Mirror, mirror on the wall, which is the smoothest 4x4 truck of all? It’s a question journalists have been debating at length recently as all the major manufacturers have launched new models in the past year.
From the agricultural offerings of the early noughties which were so harsh as to almost loosen the occupants’ fillings on bumpy roads, these trucks have become increasingly more smooth and sophisticated over the years, to the point where they are just about equal on road to mid segment cars.
Assuming that all the trucks in the sector are pretty much on a par in the rough – and assuming also that most of these vehicles spend about 95% of their time on the Tarmac – the question of smooth on-road performance is a critical factor in the buying equation.
The new Nissan Navara has been widely acknowledged as top dog in the sector of late and has picked up a raft of awards in the past few months. Indeed, here at Commercial Fleet we pretty much concurred with that view. That is until we drove the new Toyota Hilux.
At its launch earlier this year, we were struck by how quiet and well-balanced the new Hilux is on road – and after a week with the truck in Invincible guise, our view was confirmed. On road, at least, the Hilux simply knocks the other contenders into a cocked hat.
And bearing in mind that – unlike some of the rivals – it’s offered in single-cab ‘cooking’ format for basic fleet use too, this new truck makes a pretty unbeatable package, although it loses out to closest rival Nissan Navara on both price and power.
Our test model weighs in at £26,173 ex-VAT and the Invincible variant is one down from the top spec available in the range. The truck arrived fully equipped but it all turned out to be standard spec apart from metallic paint at £545 and a fancy infotainment system at £750.
All the snazzy chrome bits such as kick plates and side rails come as part of the package, along with a plastic load liner (which is usually a paid-for extra) and we were especially pleased to see that Toyota’s anti-crash system was part of the deal too, although fleets shouldn’t expect anything like this to be included in lower spec variants.
As can be seen, the Hilux is the usual testosterone-packed offering we expect nowadays in this sector and our model featured what must be the biggest nomenclature in the world on the rear end.
The new Hilux is bigger than the old one and there is certainly no shortage of space inside. While we didn’t tow anything during our test week, we noted that this truck will now lug a full 3.5 tonnes, which could be an important point for fleet buyers.
The seats are big and comfortable while offering plenty of side support and the cab exudes an upmarket appearance with the lines all detailed in stylish blacks and silvers.
But it’s only when the powerplant is fired up that the Hilux shows its true colours. The engine – a new 2.4-litre unit offering 148bhp – is whisper quiet even at motorway speeds and the suspension is engineered such that we could for all the world have been driving a large car.
Some of the rivals suffer from rather vague steering but the Hilux is crisp and taut on the bends, while the auto gearbox flicks up and down the cogs seamlessly. On the downside, the Hilux is slated to return just 36.2mpg on the combined cycle compared to 44.1mpg for the rival Nissan Navara. That’s a big difference in this day and age.
Meanwhile the Hilux is loaded down with off-road safety systems so that on our recent sojourn into the rough at the Hilux launch, the truck did all the work itself and never left us with a moment of worry.