THE Toyota Hilux pick-up has been on sale in the UK for more than five decades now and the latest model really raises the bar in the sector.
With a range of generously-equipped trim levels to choose from along with single or double cabs, plus manual or auto gearboxes, customers have plenty of scope.
And recently a new 2.8-litre diesel engine joined the 2.4-litre unit to offer added power to the mix.
Prices start from£25,136 excluding VAT, but we opted for the high-end Invincible X Double Cab with the larger powertrain. It featured an upgraded six-speed automatic gearbox and costs £36,470 excluding VAT.
Pick-ups offer an alternative to the ever-popular full-sized family SUVs and these days they are packed with all the everyday creature comforts we demand in our vehicles.
But when needs must, the Hilux is more than capable of taking on the roughest and toughest off-road challenges. After all, this is a vehicle that hasconquered the North Pole, Antarctica and Icelandic volcanoes, as well as winning top spot in the gruelling Dakar Rally on more than one occasion.
Despite sticking firmly to the Tarmac the Hilux hasall the low and high-range gear ratios imaginable for more demanding off-road ventures. It has a one-tonne payload, can tow a trailer or caravan weighing up to 3.5 tonnes and boasts a 310mm running ground clearance, along with approach and departure angles of 29 and 26 degrees respectively, plus with the ability to wade through water up to 700mm deep.
So, it certainly ticks all the ‘workhorse' demands, but what about day-to-day driving needs? Once again, the Hilux impresses. Like most pick-ups it does get a little noisy inside the cabin at higher speeds, but the acceleration and performance is good.
It can reach 62mph from a standing start in 10.7 seconds and maxes out at 109mph. According to official figures, the test model could deliver a combined28.5-29.7mpg with CO2 emissions between 248 and 259g/km.
Despite the high CO2 emissions, the Hilux is classed as a Light Commercial Vehicle, so the annual tax cost which is usually based on carbon emissions, is set at a £290.
The Hilux cruises with ease at 70mph on motorways and offers confident grip through the country lanes and faster B roads.
The acceleration through the auto transmission is sharp for a vehicle weighing in at more than 2.1 tonnes and there is always ample power on tap.
The driver can switch between drive modes called Eco and Power with Eco maximising fuel efficiency and Power producing far sharper responses to throttle inputs for a more engaging driving experience.
And comfort levels have been improved on the latest vehicle with a revised suspension set-up along with upgraded power steering. Aclever Pitch and Bounce Control system is also new and this automatically adjusts the engine torque in response to road surface conditions to improve the all-round ride and handling. This all helps to make the Hilux a comfortable vehicle in all driving situations.
The new-look Hilux boasts a stronger road presence too thanks to a redesigned front end. It features a three-dimensional grille and new-look bumper that reinforce its tough, go-anywhere character. And the Invincible X version, as tested, gains additional wheel arch mouldings and fog light surrounds that match the carbon grey grille surround.
LED headlights and tail lights, rear privacy glass, 18-inch alloy wheel designs, front and rear scuff plates, a shark fin antenna and electrically adjustable, heated door mirrors with integrated indictor lights complete the exterior look.
The interior has a simplistic layout but features plenty of tech, such as the latest Toyota Touch 2 multimedia system with faster software and responses to touchscreen commands. There is sat nav, smartphone integration via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto available from Icon grade upwards, an eight-inch touchscreen, DAB radio, Bluetooth, rear-view camera, plus a nine-speaker JBL premium sound system on our model.
The heated front seats are power operated and the elevated seating offers a commanding view of the road ahead along with excellent all-round driver visibility.
Grab handles and side steps make getting in and out of the Hilux much easier and there are lots of convenient storage options throughout the cab, including a double glovebox (one is chilled),deep door bins, a sunglasses compartment, a central cubby box, front and rear cup holders plus some trays and seat back pockets.
And the Hilux also covers all the safety bases too having been awarded a maximum five-star Euro NCAP safety rating. It has the impressive Toyota Safety Sense system with a pre-collision system with pedestrian and cyclist detection, adaptive cruise control, lane departure alert and road sign assist. Other tech includes eCall emergency assistance, vehicle stability control, traction control, trailer sway control, hill-start assist, downhill assist, Isofix child seat anchors and a full suite of airbags.
All in all, the latest Hilux is still one of, if not the most capable pick-up on the market today. It offers a perfectly balanced mix of robust design cues along with softer luxurious features.
201bhp, 2,755cc, 4-cylinder, diesel-driven engine with 6-speed automatic transmission and AWD