THAT stalwart of the pick-up market, the Toyota Hilux has been a dominant factor in its global market sector for more than 50 years and is entering a new era.
Since its arrival in Europe in 1969, it has amassed global sales of more than 18 million.
Around 34,000 were sold in Europe in 2015, representing a 23.1 per cent segment share and confirming the model as the region's best-seller.
The Hilux is famous for its quality, durability and reliability and continues to demonstrate an unstoppable character, conquering the North Pole, the slopes of live volcanoes and Antarctica, as well as claiming podium finishes in the tough Dakar rally-raid.
The new, eighth generation Hilux follows its predecessor in offering customers a choice of body styles: Single Cab, four-seat Extra Cab and the five-seat Double Cab. It builds on the model's established strengths, redefining toughness for business users with its new, stronger ladder chassis, a reinforced deck structure, improved all-wheel-drive capabilities and a greater towing capacity.
At the same time, it responds to the growth in use of pick-ups for leisure in recent years, offering a contemporary design, higher comfort levels, advanced equipment features and improved safety, making it more stylish and stress-free to drive than ever before.
Conceived to be both a hard-wearing business workhorse and a comfortable leisure 4x4, new Hilux offers customers improvements in key areas.
A more spacious and comfortable interior combines the practicality and functionality of an SUV with car-like NVH levels.
There is a high-strength, impact-absorbing structure and is available with Toyota Safety Sense, equipping it with a Pre-Collision System with pedestrian detection function, Lane Departure Warning and Road Sign Assist. Its comprehensive braking and control systems include ABS, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, Vehicle Stability Control and Trailer Sway Control.
A new, tougher ladder chassis and a reinforced deck structure combine with Active Traction Control, Downhill Assist Control and Hill-start Assist Control raise 4x4 capabilities to Land Cruiser levels.
Importantly, Hilux has a larger, stronger and more practical cargo deck and an improved towing capacity of up to 3.5 tonnes.
Toyota is targeting more than 40,000 European sales of new Hilux annually, supported by the model's ability to meet the diverse requirements of its broadest customer base yet.
For the first time, the Hilux is being sold in the UK with the benefit of a new five year/100,000-mile warranty, bringing it into line with the generous cover Toyota provides for its new passenger vehicles.
The intrusion of engine, wind and road noise into the new Hilux's cabin has been reduced to class-leading levels. This has been achieved by introducing comprehensive sound absorption and insulation measures throughout the vehicle.
Toyota's new 2.4-litre D-4D Global Diesel engine may be around 600cc smaller in capacity than the 3.0-litre unit previously featured in Hilux, but it delivers vastly improved torque and better fuel economy.
The 16-valve DOHC four-cylinder 2,393cc engine is equipped with a variable nozzle turbocharger and an intercooler. It generates 148bhp at 3,400rpm and 400Nm maximum torque between 1,600 and 2,000rpm.
All Hilux models are available with a six-speed manual gearbox; a six-speed Super ECT automatic can be specified for all versions apart from Active.
The new line up is priced from £19,177 excluding VAT and tops out at £26,173.
Acceleration from rest to 62mph takes 12.8 seconds with auto transmission or 13.2 with the manual; top speed is 106mph for all versions.
The new Hilux returns fuel economy from 40.4mpg (official combined cycle), with CO2 emissions from 178g/km. This performance, together with reduced servicing times, provides customers with best-in-class total ownership costs.
Toyota have to be congratulated on rebooting a respected name with many SUV qualities, yet not forgetting this vehicle's important commercial roots.