Is SA's bakkie king back?

2016-03-02 06:00
Photo: sourced Toyota’s next-gen Hilux.

Photo: sourced Toyota’s next-gen Hilux.

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ONE of the most important vehicles will be launched in South Africa this week.

After 10 long years, Toyota will unveil its new Hilux locally.

The bakkie market has grown exponentially since the seventh-generation Hilux was launched in 2005. The Japanese firm faced stiff competition for the likes of Ford's Ranger, Nissan's NP300 and the Mazda BT-50.

Despite its rivals, the Hilux has performed sensationally in sales, regularly stepping on the toes of much cheaper vehicles in the local market in terms of volume.

In 2015, Toyota sold its millionth Hilux locally and to celebrate its feat, it built a rather special one-off V8-version that we got to drive.

Hilux is a by-word for dependability, reliability and robustness...but after such a long period without a new model, has the bakkie's absence seen it fall too far behind the competition?

Here are five major things the new Hilux needs to overcome:

1. Can it beat stiff local competition?

There are at least three bakkies on the way in 2016, all gunning for the new Hilux; Mitsubishi Triton, Fiat Fullback and the all-new Nissan Navara. Mercedes is set to launch its new bakkie locally in 2017.

Toyota will fight back...with a range consisting of 23 models, including single-cab, double-cab and xtra-cab derivatives. Its 3.0-litre diesel unit has been replaced by a 2.8-litre diesel and the bakkie sports a new six-speed automatic for the 4.0-litre V6 4x4 and 2.8 diesel 4x4 models.

2. Compete with the tech-fest that is the Ford Ranger

Ford has packed its new Ranger with some serious tech; it introduced some features not seen fitted to a bakkie yet (at least in SA), including adaptive cruise control (standard for the Wildtrak), driver alert, lane-departure warning, collision mitigation and a tyre pressure monitoring system.

Sure, these aren’t new to passenger cars but the fact that these technologies made their way into a bakkie is awesome.

Toyota will fight back...The Hilux is the first bakkie, Toyota says, to have "intelligent manual transmission" (or i-MT) which supports smooth shifting with rev-matching technology.

3. We've waited more than 10 years for the new one... so it has to be better, right?

The seventh-generation (current) Hilux has been on sale since 2005 in South Africa. It was built at the firm's Prospecton factory in Durban and has enjoyed huge sales success locally.

Toyota spruced its aging bakkie with a facelift in 2011 and numerous special versions were introduced to keep the Hilux flame burning.

Not that its popular bakkie needs any extra marketing; it's a name firmly entrenched in South African culture and despite the long wait, sales have been strong, despite the Ranger being crowned the local bakkie sales king.

Toyota will fight back...The new Hilux should not only be tougher but should also reduce stress as much as possible on the road. Sure, at it's core its a bakkie but after years of waiting, we hope Toyota has learned and adapted to the new market.

According to Toyota, it's new Hilux will feature "ride comfort that makes long, tough drives less gruelling, a quiet cabin that allows communication in any conditions, and enhanced cruising range thanks to improved fuel efficiency".

4. It needs to have great ride comfort, engines and consumption:

In 2015, Wheels24 lauded the Ford Ranger as the one of the best bakkies in SA, it managed to blend 4x4ing prowess with the everyday comfortability of a road car: essentially one of the best lifestyle vehicles in SA.

How does the Hilux plan to counter that?

The Hilux has an all-new rigid frame with enlarged side sections and cross-members that are larger and thicker than the outgoing model. To provide a better mix of off-road performance and comfort, the new bakkie sports upgraded leaf-spring suspension and shock-absorbers.

According to Toyota: "The new 2.4 and 2.8-litre diesel engines create torque lower down the rev range and aid extended cruising range. They are also quieter and mated to new six-speed automatic transmissions with more steps and optimised gear ratios to maximise engine performance."

Toyota says the Hilux is the first bakkie to have "intelligent manual transmission" (or i-MT) which supports smooth shifting with rev-matching technology.

5. It shouldn't feel like a bakkie:

Now that may sound weird, but ask any Hilux owner and one their biggest gripes will be along the lines of "ride comfort". Gone are the days of bakkies being confined to utilitarian roles on farms and supporting local businesses.

The SA bakkie and SUV market has seen a huge shift towards lifestyle-orientated vehicles – the type of person who would rather fill a load-bay with surfboards or bicycles than hay-bales.

The Ford Ranger and VW Amarok have transitioned well into the shifting market.

Can Toyota’s next-gen Hilux follow suit?

The latest Hilux is described by Toyota as being “one step up” from the outgoing model. It’s roomier, has vastly enhanced tech and, Toyota says, improved ride quality. If you’re not sold on the Hilux, Toyota has fortunately one more local lifestyle ace to play later in March 2016 – it’s new Fortuner.

-Wheels24

ms and supporting local businesses.

The SA bakkie and SUV market has seen a huge shift towards lifestyle-orientated vehicles – the type of person who would rather fill a load-bay with surfboards or bicycles than hay-bales.

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