Utes are hitting record sales - and many blokes spend more than $60,000 on them.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise truck makers are also trying to cash in on the action, selling an increasing number of models that can be driven on a car licence and aren’t far away on price from a top-end ute. Which is why I’m driving a truck for the first time ever.

This $66,000 example (plus $6050 for the 4.5mx 2.2m alloy tray with ladder rails) is the Hino Hybrid 300 Series, 716, TradeAce. I hope I got that right. There are more numbers on truck brochures than in the computer code to launch the Space Shuttle.

Trucks are still a long way from having car-like hi-tech safety features but the Hino Hybrid comes with a fair amount of gear. Standard equipment includes two airbags, rear camera, digital radio, satnav (with bridge height warnings), cruise control, high intensity headlights, anti-lock brakes, stability control, and four-wheel discs (most utes still run rear drums).

The 4.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel has modest power and torque outputs by ute standards, and less than its non-hybrid Hino stablemates (110kW and 420Nm) but clearly it gets the job done. It can carry a payload of 1500kg and tow 3500kg on a car licence - or carry 3525kg or tow up to 5000kg on a truck licence.

In an unusual twist, you’ll refill less often in a non-hybrid Hino, even if it may use more fuel.

There’s no shortage of grunt but 0-100kmh times depend on what’s in the back. The pace is rather leisurely so (cheap shot coming) no wonder tradies are always late.

Before I got into a truck, somebody should have said how bloody bouncy they are. It had a floaty seat (mounted on springs to iron out the bumps, in theory) but that made me feel nauseous. I tightened the adjuster to lock it down, and nearly bruised my back and scone from the bouncing over what appeared to be smooth roads.

I reverted to comfort mode, in my experience perhaps a misnomer. To be fair, the truck was unladen, except for the 200kg alloy tray. With a decent load, we’re assured the ride comfort is luxurious.

The hybrid tech is applied in a slightly different way than in most cars. The electric motor is less powerful than what you’d find in a Camry, for example. In this instance, the electric motor is designed to get the truck moving up to 15km/h (if you’re light on the throttle and have a light load).

The hybrid powertrain’s main benefit is saving wear and tear on the clutch; the truck is already moving as the five-speed automated manual gearbox engages. The only drawback is that, for now, the hybrid hardware is mated exclusively to this robotised manual gearbox, which is neither smooth nor intuitive. If Hino could mate its hybrid system to a regular automatic gearbox, it would have a winner on its hands.

Hino claims there is a 20 per cent saving in the hybrid’s fuel use versus a regular diesel, which is why it only has a 100L tank. The regular diesel models come with a 170L fuel capacity (100L main tank plus 70L auxiliary) — so, in an unusual twist, you’ll refill less often in a non-hybrid Hino, even if it may use more fuel.

Servicing costs are OK for a truck, about $4500 over the initial 100,000km, comprising $559 a time at 20,000km, 60,000km and 100,000km and $1400 each at the major intervals of 40,000km and 80,000km. Most utes cost roughly $2000 to service over three years.

 

Do you see Hybrid as a viable option for commercial trucks? Tell us what you think in the comments below.