Indicative drive away price: $60,641

The new, eighth-generation HiLux is a significant improvement over the old model that, despite some updates, had been showing its age for a long time.

A new, 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel betters the outgoing engine with the double punch of better performance and lower fuel consumption. It now delivers 450Nm of torque, a 25 percent gain. The transmission has been upgraded to a six-speed unit and, despite an increase in the overall vehicle weight, fuel consumption has been reduced to 8.5 litres/100km.

The modern drivetrain is particularly smooth and quiet and the cabin is well insulated to further reduce engine noise.

But while the new engine is highly efficient, it lacks the strong pull of the runner-up Ford Ranger/Mazda BT-50 twins that you’d really want when towing at maximum capacity. Although all three finalists topped the class for tray space, the HiLux can’t match the other two in either payload or towing, where its limit is a step down at 3200kg.

The interior feels more modern, while the finish and quality of materials gives the HiLux a relatively high-class ambience for a working vehicle. The centre console is dominated by a seven-inch touch-screen multimedia system with sat-nav, Bluetooth and iPod connectivity.

Modern convenience features such as climate control and a smart key are also included along with tilt-and-reach-adjustable steering – a rarity in this category.

The HiLux is renowned for its toughness and is marketed as ‘unbreakable’. Toyota has built on this with a strengthened chassis and beefed-up suspension.

The off-road ability has also been improved, with 20 percent more wheel articulation, bigger dampers and larger disc brakes, along with greater under-body protection.

The HiLux has a five-star ANCAP safety rating. 

2ND: FORD RANGER XLT 3.2, 1094
3RD: MAZDA BT-50 XTR, 1076