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Toyota Hilux HL3 2.5-litre road test

  • Very capable when tackling muddy off-road terrain
  • Averages 32.9mpg and emits 194g/km of CO2
  • Load area of 1545mm while the width is 1515mm

With winter upon us it's no real shock to see so many pick-ups on the road and it should also come as no surprise to learn that sales of this type of vehicle are up by 39% over the past year.

So is it just the prospect of another blizzard-filled winter that is causing the sales boom or are there other factors at work?

Apart from the fact that a pick-up is extremely capable both on- and off-road there is a financial consideration, particularly if you are considering one as a company car.

Savvy company car drivers are aware of a tax loophole that’ll save them hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds if they opt for a flat-bed 4x4.

In 2007 the Government decided company car drivers should pay a flat-rate Benefit-in-Kind tax rate of £3,000 for a pick-up. This means that a 20% tax payer in 2011/12 will pay £600, while a 40% tax payer will shell out £1,200 for the year, which is extremely affordable compared to similar vehicles such as 4x4s.

So anyone who decides to opt for a Toyota Hilux will save a bundle of cash, which is all very well, but what do they get for their money, and is it worth taking the pick-up plunge?

We put the Hilux to the test both on- and off-road to see if it would make a good company car.  

The Hilux that we had on test was a double-cab, giving the flexibility of a normal car because you can carry five in relative comfort. There’s two seats up front and three in the rear which is perfectly adequate for a normal-sized family.

On the road the 142bhp 2.5-litre diesel engine that powered our version felt sluggish but it felt pretty relaxed once you up to cruising speeds.

It’s not the most practical because you will have to work the five-speed manual gearbox hard when you are overtaking and passing manoeuvres have to be well planned because it does not have the necessary grunt to nip in and out like some more powerful rivals with all-wheel set-ups. For the record this version of the Hilux can get from 0 to 62mph in 13.3 seconds and it has a top speed of 106mph, which is just about adequate.

Predictably, the Hilux comes into its own when you got off-road. It has a high and low 4x4 ratio: the high ratio is for day-to-day driving and the low ratio setting is for crawling down and up steep and rutted surfaces.

Off-road the Toyota is very capable but if there is a criticism it’s that the suspension feels a little stiff when unladen. If you are negotiating really rough terrain it’s best to switch from two-wheel drive to four-wheel-drive by turning off the engine. You can then flick the lever located next to the gear stick to put it into 4x4 low-ratio mode.

Once you’re back on the smooth stuff it’s best to keep the Toyota in two-wheel drive – in four-wheel-drive mode the Hilux tends to lurch when you change gear and isn't as economical either.

Even though the four-wheel-drive technology feels a little dated, the standard level of equipment offered is more than satisfactory. The Hilux comes with a rear differential lock, selectable four-wheel-drive as standard but if you want vehicle stability control you have to pay extra.

The length of the load area is 1545mm, the width is 1515mm and the loading bay has a height of 450mm. You can easily get a few mountain bikes in the back of the Toyota – handy for those sporty weekends away. If you need to tow, this version of the Hilux can tow a braked trailer up to 2,500kg and unbraked it will tow up to 750kg.

The Toyota Hilux returns 32.9mpg on an average journey. This is only just pipped to the post by the  Nissan Navara doublecab manual that returns an average of 33.2mpg.

The Hilux trumps the Navara when it comes to CO2 emissions, however. The Hilux emits 194g/km while the Navara kicks out 224g/km of CO2 emissions.  

If you need a something that is capable of serious off-roading but is reasonable as an on-road vehicle then the Hilux may well be the car for you. 

Prices start from £22,615 and the Hilux is on sale now.

Also consider:

Nissan Navara
Not the cheapest pick-up on the market but definitely one of the best.

Mitsubishi L200
More car-like than some rivals, it retains the practicality and ruggedness of the previous model.

Land Rover Defender
'Icon' is a term that has been overused in the car industry, but the Land Rover Defender is genuinely worthy of the moniker.