Toyota Hilux pick-up review
The Toyota Hilux is famous for its ruggedness, and it’s a front-runner in the pick-up class
The Toyota Hilux is one of the most famous names in the pick-up world, and it’s earned this fame for being tough and reliable even in the harshest conditions around the globe. More than 18 million have been produced since 1968, and this latest version is our favourite – it’s one of the best pick-ups around thanks to various upgrades and tweaks recently.
About the Toyota Hilux
The Double Cab version is the most appealing, because it brings the option to use it for work and family life at the same time. The latest version features improved comfort and tech, while still being able to offer company car tax breaks for drivers of ‘commercial vehicles’ with a one tonne load capacity.
Key rivals for the Hilux include our favourite pick up, the Ford Ranger, as well as the Isuzu D-Max. In Double Cab form, the Toyota is available in a wide range of trim levels, from entry-level Active – with air conditioning and Bluetooth – right up to the Hilux Invincible X with its sat-nav, heated seats and a suite of luxury and safety features including lane-departure warning and pedestrian detection.
Of course, there are also two-door Single Cab and Extra Cab (extended) versions, which are aimed at those looking for a work vehicle only and come in Active trim only; there are also Tipper and Dropside variants of these. There’s also a Toyota Hilux Arctic Trucks AT35 version built for proper off-roading, with chassis, suspension, wheel and tyre upgrades.
The Hilux is more luxurious than ever, and you could easily drive one every day, yet it’s still a proper workhorse and as reliable as ever. It also has a wider load bay and bigger capacity than previous versions, so it’s more practical than ever.
It’s not a totally new model, but the latest revisions have made it better than ever. It still uses a leaf-sprung live rear axle, but it’s been tweaked and tweaked to the point that it’s comfortable as well as able to handle heavy loads.
High-spec versions are really well-equipped and look very appealing in the cabin, plus there’s easily room for adults in the rear seats of the double cab.
Depending on which model you pick, there are two engines available in the Hilux range. There’s a 148bhp 2.4-litre four-cylinder diesel and a larger 2.8-litre four-cylinder with 201bhp - the latter only available in Invincible or Invincible X trims.
Again, depending on the model, you can choose either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic gearbox. All trucks feature selectable four-wheel drive, with 2WD, 4WD and low-range settings, plus a locking rear diff.
Since the disappearance of the V6-engined Volkswagen Amarok and Mercedes X-Class from the pick-up market in the UK, the 2.8-litre model is one of the most powerful trucks around, although it’s not quite as punchy as the Ford Ranger.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
With the addition of new eco technology, the Hilux offers decent efficiency, even in high-power 2.8-litre guise. Fuel economy across the range is separated by only fine margins, with WLTP tests showing the 2.4 litre engine is able to achieve 31.7mpg with a manual gearbox, dropping to 30.7mpg with an automatic. The larger 2.8 litre is capable of 33.2mpg with a manual or 30mpg with an auto.
CO2 emissions for the 2.4 litre are rated from 233-259g/km, while the 2.8 litre manages 224-259g/km.
Toyota offers the Hilux with a 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 safety kit, including autonomous braking on top models, should help to keep insurance premiums low. Those worried about leaving items in the load bay unsecured should look at the range of load cover options, including a hard-top for around £1,700.
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 current model has the biggest load bay and highest towing capacity yet.
The Hilux’s load bay length varies from 1,525mm in the double cab model to 2,315mm 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, so 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 that open up to reveal a pair of cinema-style folding seats. They won’t be the most comfortable to sit on, however, and are only designed for occasional use.
If you plan on carrying passengers regularly, you’ll want the Double Cab, which is also the only bodystyle available on top-spec Invincible and Invincible X trims. There are reasonable amounts of head and legroom in the back for two larger adults (or 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 has a payload of at least 1,000kg, while the Active Single and Double Cabs sees that rise to 1,030kg. Every Hilux can pull up to 3,500kg braked (or 750kg unbraked), which is on a par with the majority of its rivals.
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 diesel engines in the Hilux have only been around since 2015. The engines use some advanced new tech to boost efficiency and performance, but we’d be surprised if they didn’t turn out to be as reliable long-term as the old-tech diesel units.
It’s really in safety where things have improved for the Hilux, though. The model range now offers seven airbags, including curtain airbags and one for the driver’s knee, while all versions except the most basic single cab receive front and rear seatbelt pretensioners. Double cab models also get Isofix child seat mountings and front fog lights as standard.
It’s not just the things you can see, though, because 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 include Downhill Assist Control. Toyota’s Safety Sense package also makes its way across from the passenger car range, 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, plus a number of rival pick-ups.
In terms of crash protection, Euro NCAP awarded the standard Hilux only three stars for safety in 2016, although that rises to a full five-star score with Safety Sense fitted. Given that Toyota is claiming the ladder-frame chassis is 20% stronger than before, it should withstand big collisions better than the old car. Security-wise, all models get an alarm and immobiliser.
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.
Driving and performance
The Hilux’s driving experience has been constantly updated, and is at its best in the latest model. Toyota has reconfigured the suspension and developed its settings while the bed was unladen – facing up to the reality that these trucks tend to be driven unladen most of the time. As a result, the Hilux is a lot more comfortable than it's ever been. It's not quite SUV-like for comfort, and the Ford Ranger is slightly more comfortable still, but it's certainly better than most rivals in that regard.
The 2.4-litre four-cylinder diesel is gutsy enough in isolation, but the 2.8-litre diesel is the one to go for if you're used to punchy power delivery.
The 2.4 offers adequate, but not exceptional performance: A 0-62mph time of 13.2 seconds for the manual model illustrates this. That drops to 12.8 seconds with the six-speed auto, although using the engine's full rev range means it can get pretty noisy.
Move to the 2.8-litre diesel and things improve markedly. The manual model has a 0-62mph time of 10.1 seconds, and the auto manages the sprint in 10.7 seconds. It's a responsive unit, while the auto model has 500Nm of torque for excellent pulling power. The manual has 420Nm of torque, which is only 20Nm more than the 148bhp diesel.
In terms of handling, the Hilux has seen constant improvement over the years. Gone is the wayward feel and constant bounciness of old versions, 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.
There is a bit of a fidget to the suspension, but this will be all but eliminated if the load bay is weighed down with some cargo which settles things reasonably well.
Manoeuvrability isn’t too bad in the Hilux around town, thanks to light controls for a truck and a decent turning circle. Road and wind noise are well suppressed at speed, and the Hilux makes a surprisingly good (if uneconomical) motorway cruiser.
Cab and interior
The driving experience is edging closer to that of an SUV, and the interior goes some way to matching a family 4x4, too. It’s a considerably less rough and ready place to sit than an Isuzu D-Max and on par with the Ford Ranger for design, layout and material finish, although the now-defunct Mercedes X-Class led the way for upmarket 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 passenger car. That means the Hilux is 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. All models receive Aux in and USB ports, along with Bluetooth connectivity; Icon and Invincible versions include a DAB radio, while Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also now available.
There’s better storage in the Hilux than in some rival pick-ups. There are 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 cupholders in the centre of the dash, although the storage bins aren’t huge.
Space in the front is good. You don’t feel as hemmed-in as you would some trucks, with good leg and elbow-room, although the high floor means taller drivers will have their knees raised; it’s a common problem on pick-ups. In the back of the double cab you’ll find enough space for two adults to sit comfortably and three to squeeze in for short journeys. Head and legroom are on a par with rivals’, although it’s no better than a modern supermini in that regard.
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