Fuelled by company car tax rules making them particularly cheap-to-run compared with passenger cars of a similar size, the growing UK-market popularity of the pick-up truck is a phenomenon that might puzzle those unfamiliar with the benefit-in-kind loophole that has driven it on.
It’s easy to understand why ‘trucks’ sell so well in countries with quieter and wider roads, cheaper raw materials and cheaper fuel, after all; but less easy to grasp why you might choose to drive one on busier, tighter UK roads or around our multi-storey car parks.
Running a pick-up in place of a mid-sized family SUV could save a fleet driver a tidy four-figure sum on his annual tax bill as a result of the lower liability that all commercial vehicles qualify for. So if you do need to run a big car as a fleet option - whether you need the load-carrying and offroad capability that a ‘flatbed’ traditionally provides or not – you might very well find yourself interested to discover which the better-performing, better-mannered and more car-like ‘double-cab’ options are in a class populated by both very well-established and conspicuously new players.
So here’s our appraisal of the best pick-ups in the current crop, and what makes them better than others; together with a preview of the rather more special all-electric ‘lifestyle pick-ups’ that are expected to arrive soon. We group-tested several of these cars back in 2018, so for more detailed comparisons, click here.
Although the queue of car brands peddling more upmarket flatbeds with premium brands on their oversized radiator grilles seems to grow longer almost by the month, it speaks volumes that the best pick-up on the block remains one of the least pretentious. The Hilux has been part of Toyota’s commercial vehicles range since the late ‘60s, and it has since garnered a reputation for versatility and dependability that means nobody bats an eyelid when they find that the fully-loaded trim level is dubbed ‘Invincible’.
The Hilux is comfortable and decently finished inside, and also more refined and more pleasant to use than most of its rivals. Creditable ride and handling sophistication distinguish it also, as do dimensions that allow it to narrowly escape feeling elephantine on tighter roads.
As part of a mid-life update in 2019, the car got new bumpers and some cabin and equipment revisions, one of which made for better provision of active safety systems.
The Toyota is only available with a 148bhp 2.4-litre four-cylinder diesel engine, which got automatic engine start/stop as part of that last model update but which doesn’t make it sound exciting next to some multi-cylinder options; but that’s so typical of a vehicle so free of the superfluous – and so likable for it. Meantime, those who do need to transport heavier cargo may also be pleased to find out that its carrying capacity exceeds that of most of its competitors.