WITH more than 18 million sold worldwide since it was launched in 1968, the Toyota Hilux has earned a reputation as a solid and reliable workhorse - both on and off road - in some of the most inhospitable environments on the planet.
Around 34,000 found homes on the driveways of Europe in 2015, representing a 23.1 per cent segment share and confirming the model as the continent's most popular pick-up truck.
Competition has grown steadily over the years, however, and Toyota has this year given the Hilux its first major overhaul in more than a decade in a bid to to maintain its dominant presence in the global market.
Longer and wider than its predecessor, the eighth generation Hilux has bulked up considerably and boasts much more muscular bumpers and wheel arches, while the grille and headlights flow across the car's nose almost as one, helping to bring the design bang up to date.
Single Cab, four-seat Extra Cab and five-seat Double Cab body styles are available and, in keeping with their working vehicle profile, the Single and Extra Cab versions are offered only in entry-level Active specification.
The Double Cab which I drove, however, also comes in Icon, Invincible and Invincible X grades and will be the one to interest the growing number of drivers for whom - thanks to the huge tax breaks offered to commercial vehicle buyers - their pick-up is the family car as well as a business load-lugger.
Recognising this trend, Toyota has made big steps forward in terms of refinement, comfort and equipment.
Improved soundproofing means that much less noise from the road or the 2.4-litre turbodiesel powerplant creeps into the cabin while the seats are more supportive and the expanded dimensions means more room for passengers - making the Hilux perfectly bearable on long trips.
A clean, uncluttered dashboard is lifted away from the utilitarian feel of the previous model by some contrasting metallic and gloss effect trim and, in all but Active models, features a seven-inch touchscreen multimedia system.
Other equipment in my Invincible trim car included 18-inch alloys, aircon, automatic lights and wipers, keyless entry and ignition, reversing camera, electric folding and heated wing mirrors, digital radio, Bluetooth, rear privacy glass and chrome side bars with steps.
The 2.4-litre engine replaces the previous 3.0-litre unit in the interests of improved economy - offering 36.2mpg when paired with the six-speed automatic transmission in my car - but delivers more torque and the Hilux's towing capacity is increased to 3.5 tonnes.
Plumping for a manual will boost the fuel consumption figure to 40.4mpg but you lose a little in performance terms - the 0-62mph time slipping from 12.8 to 13.2 seconds.
A top speed of 106mph is the same whichever you choose, though, and the Hilux feels fairly quick for a vehicle of its size and - while it could never be described as nimble - also handles pretty well.
Self-explanatory ‘eco' and ‘power' modes allow the driver to tweak the set-up on the move via simple switches in the centre console while a stronger chassis and revised suspension provide stability on road and increased capability off it.
And you'll certainly be able to venture further off the beaten track in a Hilux than most conventional family SUVs thanks to Toyota's renowned switchable all-wheel drive system.
Two and four wheel drive settings can be selected, with a low ratio option, while front and locking rear limited slip differentials are also fitted to help cope with some of the most challenging terrain.