Better to drive than its predecessor and amazingly capable off road, but Europe’s best-selling pick-up is still more work tool than SUV

What is it?

This is the new version of the most popular pick-up in Europe, and one of the most iconic pick-ups across the globe.

The Hilux’s reputation is one of bombproof durability, but this latest model is tasked with appealing to a broader audience. Upgrades include a more premium interior, a stiffer chassis and a more efficient diesel powerplant.

The pick-up segment is gaining popularity, with plenty of rivals old and new vying for sales. Seasoned workhorses such as the Nissan Navara and Mitsubishi L200 have had recent refreshes to increase their appeal, while the upcoming Renault Alaskan could eventually make its way to the UK.

We’re driving the new Hilux in the UK for the first time, with a six-speed automatic transmission, which is expected to account for the majority of sales in the UK, rather than the six-speed manual alternative.

What's it like?

The Hilux is as tough as ever. Despite the changes to appeal to some SUV-minded buyers as well as the usual commercial market, the Hilux has lost none of its go-anywhere, over-anything, ability.

The automatic gearbox is much better than the transmission it replaces. It does a respectable job of shifting smoothly through the gears, especially at low speeds, and isn't too jerky. However, plant your foot and the downshift often leaves the engine holding on to gears uncomfortably high up the rev range as it works through them, but progress is swift enough.

A 2.4-litre diesel engine is what you’ll find in all new Hiluxes, although the 2.8-litre unit that's available abroad could be offered at a later date. The 2.4 is more efficient than the 3.0-litre unit it replaces, and the 295lb ft of torque available in the new engine is more than the old one, too, but it doesn’t match that of the Navara and L200. Even so, the Hilux out-tows an L200 with its 3500kg limit.

Paired with the automatic gearbox, it has a combined fuel economy figure of 36.2mpg, with CO2 emissions of 204g/km. The manual transmission betters those figures, at 40.4mpg and 185g/km respectively, and it’s cheaper by £1250.

Aside from a harsh diesel groan at its top end, refinement from the 2.4 is generally good, but it's no match for that of SUV alternatives. Engine clatter is loud when accelerating, but it settles down at a cruise, and it’s more refined than before.

Some wind noise is whipped up by the sizeable door mirrors at higher speeds, too. The benefit of those mirrors, though, is good visibility, helped by a high, comfortable driving position that gives a broad view of the road ahead. It’s a very spacious cabin, too, with plenty of room up front and in the back for adult passengers to sit comfortably.

The Hilux's steering has improved - it's weightier and more accurate than before - while ride comfort is better, too. That said, the Hilux still suffers from quite a bit of body bounce over bumps when unladen, especially at low speeds. As a result, it isn’t quite as smooth running as an SUV equivalent, but it comes closer than many other pick-ups do to matching SUV standards.

The suspension has been reworked for this new model and is well tuned for off-roading. It’s packed with off-road tech, such as hill descent control and a rear diff lock, as well as a low-range gearbox and the choice of switching between two and four-wheel drive. As you would expect, it is supremely capable off the beaten track.

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There’s also a couple of different drive modes to choose from. PWR mode is designed to sharpen the throttle response, while Eco smooths it out and puts the air-con in an eco mode that alters the fan speed. There’s also a standard drive mode that sits in the middle. However, neither PWR nor Eco produces any noticeable difference in the car's behaviour.

The quality in the interior is a noticeable step up from the previous generation, though, and moves the car closer to its SUV rivals, although not quite close enough to genuinely compete.

Icon trim sits above entry-level Active and gets a 4.2in touchscreen infotainment system, as well as cruise control and DAB radio, on top of things like 17in alloys and side steps that come as standard. It also gets manual air conditioning, which has some fairly cheap-feeling switchgear. Stepping up to Invincible trim, which is expected to shift the highest number of units in this country, gets automatic air-con with a much nicer-looking fascia, as well as 18in alloys and scuff plates for an extra £2500.

Should I buy one?

If your working day involves heavy-duty work, or you regularly encounter sand dunes on the school run, the new Hilux is an excellent choice - especially with its five-year/100,000-mile warranty and very competitive commercial price, helping to save thousands of pounds in VAT (around £3000 for this model).

The automatic is impressive, but the manual represents the best-value option, being cheaper and marginally more fuel-efficient. Icon trim is decent enough, but Invincible has a slightly nicer cabin and drives a bit better on those 18in wheels.

For the wider public on the fence about a step up from an SUV to a pick-up, the Hilux could still be a compromise too far, largely because of its size. At a smidgen over 5.3m in length, it is around a metre longer than a Nissan Qashqai, and many will probably prefer a conventional boot to a load bed.

But the latest Hilux continues the mighty legacy of its predecessors, and those with a professional need for a pick-up will find it more compelling than ever.

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Toyota Hilux Double Cab Icon

Location Buckinghamshire; On sale Now; Price £25,880 (excluding VAT, commercial vehicle price); Engine 4 cyls, 2393cc, diesel; Power 148bhp at 3400rpm; Torque 295lb ft at 1600-2000rpm; Gearbox 6-spd automatic; Kerb weight 2095kg; Top speed 106mph; 0-62mph 12.8sec; Economy 36.2mpg (combined); CO2 204g/km

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Add a comment…
smithian1823 14 July 2016

What a waste of metal

Complete rubbish. I test drove one of these an the experience was terrible. I love the old Hilux, having owned one, but this is a complete disgrace to the Hilux name. It looks bad, it feels bad and it drives bad!
TegTypeR 12 July 2016

This is the UK not the US.

This is the UK not the US. The comments of "For the wider public on the fence about a step up from an SUV to a pick-up, the Hilux could still be a compromise too far, largely because of its size" are largely irrelevant.

This product is bought by trades people or company drivers looking to save on tax and they will all be fully aware of what they are getting.

V-ger 11 July 2016

More Workhorse than SUV -

More Workhorse than SUV - perfect