We here in America take our pickups very seriously. Each month, the Big Three seal the top three spots on the best-selling vehicles list, with Ford’s F-150 comfortably in first, the Chevy Silverado in second, and Ram’s Pickup taking the bronze. Therefore, it’s easy to think that because of our vibrant truck culture, we’d be privy to all sorts of pickups from around the world. Unfortunately, there’s a lot we’re missing out on.
Internationally, there’s a whole class of truck that we here in the States haven’t seen in decades. This segment, led by the likes of the Toyota Hilux and the Nissan Navarra (though there are many other players too), is essentially what would have happened if American trucks weren’t so susceptible to bloat — a phenomena evidenced by the new ‘midsize’ Chevy Colorado being as big or bigger than the Silverado generations that preceded it.
So with Toyota’s new 2016 Hilux, it’s good to see that for the most part, the true mid-sizers are keeping their original goals close to heart. It’s not turning into a Tundra Junior, and because of its popularity in densely populated cities like Bangkok, it’s had to remain maneuverable and car-like in its reflexes.
There’s a lot riding on Toyota’s Hilux — Top Gear infamously tried to kill one by setting it on fire, drowning it in ocean water, and placing it atop a building that was then demolished, and it still started. Impressed, the hosts hung it as a trophy in their studio. When you have a bullet-proof formula like that, it’s better to build on that than start all over.
Sadly, we’ll probably never see the Hilux. Or the Volkswagen Amarok. Or the new Ford Ranger, or the slew of small, rough-and-tumble pickups that are available in most countries around the world except ours. That is, unless there’s a repeal of the maligned Chicken Tax, which poses a hefty tariff on imported light trucks. But Ford’s having too much fun selling F-150s to bother building the Ranger here, and it’s a similar story with Toyota, though at least we have the Tacoma.
There are other forces at play, though. The paradigm for pickups in the U.S. is swinging from utilitarian to luxury, and with the profit margins that these luxo-trucks offer, automakers aren’t going to move downmarket anytime soon. Trucks abroad, though, are still built to handle everything from brutal urban traffic to the Australian Outback – and that’s why they’re so great. They’re not perfectly trimmed in Nappa leather, chromed to the gills, and run as much as a Mercedes E-Class, they’re just reliable little trucks that can take anything you throw at them.
The new Hilux will undoubtably be a worldwide success. It’s available with Toyota’s excellent 4.0 V6, a tweaked 2.7 liter four, and two turbo-diesel options. It’s the kind of lineup we need for our trucks here in the States, in a package that’s perfect for the weekend-errand runner who feels like today’s small truck offerings are still too damn big.