What is it? Eighth generation of most famed pick-up.
Key features: More road-friendly design but same toughness.
Our View: In the exclusive club of pick-up trucks, the Toyota Hilux stands supreme. This is a true motoring icon, a model that has been going where few others can for almost half a century. Some 18 million of them, over seven generations, have found owners across the world and particularly in Europe, where the Hilux is the most popular vehicle of its type.
Type of review: First UK drive
The toughness of the Hilux is legendary – this is, after all, the pick-up that the Top Gear TV trio could not kill, despite setting it on fire, drowning it in the sea and putting it on top of a tower block that was then demolished with explosives…
So when Toyota came to pen an eighth-generation model, maintaining that go-anywhere reputation was a very high priority. But so was softening it…
You see the market has changed – so many buyers are abandoning traditional cars for more muscular, SUV-type vehicles. The theory was that if the Hilux could be made a little less coarse in its manners, those buyers might be tempted towards a pick-up instead of an SUV.
The new model’s CV retains a lot of what was on its predecessor – it is still based around a ladder chassis, which has been improved in durability. It still comes in Single Cab, four-seater Extra Cab or five-seater Double Cab varieties. And it still offers full-house all-wheel-drive capability which again has been improved.
Alongside this, however, we are told that the new Hilux also offers a more contemporary, less utilitarian, design, with more comfort, better safety and more equipment – a vehicle that will be as easy to drive on the road as those SUVs that everyone seems to want these days.
A new look
Those familiar with the Hilux will soon spot the styling changes. The grille is now chrome and flows into the modern wraparound LED headlamps, within a more curvy front end inspired by mainsteam Toyota vehicles. The arches no longer sit separate from the wings, instead flowing from them, and their rear edges are squared off, with no bulges in the doors. Overall it is a mostly successful bid to make the Hilux look as at home in the car park as halfway up a mountain.
Alongside this practical matters have not been forgotten. At 1645mm wide the cargo deck is some 101mm more spacious than that of the previous Hilux and outstretches all the pick-up’s rivals. It is also stronger – strengthened underneath with extra cross members and the header panel, hinges and tailgate all reinforced. And useful additions such as roller covers and hardtops remain available.
Does the interior replicate that of an SUV? Not quite, but it’s pretty close. One climbs up into the still necessary and agreeable high driving position, from which visibility ahead and to the side is excellent.
The dash is logically laid out but still looks more pick-up than anything else, with various bulges and bits sticking out rather than a smooth, flowing shape with everything integrated. And the finishes are of as high a quality as is practical in an environment liable to be attacked by muddy boots.
Single engine option
Just one engine option is now available for the Hilux, but it is an all-new unit. The 2.4-litre D-4D diesel replaces the previous 3-litre engine, and while the resultant economy and emissions gains can be expected, one does not lose out on grunt either. It may have only 150hp instead of the previous 171, but torque jumps from 343 to 400Nm, on offer from just 1,600rpm.
All this comes alongside those economy figures which at from 40.4mpg combined, and emissions from 185g/km, are significantly better than their predecessor and enable Toyota to claim best-in-class status for its newcomer.
TheVanExpert test vehicle on the launch was a double-cab version, which is the most popular choice amongst UK buyers, its engine paired with the six-speed electronic automatic gearbox. This is actually four tenths of a second faster to 62mph than the six-speed manual, though there is some payback in economy and emissions.
On and off the road
Improvements to the ladder chassis aid both on and off-road performance. It’s 20 per cent more torsionally rigid with 30mm thicker frames and side rails. The spot welds holding the shell together have mushroomed in number from 120 to 288. The suspension fittings are tougher, which as a useful by-product means that by the end of 2016 the Hilux will be specified with an increased towing capability of up to 3.5 tonnes.
Pick-ups by their nature have to be fitted with leaf-spring rear suspension, which compromises just how good an on-road vehicle they can be. But Toyota has tried hard – the springs are 100mm longer and mounted farther apart. The dampers have wider diameter cylinders which means they need less travel to smother bumps. And a Pitch and Bounce Control system uses wheel speed sensors to adjust the engine torque automatically depending on road conditions to make for smoother progress. There’s more wheel travel too, which helps smooth out the on-road performance and tackle more challenging situations off road.
It all works very well. On the road the Hilux still feels more pick-up than SUV, but without the serious compromises one used to have to accept in such vehicles. Notably absent is the yo-yo progress on the jacked-up suspension that had this tester’s better half refusing to travel in previous pick-ups on review.
So yes, the on-road performance of the Hilux is greatly improved – but at the expense of its capability? Not a bit of it. The launch programme included an off-road course, through a forest, up and down serious slopes, and usefully heavily rained on the day before, but the Hilux took it all in its stride – this tester who is not an enthusiastic off-roader found his confidence increasing rapidly.
The transmission is based around a switchable all-wheel-drive system, including a high and low-ratio transfer case and limited slip differentials front and rear, the latter lockable. Active Traction Control, Downhill Assist and Hill-Start Assist are all also on the menu, with the result that the test Hilux gleefully tackled the forest stage on the launch, and then washed itself down as we drove down the middle of a river on the way back to base. As you do…
In the UK the Hilux is on sale in the three cab varieties, but the Single and Extra Cab versions can only be chosen in entry-level Active trim. Equipment includes steering wheel switches, Bluetooth, a cooled front storage box, front, side and driver’s knee airbags and follow-me-home headlights.
The Double Cab can be chosen in Icon, Invincible or Invincible X grades. Icon versions gain a 4.2in information display screen, Toyota’s Touch 2 multimedia system, DAB radio, cruise control, retracting door mirrors, 17-inch alloy wheels and lots of chrome and leather additions.
Move up to Invincible and the wheels get bigger by an inch, while Toyota’s Safety Sense package of driver aids are added, other highlights including automatic LED headlamps, keyless opening and starting, and auto air conditioning.
Finally the range-topping Invincible X will likely appeal to SUV buyers with its host of desirables such as leather upholstery, satellite navigation, phone connectivity, parking sensors, bespoke alloy wheels and such like.
Definitely a plus for new Hilux owners is the adoption of a similar warranty to that offered on Toyota passenger cars, stretching to five years or 100,000 miles.
Will the new Hilux tempt SUV buyers in a different direction? Some, possibly, but we suspect not that many, because at the end of the day it is still a vehicle designed first and foremost to let nothing stand in its way.
For those who need such a vehicle in their daily life, however, the new Hilux will offer a much improved experience over its predecessor – they will be equally happy to take the family out in it at the weekend as they will workmates on a job in the week. And as such the Hilux should continue to do very well indeed. The king is not ready to be dethroned just yet…
Models Tested: Toyota Hilux Invincible D/C 2.4L T+G auto
On Sale: July 2016 Range price: £19,177-£29,435* Engine: 2.4 diesel. Power (hp): 150. Torque (Nm): 400.
0-62mph (sec): 13.2 (auto 12.8). Top speed (mph): 106.
Fuel economy (combined, mpg): 40.4 (auto 36.2). CO2 emissions (g/km): 185 (204).
Key rivals: Mitsubishi L200, Isuzu D-Max, Nissan Navara.
Test Date: July 2016.
* = price CV on-the-road, with VAT deducted