Auto giant makes amends with Rocco pickup line-up, but rivals ensure stiff competition
When Toyota pulled the wraps off the Hilux Revo back in May 2015, Thailand's No.1 automaker had very high hopes that the new truck would help it maintain leadership in the Thai 1-tonne pickup market.
But as we have seen things, didn’t turn out that way, and for the first time in many years, Toyota had been beaten by arch rival Isuzu, whom it had dethroned with the Hilux Vigo when it was first launched in the early 2004 under the IMV (Innovative International Multi-Purpose Vehicle) project that also included the highly popular Fortuner PPV (pickup passenger vehicle) and Innova van.
In addition, American automaker Ford had been highly successful with its Ranger pickup and Everest PPV, growing into a stronger threat to the mighty Toyota empire in this country.
The Revo came with larger dimensions than the Vigo and had a face that shared the same styling as the Corolla compact sedan - something that drew hot debate. Meanwhile, pricing of the Revo is also way up there in the premium pickup segment, ranging from Bt569,000 for the entry standard cab to Bt1.139 million for the double cab with automatic gearbox.
With Isuzu capitalising on the growing popularity of its economical 1.9-litre model and Ford with its high-performance Ranger, Toyota had to make sure the minor-change version due in late 2017 was more appealing to customers.
The Corolla face was quickly booted, and the facelifted Revo, officially launched at the Motor Expo in December 2017, gets a new front end that is based on the Tacoma, the larger Toyota pickup sold in the US market. Toyota also threw in added equipment to the whole line-up to increase its value for money. It’s like Toyota was saying “Sorry for the mistake, now we’ve corrected everything”.
And this actually got things going for Toyota, and helped by strong promotions, sales started to improve. Customers liked the new design, and many even said Toyota should have used it right at the start.
Pricing also ranged from Bt559,000 to Bt1.139 million for the minor-change line-up, but in between there are price changes (both ways) while some new models were added, such as the TRD Sportivo.
However, along with the minor-change Revo, Toyota also launched the Rocco lineup, which is the full-option version with additional add-ons. Pricing ranges from Bt899,000 to Bt1,189,500 for the double cab 2.8G 4x4 automatic that I drove last week.
Apart from the improvements in the minor change model, the Rocco also gets a macho-looking grey and black front grille and foglamp housing, front bumper and fender kit, 18-inch alloy wheels with 265/60 R18 Dunlop Grandtrek A/T (All-Terrain) with large white markings on the tyre walls, metallic black wideview mirror housing and door openers, sport bar, pickup bed liner, and metallic black rear bumper.
Inside, you also get metallic black trim on the console, and real leather on the steering wheel, door panels, gearshift knob, black roof lining and a smart key for the double cab model.
Climbing into the double cab 4x4 requires a small act of gymnastics, but the side steps do help make it easier than without. The cabin is well-furnished and looks pretty good, but the use of fake leather and stitching for the console and top part of the door panels leaves a bad impression and shouldn’t be repeated in future models.
The multi-function, four-spoke steering wheel has controls for the infotainment system, onboard computer while the cruise control stick is also attached to the steering wheel (not adjustable for reach). The multi-information display system between the speedo and tacho is similar to other Toyota models, and starts off with a graphic of the Revo itself.
The front seats are electrically powered and provide good support, while the rear passengers get good seating space.
While it is easier to use Google Maps than the navigation system provided, the audio section of the infotainment is super impressive, delivering a hi-fi soundstage to the cabin of the Rocco. Click the following link for the audio system review.
Almost everything available has been put inside such as automatic one-touch powered windows on all four doors, automatic climate control with rear air vents and automatic headlights. Only the automatic windshield wiper function is missing (and I don’t know why).
I’m generally not a fan of pickup trucks, but I’m starting to feel the need to have one after driving the Rocco. During the week that I had it, there was some heavy rain in Bangkok and I was faced with flood situations several times. But that wasn’t a problem with the Rocco and its 215mm ground clearance – which also proved very helpful when driving over roads with poor conditions filled with potholes.
When purchasing large items, like a sofa, I also need to use the store’s delivery service and wait many days because my compact sedan doesn’t have the space. But with the pickup, I could right away carry not only the couch but even larger stuff.
Meanwhile, the 2.8-litre direct-injection diesel turbo engine is also impressive in many ways. First, the engine tone and noise level is at a very livable level. It’s not noisy to the ears, and for a pickup truck, the volume is well-contained even under hard acceleration.
There are 177 horses under the hood along with 450Nm of torque, which is available right from 1,400rpm and makes driving the Rocco pretty effortless. Driving in normal mode and keeping the “ECO” light on most of the time, I turned up an average 10.4 km/litre, which tells that fuel economy isn’t a strong point here.
But what’s impressive is the performance you get. For a more sporty drive, press the “Power” button next to the gearshift lever and the Rocco turns into an angry beast. The throttle response becomes instant and intense. And the Rocco leaps forward with brute force when you sink the pedal with all the torque pushing the truck ahead.
The six-speed automatic gearbox is also a gem, providing good performance as well as smoothness. I love it when I lift off the throttle and it shifts down a gear automatically, convincing me to drive in automatic rather than using the manual mode. The steering provides a beefy feel, but I feel it is on the heavier side. The suspension, double wishbones up front and leaf springs behind, performs nicely at low speeds, offering good vibration absorption and firmness.
However, the Dunlop all-terrain tyres might not be the best choice if you’re not going off-roading or driving on dirt roads often. On the highway, the ride of the Rocco starts to feel choppy if you don’t get a perfectly smooth road, and the driver can easily start to get nervous (as I did).
I liked the pedal feel offered by the braking system, as well as the powerful stopping performance it offers. I never felt scared when stopping hard in the Rocco, thanks to the linearity and braking stability.
It’s obvious that the Revo line-up is now more attractive than it was three years ago, and it could help win back a good number of die-hard Toyota fans. But competition is this market is fierce, and with Ford coming up with its Ranger Raptor, others, including Toyota, needs to be well prepared.
The Rocco is the first answer from Toyota, but it could still have a difficult time battling against the highly rated “New Kid in Town” like the Raptor, which for a start is coming with a bi-turbo engine, 10-speed transmission and a beefed-up suspension.
Toyota Hilux Revo 4x4 2.8G AT Rocco specs
Engine: 4-cylinder DOHC 16-valve with turbocharger and intercooler
Bore and stroke: 92.0x103.6mm
Compression ratio: 15.6:1
Max power: 177ps/3,400rpm
Max torque: 450Nm/1,400-2,800rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Final drive ratio: 3.909
Average fuel economy: 13.7 km/litre
City: 11.7 km/litre
Highway: 15.1 km/litre
Average CO2: 193 g/km
Driving system: Differential lock 4-wheel-drive
Suspension (f/r): double wishbone, stabiliser/leaf spring
Wheels: 18-in alloy
Tyres: 265/60 R18 all-terrain
Steering: powered rack-and-pinion
Turning circle: 12.8 metres
Brakes (f/r): vented disc/drum
Track (f/r): 1,535/1,550
Ground clearance: 215
Pickup bed dimensions: 1,555 x 1,540 x 480
Fuel tank capacity: 80 litres
Price: Bt1.189 million
Distributor: Toyota Motor Thailand Co Ltd