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2020 Toyota Hilux

2020 Toyota Hilux

March 9, 2021

The Toyota Hilux is a sales phenomenon. Since 1968, Toyota’s shifted 18 million of these humble workhorses to everyone from farmers to freedom fighters. Naturally, you’d expect this heavily facelifted, thoroughly updated 2020 Hilux not to risk messing with such a popular recipe. Wrong. Toyota has been poring over the spreadsheets, and lately they make grim reading for the Hilux. Since 2012, pick-up truck sales in Europe have doubled, swept along in the torrent of clamour for all things 4×4 and SUV-ish. But while truck sales have boomed, the Toyota’s market share has been eaten into by the likes of the Ford Ranger Wildtrack and the VW Amarok – trucks aimed at wooing lifestyle enthusiasts in Shepherds Bush as much as they impress actual sheep-herders in the bush. 

Toyota reacted to the trend for people desiring high-spec, well-kitted pick-up trucks with powerful motorway-happy engines with this refreshed contender. They introduced the option of a 2.8-litre engine on the top trim levels, instead of the workaday 2.4-litre. Inside, the range toppers boast heated leather seats, an automatic gearbox and Toyota’s latest smartphone-literate touchscreen. There’s even a JBL hi-fi and LED lights. 

Then there’s the mechanicals. Toyota used to place a multi-tonne load in the Hilux’s bed, then tune the suspension. That meant a bouncy, unsettled ride when the truck was unladen. Because most lifestyle pick-up truck drivers never place much in the cargo bay, the latest Hilux has been tuned to ride best without so much as a bag of sand slung in the bed.

Driving 

While you sense the ride is more settled down at the rear than pick-ups of yore, and body roll has been contained for such a tall beast, you’re still jostled and rattled about on your 19th Century frontiersman suspension. The twirly, sluggish steering is slow and remote, devoid of any feel, and the brakes are grabby. Roundabouts are less than fun. 

Toyota stubbornly stuck with carthorse springs – albeit with new bushes – to stay true to the Hilux’s roots. While admitting they give away ride comfort and refinement, Toyota insists you’ll forgive that when they soak up years of maintenance-free punishment that’d cripple coil springs. If this truck is your business workhorse, time off the road equals money out of your pocket, and for that hardiness you’ll likely accept a bit of roughshod road performance. 

On the whole, the six-speed automatic gearbox guesses the right ratio at the right time, and teamed with the 201bhp, 369lb ft four-cylinder turbodiesel engine, the Hilux makes respectable progress.  

The Hilux’s more relevant vital stats are on the money. It’ll tow 3,500kg, the payload is just over a tonne, and the load bay itself measures 1525mm long by 1645mm wide. Going off-road? Then there’s an automatic limited-slip diff which works in two-wheel drive mode and means you can get surprisingly far into the wild before engaging full-time four-wheel drive. The transmission offers a low-range mode for serious off-road work, and there’s a foolproof hill descent assistant across most of the range. Ground clearance is a lofty 310mm and it’ll ford streams up to 700mm deep. Across the range, engine idle speed has been lowered a smidge, so the car now creeps more smoothly – useful in the rough.

On the inside

Here we focus on a Double Cab Hilux, but on low-spec models there’s also the option of a two-door Single Cab or an Extra Cab with small rear suicide doors. The double-cab offers seating for four regular sized adults, though five will be a pinch thanks to the narrow middle seat. The doors are oddly lightweight and need a bit of a slam to shut first time. 

The 8.0-inch touchscreen fitted to all versions except the entry-level Active is Toyota’s familiar Touch 2 system, with shortcut hard-keys surrounding the screen. You can avoid the dated-looking native interface thanks to Apple and Android compatibility, with local charging USBs.

The heater is powerful, the seats comfortable. Clear dials, chunky steering wheel buttons, hefty grab handles and lots of stowage. What’s missing? Reach adjustment in the steering column, chiefly, and easily reachable heated seat buttons. 

The Verdict

The 2020 Hilux is a predictably unpretentious machine, and its attempts to court lifestyle truck buyers have done little to alienate its core following while rounding off some of its rougher on-road manners. The most welcome upgrade is the new 2.8-litre engine, alleviating the older cars’ tardy performance particularly when fully loaded.

The cabin remains grim in areas and it’s a cumbersome beast to helm around, but if anything, that’s a constant reminder this isn’t a vehicle to pose in – it’s a tool, a faithful workhorse, and a dependable business partner. 

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