The latest incarnation of Toyota’s Hilux Invincible double-cab pick-up, with a refined engine and a more spacious interior, is still a rugged workhorse to be reckoned with.

I don’t know whether it says more about the Toyota Hilux or the type of ‘no-good boyos’ we have in our corner of East Anglia, but, about an hour after the 2017 incarnation of this most iconic of rural workhorses had been delivered to me and 10 minutes after I had parked it beside my local trout stream, I got a text on my phone from another member. ‘Poachers,’ he wrote excitedly, under a photograph of the bright-blue and brand-new Toyota.

If it says something about the poachers, then they must be a classy lot round our neck of the woods, swanning about in showroom-condition twin-cabs. I mean, I hadn’t even had time to get the wheel arches muddy. However, if, as I suspect, it says more about the car, then it was a compliment. Poachers, after all, know what they’re about. I remember the Lincolnshire police telling me how vehicle-fussy the poachers were over in the Wolds and, indeed, the Hilux was one of their carriages of choice.

You get the impression, looking at the rather well-groomed lines of the latest model, that this kind of underworld reputation might be something Toyota is keen to lose. Or perhaps there is simply an extra slice of market pie the firm is keen to take a bite at? Farms and building sites notwithstanding, the UK is subtly different from the Aussie Outback or the Namibian desert where functionality will be all. Out there, the Toyota’s legendary immortality will be all the advertising the Hilux needs.

Indeed, I wandered into a handful of internet chat forums while researching this latest version, all of which were studded with comments by African and Australian farmers stating that they wouldn’t drive anything else, no matter how much more comfortable it was. Where they come from, a car that keeps on going no matter what keeps you alive.

In the UK, however, the roads are less exacting and the AA is only a phonecall away. Here, the double-cab pick-up is increasingly fulfilling a secondary role as a family car or lifestyle car: at work in the week, but full of kids and bedecked with mountain bikes and surfboards at the weekend. This is a hotly contested forecourt, full of Ford Rangers, Volkswagen Amaroks, Nissan Navaras and, soon, a very high-end pick-up in the Mercedes X-Class.

Toyota has responded with a host of changes, from a more refined engine to a more spacious interior, all aimed at civilising this byword for rugged practicality. I drove the top-of-the-range Invincible, which maxes out on the luxury. The dash now looks like something from a regular passenger car and a smart one at that. We have a 7in touchscreen, satnav, Bluetooth, DAB radio, climate control and a keyless start. The last will, no doubt, be a winner for farmers hop-
ping in and out all day long – just pop the key in a zip-up pocket and forget about it.

The ride was comfortable, although, of course, it was a little choppy without a load bay full of sand. The steering was easy, too: nicely weighted, accurate. And the engine was also impressive. Cut down to 2.4 litres in order to circumnavigate UK emission levels, I thought the new four-pot might struggle to push around what is, in reality, an enormous machine. However, somehow, the torque – which is what really matters in a car like this – has climbed considerably to a battle cruiser’s 400Nm. It’s not going to win any drag races, but it will drag a gun-trailer out of a muddy field.

Could I live with a car like this, day to day? I’m no pick-up aficionado, yet I drove the new Hilux for a week with this question in mind. After all, it would be useful for those times when I try to fit a strimmer, 15 fence posts, a roll of galvanised wire and a sledgehammer into the back of my Audi.

The answer was a resounding yes. The fact that Toyota has now built a staggering 18 million Hilux pick-ups since 1968, of which I bet a considerable number are still running, is testament to their durability. I read about one Danish farmer who had racked up 387,000 miles on the original engine and gearbox of his. That sort of statistic makes the Hi-Lux’s 100,000 mile and five-year warranty seem rather cautious.

On the road: Toyota Hilux Invincible
Priced: From £33,145
Annual Road Fund Licence: £225
Combined fuel consumption: 36.2mpg
Power: 148bhp
0–60mph: 12.8 seconds
Top speed: 106mph