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Road test: Toyota Hilux Double-Cab. Image by Toyota.

Road test: Toyota Hilux Double-Cab
Another day, another great pick-up - this time, it's Toyota's evergreen Hilux.

 



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Toyota Hilux Double-Cab

4 4 4 4 4

Good points: good looks, durable yet attractive cabin, smooth driving manners, excellent gearshift.

Not so good: engine a bit underpowered, pricey compared to rivals, lazy steering.

Key Facts

Model tested: Toyota Hilux Double-Cab Invincible
Price: starts from 25,755; Double-Cab Invincible from 27,235; car as tested 31,350 (prices including VAT for private buyers - deduct 20 per cent for CVs)
Engine: 2.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Transmission: all-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: four-door pick-up
CO2 emissions: 185/km (235 CV VED)
Combined economy: 40.4mpg
Top speed: 106mph
0-62mph: 13.2 seconds
Power: 150hp at 3,400rpm
Torque: 400Nm at 1,600- to 2,000rpm

Our view:

Launched in 1968, the Toyota Hilux must be one of the most heralded nameplates in the automotive industry. In terms of pick-ups, nothing can rival it for reputation and longevity save for America's Ford F-150, and as we don't get that particular 'truck' over here then the Hilux is undoubtedly king of the pick-ups here in Europe.

The thing is, while the Toyota may have got there first, it is no longer alone. It now competes in a highly-congested market sector in which there are very few, if any, genuinely mediocre vehicles. In fact, pretty much all the one-tonne pick-ups on sale right now are excellent - you've got the Nissan NP300 Navara with its fancy multilink rear suspension, the revised Volkswagen Amarok with its mighty V6 turbodiesel engine, the attractively styled and well-equipped Mitsubishi L200 and the Ford Ranger, which is probably the strongest all-rounder of the pack. That little line-up doesn't even include great value models like the Isuzu D-Max or the Great Wall Steed.

And things are only going to get tougher for the Hilux in the near future, because Renault's handsome Alaskan - using the underpinnings of the Navara - is likely to make an appearance and even Mercedes-Benz is going to weigh into proceedings with its own take on a truck. So what is the Toyota's one USP, aside from that legendary name, that will carry it through?

On first acquaintance, it's difficult to say. Don't misconstrue us, we like the Hilux a lot, but as this Invincible (cool name) Double-Cab costs as much as an L200 Barbarian or NP300 Tekna, it seems a bit overpriced when you consider its new 2.4-litre D-4D engine makes 150hp and 400Nm, when the Mitsubishi cranks out 180hp/430Nm and the Nissan generates an even more impressive 190hp/450Nm. Sure, you don't need rip-snorting pace from a utility vehicle, but even when running empty the Toyota requires just a little bit of extra thought if you're trying to keep up with traffic flow - a fact that's particularly noticeable on very fast dual carriageway roads like the A1, as, if you get caught up behind two HGVs racing at 56- and 56.001mph, then when the path in front of you eventually clears you're really going to need a downshift from sixth to get the Invincible back up to 70mph... especially if you're on an incline. That's unless you don't mind taking three miles to return to your previous cruising velocity, of course.

Ah, but less power must mean better economy, right? Well... not really. Toyota's official figures of 40.4mpg and 185g/km CO2 are behind both the manual equivalents of the Mitsubishi (42.8mpg, 173g/km) and the Nissan (44.1mpg, 169g/km) and in actuality the Hilux sat between the two - it gave us back an indicated 32.5mpg across 565 mixed-roads miles, compared to the L200's 30.4mpg and the NP300's 35mpg in similar circumstances. That middling economy is a direct corollary of the fact you have to work it harder in all situations to get meaningful acceleration - with an output figure nearer 200hp, we have no doubt the Hilux would eclipse its competitors.

That's because of its exterior styling, which is another area where we're not sure how we feel about the big Toyota. There's no doubting that front end is marvellous, what with its hawkish lamp clusters neatly segueing into a three-bar lamp cluster, that in turn sits atop a sculpted air intake; the whole effect makes the Hilux look like it is scowling at you, which is no bad thing at all. And yes, the rear end with its chunky silver bumper is neat enough, while there are pleasing details like blistered wheel arches and - on this Invincible version - chromed step-up bars running along the sills and a silver rollover bar on the load area.

Yet, somehow, when it first comes into view, it doesn't actually seem to be that big - apart from the 'Hilux' badges themselves on the tailgate and front doors, which are enormous. There's something almost apologetic about the Toyota's plain flanks and the 17-inch wheels look a little bit lost in their housings. Funnily enough, it's one of those perspective things again, because as soon as you clamber all the way up and in behind its steering wheel, and then notice you're riding along above the height of flatbed Transits, you realise it's entirely your misconception about the Hilux's physique. And then you park it in a car park and understand just how gigantic it is; it's actually longer and taller than most of its rivals, aforementioned Japanese models included. We like the red paint of GV16 LYC and we'd certainly say it's a handsome vehicle (although, truthfully, how could you get the pick-up shape wrong?), but there's a nagging feeling that it nevertheless might lack a bit of the kerb presence of the Mitsubishi, Nissan, Ford and Volkswagen rivals.

There's also a slight issue with the gearing of the six-speed manual, specifically for 50mph running. Not really Toyota's fault, of course, as - apart from in a select few places - such hateful 50mph zones ought to be abolished without hesitation, but the fact is that if you're behind traffic that can't keep a constant speed in such areas, then you'll be constantly shifting the Hilux from sixth (where it labours if you drop below an indicated 50 on its speedo) into fifth (where it sounds like it is over-revving once you pass 50) and back again. Presumably, this is where you're going to want the automatic version (+1,250) to nullify such a transmission ballet.

However, as more miles pass underneath the Toyota's chunky all-terrain tyres, your opinion starts to change. For a start, while it may be underpowered, that 2.4-litre turbodiesel is a fine powerplant. It's still noisier than the sort of unit you'd get in, say, a BMW X3 or comparable premium SUV, but it's one of the quieter motors in the pick-up segment and once it is warmed through it's a very serene operator below about 2,250rpm. And while the gearing of sixth might be slightly too long and too far-spaced from fifth, the actual shift action of the manual is easily the best in class. Like all one-tonne trucks, it's a necessarily long lever due to the height you physically sit at above the gearbox itself, but it has a smooth, slick throw and a nice, tight mechanical feel to the engagement of every gear.

And then you notice how quiet a lot of the rest of the Toyota's manners are. That sleek, rounded front end must take some credit here, because the Hilux slips through the air in a hushed manner that's easily better than any other competitor in class, save for possibly the Amarok. OK, we accept this is subjective, as we haven't actually measured the decibels to verify our point here, but that makes the Toyota a fine cruiser - as does the tyres' almost complete lack of aural intrusion into the cabin. Seriously, if it's running below 2,000rpm (and that loping top ratio ensures the Hilux will be, even if you're only roughly sticking to the motorway speed limit), you would think the Toyota was a bona fide SUV, so whisper-quiet is it at pace.

Also, this pick-up has one of Toyota's best interiors. Sure, it's understandably hard-wearing, so there are a lot of firm and unyielding plastics that are in easy-to-reach places, but actually a few fillets of silver trim, the classy blue-glowing instrumentation (especially around the touchscreen unit in the dash, which is really attractive and a cinch to read at a glance) and the attractive multifunction steering wheel ensure it doesn't feel shockingly utilitarian inside. In fact, after anything with a Lexus badge, the GT86 sports car and the brand new C-HR crossover, this is definitely the group's nicest cabin, with plenty of creature comforts - cruise control, a USB socket for your MP3 player, Bluetooth, climate control and satnav - all chucked in.

Which brings us finally to the ride, always the key factor in buying a truck. It is fair to say that none of the contenders in this segment, including the solitary exemplar that has multilink - rather than leaf springs - rear suspension (the NP300 Navara), can flatten out poor road surfaces as well as your common or garden urbanite SUV. Ride in a RAV4 and then jump straight into the Hilux and you'll be disappointed with its conduct. Nevertheless, we're going to stick our necks on the line and say the Toyota might just be the comfiest un-laden pick-up going, after that Nissan. It seems to be very well calibrated at driving along without a load of building materials dumped in its load bed. On gnarly country roads, there is definitely a trace of that rear-axle jiggle possessed by all pick-ups, but out on A-roads and motorways it's extremely serene in terms of secondary ride; occasionally, it feels a bit uncomfortable in the wake of really big high-speed compression moments, but once it settles back down it has a lovely ride.

Everything else about its dynamic character is absolutely fine, so it grips well, finds good traction in poor conditions even in two-wheel drive mode and it has perfectly acceptable brakes, although we must say it has particularly slow-witted steering, seeming to take its time to respond to inputs during the first few degrees of lock. It weights up a bit with more pronounced turns of the wheel, but it's by no means a sparkling set-up, even by the lowly standards of this particular class.

So while its on-paper technical make-up might not look that promising, the Hilux proves to be one of the most refined vehicles in the segment. Taking ride quality, tyre noise, the exertions of the engine and turbulence around the cabin into account, the Toyota scores highly in all four departments and is certainly a match for anything in the class, Volkswagen Amarok included. That it also looks good, has a fine interior and should be as durable as the Moon will no doubt help its cause. Therefore, if you don't need the extra power of the rivals, the new-age old boy Hilux should definitely be on your shopping list, because it's yet another belting modern-day pick-up.

Alternatives:

Mitsubishi L200: excellent equipment and more power for your buck compared to the Toyota, although its ride quality it noticeably worse than the Hilux's.

Nissan NP300 Navara: noisier engine, slightly better ride, strong looks - the new NP300 is definitely one of the Toyota's toughest tests.

Volkswagen Amarok: recently revised and given (glory be!) a V6 TDI unit, so it has all of the torque, but because it's a premium product it's bloody expensive in the segment.


Matt Robinson - 11 Jan 2017









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2016 Toyota Hilux Double-Cab Invincible. Image by Toyota.2016 Toyota Hilux Double-Cab Invincible. Image by Toyota.2016 Toyota Hilux Double-Cab Invincible. Image by Toyota.2016 Toyota Hilux Double-Cab Invincible. Image by Toyota.2016 Toyota Hilux Double-Cab Invincible. Image by Toyota.

2016 Toyota Hilux Double-Cab Invincible. Image by Toyota.2016 Toyota Hilux Double-Cab Invincible. Image by Toyota.2016 Toyota Hilux Double-Cab Invincible. Image by Toyota.2016 Toyota Hilux Double-Cab Invincible. Image by Toyota.2016 Toyota Hilux Double-Cab Invincible. Image by Toyota.








 

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