Does the new high-horsepower Hilux match Nissan's class-leading Navara? Andrew Pearce and Nick Fone find out.
'Hmmm…nice truck, shame about the engine.' Before this spring that was a realistic way to sum up Toyota's Hilux, saddled as it was with a wheezing 101hp diesel. But in January a new 3.0 litre version rumbled over the horizon, bringing with it 169hp.
Which — surprise, surprise — exactly matched the 169hp of Nissan's Navara. So at last the two square up on equal ground.
The Hilux and Navara both have big followings in farming, while the chrome-dipped doublecab versions are the builder's tool of choice. You may or may not fancy joining the latter's ranks but if you want big power in your new Hilux, a doublecab it has to be; see Pound for Pound.
Visually we'd take the Navara despite (or maybe because of) its bad-boy looks. The Hilux is a lot less in-your-face, but seems to have been gently inflated with a bicycle pump.
The champ deposed — just
Performance is not stellar despite the headline outputs, and that's down to weight. These two come with equal power but the 2056kg Navara out-porks its mate by 176kg. So, even though the 2.5 Nissan cranks out 297lbf ft torque against the 3.0 Hilux's 253lbf ft, the Hilux is first to 60mph by about half a second — 11.8sec plays 11.3sec.
Grunt aside, the driving experiences are quite different. The Navara lets loose a big wedge of torque for a small prod on the throttle, so feels very lively. Yet it's possible to bog the engine down at low revs, as when rolling off from a give-way junction.
The Hilux meters its urge much more progressively so doesn't feel as urgent. Either way, the big diesels' lively mid-range helps overtaking and should make towing at the limits (2.25t Hilux, 2.6t Navara) no big deal.
We didn't check fuel consumption. Official figures put the two close at around 24mpg in the worst-case cycle; in general running the Hilux should gain a little economy and performance from its automatic disconnecting differential, which switches out in 2wd to cut drag.
The test Navara didn't have the rubbery gearchange of other examples we've driven and was better for it. Both cabs make space for your clutch foot alongside the pedal yet the Nissan delivers the better layout — the Hilux's pedal is heavier, set too high and its pad sits awkwardly under size nine boots.
| || |
| NISSAN FACTS |
Model driven: Navara Double Cab Aventura
Engine: 2.5 litre turbodiesel four, 169hp/297lbf ft
Gearbox: Five speed manual
Drive: Part-time 4wd
Towing capacity: 2600kg
Insurance group: 11
Warranty: Three year/60,000miles
Basic price: £21,500 + VAT on the road
| TOYOTA FACTS|
Model driven: Hilux Invincible D-4D 170
Engine: 3.0 litre turbodiesel four, 169hp/253lbf ft
Gearbox: Five speed manual
Drive: Part-time 4wd
Towing capacity: 2250kg
Insurance group: 10A
Warranty: Three year/60,000miles
Basic price: £18,870 + VAT on the road
A lofty gearstick, resistive shifting into third cog and tall dash conspire to reveal the Hilux's commercial roots, while hopping from one truck to the other confirms that the Nissan's layout has more in common with a family car.
Nice out, quite nice in
These trucks look and feel properly screwed together. The Hilux's light grey cabin comes come across as cheaper than the darker-panelled Nissan's interior, while the fussiness of the Hilux outside is mirrored in its dash design and layout.
Dual-zone climate control gives Nissan occupants more choice over temperature than Toyota's straightforward aircon.
Driver's seat height adjustment doesn't feature in the Hilux, so it's as well that the standard setup gives comfort and visibility. If you're particularly short or long, the Navara adds a height option. Both steering wheels adjust for rake but not reach.
The main difference lies in the seats themselves, with the Hilux pulling back some points thanks to better lateral support and gripper leather on the pews.
Bench rear seats hold up to three more passengers, who slot in through reasonably-sized doors. The accommodation's OK; there's enough legroom, space for grown-ups and a fair view forwards.
Both rear seat squabs lift to reveal oddment compartments, but only the Navara's folds forward for access to the limited space between seat and bulkhead.
Working cars can never have too much storage space in and around the cab. The Hilux wins the cupholder battle with flip-out versions in the dash and even has a few moulded into the tailgate load liner; the Navara counters with a double-decker glovebox and a roomy, multi-tiered centre console box.
Both offer various trays, door bins and potential homes for a mobile phone, with 12V power nearby.
Grit your teeth
Doublecabs are sometimes bought for family transport so you'd hope for reasonable refinement. Back lane cruising is quiet, though the Hilux engine is always a little coarser on the ears. It's also definitely noisier beyond 70mph, where the Navara's sixth speed puts a lid on revs and row.
The ride is kinder in the Navara too, even if that's like saying it's better to be shot than hanged. Alongside the Hilux's unwaveringly stiff gait the Nissan's smoother over any surface; and while these pickups do ride better than their predecessors, stone-age rear leaf springs define the comfort boundary. The Toyota in particular gets very fidgety on rough tracks.
Handiness is not a strong point, despite similar (and reasonable) turning circles and fair-sized mirrors. When you're in a rush on snaky roads the Hilux's slightly sharper steering, lower body roll and less mushy handling are welcome, but grip reserves are low in both camps.
Bring a ladder? As if…
Payloads are just over 1t. These poser pickups sacrifice traditional external rope hooks and ladder stops on the altar of sleeker looks.
Instead the Hilux just has internal tie-down brackets which, like the adjustable roping eyes on Nissan's more flexible C-Channel system, are too readily hidden as you load the bed. Roof bars which double as ladder stops are optional only on the Nissan.
Beds are equally wide, giving space between the arches for a standard europallet. When really wide stuff has to find a home, the Nissan's more generous bed aperture will help.
Conversely when it's maximum length you need, the Hilux's extra 50mm may do the trick. For those vertically challenged, the Navara's 90mm lower loading height will be a blessing.
Tailgate locking (essential if you add an otherwise-secure hardtop) is standard on the Navara, missing on the Hilux — although the test car's optional lift-off deck does fasten down the tailgate as it closes.
This pair are as able in the rough as anything the length of a cricket pitch can be. Part-time 4wd is the order of the day. Low range in the Nissan comes from a dash switch, Toyota provides a faster-operating lever; low boxes then give similar stump-pulling first gears.
Axle travels are similar too, but the Navara's low-slung sidestep brackets quickly limit the size of crests and ridges that can be tackled without expense. In dry terrain at least, finding traction was not a problem.
Drive either truck on its own and you'll probably reckon it amenable farm transport, if not something for full-time family use. The Hilux rides stiff, it's true, but is otherwise an honest, tolerably civilised and strong performer. Switch directly between them, and the
Nissan's several small-margin advantages — like the easier ride, reduced noise, friendlier cabin and more useable load bay — stack up to a better prospect.
POUND FOR POUND
Toyota's new engine is only offered in its two top-line doublecabs, which is where most sales are made. Other versions have a reworked 2.5 engine with power hiked by 17% to 118hp. All Navaras have 169hp.
The cheapest 3.0 Hilux doublecab costs £16,870 + VAT, the cheapest Navara doublecab £18,692 + VAT. Spec both up to the level of the manual-transmission test cars feature here, and you'd be looking at around £21,100 for the Toyota Invincible, £23,200 for the Nissan Aventura. Which is a lot to pay for a pickup.
Company philosophies differ on options even in these top-tier cars. So while touch-screen satnav comes in the Invincible's price, you can't get the equivalent of the Aventura's automatic wipers/lights, dual zone climate control, heated/height-adjustable front seats and sundry other goodies, should you need them.
If you must have an autobox, both brands can oblige.