1996 Hilux KZN185
It makes sense to consider practicality and capability when looking for a good SUV. It's even better when you find the rig that works, and it has an extra helping of performance and refinement. We love these KZN185 Surfs a great deal due to their broad appeal, and versatility in the midsize SUV segment. This 1996 is finished in Desert Dune Metallic and accessorized with a factory brushguard, a set of OEM rainguards, and some dished 16" seven-spoke alloy wheels. Aside from some light dings, scratches, and chips, the body is in good shape and the chassis boasts a measly 130k verified and documented miles. That's nothing for the sturdy 1KZ-TE diesel that provides the propulsion, and the truck is fresh off a recent service. For those looking for a unique daily driver, weekend trail rig, or family hauler, this SSR-X does it all! Efficient, well equipped, and fun to drive it's hard to deny this Hilux is anything but a top-tier Japanese Classic.
The cabin is in above-average shape and well equipped. There are some options that were ticked when new from the factory that we don't see all the time. The power sunroof and optional tinted sunroof visor come to mind. The natural light entering through the glass opens up the cabin, and when retracted, a light breeze is enjoyable. The view of the road ahead is clear and commanding, and the driver benefits from adjustable lumbar support and a tilt steering column so they can get comfortable behind the wheel. The dashboard looks good, and lacks any cracking or fading from the sun. Dual SRS airbags are standard and add some peace of mind to those sitting up front. A factory field monitor is mounted by the map lights and delivers feedback on the outside weather conditions and direction of travel. In the center stack, an upgraded Kenwood audio system works like a charm as does the automatic climate control. The buttons are all easy to read and depress, and the system pipes in hot heat for winter and the A/C functions too. Electric windows, door locks, and mirrors are standard, making daily use manageable. The seats are all done in a gray corduroy cloth. The soft yet durable material lacks any major rips, stains, or tears. Unlike American versions, the rear passengers have multiple recline positions, and the rear seats can be folded away to create a sleeping surface. The headliner and door cards look good, however, we did want to note some light carpet staining, which is common. Still, at 25 years of age, it's hard to complain about the condition of the interior and we even have the factory manuals and some service records to pass along to the new owner!
The platform and powertrain are perfectly matched in this third-gen Surf. The reliable and gutty 1KZ-TE turbodiesel is one hell of an engine. Ours is fresh off an oil and filter service and starts up promptly thanks to two new 12v batteries. The 3.0L idles confidently thanks to a new set of serpentine belts and is connected to a slick-shifting automatic gearbox. Unlike USDM models the Japanese diesel versions came with center locking differentials, which are key when using this platform on sand or in the snow. Low range is available through the selective transfercase, and the system is quick to engage. On the tarmac, this N185 is really good. The suspension is compliant and predictable and there is plenty of ground clearance for those who need it. The long wheelbase is ideal for a comfortable ride on the highway and sorts out potholes and road imperfections well. The brakes are confident and the power steering is light and easy to articulate. A new spare was fitted and all of the tires were replaced in our shop. The new 31" Falken all-terrains will last for tens of thousands of miles to come, look great, and can handle loose surfaces when called upon.
The Hilux Surf is a nearly perfect sport-ute. It balances size, performance, safety, and efficiency in a tidy package. For those who want a unique JDM SUV, known for its legendary reliability and off-road pedigree, this Hilux Surf is surely the ticket.
*California Residents: In order to register a Grey Market vehicle in the state of California then it will have to be made CARB compliant first. CARB certifications will have to be performed within the state. Depending on the vehicle and any existing modifications will affect the pricing. Typically CARB compliance will range between 5-10K. Additional information can be found on the California Air Resources Board website.