Vehicle Comparisons

Toyota Hilux

Toyota Hilux

Although the Toyota Hilux has forged a reputation as something that cannot be killed, a little luxury inside still plays well with buyers and the latest eighth generation model serves up a more refined feel aided by its more sophisticated 2.4-litre turbo diesel engine. The styling changes also give it a more upmarket look yet prices have remained reasonable.

The key thing about this new-generation Hilux lies with the installation of its new 2.4-litre D-4D Global Diesel (GD) engine. With 400Nm of torque, pulling power is improved over the old 2.5 and 3.0-litre diesel units, plus there's enhanced efficiency too. All variants feature all-wheel drive, while the Invincible and Invincible X models at the top of the range offer the option of a six-speed automatic gearbox. Both transmissions have been extensively revised to improve durability and low-speed driving performance, with quieter, smoother gear changes. Both manual and automatic Hilux have a top speed of 106mph; acceleration from nought to 62mph is 12.8 seconds for the auto and 13.2 seconds for the manual.

Under the skin, there's a new ladder-frame chassis that gives the vehicle a 20% increase in torsional rigidity, improving improved handling, ride comfort and refinement. The robust leaf spring and twin shock absorber rear suspension system has been extensively revised to provide off-road articulation capabilities and SUV-like ride comfort and handling stability. The Hilux is equipped with a switchable all-wheel drive system featuring a high and low-ratio transfer case, and both front and rear locking limited-slip differentials. The improved low and medium speed torque delivery of the 2.4-litre diesel engine and the increased strength of the redesigned ladder-frame chassis together enable an increase in towing capacity to 3.5 tonnes.

The most obvious change to the latest Hilux is its exterior styling. It's 75mm longer, 20mm wider and 45mm lower than before and aims to display its combination of toughness and refinement in a sleeker frontal design which features a unified arrangement of the upper grille and headlamps and a deeper bumper housing a large lower grille. The bonnet wraps over the front wheel arches to reinforce the vehicle's solid, road presence while the line of the second horizontal bar in the upper grille extends into the headlamp units to form a distinctive daytime running light arrangement, featuring 12 white LEDs.

Inside, the cabin's been redesigned with the centre console now dominated on most models by the Toyota Touch 2 integrated, seven-inch multimedia touchscreen. The revised driver's instrument binnacle features large, analogue speedometer and tachometer dials either side of a 4.2-inch TFT multi-information display. And the more premium appearance of the cabin is reinforced by metallic-effect details on the dashboard, door trim, instrument binnacle, steering wheel and gear lever bezel. A consistent blue tone has been introduced for the instrument backlighting.

The Toyota Hilux has always scored well with those who need a tough pick-up that drives better than the class norm. Rival manufacturers have aped this formula and added a more refined feel to their wares and the Hilux felt as if it was falling off the pace a little. The eighth generation version's round of revisions give the big pick-up the sort of classy feel that you'd expect from Toyota, building in a plusher interior and a front end that borrows from the Land Cruiser.

That it can do this while retaining the appeal to lifestyle drivers who need a vehicle with good hauling capabilities and easy access speaks volumes about the essential rightness of the car's engineering. The latest 2.4-litre diesel engine certainly has a lot to be sad for it. With three different body styles and four trim levels to choose from, there should be enough variation in the range to suit most on and off-road requirements. The Hilux offers high levels of comfort and equipment, bomb-proof engineering and remains relatively cheap to run. Expect this one to run and run.

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Volkswagen Amarok

Volkswagen Amarok

Oriental models have for too long held sway in the UK pick-up truck market, a state of affairs that Volkswagen set out to change when they launched this Amarok model in 2011, then updated it in 2016. Big, economical and very capable, Volkswagen's off-road load-lugger was designed to give the Japanese contingent a few sleepless nights but originally boasted a 2.0-litre diesel line-up in a class where rivals had 2.5 or 3.0-litre units. Hence the development of a lustier six cylinder 3.0-litre TDI unit for this latest version claiming an effective mixture of power and efficiency. The result should be a very complete pick-up indeed.

A tough ladder-framed chassis and a solid, leaf-sprung rear axle necessary to carry heavy loads offer the inevitably utilitarian feel. Within the confines of this approach though, the Wolfsburg engineers have actually done a very good job in making this Amarok as car-like as it reasonably could be. The introduction of 3.0-litre V6 TDI power means that there's nothing wrong with the performance now on offer, this unit available in three guises offering either 163, 204 or 258PS. The pokiest unit develops 580Nm of torque at just 1,500rpm.

UK customers can choose from selectable (with manual gearbox) and permanent (with auto) 4MOTION four-wheel drive. An optional mechanical rear-axle differential lock is also available for demanding off-road use. On the road, this Amarok should feel sharper to drive courtesy of a new Servotronic steering system. Plus new 17-inch brake discs on the front axle and 16-inch discs at the rear ensure that this pickup always comes to a stop quickly and safely.

On to design. As before, with a length of 5.25 metres and a width of 2.23 metres, this Amarok is a substantial thing. To reflect the changes made beneath the bonnet, Volkswagen's stylists have tried to give this improved version a more athletic-looking front end. As before, the chunky shape appears solidly planted to the ground with cleanly sculpted bonnet curves and a large Volkswagen emblem and grille, with clear horizontal lines linking them together across the front of the vehicle.

Inside, there's a completely re-styled dashboard. Together with new ergonomic seats, these features aim to lend the vehicle a more sophisticated appearance. As before, there's neat switchgear, clearly defined instruments, a lovely three-spoke reach and rake-adjustable steering wheel and soft-touch plastics lifted straight from Volkswagen passenger cars. It's rather like being in a Golf on stilts and it'll be rather surreal if you come to this vehicle straight from an older pick-up rival. It's practical too, with lots of storage, including large bins in all the doors which can hold a 1.5-litre bottle in front and a 1.0-litre bottle in the rear. There's also a lidded bin, a lockable glovebox, a compartment for your sunglasses, two cupholders between the front seats and under-front-seat drawers on most models.

In the rear, the extra width of the vehicle makes it easier to accommodate three adults if need be - though two will obviously be more comfortable. All will get proper three-point seatbelts and most trim levels include rear cupholders for their use. If the rear bench isn't in use and you need more storage room, you can tip the backrest forward to free up extra loadspace.

And in summary? Well, pick-up users aren't necessarily expecting their vehicles to be advanced, car-like and fuel efficient. But most would be very pleased if they were. These are people who should get themselves behind the wheel of this very complete 3.0-litre V6 TDI Amarok. You do have nagging worries in the plush, car-like cabin as to whether this vehicle really is going to prove as tough and durable as its Asian rivals in the long term. But these are concerns your Volkswagen Van Centre will be quick to play down, pointing to this vehicle's development in the Patagonian wilderness and its use on the testing Paris-Dakar rally.

This aside, the only issues are those common to all pick-ups, essentially based around a utilitarian on-tarmac feel. And this is less of an issue with an Amarok than with any other rival model. Limited UK numbers mean that this Volkswagen isn't going to threaten its Oriental rivals' market dominance too much, but in terms of product excellence, it certainly should give them plenty to think about. At last, we Europeans have given the Far East something it can learn from.

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Fiat Fullback

Fiat Fullback

In this Fullback model, Fiat has its first class-competitive pick-up. You've seen the engineering before, but the value proposition makes a lot of sense. Plus it's great off road and, if you tow, this vehicle is up with the very best in the amount it'll be able to lug about.

Under the bonnet, the 2.4-litre Mitsubishi engine gives this Fiat decent pulling power. With 178bhp and 430Nm of torque on-tap, the 0-62mph time takes a very un-pick-up-like 10.4s. As you'd expect, the Fullback can be driven in either 2WD or 4WD on tarmac or off road. The entry-level 150hp Fullback SX features an on-demand four-wheel drive system with three electrically-selected settings: 2H, 4H and 4L, while the LX and Cross models have four electrically-controlled settings: 2H, 4H plus 4HLc and 4LLC with a locking central differential. The vehicle can also tow up to 4.1 tonnes. And there's a segment-leadingly tight turning circle too.

Thanks to the stiff chassis, handling is better than you might expect it would be from this class of vehicle and body roll, usually something of a problem in vehicles with higher centres of gravity, is usually kept in check, unless you're really pushing on. The suspension set-up includes a larger stabiliser bar, stiff front springs and carefully-chosen damping settings, which allow the Fullback to handle and ride with reasonable comfort and agility.

Fiat might not have been able to change too much about the engineering of this Fullback pick-up, but its stylists have tried to give the vehicle more of its own character when it comes to the exterior look and feel. Distinctive swage lines along the flanks along with the sweeping shape of the front and rear lamps help fully integrate the load bed as part of the vehicle's overall design. Detailing is tasteful and restrained (for a pick-up) with two strips of satin silver trim used to frame the front grille on the entry-level SX, while LX versions also have a subtle satin silver trim around sump protector, as well as chrome-finished door mirrors, door handles and side steps. Smart 16-inch alloy wheels are standard on the SX while the profile of the LX model is enhanced with 17-inch alloy wheels and substantial, body-coloured wheel arch protectors. There's also a top 'Cross' model which features a more lifestyle-orientated look incorporating a satin silver finish for the skid plate, plus a matte black finish for the rear view mirrors, the door handles, the wheel arches and the 17-inch wheels.

Inside all Fullbacks, there's a two-tone black-and-silver dashboard, plus supportive and comfortable seats and decent rear passenger room. The vehicle only comes in the Doublecab format most UK buyers will want. Take a seat in the back and of course, it's nothing like as comfortable as it is in the front, but a six-foot adult can easily sit behind a similarly-sized driver, though the low seating position does mean that they have to bunch their knees up a bit.

At the business end, you're faced with a cargo bed 475mm deep and 1,470mm in both length and width. In this area, you'd be able to take a payload of up to 1,045kg. Most rivals can better these figures but that, according to Fiat, doesn't tell the whole story. The brand points out that the stat that really matters to many operators is the one for combined carrying and towing capacity, an area in which this Fullback performs impressively. Combine the cargo area capacity with this model's prodigious braked towing capability of up to 3,100kg and you'll be able to lug up to 4,090kg - that's 77kgs more than an Isuzu D-Max and around 230kgs more than a Toyota HiLux or a Volkswagen Amarok.

As for running costs, well expect the combined cycle economy figure will be somewhere between 39mpg and 44mpg, depending on the variant you choose. The brand reckons this means that your Fullback will be able to travel up to 685 miles on a single tank, which gives it one of the longest ranges in its class.

OK, so the Fullback isn't very Italian. It isn't even very Fiat. But who cares? It's a strong contender in the growing pick-up segment. How could it not be, based on the impressively complete Mitsubishi L200 Series 5?

We think the Fullback is better looking than the L200. And it's certainly extremely well equipped, plus it's backed by the impressive resources of the Fiat Professional LCV dealer network. A strong contender then. If you're shopping in this segment, we think you might like it.

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