Why the sturdy Toyota pick-up is worth a look
Today’s pick-ups have never been more appealing. They are as brilliant on the building site as ever, but they are also now surprisingly refined and capable away from it as well. So much so, in fact, many are now looking at them as genuine alternates to large SUVs – ones with added tax-saving benefits thrown in.
The Toyota Hilux is one of the longest-running pick-ups, one with near-legendary status around the world. This helps it stand out in a class that includes the capable Ford Ranger, Mitsubishi L200, Nissan Navara and Volkswagen Amarok. Like those cars, it offers a range of cab styles, with the most popular being the four-door, four-seat double cab.
Don’t expect SUV-like driving manners. The 148bhp 2.4-litre four-cylinder diesel is a pretty clattery thing, rumbling loudly, and delivers leisurely performance. It’s flexible and great for towing, though, and feels like it’ll never be beaten. Stick with the surprisingly slick six-speed manual: the automatic is slurry and old-fashioned.
Toyota has set up the Hilux’s suspension to cope with heavy loads. So, unladen, the ride is bouncy and unsettled. Handling is dominated by body lean and tyre squeal at surprisingly low speeds as well. The benefit? This is a pick-up that’s brilliant off road.
Befitting its heavy-duty status, the Hilux’s interior is built from hard, scratchy but durable plastics. It’s extremely well-built, and everything operates precisely, but it’s engineered to be unbreakable rather than particularly luxurious. Saying that, most models do have a seven-inch touchscreen and additional digital display in front of the driver; they’re dated-looking, and sat nav is optional, but it’s still a standout touch.
The Hilux sits high off the ground, so you have to climb up to get in. This commanding driving position gives excellent forwards visibility, although the view out the rear is much trickier due to the long rear deck. Luckily, you get a reverse parking camera as standard on all models up from base Active trim.
Adults will find plenty of space in the front, with lots of stowage, but those in the rear are less well off. The floor is high, so they sit with their knees in the air, and the compact ‘extra cab’ version barely has any leg room – the double cab is a must if you’re carrying passengers regularly.
Needless to say, the rear deck is enormous: you trade rear passenger space with load space as you move from single cab through extra cab to double cab versions, but even the latter is hardly lacking. It’s also totally unsecured unless you pick an optional load cover. Looking for a heavy duty double cab partner? The Hilux is for you: not only can you lug 1000kg in the rear bed, you can also tow a whopping 3200kg.
An enviable reputation means the Toyota Hilux isn’t the cheapest of pick-ups, but it’s still competitive – and it regularly offers some excellent finance deals. Equipment levels are strong, particularly the well-priced mid-range Icon, while the Invincible comes with a full array of head-turning styling features, plus climate control and autonomous emergency braking. The latter ups the Hilux’s Euro NCAP safety score from three to five.
Many people chose pick-ups because of their money-saving flat-rate company car tax status. The Hilux naturally offers this draw, along with an excellent five-year warranty, plenty of practical strengths and a good haul of equipment. It’s the best Hilux yet by some margin, even if it remains more workmanlike to drive than its key rivals.