The Toyota Hilux has been shifting loads for 52 years and its latest incarnation lives up to that workhorse reputation, says Ed Coles
When you think of a pickup truck, the Toyota Hilux is probably one of the first to spring to mind. It’s been around in various forms since 1968 and, over the years, it’s proved itself to be a formidable off-road vehicle, popular with farmers and keepers.
The Hilux comes in several guises, but it’s safe to call this the proper workhorse version or, to give it its official name, Hilux Active Wide Body Single Cab.
A pretty big beast
My first impression is that I could have done with this at the start of the season. It’s a pretty big beast and there’s something a bit retro about the black 17in steel wheels. I like the colour too. Despite its workhorse nature, the overall silhouette is rather pleasing for a pickup. Admittedly, it’s not an Aston Martin, but it still looks sleek and by no means offensive on the eye.
It looks fit for purpose and viewing from front to back, you won’t have to worry about ground clearance — 227mm to be precise. It’s more than enough to deal with all that the British countryside has to offer.
It’s time to pull out my trusty feed bag and explore underneath. At the back, it all looks industry standard: ladder chassis, solid, lockable rear diff powering the rear wheels and hefty leaf springs cushioning the load. It’s not overly glamorous underneath, but it has the right amount of everything that we need. Perhaps it’s slightly agricultural, with only a hint of the new-fangled. Minding my head on the robust tow bar, I’ll go in for a bit more of an exploration.
The workhorse bit of the Hilux is pretty impressive. This version comes with a nice lockable storage box for expensive tools such as a chainsaw. Unfortunately, despite being reasonably deep, it’s not long enough to accommodate a gun slip. As it is the wide-bodied version, I’m guessing five full feed bags wide and five rows long — a total of 25-plus full bags overall. You could fit a full pallet in with room to spare though, despite the room, payload sits at just over a tonne.
As it’s a bit of a wide boy, it looks the perfect width for moving partridge pen sections about and there’s plenty of places to secure them to. Lugging things about isn’t going to be an issue for the Hilux.
Time to have a peek under the bonnet. It’s quite novel in that I can see a fair bit of the engine; it’s not overly draped in plastic. The Hilux is powered by a four-cylinder 2.4 turbo diesel, which stables 148 horses and comes with a six-speed manual gearbox. It produces enough grunt for towing up to 3.5 tonnes, which is pretty impressive; more than a lot of its competitors.
Climbing in, the first impression is that it’s quite smart for a workhorse. I am greeted with a sensibly dark interior. You almost forget you’re in a commercial vehicle. Though a single cab, it doesn’t feel cramped. There’s a reasonable amount of space behind the seats, where you could put your gun slip.
Not too many overly complicated controls. I want to say it’s basic inside, but that would do the Hilux a disservice. Just the everyday essentials would be more apt. The spec is reasonable: electric windows, central control screen for radio and phone, adjustable steering column, aircon with a cooled glovebox. This version has a few extras: metallic paint, tow bar and a parking pack which includes camera and sensors.
The 4×4 controls are pretty simple. One rotary switch to select 2 high, 4 high and low, plus an electronic lockable diff. The Hilux has a host of electronic aids: hill start control, active traction control, trailer sway control, vehicle stability control and brake assist.
On country roads, it feels stable around the corners. The characteristic 4×4 wobble and roll is minimal, but it is there. On the whole it’s quite manoeuvrable and doesn’t feel like it should come with a sail, as some 4x4s can. It handles the bumps well, though the suspension may feel a little soft. But it’s for carting stuff, not racing around a track.
Smooth gear changes
On the open road it feels comfortable and it’s rather pleasant cruising along. Not lightning quick with a zero to 62mph of 13.2 seconds, but enough power and speed to keep me amused and out of trouble. It feels smooth going through the gears and, again, you could forget you’re in a commercial vehicle.
With 4 high selected and diff locked, it’s time to see how she copes off–piste around the bad lands of Edwardshire. Despite the wide body, the Hilux is rather manoeuvrable through the wood, almost nimble you could say.
It deals with the ruts and bumps with ease, which is no surprise. Not too much squirming around through the mud, which is helped by the relatively sensible tyres fitted. At no point did I think I would get stuck. It can certainly deal with everything and more, but I was reluctant to test its 700mm wading depth.
I can see the appeal of the Hilux and its reputation as a good off-road vehicle is well justified. The latest incarnation lives up to its predecessors.
The Hilux ticks all the boxes for me: good on the open road, fantastic off-road and enough room to carry pretty much anything you want to. The only thing it could do with is the addition of a rear canopy to cover the back, other than that top marks from me, but what is the bottom line?
The Hilux does seem to hold its price in the second-hand market and they’ve appeared to be one of the more pricey 4x4s over the years. However, this workhorse version isn’t overly expensive. With the optional metallic paint, parking pack and tow bar, it comes in at £20,423.33 + VAT, which is pretty reasonable. So, the question is, can I hide one in the wheat bill?
Need to know – Toyota Hilux
- Model Toyota Hilux
- Top speed 106mph
- Bhp 148
- 0-62mph 13.2 seconds
- Fuel consumption 39.8mpg
- Co2 emissions 187 g/km
- Towing weight braked 3,500kg
- Towing unbraked Green 750kg
- Insurance group 49