Bakkies have over the years become a South African staple, and almost every family has one or knows someone who does. This steady uptake of the pickup is due to its multipurpose functionality. They can take up the role of the main vehicle in the family, and when you require brawn and utility, they rise to the occasion and excel. Add to this, you’re able to carry bicycles, surfboards and other leisure equipment the load bin for some weekend fun. Toyota has taken all of this into consideration, sat at the drawing board, and returned with a solution – the updated Hilux.

Yes, it does look tougher and bolder, they made sure of that. For instance, the front end has changed and now features a new grille and bumper, redesigned to give it a more pronounced and squared-off face. Slim-line headlamps complete the new look and suite the refreshed Toyota. There’s more to this exterior but we’ll circle back to that in a bit. One important thing to note here is that there’s been a mild reshuffling of grades in the model lineup. The SRX grade has now become the Raider and the Legend remains just that, a legend in this camp. Speaking of great things, Toyota sold 4252 Hilux’s in September, which considering the state of the economy and car industry, is commendable.

When the boffins at Toyota emerged from their brainstorming session they one objective with the refreshed Hilux – to reintroduce it as a refined and comprehensive package. We drove one of these examples recently and came away with an appreciation of what the Japanese have done. We sampled the Legend with its 2.8GD-6engine, which by the way has also been tinkered with to now deliver 500 Nm when paired to the 6-speed auto. Aside from a bump in power, the engine is also noticeably more refined. On our Hilux escapade, we took a short left onto a testing facility specifically designed to put off-road vehicles through their paces. On bumpy and extremely uneven terrain the Hilux’s revised suspension made light work of everything, soaking up the rough stuff with ease. More rigorous testing was done, and the Hilux proved its climbing skills on a 35-degree incline. With a revised downhill assist control system, it can descend the same slope with poise and at a slower speed than before, ensuring driver confidence. As we all know – slow and steady wins the race with 4×4 activities.

On the road, the Hilux feels smoother and the steering wheel is lighter too, making it easy to drive. With bakkies becoming lifestyle vehicles, this is one of the Toyota’s traits which many will appreciate. The Legend has been fitted with a JBL sound system and which has a respectable kick to it. Granted it won’t offer the same level of clarity as say a Bowers & Wilkins audio system, but it certainly is an improvement. In this trim, the Hilux is embellished with a sports bar which enhances its already good looks, and there’s the option of an RS kit which includes an electric roller shutter for the load bin. The shutter can be opened and closed with buttons on either side of the bin and locks once you lock the vehicle – rendering your valuables safe.

Toyota sought out to produce a well-rounded product to suit the needs of South Africans, and by the looks of things, they’ve achieved that. The changes they’ve made to the Hilux are quite substantial for a facelift, rendering it a better car for everyday use in the city, while still maintaining its off-road prowess.

Pricing for the Toyota Hilux 2.8GD-6 double cab Legend starts at R668 500

By Gugu Masuku