The best selling vehicle in South Africa, with over 5million units sold internationally. The Polo, the Corolla, the BMW 3 series? Nope. The Toyota Hilux. Astonishing.
I had the DC Raider D-4D 4×4 on test, in obligatory white. In non-farmer-speak, that’s the Double Cab 4 wheel drive, with a 3litre diesel engine, and it’s pick of the bunch. That said, my neighbor saw it, and asked why I was driving “A workhorse” … beg your pardon?
Something that nobody has ever questioned, is the legendary Hilux toughness. Whether you’ve seen TopGear try to destroy one, or the farmer with 5 different models with over 700 000km on each, it’s THE vehicle that most South Africans choose as a workhorse, a family carrier or even a daily runaround. Well, the real question we’re here to answer is – can 2741 South Africans a month be wrong?
A huge majority of the customers use this vehicle as an everyday driver, go to Pretoria and every housewife used to sport one of these babies in the school parking lot (now it’s a Fortuner or Sportage). The model on test costs R424 900, which could come as a surprise and the Hilux has been criticized in the past for the relatively low spec, which Toyota has addressed in this 7th gen model. This model has revised head and tail lamps, new rim choices (17inch rims), some safety changes in the form of vehicle stability control (on and off road) and now 6 airbags, oh yes, and some serious changes to the interior. Most notably a new “Display audio system”, climate control, auto lights, Bluetooth & Aux/USB plug in and steering wheel controls. Some of the additions do seem a bit … well … after market with the silver plastic trim. That said, it all works, and probably will for another 700000km’s. It all feels typically Toyota, including the suede seats that I’m sure are from the original Hilux. Immediately spec leather or get those clip on seat covers that are oh so popular in the Fortuner.
I do however love the fact that the Hilux has an aircon, which is 5 times stronger than anything from competitors – smart because the Hilux is a car that spends a lot of time in extreme weather conditions. Also, the Hilux, unlike the Ranger features a rear window that opens, to help you climb into your optional (and popular) canopy.
Some things missing in my view, is some form of lighting into the load bay, a better digital display for the on-board computer, and more 12V sockets like the new Ranger now features in their load bay.
One to the heart – the D-4D 3litre engine is a firm favourite for the Hilux. It’s a turbocharged 3litre diesel engine and turns out 120kW at 3400RPM with 343NM available at a very low 1400RPM. The engine’s ability to give the maximum torque at 1400RPM is key. The Hilux’s intercooler gives it the ability to crawl in second gear on the incredible torque at low revs without stalling. It does a good job at getting going, and strong torque at low revs means you rarely have to rev it up. If you are very used to driving a car, the gearshift, which is a long shifter, gets serious. There’s a lot of shifting when you’re going through traffic, so I would suggest the auto if you’re not doing a lot of heavy off-roading. Otherwise the 5speed manual gearbox (6speed please Toyota) is probably the better gearbox if you’re going off-road due to the ability to regulate speed. The gearbox and engine does however feel indestructible. It’s the “Toyota feel” you can’t explain
This was the 4×4 model, which adds a low-range transfer case (Low range) and electronic diff-lock. I would get technical, but I don’t know enough. Two things here though. Firstly, don’t get the 4×4 option if you’re not spending time doing serious off-roading. The Hilux is incredibly capable in 2×4 with diff-lock, and lugging around all that extra weight and mechanics in town is just silly. Secondly, the new Hilux ads off-road traction control which does the job of braking wheels independently when they detect slip, and can also be switched out totally e.g. in sand driving.
Every day handling is typical bakkie stuff. The ladder chassis means this isn’t a comfortable ride. It’s not going to be, it has to cater for heavy lifting and venturing off-road as well as city driving, and without advanced air suspension that’s a near impossible compromise to achieve.
As far as safety goes, the updated Hilux features 6 airbags, ABS, EBD, Brake Assist, as well as vehicle stability control, which keeps the Hilux from sliding around, and is a welcome addition as the back can come out easily under heavy braking and acceleration because there’s very little weight over the rear wheels. Speaking of the rear wheels, they are fitted with drum brakes. Why no disks? (This seems to be a general bakkie thing)
So, if you’re one of those 2741 South Africans per month, and you use your Hilux as a workhorse, for towing, off-roading, hauling and trips into Africa, it makes absolute sense and I wouldn’t buy anything else. I’ve been into Africa a few times, and in sheer numbers the Toyota dominates. The ability to fix anything that might (but won’t) go wrong, and overall toughness cannot be beat.
BUT… if this is the vehicle you use for driving around town, you are wrong. The bakkie model doesn’t lend itself to a comfortable ride, there’s no space to securely put shopping, the interior isn’t exactly comfortable or a well specced place to be, and parking one requires some skill. I do wish the Hilux came with a reverse camera (a-la-Fortuner) and Park Distance Control as standard. This said, you now understand the popularity of the Fortuner and smaller SUV’s as families move from the bakkies that compromise on so much, to these vehicles that provide a better package for city use.
The Hilux comes standard with a 5yr/90000km ToyotaCare service plan and a 3yr/100 000km warranty.