One of the eternal truths of the world is that as soon as an athlete/singer/F1 team or even computer operating system achieves a dominant position in the market, a sizeable portion of the public starts secretly hoping for its demise and for the rise of a new champion, preferably an underdog. Those who have had similar fantasies of failure for the all-conquering Toyota Hilux must by now be close to giving up – the Hilux just seems unstoppable. That said, the release of this generation of Hilux may have resulted in the nay-sayers excitedly shifting closer to the edges of their seats, as it represents a rather controversial shift in approach for the traditionally conservative automotive giant.
For one, the new Toyota Hilux has grown significantly in size. It’s a full 15 cm longer than the previous model and also wider and higher. Combine its newfound bulk with somewhat curvaceous and “feminine” styling, and it has to be said that the design has not received a universal thumbs-up. Then again, the increased dimensions have had positive implications elsewhere. The loadbox is bigger and is double-skinned, so can carry a heavier load than before. Inside the cabin, there’s appreciably more space than anything else in this segment, and particularly rear passengers will find long-distance trips far more comfortable. With a high ground clearance (220 mm), a “jump” into the cabin is, however, required from smaller passengers. Toyota perhaps fits a side-step as standard for that reason, but during off-road driving this piece of equipment gets badly bashed rather quickly.
Toyota Hilux gets SUV design for the cabinThe Toyota Hilux features easily one of the most SUV-like facia designs in bakkie-land. The three instrumentation roundels are neatly presented in front of the driver and the sound system and ventilation control panels are as neatly integrated into the middle of the facia. There are a large number of storage holes for wallets, phones, keys and the like and the driving position is commanding. Reach adjustment on the steering wheel would have been a welcome addition, however, as would remote audio controls on the steering wheel. Another point of criticism centres on the colour of the trim. Finished in light grey cloth, care will have to be taken to ensure the cabin retains its neat looks.
The standard features count is quite reasonable for a double-cab bakkie. There are two airbags, ABS, air-conditioning, central locking, electric windows and mirrors, a radio/CD sound system, sliding rear window and front foglamps. From an off-roader’s perspective it is also worth noting that a low-range transfer case is fitted and on-the-fly shifting into four-wheel drive is possible via a secondary lever. Importantly, a rear differential lock is also fitted. The ground clearance is good (mind those shiny side steps), the approach angle excellent, but the departure angle less so.
On the road (and off it)The Toyota Hilux D-4D 4x4 is very impressive off-road, to a large degree as a result of the engine. With 343 Nm of torque from 1 400 to 3 200 rpm, as well as low-range, the Toyota Hilux just seems capable of clambering over anything. The engine is also highly impressive where the Hilux will be spending most of its time – on the road en route to a holiday destination. It’s got class-leading grunt (120 kW) which endows it with superb performance and, surprisingly perhaps, excellent fuel economy. It should also make for an excellent towing vehicle.
But is the Toyota Hilux still more of a “hard” workhorse than a leisure-oriented softy, or has the balance shifted the other way? In this guise it actually finds a very good middle ground. The ride is firmer than its rivals, for sure, but this does make it feel more robust as well as enabling it to carry a heavier load than before. A bit of firmness is also not necessarily a bad thing off-road. Importantly, the ride quality improves significantly with a load and with a full complement of five passengers, an attribute which combined with its excellent cabin space and creature comforts, transforms the Toyota Hilux into a seriously impressive leisure family vehicle.
Toyota Hilux - VerdictWith the Hilux, Toyota seems to be able to stay ahead of the pack with every new generation. It is not without its flaws (the ride remains on the firm side) but compared with the opposition it is simply a more complete package that offers a large degree of peace-of-mind, particularly when shopping for a used example. As a 4x4, it is virtually unbeatable, because of its excellent torque delivery, standard diff-lock and good ground clearance. It’s a very wise purchase.
- Off-road ability
- Torquey engine
- Interior space
- Fuel economy
- After-sales support
- Bouncy ride
- Side steps easily bashed off-road
- Impractical trim colour
Engine: 3,0-litre, turbodiesel, four-cylinder
Power: 120 kW @ 3 400 rpm
Torque: 343 N.m @ 1 400 – 3 200 rpm
Transmission: Five-speed manual, plus low range transfer case
Wheels: 15-inch alloy
Top speed: 170 km/h
0-100 km/h: n/a seconds
Fuel economy: n/a litres/100 km
- Isuzu KB300 TDI LX Double-Cab 4x4: The Hilux’s most deadly rival runs it very close. It can’t match the newer Toyota’s engine for performance, but has a better ride and is well equipped.
- Nissan Hardbody 3,0 TD Double-Cab 4x4: Another ageing contender but its engine outpunches rivals from Mitsubishi, Ford and Mazda. Interior shows its age, but overall, still a very capable vehicle.
- Mitsubishi Colt 2800 TDI Rodeo Double-Cab 4x4: The Colt is not nearly as modern as the Toyota Hilux, and although this is not so much a problem in terms of design, the powertrain certainly is. The old 2,8-litre engine is underpowered and thirsty by comparison with the Hilux.