Toyota: Hefty Hiace offers 10 minutes of heaven

By David Linklater

Toyota Hiace. Photo / Supplied
Toyota Hiace. Photo / Supplied

Hiace is still the reigning champion of Kiwi vans ... I would assume this is by virtue of brand, price and utility, because the Toyota is not as pleasing to pilot as a Ford Transit or Mercedes-Benz Vito. It's still very, ahem, van-like in driving position and chassis demeanour.

I haven't moved house. Nor have I been clearing out my National Mini Storage unit. Just thought I should clear that up, as I'm sure you took one look at the photograph on this page and assumed that you were going to be subjected to a light commercial evaluation piece simply because a motoring journalist suddenly found himself needing to borrow one.

Indeed, that's ordinarily how it works. Such stories normally tell you how the writer felt compelled to put the Big White Van (BWV) to the test by loading it up, when in fact the need to carry a load generated the test. Nothing of the sort going on here. I really was tripping over myself to drive the facelifted Toyota Hiace.

Okay, that's not true. I did want the van, because I was spending a week working in Auckland's inner-city and with the requirement to balance office time with some freelance errands that involved hopping between several city locations as quickly as possible, I though a massive light commercial would be the ideal thing to park.

I apologise to all working light commercial drivers at this point, but the ability to park a Hiace on any loading zone in the city without penalty is just tremendous. Sure, it's a huger thing to manoeuvre around, but who cares? Conventional cars seem to swerve out of the way and loading zones are generally very large and easy to get into. In my defence, I never parked on one for any more than 10 minutes. But god it was good.

Good to park, I mean. Not necessarily good to drive. Hiace is still the reigning champion of Kiwi vans, outselling its nearest competitor (Hyundai H1 at the moment) by nearly three to one. I would assume this is by virtue of brand, price and utility, because the Toyota is not as pleasing to pilot as a Ford Transit or Mercedes-Benz Vito. It's still very, ahem, van-like in driving position and chassis demeanour.

Still stacks up on paper, though. The 3.0-litre turbo diesel four is an assault on the eardrums, but the latest version is up by 20kW/14Nm (100kW/300Nm) yet now uses 7 per cent less fuel, with combined economy of 8.0 litres per 100km for our manual test vehicle.

The new engine has a more compact variable nozzle turbocharger, a new catalytic converter and exhaust gas recirculation cooler.

The new Hiace has new headlight, grille and bumper designs, although you'd be hard-pressed to notice those. You might spot the right-hand sliding door now fitted to the vehicle, which is not that useful when you're dashing into Sierra for a takeaway coffee but apparently is a welcome addition for users who want to load from either side on-site. Because it's on the driver/road side, obviously.

Us casual users are a bit bewildered by the number of van engine and body configurations available. But the Hiace is simpler than most: the ZL comes in both petrol and diesel, while the long wheelbase ZX (540mm more floor length, 300mm more load height) is exclusively diesel.

I've never really understood why light commercials (utes, vans) are so expensive, given that they are fairly simple and well-proven devices.

But that's a bigger issue than we can cover here, so I'll just say that the Hiace ranges from $45,690 to $55,190.

The ZX also forms the base for the Hiace 12-seat Minibus, which adds such luxuries as a passenger airbag and four-speaker stereo for your $69,290. Not sure how you'd get on in loading zones with that one, though.

- NZ Herald

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