The default choice when it comes to new bakkies in South Africa is, and has always been, the Toyota Hilux.
For the last five decades have been nothing but a revelation as to how South Africans see the Hilux. Since its very first introduction, the Hilux has been steadily building its reputation as the number one bakkie in the land, and the reputability of its reliability far outweighs anything the market has to offer.
WATCH: Here's why the Toyota Hilux remains one of the world's most popular bakkies
Come 2018 and the Hilux sees not only one alteration to the range, but two.
The first being the special edition Dakar model, and the second an overhaul of the range as a whole. It’s the latter that has the tongues wagging, because with it came a new, bolder face for South Africa’s favourite vehicle. Though the interior and drivetrain have been left untouched, the Hilux simply just reaffirmed its position as the number one choice in our bakkie market.
The new face
Though there was very little wrong with the outgoing model’s exterior, Toyota deemed it necessary to have another look at its top product’s face. That which is the first meeting point between onlooker/prospective buyer and bakkie.
To attract attention, the bakkie now has a much more imposing face that has no problem staking its claim. Bolder, more aggressive lines form part of the package and does the bakkie stand out more from the crowd.
Along the sides and at the rear the changes are minimal - if any - but the 18-inch wheels strike an imposing presence. The bakkie retains its 286mm ground clearance, which makes going off the beaten track a venture far less daunting.
SEE: Toyota Hilux versus Ford Ranger - Here's which bakkie reigned supreme in 2018
Stretching its body at just over 5.3m, the Hilux is not a short fellow. This does have an effect on where and what you drive your bakkie over (in caution that the belly will scrape), but for the most part it is very unlikely that the Hilux, that is very much playing the leisure game, will see too much off-road action.
Since we're on the topic of leisure, Toyota made sure that the interior has all the bits and pieces to make the journey an enjoyable one.
For starters, the bakkie is equipped with Bluetooth, USB and AUX capability; all of which can be controlled via the centrally mounted touchscreen or the steering wheel. The latter is also home to the dials to toggle between the menus, and the cruise control activator sits a bit lower down on the steering column.
What’s notable is that this model, the Hilux GD-6 Raider 4x4, is not fitted with leather seats, nor electric adjustment for said seats. If this feature could have at least been added to the driver seats it would have been okay, but it’s not. If Mitsubishi could add it to their Triton, a bakkie some R20k cheaper than the equivalent Hilux, why could the market leader not do it, either?
Strong, punchy engine
But don’t let a few gripes with the interior put you off. Oh no! What a mistake that would be.
Toyota has been building the Hilux for the past fifty years and even though the competition offers greater power figures, the Hilux has always been okay with what it has in its arsenal. And the 2019 model is backing down for no one. Under the bonnet is a strong and proven 2.8-litre turbo-diesel engine that develops a healthy 130kW and 420Nm (the automatic models churn out 450Nm).
Power can be sent to the rear wheels, or all four wheels, via the practical dial found just ahead of the gear lever. The six-speed automatic gearbox cogs over nicely and the mechanical feel that we’ve come to expect from bakkies is not obtrusive, at all. Aiding the engine and power delivery are two buttons: one for Eco mode and the other for Power. When not in a hurry or not pressing on, the bakkie will revert to Eco by default. But hit Power and the urge and surge is pretty intense. But in a delicious way. Any gear, any speed, the bakkie will jump at any response from the throttle and it’ll continue delivering its power in spades until the fuel runs out.
Sometimes, pulling away in first with Power engaged, the bakkie will jerk and jitter like an impatient race horse right before a race. But once you’ve figured out throttle and clutch modulation it’s all quickly a thing of the past.
It's not just locally that Toyota’s enjoying great sales success with the Hilux, but globally, too. Last year, the Hilux was the top-selling vehicle in South Africa with 40 018 units sold. That’s an average of about 3335 units per month. But what counts in its favour is reliability, reputation, and tradition. Tradition that the Hilux-name has been in families for the last five decades. Tradition that granddad bought a Hilux, so too did his son, and his son after him. These are ingredients that can’t be bought in monetary value, but instilling and focussing on reliability and reputation.
The Hilux’s story is far from over and at the turn of its half century in South Africa, it can only hit a higher gear.
Charlen Raymond is the editor of Manskap.
Wheels24's Janine Van der Post says: The Hilux is without a doubt the bakkie king in South Africa, and no matter how well the Ford Ranger might do against its main rival's sales figures each month, the Hilux will always be the reigning best-seller.
While the Hilux is the most popular vehicle in its segment, it has never really been the most attractive - at least not in my books. Over the years, that has changed and its evolution was evident when the latest generation was launched just a few years ago in 2016. Now, the Hilux Raider has become quite a good-looking 'fella' after the bakkie was upgraded in 2018.
It has that new bold 'square face' and it has changed the entire look of the Hilux. Dare I even call it sexy.
It also has a heck of a lot more going for it. The Hilux is available in 36 derivatives, three body styles and four trim levels.
The cabin feels a lot more plush and standard equipment and materials have been given some serious attention too, so much that it completely rivals the niceties of the Ford Ranger. It feels a lot more premium and it's now not just a workhorse, but a comfortable daily drive for the entire family.