YOU probably know that Toyota is one of the worlds most prolific maker of cars, but I bet you don’t know that its commercial products are just as successful on the global stage. Although to some the firm’s popular Land Cruiser has a foot in both camps, there’s no mistaking the Hilux pick-up as a genuine commercial workhorse.
Around the world this pick-up is something of a legend. Not only will you find it on a building site, but you'll also find it in some of the most inhospitable places, being used and generally abused by all and sundry.
For many people the Hilux is more than just a vehicle; it enables them to reach the next village a few hundred miles away, transport valuable supplies and ensure that they don't get stranded in the middle of nowhere.
And it's this last quality that has afforded the Hilux such a wide fanbase. Toyota is synonymous with reliability and durability, and the chunky all-rounder is reliability and durability personified.
With all this talk, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the Hilux is a dull, characterless tool. Not so. In its latest incarnation Toyota's pick-up boasts rounded corners, high levels of refinement and SUV-like responsiveness.
Even though the recent mushrooming in popularity of ‘lifestyle’ picks-up has abated, current buyers understandably expect high levels of comfort and refinement from their working vehicles. Hardly an unreasonable demand considering many will spend countless hours behind the wheel each day.
This latest revision offers prospective buyers a pleasing mix of rounded, SUV-like exterior looks and a familiar car-like ambience for occupants. On the outside, the Hilux gains a restyled nose, which runs to a new bonnet, grille, headlamps and bumper. Flagship Invincible variants also get new wheel designs plus new side steps.
This softer appearance is carried over inside the Hilux’s cabin, with the pick-up’s fascia boasting a more car-like design bringing it closer in style to Toyota existing passenger cars. And maintaining the car theme, a prominent colour touchscreen plus sat-nav, Bluetooth and USB connectivity is available for HL3 and Invincible variants.
It’s fair to say the Hilux’s SUV-like driving characteristics are part of its appeal, as is a car-like interior complete with car-like creature comforts and safety kit. Then there are the diesel engines. The Hilux is available with a choice of 2.5 and 3.0-litre units, producing 142bhp and 169bhp respectively. Curiously it’s a dead heat on the torque front (343lb ft) if you opt for a manual gearbox, while the latter with an auto ‘box is upped to 360lb ft.
In the real world the 2.5-litre model proves to be more than capable even when loaded. The engine feels punchy enough on inclines and is also happy to chug along at low revs on the motorway. There’s certainly no shortage of torque to enable stress-free travel over muddy terrain or when you need to tow something. The five-speed manual gearbox might appear on paper to be missing a gear, but the ratios are well spaced and the shift action slick even if the lever’s throw is a little long.
Thanks to a decent stereo, airbags, electric windows and anti-lock brakes you’re well looked after and the Hilux’s overall refinement ensures that driver fatigue is kept to a minimum on long journeys.
But let’s not forget the real reason you’ll find yourself driving a Hilux: it’s a tough, capable workhorse. Crucially, access to the rear deck is straightforward and there’s no shortage of space for even the most unusual of cargo. Securing said load and shielding it from prying eyes is possible thanks to a wealth of dealer and third party options, while the double cab variant offers just enough room for extra passengers when you need to carry not just supplies but humans too.
The Hilux is a pick-up you can use day in, day out without feeling like it’s a big compromise. Safe, economical, reliable and good value, the single and extra cab variants might be the traditional workhorses but the 2.5-litre Double Cab successfully bridges the gap if you want to combine utility and all-round usability in one attractive package.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Model: Toyota Hilux 2.5 D-4D HL3 Double Cab, from £18,958 plus VAT.Engine: 2.5-litre diesel unit developing 144bhp.Transmission: 5-speed manual transmission as standard, driving all four wheels through switchable 4x4 system.Performance: Maximum speed 106mph, 0-62mph 13.3 seconds.Economy: 38.7mpg.CO2 Rating: 194g/km.