Toyota Hilux Review: The Return of the King?

Nothing is more rugged than a pick-up, and the Toyota Hilux rules the roost where workhorses are concerned. It has been in production since 1968 with successful expeditions in every corner of the world. You might remember the Top Gear team running a highly modified Toyota Hilux in their 2007 Polar Special. They also tried to destroy one several time’s in season 3. It survived a 23-storey fall from the top of a high-rise brought down with implosion. So yeah, that’s what we’re dealing with here.

More than 18 million Toyota Hilux vehicles have been built since 1968, and while there’s plenty of manufacturers with exceptionally tough pick-ups, you’ll find in the construction industry Toyota’s offering is a firmly first choice.

Key to its success is a consistent formula. Across all generations, drivers knew what they were buying into; a vehicle with a reliable 4×4 system, easily replaceable body parts, a huge towing capacity and generous payload and cargo volumes. The Hilux carved a little niche for itself thanks to these qualities. It’s known as the ‘all-in-one’ pick-up in the trade – a vehicle that gets the job done. It’s been known as such since 1968.

So, is the latest version of the same ilk?

 

A modern pick-up that delivers on every level.

Those of you concerned about the durability of a modern Toyota Hilux needn’t be. This latest version is engineered to be tougher than ever before.

It’s still got replaceable steel body parts and robust skid plates to fend off rocky ground. The tailgate has a mechanical locking mechanism and the electronic 4×4 system is designed to reduce service times and run forever. Business as usual then.

Things get tasty as you delve into the goodies list. The new Hilux is available in five trim levels (Active, Icon, Invincible, Invincible X and for a limited time only Invincible X Limited Edition). The benefits of modern motoring are evident here, with features like keyless entry & push-button start (Toyota calls their system Smart Entry), LED headlights, cruise control and a 7-inch touchscreen available as standard from Icon models onwards. Top-of-the-line Invincible X models get full leather upholstery.

The generous list of standard kit means across the range (Active models excluded – this model is set firmly for commercial use) the Toyota Hilux is more than just a workhorse. It’s a genuinely usable daily driver.

So far, so good then. But let’s be honest – pick-ups are all about work. Yes, this one’s comfortable and packed with the same features you’ll find in a German cruiser, but if it isn’t up to towing a caravan, shifting scaffolding or traversing the muddiest building sites, what’s the point? Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Hilux delivers here too.

 

Is the Toyota Hi-lux a workhorse or a show horse?

The Hilux is available as a Single Cab, Extra Cab with 4-doors or a Double Cab to suit everyone’s needs. The Single Cab has the biggest load bed of the bunch, as expected. The bed (or deck) is 2315 mm in length and 1575 mm in width. The Extra Cab is 1,808 mm in length and 1540mm in width, and the Double Cab is 1,525 mm in length and 1,540 mm in width. Steel tailgate struts come as standard as do tie-down hooks.

Those dimensions mean the Double Cab is Euro pallet friendly. In fact, the load bed is 130mm wider on this new model than the old model. The payload capacity is 1,120-1,130kg in Double Cab configuration, so over a tonne.

A 3.5-tonne tow capacity (the legal limit for a pick-up truck) adds to the versatility. If you are using the Hi-lux for towing purposes, all models have Trailer Sway Control and Active Traction Control, an advanced TCS system that promises to keep the wheels gripped up under load. It works in tandem with the 4×4 system which has a rear differential lock and driver-selectable H2, H4 and L4 modes for dependable performance come rain, shine, snow or mud.

Toyota has gone to town on the accessories too. An option worth ticking might be the Sports Deck, which gives you a choice of a hinged ABS hard tonneau cover or retractable aluminum roller cover. You can also add a Hi-over bar, plastic liner or LINE-X spray-on coating to the bed. If you’d rather have a canopy or hardtop, Toyota offers these as well.

It goes to show that the Toyota Hi-lux is a dependable performer and a real workhorse that assumes a heavy load.

 

How does the Toyota Hi-lux perform on the open road?

First thing’s first – the engine is really, really good. Toyota fitted a 2.4-litre diesel engine under the bonnet, and it’s a triumph in flexibility. It puts out 148bhp and 400Nm of torque, with maximum torque available from under 1,750rpm. The choice of a manual or automatic transmission is welcome, although fuel economy varies between the boxes.

Manual models will return up to 40.4mpg combined. Automatic models up to 39.2mpg combined. A small difference, but an important one nether-the-less for high mileage drivers.

Crucially, the engine’s refined at speed and doesn’t falter around the city. The ride is comfortable, and the cabin has a perceptible feeling of quality throughout. This makes all the difference in a pick-up because they are after all industrial at heart.

The Icon Hi-lux models and upwards come as standard with cruise control for arduous motorway journeys, as well as Downhill Assist Control and a reversing camera. Invincible models add LED headlights with automatic levelling, a glorious set of beams that light up the road with intense, white light. If it’s supreme comfort you want, Invincible X models have black leather upholstery, heated front seats, and a powered sliding driver’s seat.

Unlike with previous generations, Toyota has made a big attempt here to make the 2018 Hilux a superior driving machine. My impression is that they have succeeded.

Take all this into account, and what you have, frankly, is a ludicrously good pick-up – a robust workhorse that laughs in the face of graft and charms in the face of leisure. It isn’t the cheapest pick-up out there, but it’s worth every penny.

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