FIRST REPORT - 5th April 2017
The pick-up market is booming, with high-spec models proving popular with small business owners and sole traders who want a vehicle that can fulfill both business and pleasure.
But there is still a place for a simple, basic workhorse, and we’re spending six months with the entry-level version of Toyota’s Hilux, which is very much aimed at those who want their truck to be a tool first and foremost.
The version we’re living with is not quite the cheapest in the range, as ours is a Hilux Active Double Cab, but the only versions that you can get for less are the two-seater Single Cab or the four-seater Extra Cab, which comes with rear-hinged doors and a slightly smaller back cabin.
This, then, is the most affordable Hilux that can carry five and a whole load of stuff. But basic is a relative term when it comes to pick-ups these, days, and the Active grade still comes with well more than the bare minimum. Every Hilux comes with 4WD with an automatic disconnecting differential, a locking rear diff, electric and heated door mirrors, USB, aux and Bluetooth connectivity, air conditioning, remote locking with a locking tailgate and a carpeted interior. The only extras on our car are the Nebula Blue paint (£454 ex VAT) and the protective loadbay coating, Line-X (£416.67 ex VAT).
This might not quite match a similarly priced car in terms of cabin equipment, but first impressions suggest that it is more than capable of matching a car on the road. In the first couple of weeks since we collected the Hilux, it’s already been to Wales, Birmingham and the New Forest, clocking up more than 1000 miles in the process.
That it took the odometer to click into four figures for us to realise that we’d covered that many miles speaks volumes for how adept the big Toyota is at covering miles in a restrained and subdued manner. Although there is a bit of a grumble from the big 2.3-litre D-4D engine at standstill, and under hard acceleration, relatively little noise makes its way into the cabin on the move. The insulation also does a great job at keeping wind and road noise well suppressed.
Over the coming months, we intend to put the Hilux to test in a variety of manners, both as a tool and as a family vehicle to see whether the basic Active trim is enough to fit into a lifestyle.
Interior is well kitted, and many functions are controlled by the touch screen
The Line-X load bed
SECOND REPORT - 12th July 2017
The first I knew of any problem was a loud bang. However, said noise didn’t come while I was driving the Hilux, but while I was sitting on my sofa minding my own business late on a Monday evening.
The chain of events had begun with a police car flashing its blue lights to request a chat with the driver of a car it was following. The young chap in said Audi inexplicably decided he didn’t want to stop to exchange pleasantries, and the end result was the Toyota feeling decidedly sorry for itself and sporting a bruised front end. It could have been much worse, because the Audi ploughed first into a Volvo XC60, which isn’t likely to make it back onto the road, such is the damage.
Until that point, all had been going well with the Hilux, although many of the plans I laid out when it arrived remain unfulfilled to date, and that loading bay has not yet been used for its intended purpose.
Prior to its unscheduled return to Toyota, the Hilux had been settling into the more leisure-focused side of its life with aplomb. This might be an Active trim, and therefore relatively sparsely equipped, but the basics have been welcome. The Bluetooth connectivity has allowed for easy streaming of digital music, although the USB socket positioning – up on the dash underneath the monochrome screen – means that a cable is left trailing across the dash whether your phone is down
in the cupholders or in a holder on the windscreen, acting as a satellite-navigation unit. I’d rather see it set to one side, or tucked away somewhere on the dash.
Suburban living also means plenty of road furniture, and when unladen the Hilux can be rather firm in how it deals with speed bumps, both front and rear. It settles down and smooths out rough surfaces when cruising at higher speeds though.
When it returns, there will be more of a chance to test how it copes when fully laden – colleagues are lining up to grab the keys with muttered comments about piles of logs and house moves.
Normally I’d refrain from people wanting to subject my car to such abuse, but the load lining in the Hilux is tailor made for such jobs. The rough surfacing has already lead me to shy away from putting things in there that could be susceptible to scratching – my bike, for example. I’m sure I’ll be grateful for it when it comes to inspecting the damage, or lack of, after some hardier tasks over this summer.
When unblemished, the Hilux is a rugged looking companion
THIRD REPORT - 4th October 2017
One of the benefits of working in this game is that you have access to a variety of vehicles, which is great when you have tough jobs to do and a colleague has the ideal test vehicle.
That’s why I ended up swapping my long-term Hyundai i30 for CVT editor Tom Webster’s Toyota Hilux.
You see, my girlfriend’s parents had a large tree cut down, and since I have a log-burner in my living room it made sense to chop up the tree and ship it back to my house. Cue begging request to Tom.
Well, to say the Hilux excelled would be an understatement, because it took three huge loads of logs without even breaking sweat. That certainly wasn’t the case for me and my team of eager helpers, who felt decidedly broken after the third round of chainsawing, chopping, loading and stacking!
The Toyota carried all three loads easily and actually the overly firm ride when unloaded became much more settled with the load bed filled. I was also grateful that the truck had been fitted with the £417 Line-X load bay protector, which did away with worries about paint being scratched.
So, the Hilux is the perfect vehicle then? Err, no. As with any pick-up, it’s brilliant when you have a large and messy load, but isn’t so good when dealing with normal life.
For example, when you’re commuting you tend to have a rucksack/bag, and in my case, a folding bike. This normally sits out of sight in my i30’s boot, but if I’d left it in the load bed it would have slid about all over the place and got damaged. So it had to sit on the back seat along with my bag.
Then, when I went to the supermarket on the way home from the station, everything just had to stay in the cabin, inviting theft.
The Hilux seems to dislike long trips, too. I’ve had a couple of 90-mile trips to work recently, and the farther I go, the stickier the gearchange becomes, to the extent that shifting between the top four ratios requires real arm power. It feels almost as if the clutch is packing up, but once the car has sat for a while it returns to normal. Odd.
Nevertheless, if you need a reasonably equipped vehicle that can take a load of messy stuff, a pick-up is the perfect choice, and if you need a pick-up you won’t go far wrong with the Hilux. It’s roomy, strong, and even in the basic spec of our car, pretty good to look at.
Gearshift gets sticky on long journeys
Log team kept on smiling even with achy muscles