There was a time when pick-ups were perceived as mere workhorses. The stiff ride, the bare truck bed, basic features and poor rear legroom relegated the pick-up to being the vehicle of choice for engineers and construction contractors.
Today, however, that's changing. With improvements in design, performance, comfort and all-around usability, pickups are fast becoming lifestyle vehicles that can be working vehicles during the week and family cars during the weekend.
With that in mind, pickup trucks are currently one of the most sought after vehicle in the Philippine market.
Toyota Philippines entered this year's pick-up wars by launching the all-new Hilux last July 2015. Described as a new era for pickup, the eighth-generation Hilux comes with a redesigned exterior, a stylish interior and refined engines.
For 2015, the Hilux has undergone a makeover, making the pick-up look more aggressive and rugged. The Hilux's fascia now features Toyota's new corporate look, as seen on its three-bar chrome grill that is coupled with sharp-looking headlights. The Hilux managed to retain its muscular look thanks to its revamped bumper design and bulging fenders. I would contend that the 2015 Hilux's fascia is better and bolder as compared to its predecessor.
Towards its side, the Hilux is fitted with wide wheel arches and a character line that extends to the back. Comparing it again to its predecessor, the 2015 model now has a curved rear window and the side profile appears to be cleaner. This Hilux also comes with black body cladding which makes the pickup look more composed.
Design tweaks continue to be seen at the rear through the pickup's new taillights, which are bigger compared to the previous model. The Hilux also sports a restyled bumper as well as a more distinctive chrome bar handle and a longer horizontal third brake light. While it looks good, Toyota could have opted to make the rear bumper solid black, giving it a tougher look. Being a pickup, the Hilux's spacious cargo bed allows you to carry large loads, making it an ideal work truck.
Compared to the outgoing generation, this Hilux now measure 5,335mm long (previous: 5,260mm), 1,855 wide (previous: 1,835mm) and 1815mm tall (previous: 1,860mm). The 3,085mm wheelbase however carries over from the 7th generation Hilux.
Aside from the exterior improvements, the interior of the Hilux has also been updated. At first glance, the dashboard of the 2015 Hilux looks similar to the current Corolla Altis, giving it car-like ergonomics. The silver trim adds color to the pickup's black interior theme while the steering wheel is integrated with a number of controls and offers easy adjustment with its tilt/telescopic column. The instrument cluster has a straightforward display and is easy to read. The air-conditioning and ventilation controls are situated below the tablet-like infotainment system. The controls are essentially easy to use which comes with two knobs for fan speed and temperature.
Speaking of air-conditioning, the Hilux's unit felt strong and provided for a very cool cabin temperature — a major plus in a tropical country like ours. In terms of rear passenger space, the Hilux offers good leg and headroom. However, I found the Strada's rear seat angle to be more comfortable, especially during long drives.
Under the hood, this Hilux is powered by a 2.4-liter DOHC turbocharged diesel engine that delivers 149 PS and 400 Nm of torque. The engine is mated to a six-speed manual transmission. In terms of power output figures, the odds are against the 2015 Hilux.
To put things in perspective, the current Nissan Navara is equipped with a 2.5-liter engine that produces 163 PS and 403 Nm while the Mitsubishi Strada generates 178 PS and 400 Nm. But, don't be fooled by these numbers because this Hilux packs some serious power.
In case you're wondering, this Hilux has three drive modes: Normal, Eco and Power. Each of the drive mode changes the engine response as well as the sensitivity of the throttle pedal. The Eco mode is recommended if you're using the Hilux as your daily metro transporter while the Normal mode delivers smooth response. On the other hand, the game changes once you engage the Power mode because the engine shifts at higher RPM for more performance. It transforms the truck into a different beast, with sharper, more immediate engine respone.
Around the city, the 2015 Hilux is easy to drive, due to the light steering and handling feel. It has a soft clutch which comes to your advantage whenever you have to trudge through the metro's rush hour traffic, although the biting point felt rather high. In terms of comfort, you should not expect this Hilux to deliver a smooth ride — afterall it is a pickup. For this category, I would have to say that the current Navara has the most comfortable ride in the pickup segment. Fuel economy-wise, this Hilux yielded 11 km/l with an average speed of 14 km/h.
Driving the Hilux on rural roads posed no problem as it tackled tight turns, narrow roadways, uphill roads as well as tough terrain with ease.
Out on the open highway, the 2015 Hilux cruised smoothly along SLEX. Overtaking can be done in confidence, thanks to the responsive powertrain, especially with Power mode is engaged. The best thing about this Hilux is the refinement of its diesel engine. Compared to other pickups, the Hilux has, arguably, the most refined diesel engine with vibration and noise kept to a minimum. In terms of fuel economy, the Hilux puts out 17 km/l while driving at an average speed of 90 km/h.
As a whole, the 2015 Hilux is a versatile truck. Other than the exterior and interior updates, this Hilux packs some serious power thanks to its refined diesel engine. With its reliable engine, decent fuel economy and overall enhancements, it's evident that Toyota has a strong contender in the competitive pickup segment.