As the proud owner of a 2nd generation Tacoma myself, I can attest to the fact that it is not the same as a Toyota Hilux underneath. This can be both a good thing and a bad thing depending on your priorities.
Sure, there are many cases where automakers will give the same vehicle a different name and different styling depending on the country it’s sold in, but this isn’t one of them. Despite being similar in size and coming from the same company, the Hilux is a completely different truck.
Here are some of the main differences between the Tacoma and Hilux:
The Tacoma is tailored for the U.S. market and the North American way of life. It appeals to drivers who prioritize comfort and advanced technology features for both urban commutes and light off-road activities. It’s often seen as a lifestyle vehicle that combines practicality with leisure.
The Hilux, on the other hand, is designed for the global market, notably in regions where rugged terrain and demanding conditions are common (such as Africa, Asia, and the Middle East).
The Hilux is engineered to be resilient and durable, often used in commercial and agricultural sectors where reliability under heavy loads is important.
In a nutshell, the Hilux is more of a work truck and the Tacoma is more refined and comfortable.
Design and Dimensions
If you were to park these two trucks side by side, the differences would be quite evident. Taking each for a drive would expose even more notable differences, especially when it comes to ride quality.
The Toyota Hilux features a boxed frame, providing a sturdy base that’s well-suited for carrying heavy loads.
In contrast, the Toyota Tacoma is built with a C-channel frame, allowing for more flexibility, which causes it to ride smoother over rough terrain.
Enthusiasts often discuss the benefits of each design, weighing the rigidity of the Hilux against the comfort of the Tacoma.
Dimensionally, the two pickups have distinct traits. The Tacoma typically features a blockier appearance, often perceived as more rugged in the North American market.
The Hilux has a sleeker body, which might be preferred in global markets for its streamlined look.
Size-wise, both trucks are midsize pickups, but the width and overall size can differ slightly, with the Tacoma often being slightly larger.
Inside, the Toyota Tacoma often includes more luxury features such as leather seats and a larger infotainment screen, all catering to a consumer market that appreciates comfort and connectivity.
The Hilux, while comfortable, is often considered more utilitarian with an interior designed for functionality over luxury.
Currently, both vehicles support modern technology with features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but the Tacoma might edge out with a few additional tech-focused amenities.
These interior differences reflect the divergent markets they serve—with the Hilux optimizing for resilience and straightforward functionality, and the Tacoma offering an interior experience a bit more aligned with everyday creature comforts.
Performance and Capabilities
Both the Tacoma and Hilux are great at doing truck stuff. They’re built with different priorities in mind though so their area of expertise is different.
Engine and Powertrain
The Toyota Tacoma has always had two engine options – a 4-cylinder and a V6 – both of which are gasoline powered. They tend to be tuned with horsepower in mind.
Although it’s also sold with gasoline engines, the Toyota Hilux is known for its legendary turbo-diesel powerplants. These prioritize torque and fuel efficiency.
Both trucks could be had with automatic or manual transmissions and had robust 4 wheel drive systems available.
Off-Road and Towing Capability
Both trucks boast impressive off-roading capabilities. The Tacoma shines with specialized off-road trims like the TRD Off-Road and TRD Pro models (the latter being geared toward the high-speed off-road crowd).
However, the Hilux, with its global focus, matches this prowess with strong towing capacities and a payload designed for demanding work.
|Maximum towing capacity
|Up to 6,400 lbs
|Up to 7,700 lbs
Typically, the gasoline-powered V6 Tacoma offers considerably less fuel efficiency compared to the Hilux’s diesel options. It has more horsepower though which improves highway driveability.
The 4-cylinder Tacomas are more comparable in terms of efficiency but they produce nowhere near the amount of torque found in a diesel Hilux. So in terms of MPG, the Hilux wins by combining efficiency with low-end grunt.
Hilux VS Tacoma Reliability
Both vehicles have earned a legendary reputation for durability, but it’s hard to say if they share exactly the same reliability.
The Tacoma is considered one of the most reliable vehicles sold in North America. It’s more likely for a Tacoma to be sold with lots of electronics and gizmos, which slightly increases the chances of a possible failure.
The Hilux is more likely to be sold in base trim with things like manual windows and locks. They’re considered to be easier to fix in the field with fewer parts and tools than the Tacoma due to their simpler design.
Both trucks are extremely dependable. My Tacoma has over 340,000 km on the odometer and has suffered from very few minor issues in the past few years.
With that said, many of the stories about the “old Toyota that just wouldn’t quit” tend to refer to the classic diesel trucks like the Hilux.
At this point, how can we continue without referencing Top Gear’s epic destruction/testing of a Hilux?
Why Isn’t The Hilux Sold In Canada or USA?
The Toyota Hilux is not available for sale in Canada or the United States for several reasons related to regulatory compliance and economic factors.
Safety Standards and Regulations
Both Canada and the United States have specific automotive safety requirements. Vehicles sold in these countries must meet stringent safety standards.
The Hilux, having not been sold in North America for some time, doesn’t conform to these current safety standards, making it ineligible for sale without significant redesign.
Similarly, emissions standards in the US are particularly strict and have evolved since the Hilux was last sold here.
Meeting these standards would require substantial modification to the Hilux’s existing design, adding to the cost and complexity of sale.
A significant economic barrier is the “Chicken Tax,” a 25% tariff imposed on light trucks imported into the United States.
This tax would significantly increase the cost of the Hilux, potentially making it uncompetitive in the US market where the Toyota Tacoma already fulfills the role of a midsize pickup truck.
The Tacoma as a Hilux Alternative
Toyota has positioned the Tacoma as the Hilux’s North American counterpart. Not only does the Tacoma meet North American regulatory requirements, but it’s also tailored to American consumer tastes and preferences in terms of features, design, and capabilities.
What do you think? Should Toyota bring the Hilux back to North America? Comment below!
Tim is the creator of Canadian Gearhead. His experience with auto detailing and working for Toyota shows through all of the articles posted here. He runs the Canadian Gearhead site and YouTube channel full-time now and currently owns a 2007 4runner, 2006 Tacoma, and 1991 MR2. Read more about Tim: