Renowned for its ability to withstand a severe battering yet still come back for more, Toyota's Hilux may be about to face its fiercest challenge since the first version appeared almost 50 years ago. Manufacturers that have never previously had a 1.0t-payload pick-up in their portfolios are starting to pile into the sector with gusto – and the Hilux is one of the existing models they are targeting.
Not exactly keen on surrendering registrations and market share to uppity newcomers, Toyota, not surprisingly, is fighting back.
It recently unveiled a revamped Hilux that is longer, wider and lower overall than previous iterations, with a new engine, a new chassis, a revised suspension system, and restyled inside and out.
The eighth incarnation of the model can be specified in Single, Extra, or four-door five-seater Double Cab guise. Four trim levels are up for grabs – Active, Icon, Invincible and Invincible X – and you can order your Hilux as a 4x2 or a 4x4.
We opted for a Double Cab 4x4 in Invincible trim.
Access to the reinforced load bed is by means of a lockable tailgate that can be released with one hand. When unlatched, its strengthened hinges drop it through 90° until it is horizontal; the beefy, redesigned rear bumper prevents it from dropping down completely. Four tie-down points are provided, two on each of the sidewalls.
Our demonstrator came with an optional aluminium narrow-slatted roller-shutter-type Roll N Lock tonneau cover, which slides back and retracts when you open it. You pull on a strap to close it.
Decorative rather than functional, the Hi-Over imitation rollbar mounted behind the cab does not impede its operation. It is included in the £2000 plus VAT option package along with a polypropylene bed liner.
Hilux can haul a trailer grossing at up to 3.2t, a figure Toyota says will rise to 3.5t towards the end of the year once the necessary homologation paperwork is in place. Either way, if that is the weight of trailer you are proposing to pull then do not forget that you may have to fit and use a tachograph and comply with the heavy truck drivers’ working hours regulations. Remember, too, that the driver will need the appropriate driving licence entitlement.
In this context it is good to see that the Hilux comes with Trailer Sway Control. It adjusts the brakes and throttle in order to help keep the trailer on track if it starts to go out of kilter in a crosswind.
Cab and equipment
The exterior sill bars and steps provide little help when it comes to accessing the cab because they are too narrow, especially if you are wearing working boots.
Although the black and grey interior is somewhat sombre, there is no doubt that it offers a pleasant enough working environment, with comfortable front seats; the driver's is height-adjustable, and the steering wheel can be altered for height and reach.
A big touchscreen dominates the fascia and controls media access, or you can use the remote controls on the steering wheel instead.
Bluetooth enablement, a DAB radio and a CD player are included in the Toyota Touch 2 multimedia system, as is a USB port. Cruise control and automatic air-conditioning (it cools the lockable glove box as well as the cab) come as standard, along with electric windows on all four doors and heated and electrically adjustable exterior rear-view mirrors, which can be folded inwards at the flick of a switch.
A couple of 12V power sockets are mounted in the fascia, and a neat touch is a heater that can be used to warm up the engine coolant on cold winter mornings. As a consequence, the cab warms up more quickly, too, so the heated rear window may not always be necessary.
The risk of having an accident has been reduced courtesy of Toyota's decision to fit Safety Sense. Employing a windscreen-mounted unit housing a laser and a camera, it features Pre-Collision System with pedestrian detection, Lane Departure Alert (both of which can be switched off), Automatic High Beam (stops the high beam dazzling other drivers at night) and Road Sign Assist. Pre-Collision System warns you when you are getting dangerously close to something – or someone – in front and will eventually apply the brakes automatically if you fail to react. To that can be added the usual selection of electronic onboard safety devices, including ABS with emergency brakeforce distribution and brake assist, active traction control and hill-start assist control. Driver and front passenger airbags are fitted along with front side airbags, curtain airbags, and an airbag for the driver's knee.
Front fog lights and headlamp washers are installed. A reversing camera is provided, but we would have preferred it to be combined with sensors.
Aside from the aforementioned glove box, storage facilities include bins and drinks holders in all four doors, a shelf just ahead of the gear stick, and a cup-holder plus a lidded box with a 240V power point inside between the front seats. You'll find a compartment for your sunglasses just above the windscreen, and each front seat has a a flip-down hook on the back to hang your takeaway on.
With limited leg room, especially for the middle passenger, the rear seating accommodation may start to feel a little cramped on long journeys, especially if you are the one in the middle. All three rear occupants benefit from lap-and-diagonal belts and headrests, however, and if there is nobody using the middle perch then a wide armrest complete with a couple of cup-holders can be folded down.
The old 2.5- and 3.0-litre units have been replaced by a 2.4-litre generating 148hp at 3400rpm, with maximum torque of 400Nm biting across a 1600-2000rpm plateau.
Complete with a variable-nozzle turbocharger plus an intercooler, the new 16-valve four-cylinder in-line D-4D diesel comes with stop/start and complies with the Euro6 exhaust emission regulations. The AdBlue top-up point is under the bonnet.
The engine is married to a six-speed manual gearbox with an automatic gearbox available as an alternative. Four-wheel drive is selectable and gives drivers the option of choosing either a high- or a low-ratio set of gears, plus our Hilux came with both front- and rear-locking limited slip diffs.
Chassis and steering
Look underneath the Hilux's cargo bed and you will find a newly developed ladder frame chassis said to offer 20% more torsional rigidity than its predecessor. The aim is to combine claimed better handling, ride comfort, collision safety and reduced noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) with greater durability, especially if your Hilux takes a regular off-road hammering. Modifications to the suspension should improve ride comfort and stability, says Toyota, while retaining plenty of articulation should you need to inch down heavily rutted boulder-strewn tracks.
The suspension remains conventional in design, however, with a double wishbone set-up at the front and leaf springs and a rigid axle at the back. Our Hilux sat on 18-inch alloy wheels shod with Bridgestone Dueler H/T 265/60 R18 tyres.
Power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering gives the 3085mm-wheelbase truck a 6.7m wall-to-wall turning circle tightening to 6.4m between kerbs. Ventilated disc brakes are fitted at the front while drum brakes are installed at the rear.
With the key fob (which features remote central locking) present, you depress the clutch pedal and push a button on the dashboard to fire up the engine.
A generous helping of torque means that the Hilux delivers better low- and mid-range performance than its headline horsepower figure might suggest, and it has no trouble defending its corner on the motorway. The gearbox delivers a smooth change, and for a big pick-up the handling is better than one might expect, although slightly tighter steering would have been appreciated.
Despite the claimed improvements to the suspension the unladen ride can be choppy at times. Weigh the truck down with 20 or so 25kg bags of sand and things soon calm down.
In-cab decibel levels are well controlled, with a growl from under the bonnet under heavy acceleration the only noise that is really noticeable.
You will find Eco and Power mode buttons between the front seats. Press the former to cut down on fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, and the latter if you need a bit more punch. Both buttons alter the torque curve. Power mode has an instant impact. Switch to it and you get a short, sharp shove between the shoulder blades plus a burst of acceleration, making it ideal for overtaking slow-moving agricultural vehicles on rural highways, where it is safe to do so. By contrast, Eco mode mutes the truck's performance, although this is less noticeable at motorway cruising speeds then it is on A- and B-roads.
The big differences between the two modes is the amount of diesel you burn. Running on Power mode lightly laden we averaged 27.1mpg, while going Eco upped the average to 37.2mpg – a big improvement. Without resorting to either we averaged 33.8mpg – some way behind the quoted combined figure.
Those figures were delivered by the clever onboard computer, which gives you a score depending on how frugally you have been driving. Key in the per-litre cost of the diesel bought when you last filled up and it will tell you how much cash the burned fuel has cost too.
Fuel economy data is displayed on the touchscreen as well as on the instrument panel.
Road Sign Assist flashes up an image on the dashboard to remind you of the speed limit – for example, a 30mph sign if that is the prevailing limit. Exceed it and the sign goes red until you obey its instruction. Unfortunately, it doesn't always work all that well. We headed down the M5 between Gloucester and Bristol with a 50mph sign on display for mile after mile even though it was clear there was no such limit in force.
Hot dry weather meant we weren't able to indulge in mud-plugging, and our progress across fields and up and down embankments was accompanied by clouds of dust rather than lots of squelching. Ample suspension articulation means that rocks and ruts hold few terrors for the Hilux, however, and pressing the Downhill Assist Control button means that you should be able to descend steep inclines without the truck running away with you.
Grab handles are fitted to the A and B pillars too in case things get really rough, and you can switch off the Vehicle Stability Control. Ground clearance is 293mm.
Buying and running
The Hilux is protected by a five-year/100,000-mile warranty, which seems generous enough. Rather less generous, however, are the service intervals at a mere one year/10,000 miles, and we cannot help but think that the 12-month AA roadside rescue package should be extended to at least two if not three years.
A three-year paintwork warranty is provided along with a six-year anti-corrosion perforation warranty, which falls to one year in both cases so far as the inside of the load bed is concerned.
It’s good to see a full-sized spare wheel. Side rubbing strips and some protection for the wheel arches might make sense, though, to avoid damage to that fancy paint finish.
|Toyota Hilux Invincible Double Cab 2.4-litre pick-up|
|Price (ex VAT) - £24,033|
|Price range (ex VAT) - £18,287-£28,545|
|Gross payload - 1045kg|
|Load length - 1525mm|
|Load width - (min/max) 1105/1645mm|
|Load bay height - 480mm|
|Loading height - 965mm|
|Gross vehicle weight - 3210kg|
|Braked trailer towing weight - 3200kg|
|Residual value – 26.4%*|
|Cost per mile – 45.7p*|
|Engine size/power - 2393cc, 148hp @ 3400rpm|
|Torque - 400Nm @ 1600-2000rpm|
|Gearbox – 6-spd|
|Fuel economy - 40.4mpg (combined)|
|Fuel tank - 80 litres|
|CO2 - 185g/km|
|Warranty - 5yrs/100,000mls|
|Service intervals - 1yr/10,000mls|
|Insurance group - 41|
|Price as tested - £26,487|
The Hilux is by and large exemplary, unlikely to disappoint and has a praiseworthy approach to safety.