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Toyota sees no market for sub-HiAce van

The Toyota ProAce is offered in Europe - should it also be sold here?

The all-new Toyota HiAce may well be better than ever, but it’s also considerably bigger than before - and that could be enough to turn some buyers off.

The new sixth-generation HiAce now measures up almost a segment larger than its predecessor. The most compact HiAce model now spans 5265mm long, 1950mm wide and 1990mm tall - where the existing compact version was more than half a meter shorter from nose to tail, not to mention considerably narrower and shorter (4695mm long, 1695mm wide and 1980mm tall).

Just think about those figures for a second - the new model is 570mm longer, 255mm wider and 10mm taller than the vehicle it replaces. Those dimensions could rule out the HiAce for customers looking for a city-friendly van adept at slotting into tight parking spaces, but according to Toyota Australia, this part of the market is where the volume is.

And the company is spot on with that assertion: in 2019 so far, the 2.5- to 3.5-tonne class has accounted for almost 10 times as many sales as the compact van market

But with the new version being so large, we asked if there could be a market for a smaller model - one to compete with the likes of the sales-leading Volkswagen Caddy - but the brand clearly doesn’t see much potential there.

“I’m not aware of any plans,” said Sean Hanley, head of sales and marketing for Toyota Australia. “It’s not something we’ve studied, anyhow.”

There is a vehicle that could slot in under the HiAce, if Toyota decided it needed a player there - it’s the Toyota ProAce, a more compact commercial van that is sold in Europe and is a product of a joint venture between Toyota and Peugeot/Citroen. 

In fact, Peugeot’s Australian operations have recently re-entered the mid-sized van market with the Expert model - the fraternal twin of the ProAce - with aggressive pricing, impressive spec levels and excellent safety on offer. 

In terms of size, the smallest Expert variant is 4959mm long, 1920mm wide and 1940mm tall - so it’s hardly compact.

But there’s also an even smaller Toyota van apparently in the works - the CityAce - which is said to be spurned from the same PSA-Toyota partnership, and based on the compact Peugeot Partner and new-generation Citroen Berlingo models.

 Toyota's new HiAce is huge compared to its predecessor. Toyota's new HiAce is huge compared to its predecessor.

Dimensions for the Peugeot example of that van are 4403mm long, 1848mm wide and 1840mm tall - ideal for compact roads. And there’s a long-wheelbase version measuring 4753mm nose to tail. The compact Peugeot Partner model will be sold in Australia later in 2019, but the Citroen Berlingo - a shining light for the brand in otherwise dark times - will be no more.

The mooted Toyota CityAce isn’t yet on sale, but is expected to be marketed in Europe where it will compete with those vans, alongside the VW Caddy and Renault Kangoo.

Further, pricing for the HiAce has increased by several thousand dollars with this iteration, meaning there's definitely room for a more affordable compact model to slot in below the newly enlarged and now more expensive HiAce.

Would a Toyota van smaller than the HiAce be worth adding to the brand’s local showrooms? Let us know in the comments section below.