I thought this was CAR? Looks more like a truck to me.
A truck it is and it’s here on CARonline because the British tax loophole is closing up. For the past five years or so sales in commercial vehicles have boomed in the UK as company car drivers took advantage of the special dispensation given to pick-ups and vans.
While cars are taxed according to their list price and the volume of CO2 they emit, until now commercial vehicles were only taxed on a flat rate of £500. Take a Mondeo TDCi that costs £19,300 and emits 159g/km of CO2. Under current rules 159g/km attracts a 21 per cent tax rating and 21 per cent of £19,300 is £4053. Then you calculate 22 or 40 per cent of that figure depending on your income tax situation. But for trucks you simply calculated either 22 or 44 per cent of the £500 flat rate and didn’t even get taxed on your free fuel. Until now.
So what’s changed?
That £500 flat rate for commercial vehicle has increased to £3000 and you now pay for free fuel too. But even a 40 per cent tax payer will still only pay £200 for free fuel in a truck compared to nearer £1300 for a car driver. So the truck still makes financial sense. A 40 per cent tax payer with a fuel allowance would save around £1500 this year compared to the driver of a Mondeo diesel.
Can we get to the car bit please?
Okay, if you are thinking of going down the truck route, you might want to look at this Toyota Hi Lux. Introduced in 1967, 12,000,000 have been made since although the current model doesn't sell in the UK as well as Mitsubishi's L200. Toyota hopes a new engine and an extra body style will change that, doubling UK sales to 7155 this year. There’s already a 2.0 D-4D with 120bhp and 239lb ft but this new version comes with a 3.0-litre four-pot turbodiesel producing 168bhp and 262lb ft of torque. Nice figures, although it's not quick: 62mph takes 11.9sec and it’s all over by 108mph. But that’s still significantly better than the 15sec/96mph you get out of the 2.0 D-4D.
But what’s it like inside? Smells like a builder’s boot and has vinyl seats I suppose.
Get with the times. Manufacturers like Toyota are courting businessman refugees from company saloons with options including leather trim, sat nav, climate control and cruise. But you’re right in that it feels nothing like an executive saloon inside. It’s still a truck at the end of the day and needs to stand up to tough abuse. So the cabin plastics are tougher than they are beautiful. Though why the cloth seat trim in our test car has to look like it was left over from the stuff used to trim the '97 Corollas, we’re not sure. At least there’s room enough in this double-cab version for two adults to sit comfortably. A single-cab and an extended cab (with back seats but only two doors) are also available.
How does it tackle my favourite roundabouts compared to my Mondeo?
Not spectacularly well, but then the technology is ancient by car standards: the body’s bolted onto a separate ladder chassis that has leaf springs at the back. So it fidgets when unloaded, doesn’t steer particularly well and makes a fair old racket. But it’s great for taking stuff to the dump, collecting furniture, taking your bikes away for the weekend and makes light work of muddy fields thanks to the four-wheel drive and generous ground clearance. Whenever we get one of these things into the office there’s always a bit of a fight for the keys because we know how useful they can be. We just wouldn’t want to run one every day.
Even under the new system, it can still make financial sense to opt for a well-equipped pick-up instead of a conventional luxury car. The savings are smaller now but could still run into the thousands. But no amount of leather and sat nav gadgets can disguise the true purpose of cars like the Hi-Lux. If you’re a company car driver and want something to shift the jet-ski and the family at weekends, you know you’re going to be doing some heavy duty DIY in the next year or you actually do need a truck for work but also want some comfort and performance, the new D-4D 170 fits the bill. But at every corner and every bump you’re reminded what you’re forfeiting for that £150 extra in your bank each month.