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Toyota has sold 18m of its rugged Hilux around the globe since its launch in 1968. Its latest generation has come a long way... Toyota broadens Hilux appeal

Toyota has sold 18m of its rugged Hilux around the globe since its launch in 1968. Its latest generation has come a long way since then.

Dan Gilkes discovers just how far.

Toyota has launched an upgraded Hilux pick-up, with a larger, more powerful engine, revised suspension and an automatic limited slip differential (aLSD). Toyota is also moving more up-market, to meet the changing needs of pick-up buyers across Europe.

With more than 18 million trucks sold since the original Hilux was launched in 1968, Toyota’s stalwart pick-up has an enviable reputation for reliability and durability. However, the pick-up market has changed, with the leisure and dual-use sector now dominating sales. Hilux has always been a strong performer with working truck users, but its relative lack of a powerful headline engine has prevented Toyota competing in the full pick-up market.

The company has never had a truck with more than 175hp, yet almost 70% of sales in the UK are now powered by engines with more than that. That means that however successful Hilux is, the truck can only hope to compete in 30% of the market.

Engine development
Toyota is therefore launching a 2.8-litre diesel engine, to run alongside the existing 2.4-litre motor. Optional in the Invincible trim and standard in Invincible X, the 2.8-litre engine delivers 201hp. It also boasts a powerful 500Nm of torque when paired with the upgraded six-speed automatic transmission, though that is limited to 420Nm if you opt for the six-speed manual gearbox. The 2.4-litre engine will continue in Active and Icon trim levels, offering 148hp and 400Nm of torque.

Toyota is one of the few manufacturers to offer both manual and auto boxes in its higher trim models, but expects around 70% of Invincible buyers to choose the auto transmission. Despite the increased capacity and power output, Toyota claims that the 2.8-litre engine delivers 28.5-30mpg with the auto and 31.1-33.2mpg with the manual gearbox, figures that are not far off the smaller 2.4-litre engine. CO2 emissions are also similar, at 246-259g/km (WLTP) with the automatic box.

The six-speed auto transmission has been upgraded and now offers lock-up in fourth, fifth and sixth gears, to assist economy. It is certainly smooth and responsive, offering impressive acceleration when called upon. The trucks also have a Drive Mode switch, with Eco reducing acceleration and the power consumed by heating and air conditioning to boost economy. The Power mode provides a sharper throttle response for more enthusiastic driving.

Interestingly, Toyota has equipped the revised Hilux with an automatic LSD in the rear axle. This is designed to provide increased traction and improved handling when on the road in two-wheel drive, where some pick-ups can become lively in the wet. Toyota has also improved the steering and finessed the rear leaf suspension, to provide an improved ride on the road.

When off-road, the truck has the usual selection of 4 low and 4 high transfer box ranges, with Downhill Assist Control now standard on models above Icon. Very little is going to stop Hilux off the road, in situations that many owners will never experience.

Revised styling
Though comprehensively overhauled beneath the bonnet, the latest Hilux remains based on the eighth generation of the truck. Externally though, it gets a new grille and front bumper and, on Invincible X, additional wheel arch mouldings and fog light surrounds. Invincible and Invincible X models have full LED head and tail lights and there are new 18” alloys on offer.

Inside the cab, all models bar the entry-level Active trim come with the Touch 2 multimedia system, that incorporates sat-nav on the Invincible X. Smartphone integration is standard from Icon trim up and the higher trim levels get a powerful JBL stereo.

Active grade models are still offered in all three body styles, though the standard trim still includes air conditioning and Bluetooth. New to Active grade is Toyota Safety Sense, a package of safety and driver assistance systems that includes Pre-Collision System, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert and Road Sign Assist.

Move up to Icon and you add 17” alloys, LED fog lights, side steps, privacy glass a reversing camera and power folding mirrors. You also get the aLSD, smartphone integration and DAB radio. Invincible adds an inch to the wheel size, plus you get heated seats, LED lights, smart entry with push-button start and auto air-con.

On the road
The 2.8-litre engine makes its presence felt as soon as you push the throttle pedal, providing rapid acceleration when called upon. It is a little coarse under full acceleration, but the minute you ease off, the noise levels drop and the cab takes on a far more refined feel. Indeed, drive around town normally and this has to be one of the quietest pick-up cabs in the business, with the auto transmission gently slurring through the gears.

Move away from urban roads and the truck easily keeps pace with faster traffic and you need to keep an eye on the speed limits. The ride is definitely smoother too, again making the latest Hilux an easier truck to live with day to day. I can’t claim to have noticed the improvements to the steering, but the pick-up felt secure on country roads and easy to manoeuvre.

As mentioned, off-road the Hilux has lost none of its rugged ability, tackling terrain that few owners will ever take on with ease. 

Market growth
Prices for the Active single cab start at £22,466 CV OTR, rising to £33,783 for an automatic Invincible X double cab. As with all Toyota commercials, you get a five-year warranty and five years of roadside assistance. Strong residual values also make it possible for the company to offer attractive PCP and business contract hire rates.

No less than 123 of Toyota UK’s 168 dealers have now become Toyota Professional dealers, offering additional van and pick-up expertise and an impressive customer service promise. However, the real bonus for those dealers, is that they will no longer be taking on the pick-up market with one hand tied behind their backs.

Toyota sold around 7,500 pick-ups in the UK in 2019, despite only really competing in 30% of the market. With a 201hp engine under the bonnet and improved specifications in its higher trim models, the company has substantial sales growth in mind. Indeed, Covid-19 aside, with two of the higher-powered competitors no longer on sale in the UK, Toyota could hardly have chosen a better time to invigorate the Hilux brand.

“Very little is going to stop Hilux off the road, in situations that many owners will never experience.”