By on June 2, 2017

2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road, Image: Garrett Martin

I just had a chance to see the newest version of the Toyota Hilux out on the road. For those of you who don’t waste your time watching Top Gear, the “Hilux” is the newest variant of The Toyota Truck Formerly Known As The Toyota Truck. Once upon a time, Toyota sold the same compact truck all over the world, although there were minor differences like double-walled beds for the American market and so on. With the arrival of the Toyota Tacoma, we Americans got a compact Toyota truck of our very own. But was this a good thing? And should Toyota make the otaku happy by bringing us the global vehicle?

Come to think of it — is there even a difference between the Hilux and the Tacoma?

That’s a question that is surprisingly hard to answer just based on Internet research, but it appears that the current generation Tacoma and new Hilux are closer than they have ever been from what I’ve read. The frame is different, with Toyota seeming to indicate that the Tacoma’s is less rigid. The interior and interior are different, and the Hilux is narrower. The Tacoma has more available luxury options. Finally, the Hilux is usually sold with a diesel four-cylinder engine, while the Tacoma has gasoline power in both four and six cylinder variants.

The general consensus of people who have driven both is that the Hilux is prone to squeaks and rattles but seems to be “heavier-duty” than the Tacoma. It’s worth noting, however, that neither truck looks anything like that famous old square-rigger driven by Marty McFly and insurgents alike.

My opinion, after giving a few Euro Hiluxes the ol’ look over, is that the Tacoma is better at providing what Americans want and need in a truck. What do you think? Are you happy with what we get in North America, or do you secretly dream of the forbidden fruit?

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47 Comments on “QOTD: Get Hi or Have a Taco?...”


  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    They’re definitely two different vehicles designed for two different audiences/use-cases. When the Tacoma nameplate came to be in 1995, Toyota made a conscious decision to design a compact truck for the US market with a lighter-duty recreational-use bent. Up until then, the US “Pickup” used the heavy duty Hilux frame, but with a switch to smoother riding torsion bar-based independent front end instead of the classic solid front axle on the 4wds (we had this until 1987 IIRC). The Tacoma in turn used an even lighter duty double wishbone design and rack and pinion steering which further improved ride and handling and improved front end articulation (better offroad). The big Achilles heel that this 1st gen Toyota double wishbone setup has is that the lower balljoints are upside-down and in tension rather than compression. They stay very tight feeling and will not make much knocking sound until they fail catastrophically, potentially leading to loss of control as your wheel folds in. In ’05 they switched along with the ’03 4Runner to a 2nd gen design which resolved the balljoint issue. I don’t know the latest Hilux as well but I think they too now have finally switched to this newest IFS design for better or for worse. The other big thing is the frame. The Tacoma’s is lighter and C-channel, and has a more flex to it for a more comfortable ride while maintaining decent leaf pack stiffness to allow for a decent payload (same strategy used on the Tundra, leading to those funny “butt shaking” videos made by competitors). Unfortunately when Dana Corp. made those frames, they were either inadequately e-coated, or simply too thin to live long lives in the salty North. Keep it oil undercoated and/or washed off and its a non-issue.

    Worth noting: purely in terms of offroad capability, a US-spec Tacoma TRD-Offroad will probably show up a Hilux. Clearance is a bit better, articulation is definitely better owing to the less stiff suspension. But in terms of long term durability working in harsh offroad conditions for years on end, the Hilux takes the easy win IMO.

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      @gtemnykh
      Pretty good summing up of the history and differences between the two. Although serious Off Road people prefer the Hilux because of it’s load carrying and considerable Off Road ability. As a difference between the two in Off Road ability I would go for the Hilux as well like US Army Special Forces did in Afghanistan replacing their Tacomas with Hiluxes
      Toyota has built a Yellow and Black ” Tonka ” prototype with a 5200lb kerb weight.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        “Although serious Off Road people prefer the Hilux because of it’s load carrying…”

        Payload is SO important when going off road.

        Or not.

        • 0 avatar
          wumpus

          If you *need* to carry a load, I’d say that is serious off-roading. If you just want a jaunt out and back for recreation, how can you call yourself serious?

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Robert,

        Again, for pure technical ability (ie making it through a tricky section of terrain) while setting durability aside, the US Tacoma has better stock ground clearance, and better suspension articulation. For sustained offroad use and especially coupled with being used for hard work carrying loads over said terrain (including serious overlanding), the Hilux is my pick. The same can be said in an even more extreme example comparing something like a Wrangler Rubicon versus a Land Cruiser 70. The Rubicon has soft and long traveling springs and de-coupling sway bars to maximize articulation, as well as unbeatable approach and departure angles and tremendous ground clearance. The LC70 has a much stiffer suspension that gives it great payload, and I don’t doubt that the ‘yota’s suspension would hold up much longer under hard use. Despite the Wrangler’s stronger offroad performance, the LC70 would nonetheless be the easy pick for a globe-trotting adventure where reliability and ruggedness were paramount (and its offroad ability is certainly nothing to sneeze at).

        • 0 avatar
          RobertRyan

          @gtemnykh
          Off Road in the US seems to mean just driving Off Road . Example the Raptor. Taking a load Off Road is what is the norm is outside the US

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            “Off Road… …seems to mean just driving Off Road”

            Yep, it does.

            “Taking a load Off Road is what is the norm is outside the US”

            Now you’re just moving goal posts. Plenty of people make overlanders out of Tacomas in the US. By default they’re already going to be installing a lift with taller and stiffer springs that can carry a load better and handle an aftermarket winch/bumper up front. The same would apply to people making similar modifications in Aus on their Land Cruisers, Fortuners, Hiluxes, etc. Stock for stock, the Hilux is a better sturdier work truck with a higher payload, the Tacoma is the more technically capable offroad vehicle, full stop.

    • 0 avatar
      cgjeep

      Why don’t they use the fully boxed 4Runner frame? I thought Tacomas and 4Runners used to share frames.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        They shared frames until that ’95 redesign. Both used to be on the Hilux frame. The Tacoma got the C-channel in ’95, the ’96 4Runner went to what’s considered a Toyota-global “medium duty” frame shared with the Land Cruiser Prado 90. Sections of the Tacoma frame are in fact fully boxed, my understanding is that the front section is almost identical to the 4Runner/Prado especially given that all three used the same “gen 1” double wishbone IFS.

        • 0 avatar
          analoggrotto

          A true point of infuriation. My old man has a 2010 4runner and I have a 2011 Tacoma, and I have observed the differences myself ): . Both are great trucks and my TRD Sport suspension is way better than his SR5 hardware.

  • avatar
    FerrariLaFerrariFace

    Why not both? Back when I used to get hi, not much could stand between me and a taco.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I would think there would be a financial incentive for Toyota to increase the similarity between the two, especially from a chassis standpoint. Even if ours remains named Tacoma rationalizing the two is a good thing for the company.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “The interior and interior are different, and the Hilux is narrower.”

    FYI, a typo.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    We get a watered down truck for posers (Tacoma). The rest of the world gets a truck intended for use as a truck, not a mall crawler. This is typical of the Japanese (especially Toyota’s) contempt for the North American market.

    The real subject is Australia, the world’s biggest and most important market. Not sure how that relates, but, yeah. Australia.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      That’s rather harsh John. How is a Tacoma any more of a poseur truck than any other US half-ton above a XL-trim fleet truck with an 8 foot bed? The vast majority of the US consumer market can be generically termed as light-duty or recreational use.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      “This is typical of the Japanese (especially Toyota’s) contempt for the North American market”

      As opposed to the domestics who abandoned the segment here wholesale and adopted the “F*ck you, buy a full size” approach?

    • 0 avatar
      bikegoesbaa

      Regardless of whether its a product of contempt or not, given their success here it’s hard to argue that the Japanese companies lack a good understanding of the North American market and consumer.

      This is especially true in the compact pickup market, where they successfully drove the domestics out *entirely* for several years.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      On another topic, after traveling I have noticed many consumer products sold abroad have a “US” version sold here which is inferior.

      Go to the forth picture. Aspertame, which is NOT used in the European version of the cough drop.

      http://www.ebay.com/itm/4-Pack-Ricola-Green-Tea-with-Echinacea-Cough-Suppressant-Sugar-Free-19-Drops-Ea-/302138375496?hash=item4658d9bd48:g:kLkAAOSw4GVYKexN

      Here is the Thai version, seventh picture.

      http://www.ebay.com/itm/3-Pc-Ricola-Original-Mountain-Cranberry-Swiss-Herb-Lozenger-Sugar-Free-3-Flavor-/282459614245?hash=item41c3e7ac25:g:ejYAAOSwX61ZCsl6

      • 0 avatar
        rentonben

        It can be quite odd – for example Foreign Sensodyne toothpaste has an enamel-building ingredient — the US version doesn’t , even though the ingredient was invented in Florida.

        It works in reverse too sometimes: we can by the good Glocks while the Austrians can’t

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          That’s a good point, although the difference being products which don’t interact with my body vs those which do (Glock awesomeness notwithstanding).

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      “The real subject is Australia, the world’s biggest and most important market. Not sure how that relates, but, yeah. Australia.”

      Yeah, where according to Toyota’s Aussie site the Hilux is the #1 truck with all of 46,000 sold last year. That’s right, Forty-six thousand. Bring it to the States and it would easily sell twice as many right beside the Tacoma… as long as they kept their visible and functional differences. It could conceivably double Toyota’s truck sales across the board by adding that one model.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Sure Vulpine, Toyota doesn’t have a clue as to what they are doing. Certainly not a single person who walked into the showroom to buy a Tacoma would buy a Lo-Lux instead so certainly they would double sales if they have twice as many less than full size trucks.

        Sure the Lo-Lux would sell to some just because it was once forbidden fruit, and for a few because they would actually use the increased capability or narrower footprint. But the reality is that most people would continue to purchase the Tacoma that was designed for the US market and US tastes, and the majority of Lo-Lux trucks would not be conquest sales, they would be to people who would have bought a Tacoma anyway or stepped up to the Tundra.

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      @JohnTaurus
      Toyota always build to the market. Land cruisers all types have been tested and modified for the Australian market
      Even the suspension for the L200 was developed by a local company since acquired by Toyota

  • avatar
    redapple

    Diesel would be nice.
    Ankles at the same height as my bumm is a deal breaker tho.

  • avatar
    SnarkyRichard

    I’m guessing Arabs would have a hard time attaching a machine gun mount to the Tacoma’s resin bed .

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    As an American, I’d still have the Hilux over the Tacoma.

  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    HiLux for me if I had a choice. http://www.toyota.com.au/hilux/~/media/toyota/vehicles/hilux-ng/images/features/performance/hilux-towing-capacity-and-payloads.jpg?w=930&hash=8277411E506E049FC75331E25F2122CA9949ECD7
    Diesel please. No Urea.

  • avatar
    FAS

    I have a 2017 Hilux. Purchased an hour away from my main residence in San Diego area, in Ensenada.

    4 door
    AC
    Stick
    4 cyl

    $19,800 OTD

    I friggin love it.

    No it doesn’t have 25 airbags or leather

  • avatar
    FAS

    its licensed in Baja but I drive it across the border as often as needed.

    its been my daily driver stateside for 3 months.

  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    What would happen to sales numbers if Toyota sold the Tacoma/HiLux as one global platform? I suspect they would fare well.

    Somebody, anybody, anyone needs to please offer a compact truck in North America.
    Nissan had a project to modernize D22 Pickup (compact truck introduced in 1997) for sale in USA to sell as lower cost, simple compact truck, unfortunately it was not feasible to meet safety requirements.
    Perhaps Mitsubishi will sell it’s next or current generation truck here at some point in the future.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      “Nissan had a project to modernize D22 Pickup (compact truck introduced in 1997) for sale in USA to sell as lower cost, simple compact truck”

      I remember that, I was really looking forward to see what would come of it. The failed Mahindra example is another unfortunate case. My little Ranger has been earning its keep so far this year. It’s sitting with sagging leaf springs with a bed full of paver base as we speak (close to 1500lb if I had to guesstimate). The 110hp 4cyl (5spd manual is key) still has adequate power to get me up to highway speeds up an inclined on-ramp, although most auto-journos would claim something to the effect of “dangerously underpowered!!1!” to its loaded up performance.

      I really would love to see a FWD based car/pickup brought over. As it sits my rwd Ranger is relegated to three seasons, even starting from a stop sign in wet conditions will break the rear end loose all too easily with an empty bed.

      • 0 avatar
        mikeg216

        Get some sand bags a limited slip and some pizza cutter snow tires, you’ll be all set for winter

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          I’ve actually toyed with the idea of hunting down an 8.8 inch LSD rear end at the junkyard with a bigger rear end ratio to help this little 4 cyl move out, and maybe swap on some fatter wheels/tires off of a 90s Explorer. We’ll see how much time/money I end up dumping into it.

          I’d much rather drive my 4Runner in the winter to be honest, as much as I hate getting salt on that truck.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        Thumbs up, gtemny. Sounds like you and I have very similar Rangers. My one advantage is only 24,000 on the clock.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          I probably hauled close to 5 tons of materials in the last two days for my patio project. Not a whimper from the Ranger, even with over half a pallet of pavers in the bed. Love this little pack mule! Nice and easy to load/unload bags of sand and pavers over the side of the bed as well. At the same time, I found myself wishing I had sprung for a half-ton 2wd. That would have cut my trips in half as I would have been loading a full ton in the bed at a time.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Before doing that, may I suggest one little bit of reflection?

            Exactly how often do you carry loads like you just described? Now, in some ways the Ranger I have is the sort Denver Mike used to claim of all compact truck buyers–my step-father was a bit of a miser who bought the minimum necessary to do the job. But you also have to consider that in over 15 years of ownership, he only put 20,000 miles on it. He used it strictly as a home-store hauler and never drove it for any other purpose. I’ve had it for just shy of two years and put four thousand on it myself. My issue is that I can only drive it in reasonably fair weather (can handle rain but with that light tail she’s worthless in snow and just loves to hop that tail around on rough roads.) For my truck needs she’s perfect because the heaviest load she’s carried for me was 20 bags of wet (just after rain) mulch and a few flowers. I simply have no need for 1500# or 2500# capacity and I far prefer the smaller size because she can easily serve as a daily driver for me.

            So my question to you is, do you really use the truck as extensively as you just described on any kind of a frequent basis? If you’re only carrying that “one ton” of material once per year, what are you going to do with all that wasted space the rest of the time? Is the ridiculous price of a full-sized truck really worth it to you in the long run? If so, then go for it. If not, go for a mid-sizer instead.

            Me? I’m waiting for something smaller. I want the extra cabin space of an extended cab but absolutely don’t need four full doors and seven feet wide. A five-foot wide cabin is enough, so a six-foot-wide body is plenty for me.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            “Is the ridiculous price of a full-sized truck really worth it to you in the long run?”

            Considering I was shopping the sub-$3000 bracket on craigslist, the Rangers/S10s/etc were in the same range as old Ford F150s and Chevy C1500s etc. I think my ideal option would have been a reg cab 1500 Chevy W/T with the 4.3L and stick shift. Passable fuel economy, and could handle the 1 ton loads I had to double-up on, and it would have as low of a loading height. They ride pretty good too as far as commuting duties go.

            You do make a valid point though, how often am I doing large scale landscaping or masonry projects? I’m going to need at least another 4 or 5 half ton loads of gravel now, and one or two of mulch. My mentality with the truck purchase was that I’d buy it do help with with all my big projects this year, and then perhaps sell it come next spring (tax time, top dollar on CL). With that in mind, buying the larger truck would justify itself since the purchase was being made explicitly for the work at hand. Not saying I regret buying the Ranger, I think its fantastic. My new rear air shocks should help with load carrying, at that point the constraint is the motor and gearing. If I had the 3.0L V6 with the larger rear end with a shorter ratio, with the air shocks installed I think a ranger could handle a one ton load.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            “With that in mind, buying the larger truck would justify itself since the purchase was being made explicitly for the work at hand.”

            It is for a similar reason that I purchased an F-150 back in ’11; I had a specific need and the truck I bought just happened to have the right size bed to carry it–max load 300 pounds but it was all those stout, plastic, 8′ event tables you see used at weddings, family reunions and other such large-group gatherings. That truck carried 24 of them stacked lengthwise on edge, taking up every inch between the wheel wells and even letting me carry some chairs in the pockets fore and aft of those wells… with the tailgate up and latched.
            Paid $2500 for it and ended up spending $5000 to make it fully road-worthy as I discovered the brakes were totally shot and needed to be replaced on all four corners, INCLUDING the soft lines, and had to replace one of the exhaust manifolds before I could even get it registered with the state. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere in these forums, my lock with pre-owned vehicles has been abysmal.
            I wish you luck with your Craigslist purchase and hope you dodge the bullet that keeps hitting me.

  • avatar
    Maintainer

    It wouldn’t matter if they kept the Taco as-is or gave us the Hilux. It would sell just because its a Toyota.
    I sold Toyotas for a bit back in the late 1990s and rarely had trouble putting an up into a new vehicle. I doubt it’s much different today.

  • avatar
    Jeff Zekas

    Biggest difference twixt Hilux & Tacoma: the Hilux usually has a machine gun welded to the back and is carrying cheering Jihadis!


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