Hino 300 2011 Review
November 2, 2011
Sliding sideways in a truck is great fun in a controlled environment such as Mt Cotton's diesel-splashed skid-pan but I never want to experience it out on the road. Thankfully companies like Hino are working at reducing the likelihood of drivers losing control of trucks, starting with the new light duty 300 Series.
Working Wheels was able to test the new machine at the Mt Cotton driver training facility in Queensland. The most dramatic drive experience of the day was the Electronic Stability Control demonstration on the wet skid pad. Hino is making a big safety push with the 300 Series and has included ESC as standard on each model.
Keen to make a point, it hired rally ace Neal Bates to help guests experience driving the 300 Series on the very slippery surface with and without the ESC switched on. It certainly was a wild ride with the ESC turned off.
It was fun to slide around in a controlled environment, with not much of a load on the back, and having a spin didn't matter because there was lots of run-off and no cars coming the other way. Out on the road and a spin like that could have fatal consequences.
The ESC made a big impact as soon as it was switched on. The truck braked the individual wheels and dulled the accelerator to keep it in line. It was remarkable. And yes, Neal was able to set a faster time around the figure of eight course with the ESC on than when he was sliding around without it.
On normal road loops the ESC does come on a bit earlier than you might expect. I'm tipping some drivers might been annoyed by it because the system appears to come in quickly to try and prevent an incident.
The ESC is a highlight of the new range, but the new wide cab is what's likely to excite drivers more. Hino has actually developed this cab with relatively tall people in mind instead of shaping them solely for generally shorter Japanese customers. It's remarkably spacious in the cab.
Getting in and out is easier thanks to a wider aperture and wider opening doors and there is a great deal of legroom and headroom, which is a big plus for bigger people who would have no doubt suffered in the last model.
You can get comfortable with a steering wheel that can be adjusted in and out and up and down. The driver's seat can also slide back and forth 240mm to make sure you
find a good position. It is also suspended, which felt good on our test drive and would likely make life a lot easier for a driver working long hours on imperfect roads.
Visibility has been improved with new, thinner, A-pillars. The standard cab has only had minor revisions, it misses out on the suspension seat and many of the other cabin upgrades as it is a budget
conscious model. Crew cabs have also been upgraded.
These have a separate rear airconditioning unit for the back, which is handy, but the rear seat-back is so uncomfortable there will be fights over who gets to sit in the front.
Engineers have made small changes to the 4.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel and with up to 121kW and 464Nm, it seems up to the task. There is no automated manual transmission, but a full automatic instead. It's ok but is nowhere near as good as the dual-clutch automated shifter in Mitsubishi Fuso's Canter.
The manual took me a while to get used to, but that could just be driver error and the fact it's fresh out of the box. The real test for these trucks will come when they enter the workforce, but the wide cab's vastly improved interior and upgraded safety levels certainly make a good first impression.