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2018 Toyota Tacoma vs. 2018 Toyota Hilux: What’s the Difference?

  • The 2018 Toyota Tacoma is the brand’s midsize pickup in the U.S., and the 2018 Toyota Hilux is for international markets.

  • The Hilux is primarily a commercial vehicle, and the Tacoma is more of a consumer truck.

  • Both trucks have a reputation for durability, reliability, and toughness.

Many off-road enthusiasts in the U.S. are envious of international markets where the Toyota Hilux is available. The Hilux name was dropped for the U.S. market way back in 1976, but the truck continued being sold in the States until it was replaced by the all-new Tacoma in 1995. To this day, the Tacoma serves as Toyota’s midsize pickup in the U.S. with no sign of the Hilux returning here.

Although the two trucks are in the same class, under the same brand and share a very similar platform, there are a few big differences that make the Hilux more appropriate for international markets than it is for the U.S., at least according to Toyota. Let’s find out what those differences are.

Exterior

Since they’re in the same class and ride on similar platforms, the sizing of the Tacoma and the Hilux are similar. One of the main differences is that the Tacoma is wider to give the passengers inside a little more room.

The styling is different between the two trucks, with both of them looking distinctly like Toyotas. The Tacoma has a boxy shape that makes it looks as rugged as it is. Although the Hilux could be considered a tougher truck, it has a softer aesthetic with a front end that looks similar to the Toyota Highlander.

Interior

The interior of the Hilux has traditionally been pretty spartan over the years, but it’s actually pretty nice in its current generation. The 2018 Toyota Hilux has a very welcoming interior with modern technology that makes it much nicer than what you’d expect from such a workhorse.

The 2018 Toyota Tacoma has a rugged interior to match its rugged capability. Despite its toughness, it uses higher-quality materials than you might expect. It has comfortable and supportive seats that make the Tacoma nice for off-road adventures, commuting to work and just about anything in between.

From behind the wheel of both trucks, you’ll never forget that you’re driving a truck. Both interiors are fairly well-appointed, but they aren’t as nice as what you can get in some higher-end SUVs.

Configurations

One big difference between the Hilux and the Tacoma is the availability of single cab on the Hilux. Since it’s more of a work truck, a single-cab configuration with no back seats makes more sense on the Hilux than it does on the Tacoma. The single cab Hilux, however, is only available as a chassis cab.

Both trucks are available as a double cab with five seats, and they’re also both available with an extended cab. The Tacoma’s extended cab is called the "access cab," and on the Hilux it’s called the "extra cab." They have four seats, and the back seats are there to be used in a pinch and don’t exactly make the truck a family vehicle.

Another notable difference between these Toyota trucks is the availability of a chassis cab on the Hilux. Solidifying its place as a work truck, the chassis cab makes it a great midsize truck for commercial use if your business doesn’t need the heft of a full-size pickup. The Hilux is available in all three cab configurations as a chassis cab.

Mechanicals and Capability

The Toyota Hilux has three engines available, and the Toyota Tacoma has two. In the Hilux, you can get two different diesel engines or one gas engine, all of which are 4-cylinders. The base engine is a 2.4-liter turbodiesel that produces up to 150 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque. That’s an impressive torque rating for a small truck like this, but you can have even more if you upgrade to the 2.8-liter turbodiesel that cranks out 177 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque. If you want a gas engine in a Hilux, your only option is a 2.7-liter inline four with middling performance numbers of 160 hp and 181 lb-ft of torque. The 2.8-liter turbodiesel is easily the engine to have in the Hilux since it has the best power and torque ratings and is also very efficient.

The engine choices in the Tacoma are a bit more conventional to American tastes, with no diesels available. The base engine is the same 2.7-liter gas engine available in the Hilux, but in the Tacoma, it has slightly different performance numbers of 159 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque. The better engine in the Tacoma is a gas-powered V6 that makes 278 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy is almost identical for the two engines with the 4-cylinder getting 20 miles per gallon in city driving and 23 mpg on the highway and the V6 achieving 19 mpg city/24 mpg hwy on 4×2 models. As always, fuel economy takes a slight hit when you upgrade to a 4×4 truck.

Although they share one of the same engines, the Hilux and the Tacoma are pretty different under the hood. The diesels available in the Hilux are part of what makes it more of a workhorse, considering the base engine in the Hilux makes more torque than either engine in the Tacoma without putting a big priority on hp.

Toyota offers three different kinds of suspension in the Hilux: standard, heavy-duty and comfort. The heavy-duty suspension is good for serious off-roading, while comfort is a good choice if you don’t think your truck will ever leave the pavement. This is a clever way to market the same truck to different shoppers who use trucks for different purposes. In the Tacoma, the suspension can be upgraded to be more off-road friendly in the higher trims.

Both trucks are available with 4-wheel drive, which improves off-road capability. That capability can translate to working on a job site, having fun on some trails or anything in between.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, the big difference between these two Toyota trucks is that one is more of a work truck, and the other is more of an everyday all-purpose truck. The Hilux is more at home towing and hauling around a worksite, while the Tacoma might be better for commuting, running errands and long-distance cruising, while still being versatile enough to tackle some trails and do some towing and hauling of its own.

It’s unfortunate that Toyota doesn’t offer the Hilux in the U.S., but the Tacoma is so good that it doesn’t make us miss the Hilux too much. Yes, those diesel options would be nice to have, and we can’t help but wonder how many businesses would be better suited with a midsize chassis cab truck like the Hilux rather than a bigger full-size or heavy-duty truck, but for what it’s worth, Americans should be content with the Tacoma for our midsize trucking needs.

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