Few vehicles are universally recognised by their model name alone, but the Hilux is a true motoring legend. Europe’s best-selling pick-up is famous the world over for its unmatchable dependability, and Toyota has now given it a facelift to keep it at the sharp end of the pick-up market.
The Hilux has never been a stylish choice and the latest model isn’t about to change that. It looks distinctly dated compared to the Ford and VW, but top-of-the-range Invincible trim includes chrome sidesteps and 17-inch alloys. Plus, the revised styling has cleaner, less frumpy lines than before.
What the Toyota does provide is value for money: the £25,735 flagship model tested here has the biggest and most powerful engine of the three, as well as an auto box, yet it still costs £660 less than the manual Ford Ranger
Opting for the manual version of the Hilux will save you a further £1,000, but it comes with a five-speed box, rather than the six gears you get in the Volkswagen and Ford.
Climb aboard after driving the Amarok or Ranger, and the Toyota feels incredibly old-fashioned. Even the addition of the latest Toyota Touch control system for the stereo and Bluetooth phone connection fails to lift the pretty low-rent cabin.
The driving position isn’t perfect, either: you sit too high up and the steering wheel doesn’t adjust for reach, so it’s harder to get comfortable in the Hilux than it is in the other trucks.
The automatic transmission does the Toyota few favours when it comes to emissions (its CO2 output of 227g/km compares to 203g/km for the manual version), yet performance is still strong. Thanks to its more potent 3.0-litre diesel engine, the Toyota accelerated from 0-60mph more than a second faster than its rivals, in a time of 11.5 seconds.
The engine isn’t the most refined diesel around, but it’s reasonably hushed at 70mph on the motorway. However, there is more wind noise from around the big door mirrors and A-pillars than we noticed in the Ford and Volkswagen.
On twistier roads there’s more body roll than in the Ranger, but the trade-off is softer suspension and a more comfortable ride. Big bumps and ruts still unsettle the Toyota when it’s unladen, but it has perfectly acceptable dynamics for a hard-working pick-up.
We do have two major criticisms of the driving experience, though. Firstly, the brake pedal was very soft from the first stop in our tests. The brakes performed strongly enough, but didn’t inspire as much confidence as the Ford or Volkswagen set-ups. Our other complaint concerns the steering, which is accurate but has an unnatural weighting that increases heavily when cornering.
These shortcomings only serve to highlight the Toyota’s dated underpinnings. But with its competitive prices, healthy list of standard equipment and legendary reputation, the Hilux sets a tough standard for its rivals to beat.
Chart position: 3WHY: Few vehicles cast such a lengthy shadow over their rivals as the Toyota Hilux. It’s a true legend in the pick-up class.