2021 Toyota Hilux review
If I was to ask you to name a mainstream pick-up truck, the likelihood is it would be a five-letter word beginning with ‘H’ and ending with ‘x’. That simple Q&A serves to explain why Toyota’s decision to update its Hilux — introducing a new, more powerful 2.8-litre diesel engine, specifically targeting the burgeoning "lifestyle" sector — deserves our attention.
Some figures. Since the Hilux was launched in 1968, more than 18 million have been sold around the world. It’s Europe’s biggest-selling flatbed.
So, yes, we all know pick-ups. The market is essentially split into two groups. There’s the "tradesman-type" guy who uses his pick-up to load the flatbed with work paraphernalia like cement bags, gardening tools, ladders and all the other detritus required to make an honest living.
Then there’s the weekend "lifestyley people". You know, the Action Man/Woman-type who need something to strap their surfboard to; or pack to the rafters with climbing gear and tents as they head into some remote wilderness; or pull their jet ski; or transport a couple of off-road dirt bikes; or simply load with parents and kids as they head to their favourite park for a muddy walk. But the key point is; the vehicle needs to look like it mirrors their weekend "action persona", rather than the Monday to Friday mode of transport.
How big is the UK pick-up market?
Big; and growing. Since 2017 it’s been running at just over 50,000 units a year in the UK. But while the Hilux has captured a significant slice of the UK’s commercial market, it’s never quite grabbed the attention of the lifestyle crew. Why? Because the Toyota has always been perceived as having a relative lack of power. And if there’s one thing the lifestyle market likes, it’s power.
Up until now, the current Hilux has only been available with a single 2.4-litre turbodiesel engine option, delivering 148bhp. That’s hugely significant because 70 per cent of the UK pick-up market in 2019 went to pick-ups with at least 175bhp. Many of the principal sellers were well over 200bhp.
While the 148bhp diesel continues in the Hilux range, there’s now also a new 201bhp 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel engine. That means there’s more than a third more power than found in the 2.4D.
That’s not all. The top-of-the-line Invincible X double-cab Hilux, which we drive here, now also comes with more kit as standard, including two-tone heated leather, LED headlights, ambient lighting, and a JBL premium sound system, complete with sub-woofer. But more of that later.
Toyota Hilux Double-Cab 2.8 D-4D Invincible X auto
- Price: £38,975 (£32,533 ex-VAT)
- Engine: 2.8-litre, four-cylinder, diesel
- Power: 201bhp
- Torque: 369lb ft
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic , selectable four-wheel-drive
- Top speed: 109mph
- 0-62mph 10.7secs
- Economy: 28.5-29.7mpg
- CO2 emissions: 248-259g/km
Oh, worth highlighting that in an effort to appeal to the lifestyle market, the ‘X’ has also benefitted from something of a body makeover. The unique exterior look, includes black cladding for the grille, wheel arches and tailgate; plus minimal chrome trim and exclusive 18-inch wheels.
New Hilux engine and performance
Without getting too technical this is a re-engineered version of a motor that was already available in other regions. You already know it’s a 2.8-litre turbodiesel that delivers 201bhp, but its torque figure has also increased from 295lb ft to as much as 369lb ft where the six-speed automatic transmission is fitted, as driven here. The six-speed manual is limited to 310lb ft. Hint: if you can afford it, best go for the auto.It’s good for 0-62mph in 10.7 seconds (10.1 for the manual). And when compared with the 2.4D, is only 0.7mpg and 5g/km worse off in terms of consumption and CO2 emissions. But it still means only 30mpg and an eye-watering 246g/km. Anyway, moving on …
The 2.8D certainly feels fast. On both dual-carriageways and A-roads it allows for comfortable overtaking, and removes the need for well-in-advance-planning before you attempt to ease passed another vehicle.
Is it any better on the road?
It definitely is. We know Toyota has always focused on ensuring the Hilux is as near to unbreakable as possible. In achieving that, it tuned the suspension, especially at the rear, when the payload was at its max. The result was the ride was great when the flatbed was loaded to the gunwales, but the rear-end had a tendency to float about over bouncy surfaces (read, normal, potholed UK roads) when empty.
This latest version changes that approach totally. The engineers have tuned the suspension before fully loading the flatbed. In doing so they’ve refined the leaf springs, swapped some bushes and changed the shock absorbers.
The difference in ride is immediately noticeable. Gone is the harshness over bad road surfaces. It now feels much more planted and acceptable to drivers of regular cars. Steering has also been improved with the introduction of a new variable flow control pump, resulting in a new lightness at low speeds, and a more steady feel at motorway and A-road speeds. On all but the base model, there’s also a new limited slip differential fitted as standard, resulting in better traction in low-grip situations in rear-wheel drive mode.
But does it still do the business off road?
Oh yes. On a day which was ravaged by incessant torrential rain, making the off-road course near Arundel a gloopy, muddy quagmire dominated by deep, cloying puddles, the Hilux was unstoppable.
In the dry, the hour’s drive would have been demanding. In these sodden conditions it was a severe challenge … and the Hilux coped effortlessly with everything it faced. It descended and ascended slick slopes; it weaved its way through narrow, squelchy forest tracks; perched precariously but defiantly on three wheels over the articulation bumps; and serenely waded through rivers and bogs.
This was a proper, old school off-road exercise. It was brilliant. And tested the pick-up far beyond the limits the vast, vast majority of owners would ever consider putting their own Hilux through.
Toyota has improved the off-road capabilities by lowering the idle speed from 850rpm to 680rpm and retuning the accelerator response when switched to low-range four-wheel drive (L4). It now has a wading depth of 700mm; and a new a tyre angle monitor to help the driver keep track of where the front wheels are pointed.
Okay, what about equipment?
There’s lots of it. As previously, the Hilux comes in four trim levels: Active, Icon, Invincible and Invincible X. The latter two models are the only ones available with the 2.8D (standard on the X, optional on the other).
The Active — which starts at £26,895 (or £22,466 ex-VAT for commercial users) — is the basic, and specifically targeted at a demanding, hardworking commercial life. Next up is the Icon, which gets the active LSD, a reversing camera, and the new eight-inch Toyota Touch 2 infotainment system. Prices start at £31,795 (£26,549 ex-VAT).
Larger 18-inch alloys, parking sensors front and rear, plus keyless go are added to the Invincible (£34,925 or £29,158 ex-VAT). The range-topping Invincible X is the only one to get the bespoke bodywork features, as well as the two-tone perforated leather, new nine-speaker JBL sound system, and ambient interior lighting. Yours for £38,975 or £32,533 ex-VAT.
If there was a car for all seasons, and all requirements, this is probably it. You could comfortably take the kids to school in it, using the big, comfortable rear seats in the double-cab; or you could, most likely, drive from one end of the UK to the other without ever having to touch Tarmac. This pick-up would cope admirably with either test.
If it’s a true lifestyle pick-up you’re after, then look no further: the Toyota Hilux has life nailed.