The spin on an SA staple

2011-09-02 11:45

If someone asked you what the three most iconic vehicles are in South Africa, what would you say? For me, it’s the Volkswagen Citi Golf, the Toyota Hiace minibus and the Toyota Hilux bakkie. South Africa would just not be the same without these three vehicles.

I can still remember my first encounter with a Hilux. I was about 13 years old. It was maroon with grey detailing on the doors. It was something different; where all the other bakkies at the time were square and angular, this thing was somewhat rounded.

As it pulled away I read the word Hilux on the rear. Ever since then the Hilux has had a special place in my heart.

It has been around since 1969 and because of this many would agree that it has played a part in South African history. With close to 860?000 bakkies sold since its introduction and a 41% market share, it’s easy to see that the Hilux is a market leader with a cult following.

But with the introduction of the Volkswagen Amarok and soon-to- be-released Ford Ranger, things have changed. The focus on safety and a more “passenger car” feel has placed Toyota in a situation where they have had to redevelop the Hilux?.?.?.?well sort of.

The face-lifted Hilux is probably 90% identical to the current model which was introduced in 2005. The newly expanded range now includes 2.0-litre vehicle derivatives, which consists of nine single-cab models, three Xtra-Cab models and nine double-cab versions.

There have been no mechanical changes and the engines remain the same – from an entry level 2.0 VVT-I petrol unit (R170?700) right up to the 4.0 VVT-I 4x4 (R433?100) model and all the diesels in between with automatic transmissions available on the higher spec Raider models, 3.0 D-4-D (R367?600) and 4.0 VVT-I (R363?000).

The biggest change to the Hilux though is its look. Toyota have “blinged” up the Hilux’s face and have added some chrome here and there to give it a more modern appearance. The front end of the Hilux has been given the most attention. The new bonnet creates a powerful presence and along with a redesigned front bumper with integrated fog lights, the Hilux look surprisingly menacing.

The new grille features a new trapezoidal design with wide horizontal slats. On the upper level the new grille is flanked by new headlights, which features clear

in-light definition between the different light sections and a slight protrusion that places emphasis on the vehicle’s strong shoulder lines. At the rear, the tail-lights have been redesigned and the tailgate now offers a clear lens brake light instead of a red one.

Not much has changed inside, except for the instrument cluster. The cluster has done away with the cylindrical design of the previous model and replaced it with a squared-off unit.

The biggest attraction is the new display audio system with touch screen, designed by Toyota to integrate the RDS radio function, CD player and newly introduced iPod and USB connecting ports.

The system displays iPod cover art, track listings and song titles, phone numbers via the Bluetooth mobile phone connection as well as radio stations on the colour screen. The second thing is that the steering wheel now features multi-function buttons to operate the infotainment system.

The top spec Raiders have also been given safety upgrades. Besides the driver and passenger airbags, there are also front and rear curtain airbags.

The Hilux also has driver aids such as vehicle stability control to complement the brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution systems and a much welcomed Traction control system.

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