14 October 2016

Review: Toyota Hilux

Toyota's model names are nothing if not long-lived, and the Hilux is certainly true to that form, it being around since 1968, writes Brian Byrne.

Now in its 8th generation, it's a vehicle which has gained an enviable reputation for toughness and reliability in even the toughest of environments, whether in the rough trails of central Africa or carrying doughty drivers and passengers to both north and southern poles. And anything you like in between, even to tracking towards the rim of an erupting Icelandic volcano.

Of course, most of us don't require our pickups to do any of that, but it's nice to know that it can, and is therefore likely to survive a decade or more of use in typical Irish scenarios — from daily commuting to the ravages of construction sites (now that such things are back in style again).

There are times when I forget just what the attraction to an ordinary motorists is of these 4x4 industrial-quality cars, and then I drive one and remember. Call it macho, maybe. Or just the satisfaction of knowing you're operating something that doesn't compromise any of its strength just to be good looking, and good feeling. Something that is equally satisfying because it is big. As I remembered when trying to park it in the very inadequate spacing of Dublin Airport's T2 car park.

(I'm constantly made aware of the design limitations of multi-storey and underground car parks in Ireland, even in the newest of public-use buildings. It's as if the architects don't drive, or have never actually used any of the car parks they design for the rest of us. However, a rant for another time.)

This latest Hilux is longer, wider, and lower than the previous generation. It also has a significantly longer wheelbase, which demonstrated its usefulness in a a very improved general ride.

But staying with the exterior, this car is very much more modern Toyota than the Hilux that went before. The lights, part of a front-end style that is sleeker, and perhaps even more practical if the vehicle is being used in bad off-road ruts.

The double cab of the review SR5 grade is well-proportioned from a profile view, and the alloy wheels add to a very smart overall sideways look. The load bed,, necessarily shortened compared to the single cab version that is available, is still plenty long for hauling stuff. It's made of strong stuff too, as is very clear when dropping and raising the tailgate to load or unload cargo.

The inside looks and feels good, with a quality of trim material that is tangibly tougher than a standard car, but also feels more than something used simply to deal with hard use. The review car had running boards to help climb in and out, but I preferred to avoid them, simply because my legs are long enough that I could. Once in, even for me it's plenty roomy, and in the rear section three decent sized people can fit without being too snug.

There's a centre screen for infotainment, bright and blue in the current Toyota style. The simple rotary switches for heating and ventilation are a joy to use, and for main driving information it is again a pair of simple dials, between them a readout for trip and other information.

There's a lot of modern safety technology in the review version, including lane drift warning and traffic sign recognition which warns you if you're exceeding posted speed limits. The central screen includes a rear view through a camera when reversing, kind of essential when operating something as big as this tight spaces and you can't really see over the tailgate.

The 2.4 diesel is a far cry from noisy and rattly oil-burners of times past, and this Hilux travels very quietly indeed. There's an Eco and a Sport button between the seats, and that latter provides a much more engaged manner with the car. But most of the time it's the kind of car where you couldn't be bothered trying to make a sporty statement, and just let it motor at ease.

On more indifferently maintained roads, the suspension manages to keep any harshness out, and yet you know that it will still be capable of handling some of the worst terrain around. A full set of lower gear ratios, and diff lock, are there to do all that without concern.

Because that's a reputation earned over 48 years, in all of those places I mentioned at the beginning, and probably everywhere else in between.

Prices start at €29,250 (incl VAT) for the single cab. The review SR5 is €39,895 for the excellent manual or €41,650 for the automatic version. And theres an Invincible top of the line costing up to €47,650.

I enjoyed this one very much.