Of late the purpose-built 4×4 pick-up market has become best known for the number of manufacturers that have dropped out of it. 

Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz have thrown in the towel, so has Fiat Professional, and Nissan has decided to give up. Most surprisingly, Mitsubishi’s extraordinarily successful L200 has all but vanished thanks to the brand’s withdrawal from the UK market. 

Parts and service support for Mitsubishi products is to be handled by Subaru and Isuzu pick-up importer IM Group. Isuzu is remaining in the sector, with a redesigned D-Max.

Ford is staying the course with the Ranger, and SsangYong is determined to exploit any opportunities that might be available with the Musso and the long-wheelbase Musso Rhino.

Toyota is staying the course too, with the legendary (no apologies for using the word in this context) Hilux, which has just undergone a major revamp.

Manufacturers have withdrawn from the 4×4 pick-up arena for a variety of reasons. For example, Mercedes-Benz found that its X-Class, which employed a Nissan Navara platform, sold poorly – probably because it was eye-wateringly-expensive.

A key reason for many of them, however, appears to be the impact of regulations that oblige them to keep average CO2 emissions from their range of vehicles at below 150g/km. Big, heavy, 4×4 pick-ups often generate far more than that.

Sold worldwide, the Hilux is of course a core product for Toyota. 

The big change so far as its latest iteration is concerned is the arrival of a 204hp 2.8-litre diesel in response to suggestions that its predecessor was underpowered. It joins the 150hp 2.4-litre diesel, which remains available.

The Hilux has also undergone a variety of mechanical changes, the exterior has been restyled and the interior has been upgraded.

Single-cab, extended extra-cab and four-door double-cab models are all in the price list. The specification walk starts at Active then trots steadily through Icon and Invincible up to Invincible X.

Customers can choose either a six-speed manual gearbox or an upgraded six-speed automatic transmission. Payload capabilities range from 1,010kg to 1,030kg and all Hilux models can haul a braked trailer grossing at up to 3.5t. Amid all of this we should not forget the AT35 Double Cab – a non-mainstream stand-out variant with a price-tag to match.

We opted to try a four-door double-cab Invincible X 2.8-litre with a six-speed manual gearbox. So, how did we get on with it?


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Load bay

Access to the cargo area is by means of a lockable tailgate, which drops down horizontally. As with the majority of pick-ups, it does not descend completely because the bulky back bumper – which incorporates a step – gets in the way.

A total of four tie-down points are set into the sides, and the load bed can be protected against minor damage by a plastic liner.



Interior and equipment

The way the digital clock and the speakers sit on top of the five-seater cab’s dashboard makes them look a bit like aftermarket afterthoughts. There is no denying the high quality of the sound emanating from the truck’s premium JBL audio system, however, or the impressive level of equipment Invincible X boasts.

For your money you get automatic air conditioning – you even get a cooled glove box – and heated front seats. Satellite navigation and a DAB radio are included in the deal, as is Bluetooth.

New to the Hilux is an 8in touch-screen, which forms part of the Toyota Touch 2 multimedia system with smartphone integration achieved through Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Remote controls for the radio are mounted on the height-adjustable steering column.

The driver’s seat is electrically adjustable for height, reach and rake.

Front sensors are on hand to make parking that bit easier, along with reversing sensors and a rear-view camera. The steering has been redesigned with easier manoeuvrability and better handling in mind.

Electric windows are present in all four doors and the heated and electrically adjustable exterior rear-view mirrors can be folded inwards at the touch of a button on the driver’s door. Cab access is aided by steps built into the sill guards.

The dashboard boasts a USB port plus a couple of 12v sockets. What’s more, you’ll find a potentially invaluable 220v/100W power point inside the lidded box mounted between the
front seats.

A lidded and lockable glove box is fitted too. Other stowage facilities for all the items drivers carry around with them include a tray at the bottom of the dashboard and bins with a bottle holder in each of the front doors.

Also between the front seats are a small cubby hole plus a cup holder, while a sunglasses holder is positioned above the windscreen.

You will find bins in each of the rear doors, which feature privacy glass. If there are only two rear passengers then the centre of the middle seat’s back can be folded down and transformed into a table with a couple of cup holders.

Rear legroom is limited though, and shoulder room is at a premium if there are three passengers.

All Hilux models come with Toyota Safety Sense. It includes pre-collision system with pedestrian and cyclist detection to minimise the risk of injury to vulnerable road users, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and road sign assist.

Other safety systems provided include ABS, vehicle stability control, emergency brakeforce distribution, brake assist, downhill assist control, hill-start assist control and active traction control. Trailer sway control is installed as well – 4×4 pick-ups regularly haul trailers.

LED front fog lamps form part of the package. The rear lights and daytime running lights also employ LEDs – as do the headlights, which are equipped with washers. 

Driver and front passenger airbags should provide some protection if everything goes pear-shaped, despite all the on-board safety devices. They are complemented by front side airbags, curtain airbags and a driver’s knee airbag.

Ventilated disc brakes are fitted at the front, drums at the back and the rack-and-pinion steering is hydraulically assisted. The front suspension features a double wishbone set-up, while leaf springs help support the rear.

Our Invincible X sat on 18in black alloy wheels shod with Bridgestone Dueler H/T 684 II 265/60 R18 tyres.




The four-cylinder in-line 16-valve 2.8-litre diesel achieves maximum power output at from 3,000rpm to 3,400rpm. Top torque of 420Nm bites across a wide 1,400rpm–3,400rpm plateau.

AdBlue is required to ensure the engine complies with Euro 6 exhaust emission restrictions and a diesel particulate filter is fitted.


Invincible X comes with a keyless starting system. You push a button to fire up the engine but you need to have the key fob with you. If you have it handy then you can unlock either the driver or passenger front door by pressing a button on the door handle.

We’d suggest you keep the fob in a Faraday pouch on security grounds when you are not using it – advice that applies to all keyless starting arrangements, regardless of the manufacturer. 

If the weather is bitterly cold and you’ve got an early morning start, then press the power heater switch. It heats the engine coolant to ensure the cab interior warms up quickly.

Once you are on the highway you will quickly appreciate that today’s pick-ups handle far better than their long-gone ancestors did. The latter tended to lurch around corners in an awkward and ungainly fashion, looking and feeling as though they were about to tumble into the nearest ditch.

By contrast the latest Hilux goes round bends smoothly and without fuss. The changes to the steering have clearly helped, and you are unlikely to come unstuck unless you do something silly.

For a bulky 4×4 the Hilux rides better than you might expect, and copes surprisingly effectively with the UK’s patched and pot-holed roads. The truck’s suspension has been retuned, and the changes made seem to have paid off.

The Hilux comes with a drive mode switch which lets the driver select Eco or Power settings.

With the Eco setting engaged to limit acceleration and fuel usage, there is no noticeable lack of on-highway performance, unless you are heavily laden. Switch to Power mode for faster throttle response and you immediately feel the extra boost straight between the shoulder blades; treat it with respect.

On the downside, engine noise can be excessive – with too much vibration at idle in our case – and the manual gear change could stand to be a lot smoother. Having sampled the manual box we’d probably opt for the automatic instead.

Any negatives are soon forgiven however when the Hilux ventures off-road – its capabilities are phenomenal. It takes steep inclines and sharp descents in its stride, tackles heavily rutted terrain without drawing breath, happily fords deep, muddy streams and wriggles its way over transverse ridges without being brought to a halt.

What’s more, its solid construction leaves you with the impression that it is unbreakable. The beefy-looking ladder-frame chassis tells you as much, not to mention the sheer weight of the bonnet and the hefty tailgate 

Engaging four-wheel drive couldn’t be easier. You turn a knob on the dashboard to the H4 setting, then to L4 if the going gets tough and you need to engage the low-ratio set of gears.

Ground clearance is 310mm, while the wading depth is 700mm and a new automatic limited-slip differential has been installed. A locking rear diff is installed as well.

Grab handles are mounted on the A and B pillars so that at least some of the occupants of the cab have something to hang onto if things get choppy.


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Service intervals are set at 12 months/10,000 miles. That looks short, but Toyota’s approach is wise given the battering 4×4 pick-ups can receive if they are frequently used off-road.

Regular visits to the workshop can help ensure any damage that would not otherwise be identified is dealt with in good time, and we would see nothing wrong in arranging interim safety checks.

The Hilux is protected by a commendable five-year/100,000-mile warranty, with AA roadside assistance provided for the duration. 

The paintwork and surface rust warranty lasts for three years, while the anti-corrosion perforation warranty runs for six years, reducing to three years so far as the pick-up load bed is concerned.

Pick-ups are seldom noted for exceptional fuel economy and the Hilux is no exception. Toyota cites a 32.8mpg WLTP combined figure, which is about what we achieved.

Stop/start helps keep fuel consumption down, but it can be switched off if necessary. 

The wheel arches are properly protected against scratches and scrapes. We’re glad to see that a full-size spare wheel is provided, with the jack and tools located beneath the rear passenger seat.

Toyota Hilux Invincible X 2.8-litre 4×4 manual double-cab pick-up

Price (ex VAT) £32,990

Price range (ex VAT) £22,990-£53,000

Gross payload 1,015kg

Load length 1,525mm

Load width (min/max) 1,067mm/1,540mm

Load bay height 480mm

Loading height 914mm

Gross vehicle weight 3,210kg

Braked trailer towing weight 3,500kg

Residual value 36.3%

Cost per mile 59.7p

Engine size/power 2,755cc, 204hp @ 3,000-3,400rpm

Torque 420Nm @ 1,400-3,400rpm

Gearbox 6spd manual

Fuel economy 32.8mpg (combined WLTP)

Fuel tank 80 litres

CO2 225g/km

Warranty 5yrs/100,000mls

Service intervals 1yr/10,000mls

Insurance group 45D

Price as tested £33,573

*  after 48 months @ 20,000mls p.a – source: KWIKcarcost


Metallic paint £583


Ford Ranger

Price (ex VAT) £21,950-£46,975

Gross payload 620-1,252kg

Braked towing weight 2,500-3,500kg

Engines 130hp, 170hp, 213hp 2.0 diesel

Verdict: The Ranger is without a doubt a dependable workhorse that should meet most requirements, with an optional 10-speed auto box that is undoubtedly worth a close look. Prospective purchasers do not lack choice, with seven different specification levels – check out the spectacular Raptor and MS-RT variants – and three different cab configurations. A comprehensive dealer network means you are never far from a Ford outlet. 

Isuzu D-Max

Price (ex VAT) £20,179-£31,929

Gross payload 1,070-1,205kg

Braked towing weight 2,500-3,500kg

Engines 164hp 1.9 diesel

Verdict: Isuzu has not long revealed a revamped D-Max with external and internal restyling, and the arrival of an impressive selection of on-board safety devices. Single and extended-cab models remain available alongside the better-known double-cab version, and you can order the D-Max in 4×2 as well as 4×4 guise. The changes have certainly not dented its credibility as a tough-as-old-boots off-roader. It is surprising, however, that it is not being marketed with a more powerful engine.

SsangYong Musso

Price (ex VAT) £22,025-£30,025

Gross payload 1065-1140kg 

Braked towing weight 3,200-3,500kg

Engines 181hp 2.2 diesel

Verdict: A well-equipped and well-priced package that is no slouch off-road and protected by an extra-generous warranty. The long-wheelbase Rhino variant is especially appealing given its extra load bed length. Plenty of kit is installed, but the quality of the ride is not all that it should be and a few more on-board safety devices wouldn’t come amiss. The SsangYong name still isn’t that familiar, agreed – but don’t let that deter you.

The Final Verdict

Design 8/10 – A classic 4×4 pick-up with all the kit you’re likely to need and built to last forever.

Cabin 8/10 – Well equipped, roomy and comfortable, with little to criticise.

Ride 8/10 – Suspension changes have made for smoother on-highway progress.

Refinement 6/10 – Solidly constructed with no squeaking or creaking, but some in-cab noise.

Load area 7/10 – Practical and easy to access, and towing capacity is impressive.

Handling/performance 9/10 – Both are exemplary for a vehicle of this type and size, especially off-road.

Engine/transmission 7/10 – No quarrels with the former, but the manual gear box could stand to be smoother.

Standard equipment 9/10 – Virtually every goodie a driver is likely to need is fitted, and then some.

Operating costs 7/10 – Sensible warranty package but short service intervals and potentially high fuel bills.

What Van? subjective rating 8/10 – There are one or two drawbacks, but it’s a truck that’s unlikely to disappoint.

Overall Rating = 77/100