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Toyota HiAce 2020 review: LWB 2.8 Auto

The new HiAce LWB comes in one base colour (French Vanilla) and one model grade.

Daily driver score

4.5/5

Tradies score

4.5/5

The venerable HiAce is the firmly entrenched sales leader in Australia’s mid-sized (2.5-3.5 tonne GVM) commercial van market. That’s a remarkable achievement given the last new model was launched in 2004. So, given that 15 years have passed since then, the long wait for its replacement this year has been worth it because Toyota clearly hasn’t become complacent.

The latest sixth-generation HiAce appears to be the end result of a 15-year study tour, as it offers most of the good stuff found in its contemporary rivals and keeps or adds some more of its own for good measure. After spending a week at work in the LWB model, we discovered a formidable one-tonner that’s difficult to fault.

Price and Features – Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

The new LWB (Long Wheel Base) HiAce range offers either 3.5 litre petrol V6 or 2.8 litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engines and a choice of six-speed manual or automatic transmissions. There’s also a five-seater Crew version available with diesel and auto.

Our test vehicle is the LWB with 2.8 turbo-diesel and six-speed auto for a list price of $44,140. That’s higher than its closest rivals like the Hyundai iLoad ($41,790) and Ford Transit Custom ($43,790), but still competitive given the high resale value that comes with the Toyota badge.

Our test vehicle was fitted with some Toyota genuine accessories including floor mats, window weather shields, headlight covers, bonnet protector, front nudge bar, rear corner protectors and full towing kit, with a combined value of more than $2800. And these are just part of a more extensive range including cargo barriers, load floor protection, specialised cargo wall linings, internal and external ladder rack systems, rear steps and lots more.

Our HiAce was fitted with rear corner protectors and a full towing kit. Our HiAce was fitted with rear corner protectors and a full towing kit.

The new LWB comes in one base colour (French Vanilla) and one model grade, but the list of standard equipment has a useful work focus including manual air-con, folding and heated exterior door mirrors with indicators, two 12-volt cabin accessory sockets and tilt-and-reach adjustable leather-accented steering wheel with audio, multimedia and cruise controls.

There’s also a 7.0-inch touchscreen display for the two-speaker infotainment system with DAB+2 digital radio, CD player (remember those?) and lots of connectivity including Siri voice recognition, Bluetooth, sat-nav with SUNA Live Traffic, eyes-free and Toyota Link. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will be added late in 2019, with free retro-fitment for sixth-gen HiAces delivered before then.

The wheels are 16-inch steels with full wheel covers and 215/60R16 tyres, backed by a full-size spare. The standard equipment safety net sets a new category benchmark, headlined by its enviable five-star ANCAP rating and AEB.

Our test car was wearing 16-inch steel wheels. Our test car was wearing 16-inch steel wheels.

Design – is there anything interesting about its design?

For the first time since the HiAce was launched in 1968 (more than half a century ago!) occupants are not sitting above the engine with their feet ahead of the front wheels. The new short-bonnet design (well, new for HiAce but well established amongst rivals) finally moves the front wheels ahead of the occupants, along with the engine which is also now ahead of both.

Obvious benefits are increased crash safety with more energy-absorbing deformable structures, greater stability and ride comfort, easier cabin and engine bay access, a lower more comfortable SUV-like seating position and new dashboard. The battery is located under the passenger floor and there’s separate bucket seats for driver and passenger.

The new LWB is considerably larger than its predecessor. It rides on a 3210mm wheelbase which is 640mm longer and the 5265mm overall length is a sizeable 570mm increase, yet it has an impressively tight 11.0-metre turning circle. LWB comes standard with a sliding door on each side and a single-lift tailgate.

Overall width has grown by 255mm to 1950mm. Front and rear wheel tracks are also wider, sharing the same 1670mm dimension which is a 200mm front and 205mm rear increase. Height has barely grown by 10mm to 1990mm, meaning city and shopping centre car parks are still accessible.

The cargo hold is accessed through solid non-glazed sliding doors on each side and a glazed single-lift tailgate. The cargo hold is accessed through solid non-glazed sliding doors on each side and a glazed single-lift tailgate.

Chassis design is typically robust with a new MacPherson strut coil-spring front suspension and, according to Toyota, a “heavily revised” version of its trusty leaf-spring live rear axle. Although most rivals prefer front-wheel drive, the inherent traction advantage of rear drive (particularly with heavy payloads) is clearly one HiAce tradition the engineers want to preserve.

Toyota also prefers to stick with traditional hydraulic - rather than electric - power assistance for the  speed-sensitive rack and pinion steering. There’s also premium braking for automatic models with four-wheel discs.

The new dash layout is neat and functional with intuitive controls that are easy to use, including (hooray) a volume control dial for the multimedia screen (they must have been listening) and  instrumentation that’s easy to read. The two-tone dash treatment (black top, cream base) brings a brighter more upmarket look, but the light colour will no doubt show the dirt quicker too.

The only thing missing is a fold-down inboard armrest for the driver’s seat, which is a surprising omission given that numerous rivals offer these items as standard equipment.

The new dash layout looks great but lacks extra storage bins for clipboards, A4 files etc. The new dash layout looks great but lacks extra storage bins for clipboards, A4 files etc.

Engine and transmission – What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

The 1GD-FTV 2.8 litre common rail four-cylinder turbo-diesel is shared with the current HiLux, Prado and Fortuner, armed with Euro 5 emissions compliance and a Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) with automatic and manual soot-burn functions.

Although smaller than the HiAce’s previous 3.0 litre unit, the quieter and more refined 2.8 is still larger in cubic capacity than its closest rivals. It produces 130kW at 3400rpm and (in auto models) a sizeable 450Nm across a broad 800rpm torque band between 1600-2400rpm. Those figures represent substantial gains of 30kW and 150Nm. Toyota also claims an 8.7 per cent reduction in fuel consumption, enhanced no doubt by automatic engine stop-start which can be switched off.

The 2.8-litre turbo-diesel makes 130kW/450Nm. The 2.8-litre turbo-diesel makes 130kW/450Nm.

The Aisin AC60E six-speed torque converter automatic has near-seamless yet decisive shifting. It features full converter lock-up on fourth, fifth and sixth gears along with overdrive on fifth and sixth for economical highway driving. There’s also a sequential manual-shift function if required. The rear axle with 3.727:1 final drive ratio features an electronic auto-LSD.

Fuel consumption – How much fuel does it consume?

Toyota claims a combined average of 8.2L/100km which wasn’t far off our HiAce’s trip computer readout of 9.1 after nearly 400km of testing, with the automatic engine stop-start function switched off the whole time and a sizeable distance lugging a full payload. Interestingly, after crunching our own numbers taken from fuel bowser and tripmeter readings, we came up with an identical 9.1/100km, so the dash readout is spot-on.

Needless to say, any LCV that can comfortably haul a one-tonne-plus payload and return single-digit fuel economy is high on efficiency. Based on our own test figures, you could expect a realistic driving range of around 770km from its 70-litre tank.

Practicality – How practical is the space inside?

With a 2205kg kerb weight and 3300kg GVM, our test vehicle has a competitive payload rating of 1095kg. Up to 120kg of that can be carried on the roof, using Toyota’s genuine accessory triple-bar roof rack set.

It’s also rated to tow up to 1500kg of braked trailer and with a GCM (or how much you can legally carry and tow at the same time) of 4800kg, it can carry its maximum 1095kg payload while doing that. That’s a handy set of numbers for a multitude of working roles.

The cargo hold is accessed through solid non-glazed sliding doors on each side and a glazed single-lift tailgate. There’s no rear twin barn-door option, so no forklift loading from behind. Front walk-through access is available through the wide gap between driver and passenger seats. The walls and doors are lined to waist height, there’s ample internal lighting and the roof is lined from windscreen to tailgate, which we suspect helps to reduce internal noise levels while driving.

Cargo hold dimensions are 2530mm length, 1760mm width and 1340mm height. Cargo hold dimensions are 2530mm length, 1760mm width and 1340mm height.

Cargo hold dimensions are 2530mm length, 1760mm width and 1340mm height. With 1268mm between the rear wheel housings, there’s ample room for two standard 1165mm-square Aussie pallets, secured by six floor-mounted anchorage points. Total load volume has also seen a slight increase over the previous generation, from 6.0 to 6.2 cubic metres.

The new dash layout looks great but lacks extra storage bins for clipboards, A4 files etc on top like some rivals, which make better use of this space. Even so, there’s a big 1.5-litre bottle holder and storage bin in the base of each front door, with smaller 0.5 litre bottle/cup holders in the centre and on either side of the dash. There’s also a near-vertical single glovebox and small cubby left of the gearshift for small items like coins, lollies etc.

Each door has a big 1.5-litre bottle holder and a storage bin. Each door has a big 1.5-litre bottle holder and a storage bin.

What’s it like as a daily driver?

The size increase has resulted in a vehicle that does not feels overly large or cumbersome. Cabin entry and exit, with its lower floor, wide-opening doors and big windscreen pillar grab handles, is much easier than the old model. And once aboard it’s not hard for drivers of most sizes to find a comfortable position, with plenty of adjustment in the reach-adjustable leather-bound steering wheel and bucket seat. There’s also a big left footrest to brace against.

There’s good engine flexibility and response in the 40-80km/h speeds often encountered when ducking in and out of heavy traffic or zipping down narrow city laneways during typical delivery work. The tight 11-metre turning circle allows easy manoeuvrability.

Big glass areas and mirrors, combined with numerous electronic driver aids, provide excellent all-round vision. The ride quality when empty or lightly loaded is also commendable, given the unsprung weight of a heavy live axle under the tail. The steering’s speed-sensitive power assistance also works well, being very light at parking speeds and increasingly firm and responsive as speeds rise.

It’s a comfortable and economical highway operator too, with tyre noise from the rear wheel housings not as enervating as some bulkhead-free rivals we’ve tested. And with the auto in full lock-up in top gear, the engine is doing only 1700rpm at 100km/h and 1800rpm at 110km/h. The cruise control is easy to use and maintains set speeds on downhills with discipline.

What’s it like for tradie use?

We forklifted 975kg into the cargo hold through the side doors, which with our driver equalled a genuine one-tonne-plus payload of 1075kg, just 20kg under its 1095kg limit. The big rear leaf springs compressed a mere 33mm while the front struts only dropped 20mm, leaving ample rear bump-stop clearance and suspension travel.

Around town the HiAce barely noticed this maxed-out payload, with acceleration, braking and handling hardly affected. If anything, it felt even more firmly planted on the road with reassuring balance.

It also skipped along the highway and never felt weighed down or sluggish on climbs. With a bountiful 450Nm of torque to burn, our 13 per cent gradient 2.0km set climb at 60km/h was easily conquered in third gear at around 2200rpm. No sweat.

With 975kg in the cargo hold, the HiAce felt firmly planted on the road. With 975kg in the cargo hold, the HiAce felt firmly planted on the road.

Engine braking on the way down, in a manually-selected second gear, was reasonable but not outstanding. We had to use the foot brake when the engine had spun up to 3800rpm on overrun (4400rpm redline) and the road speed started to run away from us.

Even so, we were appreciative that the auto didn’t suddenly shift up to third gear like some rivals do, when engine rpm reaches a point on overrun that is considerably lower than redline. That’s a nasty surprise you don’t need while restraining a big load on a steep descent.

Safety – What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

New HiAce sets the mid-size van benchmark, with a perfect score on standard safety that rivals many passenger cars and SUVs. Maximum five-star ANCAP rating, seven airbags, AEB with day/night pedestrian and day cyclist detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, road sign assist, auto high beam, cruise control, adjustable speed limiter, vehicle stability control including trailer sway control and hill-start assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, reversing camera with guide lines and front and rear parking sensors.

Ownership – What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

Toyota has a habit of producing vehicles which have become benchmarks in numerous categories. The latest HiAce, with its efficient and practical all-new design, improved driver comfort, excellent load-carrying ability and peerless safety, will continue that tradition. It’s not perfect but it’s closer to that elusive judgement than most and does everything well enough to ensure it will remain top dog. They’re gonna sell a heap of these things.

$44,140

Based on new car retail price

Daily driver score

4.5/5

Tradies score

4.5/5
Price Guide

$44,140

Based on new car retail price

This price is subject to change closer to release data