When talking about pick-up trucks, it's hard not to bring up the Toyota Hilux. Whether it's the older generation models or the latest variant, people always have something to say about the Hilux. Most of the time, it includes the words: tough, reliable, and even indestructible.
As much we would want to torture test one just to see how durable it is, our friends at Toyota Motor Philippines wouldn't be too happy with us doing that. So when I was handed the keys to this test unit, I promised to be gentle. After all, I was curious what the highly regarded pick-up truck had to offer as an everyday commuter. But more on that later, first a quick recap.
The current Hilux has been around for quite some time already. It first arrived in the Philippines back in 2015, followed by a minor model change a few years after. The latest facelift came out last year, including the radically redesigned Hilux Conquest. We’ve reviewed that model already, and you can read about it here. But now, we’ll be taking a closer look at the 4x2 G A/T variant.
But before we move forward, what happened to the 4x4 G? Unlike before, there is no longer a four-wheel-drive version of the Hilux G. If you need it, you have to shell out more for the Conquest or opt for the new 2.4 J 4x4; the latter we're still waiting to try out. Sadly, you can't get a G version with the potent 204 PS 2.8-liter turbodiesel.
So, what's new with the 2021 Hilux G? Unlike the new Conquest that sees a more macho look, the changes on this one are more subtle. The main difference includes new headlights, a new bumper with vertical foglight housings, and smaller fog lights. There’s also a new grille featuring a gray accent, giving the pickup truck a more aggressive look. Rounding up the exterior changes are the new wheels. They look similar to the previous units before, but there are subtle differences.
Interestingly, Toyota decided to upgrade the foglights to LED units but left the headlights as halogen units. I wish Toyota upgraded the headlights to LED units as well to match the foglights. Apart from better lighting on the road at night, it would also give it a more modern look. It might bump up the price a bit more, but it would have been a worthwhile upgrade.
This being the G variant, it doesn’t have any roll bars or any exterior accessories. Some might say it’s plain, but it also gives owners more freedom for customization. I also have to say it looks good as is, especially in this shade of blue.
Don't try and zoom in to find massive changes in here. The design of the dashboard, sidings, and materials of the 2021 Hilux is largely carried over from the pre-facelift model. Not a lot of buttons or features, but simple is best for this truck. At least the leather-wrapped steering wheel with controls has been carried over together with the automatic climate control system.
One of the most noticeable changes would be the new instrument cluster sitting in front of the driver. The updated instrument panel now shows the direction where the tires are pointed via the multi-info display. Apart from the instrument cluster, the infotainment system is new too. Gone is the old head unit with the knob-style volume control, and in its place is a larger unit that features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The new infotainment also allows for more fine-tuning that audiophiles will surely enjoy.
At the back, it is a bit cramped but understandable given it is a pickup. Nonetheless, there’s still an armrest with a built-in cup holder for rear passengers. If you need to place items, fold the seats up and open the hidden containers. One is for the tools, while the other is free space for just about anything that can fit.
Some might want more changes, but the Hilux’s cabin has always been great as it was back in 2015. As the saying goes, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Owners upgrading to the new model will also have no problem adjusting as well.
Of course, don't expect a car-like drive from this hauler. There was a bit of play in the steering, typical with most pick-up trucks. Despite that, the steering's weight is just right. Because of that, you get decent feedback from the wheel, something I appreciate in everything I drive.
Drive it in a more spirited manner, and it can hold its own. Sure, it's no Supra, but it feels safe and secure. Even when switching lanes at speed, it didn’t out of its depth. Meanwhile, traction control keeps you safe while driving on slippery roads. Potholes and rough patches on EDSA and C-5? Not a problem for the Hilux. Just make sure you don't hit one that's too big or deep. Then again, the Hilux's robust suspension can shrug it off.
As expected with most pick-up trucks, the ride of the Hilux G isn’t the most comfortable. It could be because I wasn’t carrying any load, but still, it was very bumpy. Even if I was driving along what seemed to be level roads, I could feel the truck body is bouncing around. For short distances, the ride is bearable. However, I can imagine passengers would start complaining about the ride if they had to endure it over long road trips.
The trade-off of that stiff ride is more payload capacity. According to factory figures, the Hilux 4x2 G can carry over a ton of load over its chassis. Pack it with gear, and its ride improves somewhat. Granted it's not as smooth as a Fortuner or some other SUVs, but it doesn't give your spine a beatdown. The only problem for me is, I wasn’t carrying stuff all the time. I'm sure people using the Hilux as a workhorse wouldn't be complaining as much as me.
By nature, pick-up trucks are hard to maneuver due to their long beds. But what makes it a bit more difficult in the Hilux G is its steering ratio. What would be a three-point turn in most vehicles would take more attempts with the Hilux. As a result, parking in tight spaces is also more difficult. Thankfully, Toyota installed rear sensors as standard to make life easier. A backup camera would have certainly helped even more.
Even though it may not be the most comfortable or fully loaded pick-up around town, there are several reasons why the Hilux G A/T continues to be a strong contender in the market. The first is the price. At PHP 1,295,000, it quite affordable when compared to its rival of similar specs. Some might expect more features at this price point, but it also brings me to my second reason; reputation.
As I mentioned at the start, the Hilux has built a reputation for itself for being one of the toughest pickup trucks there is. From the early models of the Hilux to the most recent one, we know that it will last, no matter what abuse is thrown at it. Heck, it might even outlive some of us in the future. And for some, the idea that this truck will last them a very long time is more than enough reason to get one.