Toyota Hilux pick-up review
Toyota’s legendary Hilux pick-up has now entered its eighth generation, but can it take the fight to the Mitsubishi L200?
The new Toyota Hilux has come on leaps and bounds from its predecessor in both form and function. It is classier, more comfortable and nicer to drive than ever before, while the loadbay is wider and its payload capacity is improved. Yet it still retains the legendary rugged durability that makes the Hilux so famous around the world.
The interior is far more attractive than before, with a design that looks like it came straight out of the Toyota Auris and not a commercial vehicle. There’s good space for four adults, too, although top-spec models with all the toys don’t come cheap.
The Hilux still uses tough leaf springs, so the ride can be bouncy and it shimmys over big bumps, but it’s almost a match for the Mitsubishi L200 in terms of the driving experience. Avoid the automatic gearbox, though, and it’s a shame that UK buyers can’t yet spec the larger diesel engine for ultimate pulling power.
The Toyota Hilux can almost be considered an institution. Over 18 million have been sold since its first introduction in 1968. It’s hugely popular in Africa, the Middle East and other locations where weather conditions and terrain are difficult and unforgiving. In the harshest environments, the Hilux has forged its reputation for unbreakable reliability, toughness and off-road ability.
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All of the above applies in the UK too but in recent years the sizable tax breaks available to those running pick-up trucks as company cars have been just as important a factor in the Hilux’s success. This latest version of the Toyota truck aims to retain the strong offroad credentials while also being more civilised than ever and appealing to fleet buyers who would’ve previously turned their noses up at a pick-up.
The eighth-generation Toyota Hilux is an evolution of the old model rather than a wholesale change, but Toyota says buyers in this sector don’t want radical. It uses a traditional leaf-spring suspended rear axle design, and it’s offered in Single Cab (more load space) Extra Cab (a 2+2 seating layout) and Double Cab (full five seat) layouts.
There are three trim levels at launch: entry-level Active is single or extra cab only and aimed at the commercial vehicle market, while Icon is the cheapest double cab variant with a more upmarket look. Invincible and in particular Invincible X models gain a host of luxuries added with the aim of making you forget you’re sat in a working vehicle.
Even Hilux Active models get air-con, heated door mirrors, Bluetooth, steering wheel audio controls and a cooled glovebox, plus safety kit like hill start assist and trailer sway assist. Icon models add 17-inch alloys, privacy glass, electric folding mirrors, cruise control, Toyota’s Touch 2 multimedia touchscreen with DAB radio and a reversing camera.
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Invincible models gain 18-inch alloys, Keyless start, LED headlamps, and dual-zone climate control, with safety kit like a Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection and Lane Departure Warning thrown in. Top-spec Invincible X throws in sat-nav, parking sensors front and rear and two-tone machined alloys. It’s an extensive standard kit list, although a top-flight Nissan Navara goes even further with items like adaptive cruise-control and electric seats.
All Hilux models in the UK come with the sole option of a new 2.4-litre four-cylinder diesel engine with 148bhp. It’s mated to either a six-speed manual or an optional six-speed automatic gearbox on top trims. Other markets get the choice of a more powerful 2.8-litre engine which won’t arrive here for a while. The absence of a more powerful unit gives the new V6-engined VW Amarok and twin-turbo Nissan Navara the edge in terms of performance and towing capability. Still, every model comes with selectable four-wheel drive and there’s a host of rugged systems to ensure it’s an extremely capable mud-plugger.
MPG and Running Costs
Toyota has chosen not to offer the Hilux with a pure rear-wheel drive option in the UK. This means rivals like the Nissan Navara have the edge in terms of efficiency, but even four-wheel drive Mitsubishi L200s are more frugal.
Single cab variants of the Hilux are actually the least efficient by a small margin – despite being over 200kg lighter than the double cab models. It manages 39.8mpg on the combined cycle, while both extra and double cab variants manage 40.4mpg. CO2 emissions are 187g/km and 185g/km respectively.
While that figure is decent and beats rivals from Isuzu and SsangYong, it’s behind the L200 and Navara, both of which manage 44.1mpg and emit 169g/km in their most frugal forms. For company vehicle buyers, this could be a sticking point.
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It’s worth avoiding the six-speed automatic if you’re worried about fuel economy, too – it drops that combined mpg figure down to 36.2mpg and emits 204g/km of CO2. It’s hardly shocking for a two-tonne truck, but it’s not great when you consider both of these rivals also offer more power.
Elsewhere, Toyota is offering the Hilux with its new five-year/100,000 mile warranty cover to help it compete with the latest pick-up rivals. The first year is unlimited in terms of mileage, too.
Generous levels of safety kit, including autonomous braking on top models, should help to keep insurance premiums low, although the exact figures are yet to be confirmed. Those worried about leaving items in the load bay unsecured should look at the range of load cover options including the £1,732 hard-top. Depreciation-wise, given the Toyota badge always carries serious credibility on the used market and the Hilux is a popular model, we expect the Hilux to hold its value as well as (if not better than) rivals.
Load Space and Practicality
As a pick-up truck and a commercial vehicle, the Hilux’s most important trait is how much it can carry and pull. Toyota is fully aware of this, which is why the new-generation model has a bigger loadbay and towing capacity than the old one.
The Hilux itself is longer, wider and lower than the previous generation model, which benefits practicality. The Hilux’s loadbay length varies from 1,525mm in the double cab model to 2,315 in the single cab. That’s pretty much on a par with rivals, but it’s width where the Hilux has made great strides. The load area on all models is a full 130mm wider than before, which makes it bigger than both the Navara and L200. If you’re often loading up wide items, it may be the best choice for you.
The single cab gets the usual format of two seats, whereas the extra-cab uses two tiny rear-hinged suicide doors opening up to reveal a pair of cinema-style folding seats. They won’t be the most comfortable to sit in, however, and are only designed for occasional use.
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If you plan on carrying passengers regularly, you’ll want the double cab, which is also the only bodystyle available on top-spec Invincible trims. There’s reasonable amounts of head and legroom in the back for two larger adults (and three at a push), and it’s roughly on a par with rivals in that area. It’s easy to see why the vast majority of UK buyers are expected to opt for the double cab
Whichever variant you choose the Hilux can carry at least 1,025kg in its loadbay, while the Active double cab sees that rise to 1,055kg. That’s better than the previous Hilux, but it’s still around 100kg less than the Nissan Navara. You can carry plenty with the Toyota and you can tow a fair bit, too: every Hilux can pull at least 3,200kg, although you’ll have to wait until the end of 2016 for it to be homologated to tow the 3,500kg most rivals can manage.
Reliability and Safety
Reputation isn’t everything, but Toyota has been known as a maker of very durable products, and the Hilux in particular has always been an extremely tough and reliable vehicle.
The rugged box frame chassis and selectable 4X4 system underneath is a proven set-up, although the 2.4-litre diesel engine in the new Hilux has only been around since 2015. The engine uses some advanced new tech to boost efficiency and performance, but we’d be surprised if it didn’t turn out to be as reliable long-term as the old-tech diesel units.
It’s really safety where things have improved for the 2016 Hilux, though. All models now come with seven airbags including curtain airbags and one for the driver’s knee. All models except the most basic single cab receive front and rear seatbelt pre-tensioners, while all double cab models get ISOFIX child seat mountings.
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It’s not just the things you can see, though, as under the skin every Hilux has a wide array of safety systems installed. Every model gets ABS, Emergency Brake Assist, Vehicle Stability Control, Hill Start Assist and Trailer Sway Control, while double cabs also get a Downhill Assist Control. Toyota’s ‘Safety Sense’ package also makes its way across from cars like the Auris and Avensis. It’s optional on all Hilux models and includes autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure assist and (on certain models) road sign recognition. It’s a level of tech that certainly shows up Hilux models of old, and a number of rival pick-ups.
In terms of crash protection Euro NCAP is unlikely to get its hands on the Hilux to test for safety. But, given that Toyota is claiming the ladder-frame chassis is 20 per cent stronger than before, it should withstand big collisions better than the old car. Security-wise, all models get an alarm and immobilizer, although Active spec doesn’t receive a locking tailgate.
The Hilux, like most pick-ups, feels pretty enormous when you’re trying to park it. Thankfully, all models except Active get a reversing camera as standard, although Nissan goes one better in the Navara with the 360-degree Around View Monitor.
Driving and Performance
The Hilux’s driving experience is improved in pretty much every area over the rather uncivilised old model. Make no mistake, though, you’re still not going to be convinced you’re driving anything other than a commercial vehicle.
The 2.4-litre four-cylinder diesel engine is all-new for the Hilux, producing 161bhp and 400Nm of torque from as little as 1,600rpm thanks to a variable geometry turbo. In isolation that’s gutsy enough for a pick-up, but the Mitsubishi L200, updated VW Amarok, Nissan Navara and Ford Ranger all offer more powerful units. Other markets can opt for a 2.8-litre diesel, which is more powerful and torquey but doesn’t quite meet the emissions regulations over here yet.
As it is, Hilux performance is adequate but not exceptional: A 0-62mph time of 12.8 seconds illustrates this. That only drops to 13.2 seconds with the six-speed auto, but it’s still worth avoiding as it holds onto ratios for far too long, and takes an age to kickdown. It means you end up hearing the rather noisy engine revving out more than you’d like. It’s more refined with the manual gearbox, but it’s still quite a way off the NVH levels you’d get with an SUV. Most of the power is below 3,000rpm, where the Hilux feels sprightly enough.
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In terms of handling, the Hilux’s improvement over the old model are more evident. Gone is the wayward feel and constant bounciness, replaced by accurate steering, reasonable body control and a comfortable ride on smooth roads. There’s plenty of tyre squeal and body lean if you push too hard, but that’s not what pick-ups are designed for.
The traditional bouncy ride returns on rutted roads but the easiest solution for this is to weigh down the load bay with some cargo and that settles things down. A Navara is generally calmer in terms of ride comfort, however.
Manoeuvrability isn’t too bad in the Hilux around town, thanks to light controls for a truck and a reasonable turning circle. Road and wind noise are well surpressed at speed, and the Hilux makes a surprisingly good (if uneconomical) motorway cruiser.
Cab and Interior
Even if the driving experience doesn’t quite manage to convince you you’re driving an SUV, the interior goes some way to doing so. It’s a considerably less rough and ready place to sit than an Isuzu D-Max and on a par with the Nissan Navara for quality.
Toyota understands as much as any pick-up brand that the cabin needs to be robust and able to withstand hard day-to-day working use. The carpets and seats of the Hilux seem well up to the job of ferrying mucky builders or farmers about, but the cabin has also taken on some extra sophistication.
The overall dash design is much like that of a Toyota Auris or Avensis. That might not sound too amazing, but it makes the Hilux one of the nicest pick-ups to sit in. There’s a central touchscreen on top models surrounded by gloss black trim, while the instruments also feature a modern-looking trip display screen in the centre. Build quality is pretty good, too: there are no soft-touch plastics so it doesn’t feel as plush as Toyota’s passenger cars, but it’s not far off.
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There’s better storage in the Hilux than in some pick-ups. There’s two gloveboxes, one on the top of the dash and one directly below, and both are a decent size. There’s also a central bin underneath the armrest and two cup holders in the centre of the dash, although the storage bins aren’t huge.
Space in the front is good – it’s not as hemmed-in as some trucks with good leg and elbow-room, although the high floor means taller drivers will have their knees high up which is a common problem on pick-ups. In the back you’ll find enough space for two adults to sit comfortably and three to squeeze in for short journeys. Head and legroom is on a par with rivals, although it’s not better than a modern supermini in that regard.