I have owned 16 cars since I began driving, and this car, the Toyota Hilux Surf, has by far, been the most versatile, and enjoyable car I have driven.
It is simply huge in the back, and with the rear seats folded, there is enough room to lie out full stretch; great for camping expeditions.
It is a very capable off roader too, and is more than a match for more serious off roaders like the Land Rover Defender. I would liken its capabilities to the Discovery, but with a far better build quality and reliability record.
The 2.4TD is about 100bhp, and is just about adequate for a vehicle of this size, returning about 20-25 MPG.
The auto gearbox is extremely smooth, and has a standard and ECT mode (sports mode). The car runs in 2WD, but can be switched to 4WD whilst driving by a push of a button. Low ratio is only used for offroading or snowy or muddy conditions, although it has an auto 'box, and the gears are still versatile enough to use in slippery conditions. By selecting low ratio and 1st gear, the car will crawl down the steepest of mudbanks at a snail's-pace, utilising the engine braking to full effect.
Reliability hasn't been an issue, and although the 'Surf' is a grey import into the UK, there are a host of specialists who supply parts and accessories for this car. There is even an award winning website dedicated solely to the 'Hilux Surf', that can be seen at www.hiluxsurf.co.uk.
The interior is typically Japanese, with lots of grey plastic and haphazard switches, however it has every conceivable extra, from aircon to electric mirrors, sunroof, windows & rear tailgate; rear heater, multi adjustable front seats, reclining rear seats.
Getting in and out takes some getting used to, as the driving position is sportscar-like, with your legs stretched out straight, whilst sitting on a very low seat.
Insurance costs are surprisingly reasonable, and a host of well known insurers will cover grey imports; 'Tesco' being one of the better known companies. I am paying less than £400 per year fully comp.
This is a 12 year-old car, and it has no signs of rust on the bodywork, it is well built, and has a solid feel.
There are some horror stories about the 2.4TD having cooling problems, leading to cylinder head damage, and neglected examples can cost you dear; somewhere in the region of £800 - £1500 for a new head.
It is better to buy a well looked after Surf that has been in the UK for a while for a bit more money, than to take a chance on a cheap 'off the boat' car with no history. It is worth noting that the 3.0L TD model doesn't seem to have the cooling problems associated with neglected 2.4TD's.
In summary, this is an amazing car, and has surpassed all my expectations, I would definitely recommend it to anyone, and am already saving for my next 'Hilux Surf'.