19 April 1996


It takes close to £17,000 to buy a pick-up with two pews, and the choice for UK buyers is not wide. Andrew Faulkner and Andrew Pearce compare, four-wheel-drive offerings from Toyota and Vauxhall

IF you need a new diesel crewcab pick-up – one with five seats as well as a load bay – then the choice is simple. Hop on down to your local Toyota or Vauxhall dealer. Thats right: Only two mainstream outlets offer a crewcab in the UK, with the Vauxhall actually an Isuzu in drag.

Compared to whats available overseas, neither is particularly adventurous. Toyota adds a little to the height of a Hilux, extends the cab by 750mm (30in) and lops much the same from the load bed to produce the Hilux 4WD Double cab. Vauxhall keeps a normal Bravas exterior dimensions, but exchanges load bay length for more passenger space to arrive at the Brava Doublecab 2.5D.

The two are so alike that it is easiest to pick out the differences. The Brava is longer by 200mm (7.9in) but not as rangey as the Hilux; it carries more (960kg against 830kg), has more room in both cabin and load bay, packs a turbocharger and an extra 100cc, and costs £440 more. Otherwise this pair are clones right down to their ladder chassis, basic interiors and umbrella handbrakes.

Under the bonnet

Theres not much to get worked up about in the engine department: The Hilux carries an indirect-injection 2.4-litre diesel, the Brava a low-pressure turbocharged 2.5-litre direct injection unit. On the dyno 78hp plays 76hp and 128lb ft stacks up against 118lb ft. On the road performance is honours-even, with both doing a good impression of a mildly agitated tortoise.

It is true that the engines do deliver a useful slice of low-speed torque, and at lower speeds both are comfortably quiet. But once the first push is over, performance tails away to a steady slog. For local trips – the pick-ups natural habitat – this is no problem at all; its even relaxing. But for longer runs over motorways or main roads the lack of urgency can be dire. In the Bravas case the no-go zone is compounded by harshening engine rattle as the motorway limit is breached; at that sort of pace the Hiluxs woollier buzzing is easier on the ears, making it a better bet for long trips.

Transmissions – both typical Japanese five-speeders – are simple to manage, with the Hiluxs heavier clutch the only thing separating them. The biggest single difference in the engine/powertrain packages is fuel economy – Vauxhall says light-pressure turbocharging helps emissions and fuel use, and the Bravas excellent 32.6mpg makes the 25.2mpg Hilux look positively thirsty.

In the cab

Inside, the Brava cabin is wider, longer and decidedly lighter, with better passenger room and easier access over lower sills. Hilux rear seat dwellers get less leg space, less headroom and a more upright bench to perch on. Up front the story is the same, with the Bravas more conventional seating position likely to be kinder to those with bad backs.

Utilitarian is the word for interior fittings. Grey plastic – lighter in the Brava – covers everything but the seats; instrumentation is three-dial basic in both trucks and nothing works electrically, not even the big exterior mirrors. That is the way it should be in a working vehicle, but at prices pushing £17,000?

The Hiluxs fascia is the more integrated and its switches and materials are classier. Its also the only one boasting a (small) centre cubby box and thin door pockets, to which the Bravas answer is a flat passenger-side shelf in the dash. So while the Brava cabin wins on space and light, it dips out on quality and convenience.

Put to work

Looking at the load area puts the Brava back on top. Its bed is 75mm (3in) longer, 90mm (3.5in) wider and 19mm (0.75in) deeper at maximum, and it can tote a useful 130kg (286lb) more than the Hilux.

Loading height at the open tailgate is also lower by a welcome 125mm (5in). Total payloads are more or less unchanged from the duos non-crewcab equivalents, but as passenger number goes up so permitted load bed weight reduces.

Whether the Bravas extra volume is significant depends on what is carried. It takes 16 bales comfortably; something the Hilux, shorn of its test-spec hardtop, would have done too. But the volume difference might be more significant with bags or loose material.

When it comes to towing, Toyotas 2.1t braked trailer limit looks more useful than the Bravas 1.8t. But going on unladen performance, adding that sort of weight is likely to snuff out what little spark the engines produce and render progress very steady. Still, both should manage a trailer; we couldnt actually check how well, as neither test car carried a towbar.

Outlook unsettled

Vauxhall has made a fine pigs ear of the Bravas ride. Unyielding rear leaf springs argue with softer front torsion bars, so it heaves at the nose and hops at the back. The Hilux is at least consistent, with four leaf springs producing pogo-stick travel on tracks and rough minor roads. Neither truck rides very comfortably, but the Toyota is at least predictable and less likely to generate seasickness in passengers.

Not much is on offer in the handling department. The Brava turns in to bends fairly tidily but has low grip reserves, so as speed goes up it rolls, skips and lurches unhappily. Into a corner the Hiluxs low geared steering produces so little initial bite that you might wonder whether the front tyres have air in them, but its buckboard springing and beam axles eventually deliver fair grip and stability. Does it all matter? Not much, as nobody buys a pickup for its razor responses and Rottweiler grip – but the driver still deserves some reward.

Turning away from Tarmac brings no big surprises. The Hilux has an extra 63mm (2.5in) under its transfer case and much more fresh air under its sills, so it steps over humps and shoulders that have the lower Brava scraping.

Neither engine has the gruff to pull third gear in low range but both manage second fairly well – the Brava always with less aggression, which helps avoid spin but can leave it struggling on a bank; that lack of snap also makes it more important to keep an eye on changing terrain. All told the Hilux is an easier, less rubbery drive off the road.

The verdict: Vauxhalls offering is noticeably more frugal, roomy, airy and totes more weight and volume. It is also noisier when extended, makes harder work of cruising, has less grip and the worse ride. The Hilux stretches your bones getting in and out and rattles them over broken ground, but it has the edge on quality and, steering aside, is simply better to drive than the Brava. Its also a touch cheaper.

So if your passengers will not be giants and your diesel bills are not critical, try the Toyota last – it is the marginally better of a somewhat lacklustre pair.

Alternatively check out unofficial imports, where vehicle specifications tend to be higher and prices lower. Well be covering that option soon in Country Car.

&#8226 Model: Vauxhall Brava Doublecab 2.5D.

&#8226 Engine size: 2.5 litres, turbocharged.

&#8226 Power: 76hp.

&#8226 Torque: 118lb ft at 2100rpm.

&#8226 Transmission: Five-speed manual.

&#8226 Drive: Part-time 4wd, auto front hubs.

&#8226 Brakes: Disc/drum.

&#8226 Suspension: Independent torsion bar front, leaf rear.

&#8226 Towing capacity: 1.8t.

&#8226 Price: £16,925 incl VAT (not reclaimable).

&#8226 Model: Toyota Hilux 4WD Doublecab.

&#8226 Engine size: 2.4 litres.

&#8226 Power: 78hp.

&#8226 Torque: 128lb ft at 2200rpm.

&#8226 Transmission: Five-speed manual.

&#8226 Drive: Part-time 4WD, manual front hubs.

&#8226 Brakes: Disc/drum.

&#8226 Suspension: All leaf.

&#8226 Towing capacity: 2.1t.

&#8226 Price: £16,485 incl VAT (not reclaimable).



Main picture: Room for five plus a load – crewcab pick-ups have something to offer farms, contractors and working families.

Above: Toyota dash offers three instruments, standard Japanese heater controls and a joyless umbrella handbrake. Low seat and high floor force driver into legs-out position. Right: Same heater controls, same handbrake. But Vauxhall plastic is lighter, the cabin brighter.

Above: Taller Hilux tailgate (left) rests some 125mm (5in) higher than the Brava, even without load in the latter. Sixteen bales fill Vauxhall bed to cab height. Below left: Bit of a squeeze in the back – Hilux doors are shallow and the sill high. Truckman hardtop is not standard. Below right: Brava rear passengers get the best deal, thanks to generous room for knees and head. Seat back is more comfortably angled, too.

Above: Bravas low pressure turbocharger does little for performance but boosts economy to over 30mpg. Right: Automatic front hubs are standard on the Brava – Hilux drivers get manual versions.