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Toyota Hilux Pickup Review

Introduction

If you’re Australian, you’ll know the Hilux well. It’s the go-to model for traversing the outback, with legendary reliability and impressive off-road capabilities, but it’s never quite caught the UK public’s imagination.

Businesses needing a workhorse have picked the Toyota Hilux for its mud-plugging ability, but the lifestyle buyer who wanted something stylish and powerful, as well as rugged, generally looked elsewhere.

The latest model fixes the issues, adding a powerful new 2.8-litre engine, revised design, and a luxurious interior. It could be the best Hilux yet.

Review Sections

  • At a Glance
  • Key Features
  • Performance & Drive
  • Running Costs & Emissions
  • Interior & Technology
  • Payload and Practicality
  • Safety
  • Options
  • Rival Pickups
  • Verdict & Next Steps
  • Select's rating score* - 3.9 / 5

    At a Glance

    While it’s not quite an all-new model, the latest Hilux has had a lot of work to boost its appeal to those outside of forestry workers, builders or farmers.

    The existing 2.4-litre diesel engine is retained, but there’s now a 2.8-litre unit that develops an impressive 204hp, making it the second most powerful pickup on sale. It also had changes made to the suspension to make it more comfortable on the road, especially when running empty.

    As well as an exterior makeover, with a more aggressive front end and some rugged body cladding on Invincible models, the interior also gets a look in. A new infotainment system even - finally - includes modern touches such as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

    Of course, it’s lost none of its load-lugging, towing and off-road prowess. A jack of all trades, then.


    Key Features

    The one big talking point is that new 2.8-litre engine and with good reason. Pickup users want power and performance, as well as some luxury. Around 70% of those opting for a pickup choose something with more than 175hp, and Toyota’s old 150hp engine just wasn’t up to the job.

    Now it’s got a lifestyle and family-friendly power unit, it can finally compete with the likes of the Ford Ranger and Volkswagen Amarok. The extra power - there’s an additional 54hp on tap - makes for sharper performance on the road and impressive off-road abilities, as there’s a chunk of extra torque alongside.

    It’s not often that simply adding a new engine option makes such a difference to a vehicle but, this time, it’s something of a big deal.


    Performance & Drive

    Toyota has worked hard on updating the Hilux for improved performance on the road. The headline grabber is that new 2.8-litre diesel engine, and it certainly makes a difference, but there’s more to it than that.

    The suspension at the rear, built around tough and simple leaf springs, has been adjusted to provide a softer ride when the pickup is empty. That’s important as a pickup is usually tuned to ride best when there's a tonne of cargo in the back, but few are ever loaded up to that extent when on the road. Now, cruising along the motorway with some building gear in the back is a smoother, more relaxed experience. It’s still firm, and firmer than a Ford Ranger or Volkswagen Amarok, but you’ll be pleased by the difference it makes.


    Handling is, as you might expect, something of an adventure at the extremes of traction. Throwing the Hilux around with abandon will see it understeering, the body rolling to one side and the tyres protesting. However, at anything other than Colin McRae levels of commitment, it’s benign and inoffensive. Yes, grip runs out early, but then this is two tonnes or so of metal on off-road capable tyres.

    And it’s at its best when off-road. Seemingly unstoppable, the Hilux will climb steep hills, descend under control with hill descent systems, and traverse lateral slopes that I can’t stand up on. Toyota has even tuned the engine to idle at lower revs, now sitting at 680rpm rather than 850rpm; that’s a small change, but makes crawling more predictable which means less damage to your truck. Add improved wading capabilities so you can now drive safely through 70cm of water, an automatic limited-slip differential, and there’s little that will cause the Hilux to break into a sweat.

    And then, of course, there’s that engine. There’s now 204hp and an impressive 500Nm of torque, which improves performance significantly but does that without impacting economy or emissions. The best of both worlds, then.

    While you can specify a six-speed manual gearbox, splash the extra on the automatic. It’s smoother, quicker and an experience more in keeping with the Hilux’s style.


    Running Costs & Emissions

    Service your Toyota on schedule (which is something that’s required every 10,000 miles or 12 months) and make sure that’s at a Toyota dealer and you’ll be rewarded with a warranty that could last as long as ten years.

    That may not worry somebody with a Hilux on a lease, but with a standard three-year warranty, the extra fourth year might come in handy if you’re leasing over 48 months. It’ll ensure, at the very least, that there are no unexpected costs from failures.

    When it does go in for a service, there’s a fixed price menu which, again, removes the element of surprise. The Toyota Professional dealer network (which is now in most of its regular dealers) offers an enhanced service for commercial vehicles like the Hilux, which includes a promise to carry out work at half price if you can’t get an appointment within seven days.

    With that level of backup and a reliable vehicle that Australians are quite happy to drive into the outback in, the Hilux could end up being relatively cheap to run.

    Only fuel bills will spoil the surprise. An official figure of 33.2mpg - and that’s the very best figure from the entire range - means you’ll be visiting your local fuel station quite frequently.


    Interior & Technology

    There was never a great deal wrong with the interior of the Hilux, but Toyota has fiddled and improved matters slightly. All but the entry-level model gets a new 8.0-inch touchscreen that operates the DAB radio and other functions. There’s also Bluetooth connectivity, as you would expect., but that’s now joined by both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as standard.

    The range-topping Invincible X boosts the system with navigation and improved sound through a JBL nine-speaker setup.


    While the square-edged screen jars a little with the curvy dashboard, there are at least physical shortcut buttons on either side, so you’ll always be able to prod a button to find the section of the system you want to get to. Pleasingly, there’s also a physical volume control, helping you keep your eyes on the road.

    Space in the front is plentiful, with wide, comfortable seats allowing anybody to get into a comfortable driving position. The rear seats in the double cab are rather more functional, but spacious enough for a pair of grown adults. Three, at a push.

    There’s also an extended cab option, which sees a smaller rear passenger area with temporary jump seats rather than full seats. Access is easy though, as the rear door are rear-mounted ‘suicide’ doors. The single cab loses the rear of the cabin entirely, making it a strict two-seater.

    Finding cause to complain is tricky. A rubber mat for the convenient phone-sized cubby hole would be good to prevent your expensive smartphone from exiting the dashboard. Some of the plastics are less luxurious than the price tag might suggest. And you can’t have a CD player unless you go for the base model. But then all models get fold-down curry hooks in the seats, allowing for safe transport of a takeaway, so everything is forgiven.


    Payload and Practicality

    As this is an update rather than a new model, the rear load bed remains the same size as before. It’s 1,525mm long and 1,540mm wide, and is somewhere in the middle when compared to its rivals.

    It’ll still tow a 3.5-tonne trailer, too. Even the less powerful 2.4-litre model will do this, although very slowly. The new 2.8-litre engine makes mincemeat of such a task.

    One effect the updates have had is on the ultimate payload capacity. It’s dropped a little, going as low as 1,085kg. That’s 75kg away from the best in class, the Nissan Navara. Like every other truck bar the SsangYong Musso, it is also left unable to tow the full 3.5 tonnes while carrying its maximum payload.

    In the cabin, there are enough storage areas, cup holders, cubbies and glove boxes to keep you happy, although the small tray that’s perfectly sized for a mobile phone could do with some a grippy surface to stop your phone from flying off.

    Safety

    Euro NCAP last tested the Toyota Hilux back in 2016. While that’s a long time ago, the pickup is fundamentally the same now, so any pros and cons should still apply. Happily, it scored a full five-star safety rating at the time, with particularly impressive pedestrian protection a highlight.

    Even the entry-level Active grade is well equipped with safety gear, including automatic emergency braking with cyclist and pedestrian detection, lane departure alert, road sign assist, adaptive cruise control and hill-start assist. Higher grades add a reversing camera, improved LED lights, hill descent control and parking sensors front and rear.

    Importantly, there’s also a trailer sway control system. This keeps a check on anything you’re towing and ensures it remains behind you in a perfectly straight line. Any wiggles, snaking or swaying are dealt with by the vehicle's electronics gently braking individual wheels to reset the balance.

    Options

    Most options on the Toyota Hilux revolve around improving or extending its commercial practicality. That means there’s a seemingly endless array of options, including plastic, spray-on or aluminium bed liners, countless utility box configurations, multiple sport bar choices, and myriad tonneau covers to pick from. That’s before we get to conversions that can turn your pickup into a tipper.

    Staying in the cabin, you’ve got four grades to pick from. Active is a fleet favourite which is cost-effective and offers simple maintenance but it is miserly with equipment. There's not even an infotainment system fitted but, oddly, you do get a CD player. Icon includes the everyday equipment you would expect, from a DAB radio to a reversing camera, while the high-grade Invincible and INvincible X throw all the toys at the pickup.

    Opt for the latter and there’s heated leather seats, a nine-speaker JBL sound system, satellite navigation, climate control and stylish 18-inch black alloy wheels that you’ll never want to take off-road.

    Rival Pickups

    There’s been something of a cull of pickup trucks in the UK, leaving few rivals. The Ford Ranger is the biggest seller and, despite its age - it’s getting on for ten years old now - it’s still a capable, comfortable and practical choice. The new Isuzu D-Max takes a more rugged approach, with impressive off-road capability, although a new V-Cross specification model adds some luxury. The SsangYong Musso is a little known model, but it’s comfortable, incredibly well equipped and impressively good value.

    Verdict

    Toyota has made more significant changes to the Hilux than the word ‘facelift’ might convey. It’s retained its legendary built-to-last quality, but has made the pickup more easily accessible to those of us not wanting to spend every day on a ploughed field.

    The new engine makes it more usable on the road which, if you're opting for the lifestyle-friendly Invincible grade models, is where you’ll likely be. As a vehicle that you can use as everyday family transport, it works, with the new suspension setup getting closer to the refinement you would expect from a proper SUV.

    It’s not there yet, though, which belies its commercial vehicle roots. Attracting the big-spending retail crowd without losing out on the industrial users that have given the Hilux the reputation it’s got isn’t an easy task. Happily, the Hilux now straddles the middle ground between workhorse and plaything, and straddles it well.

    Where to next?

    View latest Toyota Hilux leasing deals - from just £168.24 per month ex VAT**

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    **Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top five leading independent car website reviews of the Toyota Hilux

    **Correct as of 25/10/2021. Based on 9 months initial payment, 5,000 miles over a 24 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £1514.16 Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.



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