Our too-civilised Malaysian pickup scene kills any chance of this rather cool Hilux Champ from selling over here.
For anyone keeping an ear out on the Thai car scene, it is perhaps hard to miss the recent local debut of the Hilux Champ (aka IMV 0) over there. And it is hardly just our neighbours up north who have been harping on non-stop about this no-frills Toyota pickup too, as its preview in Indonesia and Philippines have also been met with significant local enthusiasm.
Unfortunately however, it would appear that we Malaysians will likely have to go to those aforementioned countries to have a glimpse of this cheapo basic Hilux-branded pickup. This is especially as going by the lack of a local preview over here, it is more likely thank not for Toyota Malaysia to be opting out of officially bringing this bare-bones pickup to our shores any time soon.
Upon further consideration though, it actually does make little sense for Toyota to actually bring in the Hilux Champ over here, no matter how cool and chic its utilitarian design might be. And that is simply because the general Malaysian pickup use case is significantly different to our (for the lack of a better phrase) more rudimentary neighbours.
While our Thai and Indonesian neighbours for instance may use their pickups to haul everything from crops to bikes, the majority of Malaysian pickup owners instead treat their trucks as nothing more than macho high-riding ego-boosts that just happen to have an inconvenient open-air boot. A point that is perhaps best illustrated from the fact that while our ASEAN neighbours all have trucks that are essentially tractors that can travel at highway speeds, the local Malaysian pickup lineup is instead dominated by leather-lined and climate-controlled uber-civilised variants with usually a tonneau cover as a dealer-fit option.
What more is that even before getting to the distinct lack of niceties with this Hilux Champ (for which even alloy wheels are an option) the lack of an extra set of rear doors will already see it be instantly discounted by most prospective buyers in Malaysia. When, after all, was actually the last time that any private buyer in Malaysia actually voluntarily opted for a single cab pickup?
The lack of a double-cab option however is probably not to actually be the biggest sales-killing factor for this Hilux Champ in Malaysia, as that honour would instead go to the distinct lack of front driveshafts. Yes, sorry to disappoint the literal dozens of Malaysian off-road enthusiasts who were thinking of this as a potential low-cost trail rig, but contrary to its rugged looks, this rugged pickup is unfortunately only to be rear-wheel drive only.
And while some may think now that with its FR layout and possible 5-speed manual transmission option, this could be instead the cheapest way to get into more road-biased motorsports — with even Toyota themselves showing off the possibility through its race-inspired White Shark concept seen below — the inconvenient truth of this rather bare-bones truck possessing a surprisingly hefty kerb weight of 2,790 kg likely dashes those drifting and autocross dreams quicker than this truck can get to the 100 km/h mark.
Just as the final nail in the coffin for its local sales chances over here too, it looks rather likely for this pickup to not exactly be the cheapest thing when it eventually arrives fully imported from Thailand. While sure prices over in the land of smiles for this Toyota ranges from a somewhat reasonable RM 60,000 to RM 75,000, all the associated additional costs involved with bringing it in over here will likely bump that price up to well over RM 100,000, which in turn not just makes it a rather expensive for a basic pickup, but more importantly possibly also puts it rather out of reach for small businesses looking to its rather versatile bed as the basis for a food truck.
It is also perhaps worth highlighting here that while the Hilux Champ’s 1-tonne payload capacity could potentially see use here as a delivery truck to replace the larger lorries, the fact is that most parcel deliveries performed in Malaysia could (and actually is currently) instead performed by smaller and more fuel-efficient vans, that will likely be more economical to run than the comparatively gas-guzzling 2.0-litre and 2.7-litre naturally aspirated petrol and a 2.4-litre turbodiesel powertrains offered with this Toyota.
So while nearly all of our surrounding neighbours like Thailand and Indonesia are soon to have what will likely be the next best-selling Toyota in ASEAN, we in Malaysia would have to instead make do with just having the official availability of the more atas models like the Harrier and Vellfire instead. Ho hum…