Toyota Hilux 2.4 the Forgotten Road Warrior of The 90’s

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When I was growing up I remember that there was a time when you’d only ever see a Toyota Hilux on a building site or farmyard. They may have been very capable off-road and blessed with legendary reliability, engine power and every farmers choice, Toyota Kenya must have banked well in the 80’s and 90’s but on the road they were slow, unrefined and uncomfortable. That said, rivals couldn’t claim to be any better on the black stuff.

Today pick-ups have become an increasingly popular alternative to large SUVs. While improvements to how they drive have helped. And like most rivals, the Hilux is currently available as a two-seat single cab, an extra cab with a couple of occasional rear seats and finally as a double cab. With four doors and usable rear seats, it’s no surprise that the double cab is the most popular option. As for engines, there’s a single 2.4-litre diesel with 148bhp. With just 148bhp to shift over two tonnes of truck, performance is as leisurely as you’d expect. Yes, there’s enough shove to keep it bowling along at motorway speeds with ease, but it takes a while to get there. If you’re not in a hurry, the engine proves flexible from low in the rev range, just want you want for towing or hauling heavy loads.

Toyota may have tried to make the Hilux drive more like a conventional sports utility vehicles, but it still feels pretty agricultural. The 2.4-litre diesel starts with a grumble before settling into a distinctive clatter that only gets louder and coarser as you accelerate. Things do settle down at a constant cruise thanks to the six-speed manual gearbox which offer a long throw, but it’s surprisingly slick, beating the many others in the same category for shift quality. An automatic ‘box is optional and improves performance but produces more carbon emissions. It feels very old school, slurring heavily between gear changes. Mind you the auto transmissions doesn’t work well with most manual workers, engineers, constructors, farmers and the likes.

Because the Hilux has to deal with huge weights in its bed, the rear suspension is stiff. This causes the back of the truck to feel bouncy over speed bumps and rough roads. Not only is this uncomfortable, it can be quite unsettling until you get used to it. That said it’s a trait that is common in all pick-up trucks. While stiff suspension usually helps handling, the Hilux quickly feels out of its depth if you pitch it in to a corner hard. The soft front suspension means lots of body lean and you don’t have to be going fast for the tyres to start squealing and then run out of grip. The saving grace is that the Hilux is virtually unstoppable off road.

At first glance, the Hilux’s interior appears modern thanks in part to a 7.0in touchscreen and 4.2in information display in front of the driver that are both standard on all but Active trim. Start to poke around, and you’ll soon realise that the materials used are all hard and scratchy. As with most trucks, durability is more of a consideration than luxury.

As the name suggests, you certainly sit high up in the Hilux; it’s actually one of the few cars where side steps are actually useful for shorter people. Forward visibility is good thanks to slim windscreen pillars and a bonnet that is easy enough to judge the end of.  Good character of any effective off-road table. The view out of the back is trickier thanks to a small rear window and high bed that makes a reversing camera essential. There’s plenty of room up front for tall adults and lots of storage, too. The door bins are a decent size, there’s a big cubbyhole under the centre armrest and you even get two gloveboxes.

As for cargo room, there’s lots of it but you’ll need an optional load cover or hardtop to protect your belongings. There are at least eyelets to tie loads down and the rear seats can fold up to give some internal space. Regardless of cab, all models can carry over 1000kg in the bed and tow at least 3200kg. It’s worth remembering that the more spacious the cab, the shorter the bed is the stable the car. This workmanlike trim gets steel wheels, auto headlights, heated electric mirrors, air con, Bluetooth connectivity and infotainment controls on the steering wheel.

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