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Toyota Hilux well-mannered tough choice of a monster truck

PUBLISHED: 09:38 20 March 2017 | UPDATED: 15:47 20 March 2017

The Toyota Hilux has been a huge contender in the seriously strong pick-up market for nearly 50 years. Pictures: Toyota

The Toyota Hilux has been a huge contender in the seriously strong pick-up market for nearly 50 years. Pictures: Toyota

Toyota

Over nearly 50 years the Toyota Hilux has earned a reputation for being virtually indestructible. The latest version is pretty plush too, says motoring editor Andy Russell.

The Toyota Hilux has been a huge contender in the seriously strong pick-up market for nearly 50 years. Pictures: ToyotaThe Toyota Hilux has been a huge contender in the seriously strong pick-up market for nearly 50 years. Pictures: Toyota

The last time I drove a Toyota Hilux was bashing through undergrowth clearing firebreaks at my cousin’s home in Australia.

His old Hilux had started life with a mining company, and 300,000km, later was still willing so we treated it to a trip to a nearby beach to conquer a few huge sand dunes.

After nearly 50 years, the Hilux is an icon of the pick-up world with a reputation for being virtually indestructible.

Now Toyota has launched the eighth-generation Hilux and made the big-selling double cab version plusher to appeal to outdoorsy lifestyle types but not at the expense of that rugged, robust reputation.

The Toyota Hilux has been a huge contender in the seriously strong pick-up market for nearly 50 years. Pictures: ToyotaThe Toyota Hilux has been a huge contender in the seriously strong pick-up market for nearly 50 years. Pictures: Toyota

Looks and image

The Hilux double cab is a monster truck - the top of the bonnet level with my chest – so it’s certainly got presence and, in higher-spec models, serious standout styling but no matter how much Toyota promotes its sport utility vehicle-like qualities, the Hilux, remains a wonderful workhorse.

The Toyota Hilux has been a huge contender in the seriously strong pick-up market for nearly 50 years. Pictures: ToyotaThe Toyota Hilux has been a huge contender in the seriously strong pick-up market for nearly 50 years. Pictures: Toyota

Under the bonnet

The new 148bhp 2.4-litre turbo diesel, replacing the 2.5 and 3.0-litre units, is a bit gruff when cold and worked but with 400Nm of torque between 1,600 and 2,000rpm there’s enough low-down urgency to propel 2.1 tonnes of pick-up along at a decent pace.

With the six-speed automatic transmission, which adds £1,500, it returned 30mpg overall and 35mpg on a run.

The Toyota Hilux has been a huge contender in the seriously strong pick-up market for nearly 50 years. Pictures: ToyotaThe Toyota Hilux has been a huge contender in the seriously strong pick-up market for nearly 50 years. Pictures: Toyota

How it drives

The Hilux set out to be better mannered and more like a sport utility vehicle to drive on road and even more capable off it with an extra 20% of wheel travel for tackling rocky, undulating terrain.

Revised leaf-spring suspension does a pretty good job but there’s some bump-thump travelling slowly on rough roads without a load.

Its size and heavy-duty suspension mean you aren’t going to push the Hilux on twisty roads but, body roll aside, it acquits itself well although the steering doesn’t have a lot of feel and a big turning circle gives the arms a workout in tight spots.

The Toyota Hilux has been a huge contender in the seriously strong pick-up market for nearly 50 years. Pictures: ToyotaThe Toyota Hilux has been a huge contender in the seriously strong pick-up market for nearly 50 years. Pictures: Toyota

High and low-ratio four-wheel drive can be selected electronically for slippery conditions while a locking rear differential improves traction.

In the cabin

It’s a climb into the cabin – my test car’s sidesteps were invaluable – but the double cab model will seat five large adults comfortably.

The user-friendly fascia features big, clear dials and straightforward switchgear with many functions controlled via the large touchscreen on Icon, Invincible and Invincible X models. You sit high up, with commanding views, but it’s actually very car-like to drive.

Storage space is abundant and the hard, textured plastics are easy to wipe clean and durable.

Large load-lugger

This hugely practical pick-up has a larger, stronger cargo deck with the maximum width up from 1,544mm to a class-leading 1,645mm.

The test car was fitted with an optional hardtop with hinged rear screen which, once opened, allowed the large tailgate to be dropped. Unfortunately that screen isn’t heated and there’s no wiper to clear the muck but big mirrors and a rear view camera help when reversing.

Final say

The new Hilux builds on its strengths as a truly big player in the pick-up market.

TECH AND SPEC

Price: Toyota Hilux Invincible double cab auto £31,350 (£26,172 excluding VAT). Range from £22,955 (£19,176 excluding VAT) to £35,265 (£29,435 excluding VAT)

Engine: 2,393cc, 148bhp, four-cylinder turbo diesel mated to six-speed automatic transmission

Performance: 0-62mph 12.8 seconds (manual 13.2); top speed 106mph

MPG: combined 36.2 (40.4)

CO2 emissions: 204g/km (185g/km)

Warranty: Five years or 100,000 miles

Will it fit in the garage? L 5,330mm; W 1,855mm; H 1,815mm

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