The long-awaited sixth generation Toyota HiAce
is finally here, the new light commercial platform boasting new power, a more refined
ride, extra comfort, and a whole host of new safety technology.
Powering the show are two higher output engines, a 2.8L four-cylinder turbo diesel, or a 3.5L
petrol V6, with the urge fed to the rear wheels by a six-speed manual or six-speed auto transmission.
Available in two wheels bases, the new chassis is said to be stiffer, while the HiAce is
now both wider and longer. The new semi-bonneted design and new suspension package spell a
better ride and on-road dynamics compared to the previous cab over engine model, while
also allowing Toyota to improve driver comfort and ergonomics.
The end result of that is a more dynamic and a far more stable ride. The handling is far
more like a passenger car now than it was in the older fifth generation. Both engines,
plenty of grunt, big power and torque height in both cases, both for the 2.8L diesel and
the 3.5L petrol V6. Having said that, we’ve only sampled the vehicle with a relatively
light load at the moment. We’re travelling empty at the moment but at
the national media launch we had 200 kilos strapped down, so we’ll reserve final judgement
until we get this and all the other leading medium van contenders together for a comparison
test. And we’re going to do that very soon. Toyota says payload limits remain unchanged,
while load space is similar at 6.2m³ for long wheelbase vans and 9.3m³ for super-long
wheelbase vans. The new cab is far easier to enter or exit, and comes with niceties
like a 7″ multimedia display with digital radio, satellite navigation and Bluetooth
connectivity. Of course, the adopting of the semi-bonneted
design, as opposed to the old cab over engine design of the outgoing model, has led to a
raft of improvements in terms of seating, cabin comfort and ergonomics. The steering
wheel, now adjustable for tilt and reach. The seat, six-way adjustment including height
adjustment, which the old model didn’t have. It’s also far quieter in the cabin. Sure,
you still get a fair bit of boom, a fair bit of road noise coming up through the empty
space in the load bay. But you don’t get anywhere near the same
level of engine noise that used to be associated with the old model, where you where basically
sitting on top of the engine. And the satellite navigation, standard across the range, comes
with live traffic updates. You’ve got a more advanced voice command system. Really, the
biggest issue for fleet operators is going to be which drivers are they going to put
in the old fifth generation HiAce, and which guys are going to get the new one.
The latest generation multimedia system is a big step-up. But Apply CarPlay and Android
Auto will only be available from the fourth quarter of 2019, fortunately as a no-cost
retrofit option. But surely the biggest tech upgrade concerns safety. With the new HiAce
boasting standard inclusions like autonomous braking, lane departure warning, blind spot
monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert, putting it on a level footing with many passenger
cars. Negatives? Prices have risen across the board
by an average of nearly $4,000. And the additional weight will tamper fuel economy gains, even
though Toyota says the combined cycle figure for the diesel has improved by up to 8.7%.
The longer dimensions means city parking will be a choosier affair. Although Toyota says
a greater range of steering delivers similar turning circles.
The new HiAce is available in nine different variants, spanning long wheelbase van, long
wheelbase crew van, super-long wheelbase van, and super-long wheelbase commuter minibus
formats, the latter now available in an up-spec Commuter GL trim grade. The HiAce is backed
by a five-year 160,000km warranty and Toyota’s three-year 60,000km service advantage capped
price servicing scheme. However, service intervals remain unchanged at every 10,000km or six
months, whichever comes first. The outgoing model was a proven and capable
load lugger, but this new HiAce builds on that pedigree in many respects. While ultimately
it’s up to Aussie buyers to judge the new model’s merits in terms of value, it seems,
based on this brief first taste, that Toyota’s new HiAce has every chance of success in Australia’s
increasingly competitive medium van market.