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toyota hilux Flickr: Matthew Paul Argall
Flickr: Matthew Paul Argall

The Toyota Hilux has a reputation as an essentially indestructible mid-size pickup truck. If you’ve seen those “Killing a Toyota” Top Gear episodes, then you know what I’m talking about.

Whether you’re an off-road enthusiast or someone who’s in need of a really solid commercial vehicle, the Hilux sounds more than just a little bit appealing. Sure, sure, we have the Toyota 4runner for off-road shenanigans and the Tacoma for work truck stuff, but the Japanese automaker really knew what they were doing when they created the Toyota Hilux.

Great! I’ll Take Three!

Unfortunately, the invincible Toyota Hilux pickup trucks aren’t available in the U.S. While the Hilux was sold in North America from the mid ’70s until the mid ’90s, it was replaced by the Toyota Tacoma in 1995 and hasn’t been available in America since. But, according to some reports, the long unobtainable Toyota pickup may soon be coming back to U.S. markets.

Not too much information is available right now, but as Autowise points out, a Hilux model packing a third-generation Toyota turbo diesel engine may be sold in the USA. Now, the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 changed a lot of plans in a lot of industries, so we’re not sure how accurate that might be.

In fact, some reports indicate that next-generation Hilux, Tundra, and Tacoma trucks will all sit on a common platform, which would require updates to all three vehicles. The midsize trucks are starting to resemble each other more and more, with the new Hilux’s 2021 facelift giving it the grille of a Tacoma.

As far as horsepower and torque goes, initial reports claim that “the engines will offer overall improvements in efficiency and power.” Are we getting our hopes up? Not entirely, because you know how this whole “initial reports” thing can go. That said, it would be extremely cool to see the formidable Hilux for sale in U.S. dealerships.

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Is It True the Toyota Hilux Pickup Truck is Banned in the US?

“Banned” is kind of a strong word. You won’t get thrown in prison for driving a Hilux in the US.

The problem is the Chicken Tax. Yes, that’s a real thing. In 1963, former President Lyndon B. Johnson created a 25% tax rate on light trucks, brandy, potato starch, and dextrin as a response to the tariff France and West Germany placed on American chickens. If there’s one thing we can do in the U.S. of A, it’s churn out some chicken.

Yes, it’s boggling, especially in 2021, but the result is that Toyota chose to create their light trucks here on U.S. soil, rather than attempting to import the Hilux from Japan and still make a profit.  And, it’s been ok so far. We have the Tacoma, and it’s fine.

Toyota Hilux vs. Toyota Tacoma

In many ways, the Toyota Hilux and Toyota Tacoma are pretty similar. Both come standard with rear-wheel drive and are available with 4-wheel drive, as well. Both come with a 2.7-liter gas engine. Both are known for their durability and reliability.

That said, the Toyota trucks do have slight differences when it comes to styling and engine specs. The Hilux, which was sold as a compact truck until 2004, has a sleeker SUV look, while the Tacoma is wider and more rugged. Also, the Hilux comes with an optional single cab configuration, while the Tacoma doesn’t.

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As far as engine options go, the Hilux is the only one of the two with a diesel option: A 2.8-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder engine that offers 201 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. The 2021 models also have an optional 2.7-liter four-cylinder gas engine, which comes with a choice of six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic transmission.

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Compare that to the Tacoma, which does offer a 3.5-liter V6 engine. But, while the Hilux has a towing capacity of 7,700 pounds, the Tacoma tops out at 6,800 pounds.

Simply put, the Hilux puts more stock in its high torque numbers as a work truck, while the Tacoma, being a proficient off-roader, is more about horsepower.

Pricing wise, the Hilux has a cheaper base model for around $15,000, while the Tacoma goes for over $25,000, though the higher-end models for both trucks are in the mid-$40k range.

So, while it’s unlikely that you’ll see a new Hilux in the United States in the next few years, you might start seeing more of the Toyota Tacoma in the upcoming Hilux styling. Or, maybe it’s the other way around. After all, the Hilux came first.

This post was originally published on December 20, 2019.

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