With the low-powered 2.5-litre engine, we were expecting the Toyota Hilux to be the underdog in this impressive line-up of trucks. Far from it, in fact.
Despite bringing just 142hp and 343Nm of torque to FG’s double-cab truck-fest, it left an indelible mark on all who drove it. It produced the best fuel test efficiency while towing and when unladen too, such is the improvement Toyota has made since upgrading the 2.5 from a lowly output of just 118hp.
But its biggest failing in such company - and this is one which affects the entire Hilux range - is a measly 2,250kg maximum towing capacity, and is why we could only haul three 600kg bags of fertiliser on our 450kg trailer.
Why only a 2.5-litre HL-3 against some of the higher-spec vehicles here? It was all that Toyota’s press office could lend us, and a group pickup test without a Hilux is like Sunday roast without gravy.
Above the HL-3 model sits the Invincible grade, which adds front side and curtain airbags, vehicle stability control, auto-air conditioning, scuff plates, chrome side bars and larger, 17in alloy wheels.
Options for the HL-3 and Invincible include leather upholstery, sat-nav, metallic paint and an urban pack which provides parking sensors.
We would have preferred to test a 3.0-litre Invincible model, but we would now question why you would want the larger engine when the 2.5 delivers a useful blend of performance and economy. It has the same torque output, at 343Nm, and offers only an additional 27hp.
The 2.5 also gets automatic engagement and disengagement of the front axle drivetrain with the shift from four to two-wheel drive, while a rear diff lock - activated by a button on the dashboard - is fitted as standard.
This is a neat touch, and one that is continued around the cab with creatively formed cubby holes and storage for all manner of stuff that farm pickup cabs seem to attract. Our HL-3 was suffering in specification terms, but did not lose much compared to the Invincible version - and neither get cruise control or heated door mirrors.
Rear seat space for passengers is good, particularly with the front seats slid fully rearward, and we think the Hilux offers the best all round balance between useable space and overall size of truck. The back seats can be folded up, revealing two lidded storage compartments that might accommodate a couple of spanners and an adjustable.
With 25 per cent more load space than the previous generation Hilux double cab, the practicality of this current version is somewhat improved. Like many others tested here, it offers just four, fixed load lashing points inside the bed and nothing outside the bodywork hinting that the Hilux’s smooth lines take priority over practicality.
But it was the truck’s towing performance that made us sit up and take notice. Despite the lightest towing capacity and the lowest powered engine, we were not sure how it would perform - we expected the Hilux to have its tongue out while pulling 2,250kg.
But in tough-as-old-boots form, the 2.5 Hilux did not disappoint, proving it could handle the steeper inclines with the trailer with as much confidence, if not more, than that shown by some of its peers.