellent visibility. The switchgear and clutch are also pleasant to use. Despite its new comfort and ability to blend into an urban environment, the Hilux is as impressive as ever when you try some rough stuff. It's not exactly an alternative to an SUV, but the updates have returned it to its rightful place as the leader of the pick-up class.

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