What's it like?
It’s the Hilux’s sheer toughness that has always made it famous. Yet, despite the wider brief of the new model, none of that toughness has been lost. In fact, the Hilux feels tougher and more indestructible than ever. Its competitive 1055kg max load and 3200kg braked towing weights are also confirmation that Hilux hasn't gone soft.
Our African test route was about as hardcore as they come, taking in everything from sand dunes, rutted gravel roads, and extended periods in off-road conditions including rocks, ridges, and steep ascents and descents. Predictably, the Hilux conquered all the conditions.
It has a full suite of off-road trickery to help it, including a low-range gearbox, diff locks, and hill descent control. The Hilux is easy to control off-road and is confidence-inspiring; the increased wheel travel allows for greater dips and lopsided pathways to be tackled, and with calm control of the pedals the electronic gizmos can bring out the explorer in you. You also feel yourself rocking around less in the cabin than in, say, a Land Rover Discovery.
That’ll all please the purists, and of course is key to the Hilux’s enduring appeal, but it’s the pick-up's performance away from the mucky stuff that’s of most interest here. It’s good to know that as Toyota has chosen to widen the Hilux's appeal, the vehicle’s core attributes are not lost.
But it’s perhaps the new engine that’s the most commercial vehicle-like in the Hilux. It’s noisy at start-up, and, although generally responsive, particularly in the mid-range thanks to a healthy spread of torque, it lacks the hushed smoothness you find in most large modern diesels. It’s good, but still not as convincing as a traditional SUV alternative despite the improved noise, vibration and harshness levels.
Both transmission options drive well. The manual shift is slick and precise for a pick-up, and the clutch light and easy to control. The automatic gearbox is vastly improved over the old Hilux’s, shifting quickly and smoothly and with an intelligent kickdown mode to aid swifter progress when needed. Most buyers in the UK go for the auto, but there’s nothing intimidating in the way the manual option works.
What really stands out is the way the Hilux drives. Although the ride is bumpy at lower speeds, at higher speeds it’s smooth and composed. It’s not the last word in sophistication, but it's certainly one of the best pick-ups in this area. The steering has plenty of weight, even if it is artificial-feeling, but again it’s enough to convince you that you’re not in a commercial vehicle.
We didn’t have much of a chance to see how it handles, as our test route largely comprised of straight roads, but the Hilux seemed to turn in keenly enough, and if you fancy a bit of a drive with nothing loaded over the rear axle there’s a chance of a wiggle from the tail.
The interior also scores points. Toyota offers the Hilux in three bodystyles: two-seat Single Cab, four-seat Extra Cab and five-seat Double Cab. The latter takes almost all UK sales, hence why it’s offered in all four trims, including the plush Invincible and Invincible X trims, which also appeal most to UK buyers who are increasingly using their Hilux’s as a sole vehicle for business, pleasure and family life.