Foton Tunland VS Toyota Hiace
- Cummins engine
- Improved build quality
- Roomy interior
- Lack of safety gear
- Front end (bullbar will fix that easily)
- Some flimsy, and awkwardly positioned switchgear
- Hugely improved over predecessor
- Class-leading safety
- Better engines than before
- More expensive
- No barn doors available
- Could be too large for some customers now
Marcus Craft road tests and reviews the new Foton Tunland dual-cab 4X4 with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
When I told mates I’d be testing a Foton Tunland a few snort-laughed their craft beer out of their noses in not-so-mock shock. “Why don’t you save yourself the hassle and just write about another HiLux or Ranger or Amarok?” they said. The idea of me supposedly risking my skin in a Chinese dual-cab ute, lambasted in the past for lacklustre build quality and dogged by doubts over vehicle safety, delighted these blokes.
“Is your life insurance up to date?” one fella quipped. Yep, funny. Well, the joke’s on them because this latest-gen Tunland is a well built and well priced dual-cab ute with a bloody good Cummins turbo-diesel engine and a stack of other top-quality components thrown in for good measure. But, it’s not all good news – there are some safety issues. Read on.
|Engine Type||2.8L turbo|
The Toyota HiAce has become a staple of Aussie culture. More than 335,000 of them have been sold here since 1979.
But no-one really wants to drive a HiAce, do they? It's a work van. A box on wheels, typically white, and often unwashed. And for the past 15 years the HiAce has barely changed - though that hasn't stopped it from being the go to option for tradies and couriers. It's been number one on the sales charts for pretty much that whole time.
So how does this all-new HiAce stack up? And why does it now have a bonnet? Read on to find out.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Foton Tunland 7/10
The Tunland is a damn good value-for-money proposition and it’s the best of the budget dual-cab ute mob, but a less than ideal suite of safety features impacts its appeal.
If those flaws are erased from the updated model, then it will likely stake an even stronger claim in a highly competitive ute market.
Does Foton's Tunland make the cut as a family-friendly work truck? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
There is no doubt that the new Toyota HiAce has been worth the wait. Owners and drivers of the previous-generation model won't know themselves when they sit inside the new version, the improvements are that big and that plentiful.
It has been the number one seller in the segment for a long for a reason - and now there are even more reasons for it to retain its top spot... provided a compact body isn't one of your priorities, because it's considerably bigger than before.
We can't wait to see how it compares to its rivals - we'll aim to get all of the main names together for a comparison test later this year.
Foton Tunland 7/10
The Tunland looks good, not spectacular; like a noughties-era dual-cab rather than a contemporary one. And you know what? That’s fine with this journalist because it’s an easy fix. The Tunland is not unlike the BT-50 of recent years, in that once you’ve thrown a bull bar over the ordinary-looking front end (with its Wi-Fi-symbol-rotated-90-degrees-looking Foton logo) then all is forgiven.
Elsewhere, the Foton is a softer edged beast than some of its modern counterparts, with rounded headlights flowing back to a 'truck-lite' rear end, but it retains a robust, old-school ute presence.
Inside, the Tunland is neat, tidy and roomy. It looks ready for day-to-day duties – whether as a job-site workhorse, a daily driver, or a family mover. There is grey plastic everywhere but the cabin has nice touches like the leather-trim seats and wood-look panels.
Like all new models that have seen a pretty dramatic front design change, it might take a while for you to come to grips with the new look of the HiAce, which now has a 'semi-bonnet'.
The protuberance at the front not only improves cabin comfort and ease of maintenance, it also helps improve the safety standards in the new Toyota van. There's a better frontal impact zone which this time doesn't include the driver's knees.
Look, I think the previous HiAce looked a bit mean. It was unapologetic in its boxiness, and it aged really well. It isn't often a vehicle lasts a decade and a half without any major changes.
Make what you will of the front design, which has halogen headlights (no LED daytime running lights or LED headlights, which is a bummer) and the choice of either the hard-wearing black bumpers, or colour coded bumpers if you option them.
In a first for the segment, there's a digital camera monitor rearview mirror that is optionally available - it uses a camera on the back of the van with a live link to the switchable rear-vision mirror, which means that if you've got a full load of people or parcels obscuring your view, you can use the live feed from the camera instead. It's brilliant.
The good news for buyers is that there's still plenty of choice when it comes to size and spec. There's the existing 6.2-cubic-metre LWB (long wheelbase) version, or the SLWB (super long wheelbase) with 9.3 cubic metres of cargo space.
The dimensions are dramatically different, though. No longer is this the sort of van that'll slot into a tight city parking space.
In LWB guise it now measures 5265mm long, 1950mm wide and 1990mm tall (compared to 4695mm long, 1695mm wide and 1980mm tall). And the wheelbase has been stretched by a massive amount - up from 2570mm to 3210mm.
The SLWB version is huge, at 5915mm long, 1950mm wide and 2280mm tall (compared to the existing model's 5380mm length, 1880mm width and 2285mm height). Likewise, the wheelbase has jumped from 3110mm to 3860mm.
There is no hiding the size changes, and there has been an impact inside the cabin, too. See the interior photos below to get an idea.
Foton Tunland 7/10
Tunland’s remote entry is two-stage: first press unlocks only the driver’s door; second press unlocks the other doors – that can be annoying when you have people champing at the bit to get into the vehicle during a heatwave, and there is an almost-comical series of mistimed attempts at opening doors and pressing buttons.
The cabin is spacious. Build quality and fit and finish have been improved well beyond expectations. One or two buttons feel a bit flimsy and the button to adjust the wing-mirrors is tucked away on the right-hand-side dash behind the steering wheel; quite awkward to see, reach and use.
The air con defaults to ‘off’ every time you re-start, which is a bit of a niggle, especially during the heatwave conditions during which some of this review took place.
Seats are supportive enough without going beyond the call of duty; the front seat bases are a touch too short for tall people and extra side bolstering would be welcome.
There is ample head and leg room, front and back, although rear-seat passengers are forced into an upright, knees-high position; still they should be used to that if they’ve been riding around in utes for any length of time. Cupholder count runs to two in the front centre console.
The dual-cab Tunland has a 1025kg payload, a maximum braked towing capacity of 2500kg (1000kg less than most other utes) and 750kg unbraked.
Its cargo area is 1500mm long, 1570mm wide (1380mm, internal width at floor level; 1050mm internal width between the wheel arches) and 430mm deep. The tray has four tie-down points at each interior corner and a poly tray-liner which protects the top ‘lip’ of the tray and that’s a big bonus.
Any mid-sized van has to put practicality at the forefront, with enough storage and cabin smarts to make living with it day to day not just amenable, but enjoyable if possible.
Not only that, it should be easy to get in and out of. The ingress and egress of the existing HiAce was hampered by the fact you sat on top of the engine and had to climb over the wheel arch. That's not the case this time around, and the seat height has been lowered by 50mm, with a much, much better driving position as a result.
The seat itself is comfortable for the driver, with six-way adjustment and a level of support and comfort that the previous model was nowhere close to - trust me, I drove it back-to-back, and the difference is night and day. Plus that lower hip entry point makes for a much easier entry and exit if you happen to do that a lot in your day to day use of the van.
The materials used are all of a decent quality, and Toyota has thought of storage options, too, with a number of cup and bottle holders across the dash and in the doors as well. There's no centre storage area or arm rest unless you buy the Crew van or the Commuter bus.
There are two seats up front in all models sold here, but you can get a Crew Van model with a second row seat setup consisting of three positions (with two ISOFIX child-seat anchor points and even curtain airbag protection).
As for infotainment, there's Toyota's 7.0-inch touch screen media system with FM/AM/DAB digital radio, a CD player, a single USB input, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming and voice control. This screen is able to be retrofitted with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which will be offered from the fourth quarter of 2019. Purchasing before then? It'll be free to add those smartphone mirroring apps.
That's the front of the cabin - in the rear there's a bit to talk about, too.
All HiAce van models come with dual sliding doors, including glazing on the passenger side. Lots of rivals ask you to pay extra for a sliding door on the driver's side.
The rear door situation isn't as impressive - at launch, and for the foreseeable future, there won't be barn doors available. That could rule this vehicle out for you, especially if you typically fork loads in - the side door apertures are 990mm wide on the LWB model, but there's a 1250mm door gap on the SLWB, meaning you can side-fork a pallet in.
Here are the cargo dimensions for each of the different versions of the HiAce van - remember, the SLWB model also gets a high roof as standard:
|Cargo length||Cargo width||Width between wheel arches||Cargo height||Cargo volume|
|HiAce LWB Crew||N/A||1760mm||1268mm||1340mm||N/A|
Payload capacity varies depending on the model. Here's a weight table - I promise it's easier than trying to read the figures.
|Kerb weight||Gross vehicle weight||Payload|
|LWB petrol manual||1720kg||3200kg||1080kg|
|LWB petrol auto||1735kg||3200kg||1065kg|
|LWB diesel manual||1835kg||3300kg||965kg|
|LWB diesel auto||1845kg||3300kg||955kg|
|LWB Crew diesel auto||1925kg||3300kg||875kg|
|SLWB petrol auto||1905kg||3200kg||1295kg|
|SLWB diesel auto||2025kg||3200kg||1175kg|
|Commuter diesel auto||2215kg||3250kg||1035kg|
All van models come with six tie-down points, while the Crew model has four tie-downs.
Price and features
Foton Tunland 7/10
The manual-only Tunland is available as a single cab 4x2 ($22,490), single cab 4x2 styleside ($23,490), single cab 4x4 ($25,990), dual cab 4x2 ($27,990), or dual cab 4x4 ($30,990), which we tested. Single cabs have an alloy tray. Metallic paint on any model is $400 extra.
For a ute firmly located at the budget end of the pricing scale, the Tunland’s interior has a fair few cheeky little extras packed into what is, at first glance anyway, a standard-looking workhorse inside and out. It has a tilt-adjustable-only, leather-trim, steering wheel with controls for Bluetooth, audio and cruise control.
The Tunland audio set-up plays MP3 files and CDs. There is an auxiliary port for a mini USB right beside the CD slot. Music can be streamed from Bluetooth-compatible devices. Air conditioning, electric windows, electric wing mirrors (with defrost function) and remote two-stage unlocking are all standard on Tunlands.
All seats in the dual-cab are leather trimmed and the driver’s seat is (manually) eight-way adjustable.
There are plenty of storage receptacles: a good-sized glove box, cup holders, door and seatback pockets, as well as a few handy little spaces for knick-knacks.
Standard features elsewhere on the dual-cab include daytime running lights, 17-inch alloy wheels, rear step bumper with parking sensor and fog lights, and a tyre-pressure-monitoring system; handy for off-road tourers.
Our test vehicle was one of the last of the model year 2016 examples, fitted with disc brakes all-round and stability control, and had a Euro 4 emissions compliant engine, according to general manager of Foton Motors Australia, Alex Stuart. An updated model, expected mid year, will have a Euro 5 engine, “but with the same exterior and basically same interior”, Mr Stuart said.
Accessories include pretty much everything you could ever want on a ute, ranging from a clear bonnet protector ($123.70) and full recovery kit ($343.92), to bullbar ($2237.84) and winch ($1231.84). Foton has a Tunland kitted out with most, if not all, of its available accessories as an example of what a fully geared-up Tunland looks like – and it looks bloody good.
Prices are up on all models in the HiAce range, but as we've covered up above, you're getting more metal for your money.
Here's a price list to make it easier to figure out the model range, and an indication how much the model range has increased in cost this time around.
|Variant||Petrol manual||Petrol auto||Diesel manual||Diesel auto|
|LWB||$38,640 (up $4170)||$40,640 (up $3110)||$42,140 (up $4610)||$44,140 (up $4060)|
|LWB Crew||-||-||-||$47,140 (up $5020)|
|SLWB||-||$48,640 (up $2950)||-||$52,140 (up $2880)|
|Commuter||-||-||-||$67,140 (up $4110)|
|Commuter GL||-||-||-||$70,140 (new)|
All LWB and SLWB van models come with dual rear sliding doors (passenger side glazed), 16-inch steel wheels with a full-size spare, auto headlights (with auto high beam), as well as halogen headlights, tail-lights and daytime running lights.
The interior gear consists of a 4.2-inch multi-info display with digital speedometer and trip meter, a leather-accented steering wheel with reach and rake adjustment, fabric seat trim, sunglass holder, two 12-volt DC sockets, USB and auxiliary ports, a two-speaker stereo system and the aforementioned 7.0-inch media screen with sat nav.
The LWB Crew model adds halogen front fog lamps, body coloured front and rear bumpers with colour-coded door handles, chrome garnishes front and rear, and dual sliding rear doors with opening windows. Of course, this version also gets a second-row three-seat bench with 60:40 folding and two ISOFIX points, along with a rear step light and a centre console tray for extra front cabin storage that also includes rear seat air vents. The Crew model also gets the digital rear view mirror with auto-dimming function as standard.
The Commuter model is a 12-seat bus, a passenger-side sliding door, full-length windows, a roof escape hatch, interior lighting, a four-speaker stereo, air conditioning vents for all positions. It misses out on front side and full-length curtain airbags, though.
There's a GL version of the Commuter which gets LED daytime running lights, halogen fog lights, body coloured bumpers and door handles, chrome finishes, a power side door, increased insulation and acoustic glass, 16-inch alloy wheels, fake leather seat trim, six rear USB ports, eight reading lights, a rear air-con panel, a six-speaker stereo and the digital rear view mirror.
Customers who wish to have colour-coded bumpers can option them for $600, and the digital rear view mirror and front fog lamps can be had for $1000, or the lot can be bundled for a cost of $1600.
Of course there are dozens of accessories for the new HiAce, most of which have been designed and developed in Australia. Items like the internal ladder rack, exterior ladder rack, floor mats, aluminium interior panels, aluminium window protectors, and there's a conduit caddy for the roof rack system, too.
Colours for the new HiAce range are limited by class standards. There are three options for the work van models - French Vanilla (white), Quicksilver Mica (not for the Commuter model) and Goldrush Metallic (champagne - only for SLWB). The Commuter GL versions have Light Blue Armour and Goldrush (champagne) metallic options. For context, you can choose from more than 100 colours if you're buying a Ford Transit Custom.
So for this section the HiAce scores a 6/10, but it makes up for it when you consider the standard safety equipment - see the section below.
Engine & trans
Foton Tunland 8/10
The Tunland has a Cummins 2.8-litre turbo-diesel engine, producing 120kw at 3600rpm, and 360Nm at 1800rpm-3000rpm, backed up by a Getrag five-speed manual transmission. These are two components with great reputations made by the best of the best in their respective fields: engines and transmissions.
BorgWarner, another industry leader (in powertrains, among other things), built the two-speed transfer case in the Tunland 4x4s. All Tunlands in Australia have Dana axles and differentials; the rear is a LSD.
Things have changed under the bonnet for the new-generation HiAce - there's a choice of two new engines.
The most popular will be the 2.8-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine, which is familiar from the HiLux, Fortuner and Prado. In this application it has a diesel particulate filter with a manual burn-off switch, and - for the first time for this diesel engine - there's start-stop technology that shuts the engine down in traffic to save fuel.
With the six-speed automatic transmission in the van range the diesel motor produces 130kW of power (3400rpm) and 450Nm of torque (1600-2400rpm). With the six-speed manual the power is still 130kW, but torque is lower, at 420Nm (1400-2600rpm).
The Commuter version of the HiAce has a detuned diesel-auto drivetrain, with 120kW (at 3600rpm) and 420Nm (1600-2200rpm).
The other powertrain is the horsepower hero - a 3.5-litre petrol direct-injection V6 with the choice of a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic. It offers up 207kW of power at 6000rpm and 351Nm of torque at 4600rpm.
For context, that puts the petrol engine at an advantage of 75 per cent for power and 44 per cent for torque compared to the existing 2.7-litre four-cylinder... but there is a price to pay in terms of fuel economy. See below for more on that.
Braked towing capacity is rated at 1900kg for the manual diesel van, 1500kg for the diesel-auto and petrol-auto models, and 1400kg for the petrol manual. The unbraked capacity is 750kg on all models.
Diesel vs petrol - you may not even consider weighing up the options, because there's something to be said of diesel fuel economy compared to petrol fuel use.
The diesel manual LWB model uses a claimed 7.5 litres per 100 kilometres (previously 8.1L/100km), and the most popular version - the diesel auto LWB - has claimed combined cycle fuel consumption of 8.2L/100km (previous model: 8.7L).
Choose a LWB Crew or SLWB van - both of which are diesel-auto only - and claimed fuel use is 8.4L/100km (previously 9.2L).
As for petrol consumption, the figure is 12.4L/100km for the manual, and 12.0L/100km for the auto. The existing four-cylinder petrol had consumption of 9.8L (auto) and 10.1L/100km (manual).
Fuel tank capacity is 70 litres, no matter which model you choose. There's no long range fuel tank available.
Foton Tunland 7/10
The dual-cab Tunland is 5310mm long, 1880mm wide (excluding wing mirrors), 1870mm high, and has a 3105mm wheelbase. Kerb weight is listed as 1950kg.
In other words, it’s a big ute, one of the biggest models in Australia, but it doesn’t feel like such a cumbersome beast when you drive it.
The Tunland has a wide stance and sits well on the road, only exhibiting that tell-tale ute sway when it was really thrown into corners. Its hydraulic steering is faster and lighter than you’d assume in a hefty ute at this price-point although there is some ‘play’ in it.
The Cummins engine is a real cracker; gutsy and responsive. We had fun with it in city traffic, on the highway and along back country roads, winding it up, giving it the boot, hearing it growl. Driven judiciously it maintains the rage throughout the rev range.
The five-speed manual is a tall-geared, big-shifting unit; slick and fun to use. We had a few moments early on, but swiftly became used to the notchy action.
The Tunland has double wishbones and coil springs up front and leaf springs down the back. The set-up seemed firm but nothing out of the ordinary for a ute. Overall, ride and handling was drawing ever nearer to that of car-like dual-cabs that cost at least $10,000 more than this.
Our test vehicle was shod with Savero HT Plus 265/65 R17 tyres, which were generally fine on bitumen, gravel and off-road, however, we’d opt for ATs for off-road touring.
Visibility is mostly good, except for the chunky A-pillar and window shield combination, which eats into the driver’s view, and the shallow slit of a rear window, again not an unfamiliar feature for ute drivers everywhere. (The window shields are dealer-fit accessories).
Off-road, the Tunland is more than capable. It has an unladen ground clearance of 200mm, the BorgWarner dual-range transmission and LSD at the rear.
We took it through a couple of shallow water crossings (the air intake is up high in the engine bay), over a section of knee-high jagged and staggered rocks, along a heavily rutted bush track, through sand and along washed out dirt roads. Some of it was very slow going, challenging stuff. The Tunland handled everything with ease.
Working through 4WD modes is simple enough: the driver uses buttons just in front of the gear stick to shift between 4x2 High and 4x4 High at speeds of up to 80km/h. You have to stop the vehicle to engage low range.
Underbody protection includes a steel plate sump guard, which is standard on the Tunland 4x4.
It's so, so different to the previous model. And so it ought to be.
You sit in a much more comfortable position, and the ease of getting in and out is going to make for fewer sore backs.
And when you turn the key, there's less rumble, vibration and clatter from the engine... partly because you're not sitting on top of it, but partly because of the inherent refinement that the new diesel (and petrol) engine offers.
I got to drive the petrol manual, the diesel auto and the previous-generation version over the same test track at Toyota's Centre of Excellence in Melbourne, and it gave a great indication of how the new model performs.
If you're the kind of driver who is always in a hurry, the petrol could be perfect for you. It gathers pace with ease, easily out-accelerating the diesel. The auto will be even better than the manual, which has a rev-matching system and offers truly compelling range-opening model.
The diesel auto - which is the one about 90 per cent of customers will buy - is markedly better than its predecessor. It revs more smoothly, the transmission is smarter (six gears vs four will help!), and it's so, so much quieter in the cabin, too.
From the driver's seat you feel the extra width of the new model - not just because of how planted it feels on the road, but just the general airiness of its roomier cabin makes you feel like you've got room to move.
There's less thinking required when it comes to driving it, too. There's still hydraulic power steering, but its a bit lighter and more direct than before, meaning less arm work - a welcome change, as the existing version was a tiring thing to drive.
The turning circle has been increased - it was 10.0m for LWB models and is now 11.0m, while the SLWB versions were 12.4m and are now 12.8m - that's just physics, though, because the wheelbase has been stretch by roughly half a metre!
But it is very easy to manoeuvre, and no longer is there that odd “sitting in front of the turning wheels” feeling that the existing cab-forward version had. The visibility from the driver's seat is great, and on test, the safety systems worked a treat.
In terms of ride comfort, we might have to reserve judgment to a degree. Almost every model on test had a ballast over the rear axle of between 200 and 300 kilograms. The real test might come when its running around town with nothing in the cargo zone - but all indications suggested that the level of comfort and compliance is a great improvement over the previous model, and even up there with the best riders in the segment.
Foton Tunland 6/10
The Tunland has a three-star ANCAP rating, and was last tested in 2013.
As standard there are driver and front passenger airbags (no front side airbags); height-adjustable, front seat belts with pre-tensioners, as well as ABS and EBD. Our test vehicle also had the ESC package, which includes disc brakes all around.
There is only a lap belt for the middle passenger in the rear and there are no curtain airbags.
There are no top tether points in the rear seats for child-seat restraints, but those are coming in the 2017 model, Mr Stuart told CarsGuide. Only booster seats, which don’t require those top tether points, should be used in the 2016 models.
Those safety flaws are substantial, but it seems Foton plans to have them sorted out in the next-gen Tunland.
That's right - it gets 10 out of 10 for safety, because this model clearly sets the benchmark in the van segment.
The new-generation HiAce range has been awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP crash test rating - and it's the only van to have been tested under the safety watchdog's strictest criteria ever.
Standard on all models is forward collision alert with full-speed auto emergency braking (AEB) including day and night pedestrian detection and daytime cyclist detection. Plus there's lane keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, road sign detection and alert, auto high beam headlights, and a reversing camera with front and rear parking sensors.
This thing is absolutely loaded - about the only thing it's missing is adaptive cruise control, which is arguably a convenience feature more than a safety nanny.
The airbag count is seven - dual front, front side, curtain and driver's knee protection included. The Commuter and Crew models also get curtain airbag protection.
Toyota is now offering a five-year/160,000km warranty plan on all HiAce models used for commercial purposes, while private buyers enjoy five years/unlimited kilometres. That's good, but not great for the segment.
What gives it a bit of an advantage is that the drivetrain is covered for up to seven years if you have evidence of logbook servicing.
On that topic, the HiAce retains its shorter-than-expected six-month/10,000km maintenance intervals, which could mean a few days out of action if you cover a lot of kays in a year.
But the service costs are competitive: the petrol versions cost $180 per service, and diesel models are $240 per visit. That is for the duration of the three-year/60,000km capped price service plan, and Toyota has a widget on its website that allows you to calculate what the costs will be once that period is over.
If you have resale concerns, you really ought to forget them - the previous version had the best resale in its segment, according to Glass's Guide, with 68 per cent of retained value after four years.
Got questions over general faults, problems, concerns, reliability, durability, engine problems, transmission problems, clutch issues? Check out our Toyota HiAce problems page.