Our Trusty Hilux has just rolled past the 19000km mark since itâ€™s been in our care and still reliable as ever. Itâ€™s the one vehicle in our fleet you can constantly rely on to start first time and cart whatever you want, wherever you want. Regular readers will recall the single cab 3.0D-4D I piloted for the greater part of 2010. Iâ€™ve always had a soft spot for the Hilux and still feel that, despite it getting on in years, it remains one of the most practical vehicles money can buy.
Thereâ€™s just something honest and unpretentious about them that I enjoy, and the Hiluxâ€™ hard-as-nails demeanour makes you feel you can conquer Everest at every turn of the wheel. The added space in this new Xtra Cab version is more useful than I expected (compared to my single cab) and doesnâ€™t cut down the load bayâ€™s space that much.
This unitâ€™s 3.0-litre D-4D engine seems to have run-in nicely and the improvement in both fuel efficiency and performance has been notable since it first arrived in April last year with just under 1400km on its clock. Weâ€™ve seen our average consumption drop from consuming around 11.1 litres every 100km on arrival to just under 8.5l/100km a month ago. Allied to its office moving duties late last year, the Hilux was again called upon to carry the bulk of my wares to my new abode behind the Boerewors Curtain in Durbanville from Sea Point.
Needless to say, lugging all my goods back and forth has seen our average consumption rise this last month to over 8.8l/100km. At the time of writing, 500ppm diesel was set to increase by 47c/litre on 7 December, while low sulphur 50ppm diesel was due to increase by 44c/litre. It will be interesting to see by how much this affects our monthly 86c/km average running costs on our new commute from the Northern Suburbs to the CBD each day.
UPS | Strong diesel, lots of cab space, big load bay
DOWNS | Rearward visibility not the best
OLD technology is not a swear word when it comes to bakkies. Like the latest models, this Hilux uses the same 3.0-litre D-4D, an EU2 specification diesel engine, good for a very unstressed 120kW and 343Nm and able to function on a wide range of diesel grades. Man, this motor never breaks a sweat unless you want to go way over the speed limit and then the fifth gear seems a bit short. Most of the time you are happy to trundle along in the sweet spot between 1500 and 2000rpm.
Itâ€™s strong from idle. You just let out the clutch and the turbo spools up with hardly a prod on the accelerator. No lag whatsoever. But no blitsvinnig standing starts either.
And, you know, thereâ€™s lots of space behind the front seats too. Officially 450mm, unofficially enough for three teenagers who didnâ€™t even complain when I put some Miles Davis through the sound system. Either itâ€™s a good place to be or teenagers are getting more polite.
On a recent camping trip to a so-called green festival â€“ maybe itâ€™s to do with the surrounding vineyards â€“ the two flip-top pockets recessed into the rear bench offered a secure stash place for valuables, like cameras and wallets. But better than that, the enormous bak came into its own. Thereâ€™s space to throw in a mattress for when you donâ€™t want to pitch a tent, and room to accommodate the cooking, eating and thirst-quenching needs that crop up during these extended events. Few other vehicles could have managed the dual role so well. I have frequently used that large load space to tote a mountain bike from place to place, and, having fitted old roof racks, itâ€™s been easy to carry up to two kayaks at a time. Wet or muddy sports clothing is not a problem either; just dump it in the back and hose the detritus out after the event.
All thatâ€™s missing from the Hiluxâ€™s range of abilities is a reversing camera, because with the high tailgate and dark rear canopy glass, reversing involves a lot of guesswork. And guessing doesnâ€™t always take into account things like boundary walls, shrubbery and small cars. I have learned to do a recce first, then make good use of both rear-view mirrors. Another plus would be a lock for the tailgate, making the canopy more secure â€“ an OEM item on some of the new models.
Yes, bakkies have multiple uses. They are the byword for practicality, and the Xtra Cab has amply proven it can shuttle between leisure, commuting and workhorse roles. Itâ€™s hard to beat, especially with that bulletproof engine chugging away under the bonnet.
BIG DIESELS ARE a pleasure to use in a bakkie application because of their lugging power and effortless cruising and overtaking ability. The downside is their thirst. Or is it? In the case of the Hilux Xtra Cab, Toyota must have reprogrammed the ECU, blueprinted the motor, or provided a mystery tank thatâ€™s topped up by a secret clan of dwarves because fuel economy is really impressive. On average, Iâ€™m getting 870km from a tank after throwing in 69 to 71 litres of any fuel thatâ€™s available (including 500ppm which is usually cheaper by some margin). Checking tank to tank, the worst run in recent weeks gave 9 litres/100km, the best tankful just 8.0 litres/100km.
Not bad for a heavy machine with the aerodynamics of a chamfered brick, albeit one driven for the most part within the prevailing speed limit. One of the factors is that the motor has loosened up, or bedded in, whatever your take on it, becoming more responsive, quieter and smoother as the 10 000km mark approaches. The other factor is that the canopy was removed for repairs, so itâ€™ll be interesting to see if the fuel use nudges upwards with it in place again.
Itâ€™s a Carryboy canopy, franchised locally by SA Canopy, and rather smart for your R20 000. It has integral roof rails, an interior light, a rear demister (particularly useful in winter) and an integrated stoplight, making refitting the item a 2.5-hour mission which seemed to involve removing a tail light, half of the dashboard and numerous interior panels. Thanks to the Cape Town branch for their attention to detail.
So I now have a huge lockable rear compartment, one of the key upsides to the Xtra Cab which has a much longer load area than the double cab. And thereâ€™s also the question of VAT â€“ no charge if the vehicle is used for commercial purposes.