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Toyota HiAce LWB Crew Van 2017 review

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Mark Oastler road tests and reviews the new Toyota HiAce LWB Crew Van with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

The Toyota HiAce was launched in 1967 and has been the benchmark for light commercial vans in Australia for several decades with its combination of good load space, simple robust construction, proven Toyota reliability and solid resale values, particularly for fleet buyers.

The current model, launched in 2005, is the fifth generation of the breed. Toyota gave the HiAce some minor upgrades last year, primarily recalibration of its 3.0 litre diesel engine to meet Euro 5 emissions requirements and improve fuel economy. However, it is really starting to show its age (and some complacency by Toyota) in an increasingly competitive LCV market.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

The local HiAce range is a mix of four body styles, two wheelbases - long wheelbase (LWB) and super long wheelbase (SLWB) and petrol and diesel engines. Our test vehicle was the manual LWB Crew Van which with its rear bench seat can carry up to five occupants. It's available only with the diesel engine and a choice of four-speed automatic or five-speed manual.

Priced at $38,750, standard features include useful things like daytime running lights, a reversing camera with 3.0-inch monitor displayed in the interior mirror, air conditioning, remote central locking, cruise control and steering wheel audio controls for the two-speaker sound system which includes USB and Bluetooth connectivity.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

After five generations and five decades in production, the slab-sided HiAce stoically adheres to its original cab-over-engine design with driver and front passenger seated directly over the front wheels. Although this provides good forward vision in tight spaces and an excellent turning circle, the penalty is a more upright and uncomfortable driving position compared to engine-forward rivals with more car-like cabins (which are also easier to get in and out of).

The compact 2570mm wheelbase is relatively short for a LWB model. The rear-wheel drive layout features a well proven combination of coil-spring double-wishbone front suspension and a rugged leaf-spring live rear axle, but its rear drum brakes are outdated by more modern four wheel-disc equipped rivals. Wheels are 15x6-inch steel with plastic wheel covers shod with 195R 15C tyres, plus there's a full-size spare.

The absence of a rev counter is a glaring omission for drivers that like to rely on more than just feel.

Unlike Crew-based rivals like the Hyundai iLoad, there is no bulkhead separating the cabin area from the cargo bay. This brings not only noise issues but also load safety concerns unless at least a steel mesh cargo barrier is installed. Generous side access to the rear seat is through large sliding doors on each side with slide-opening windows. Rear loading is via a swing-up tailgate with heated screen and wiper/washer, but there is no rear twin-door option for forklift access which is available in the iLoad.

Passenger comfort and safety are also compromised by the three seat bench only providing headrests and lap sash seat belts for the outer two seating positions, leaving the centre passenger with no headrest, only a lap belt and no airbags, top-tether or ISOFIX child restraints in sight.

There are also no fold-down inner arm rests for the driver and front seat passenger, steering is only tilt adjustable and the gearshift lacks the light and precise action of some rivals. And although there is a footrest next to the clutch pedal, the dashboard's gearstick surround sits uncomfortably close to and often in contact with the driver's left knee. The old school twist-and-release handbrake is awkwardly placed and the telescopic metal radio aerial on the A pillar is also from another era.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

The trusty 1KD-FTV four cylinder common rail turbo-diesel has found a home in plenty of Toyotas over the years but the HiAce is the last van standing. In this application it's rated at a class competitive 100kW at 3400rpm with 300Nm of torque available across a fairly broad 1200-2400rpm range.

The five-speed manual transmission has what ‘feels' like a suitably spaced set of ratios with the overdriven top gear useful for keeping revs down at highway speeds. However, the absence of a rev counter is a glaring omission for drivers that like to rely on more than just feel to know if an engine is accurately operating in its peak power and torque zones.

How practical is the space inside?

A kerb weight of 1915kg and 2800kg GVM (Gross Vehicle Mass) results in a useful 885kg payload capacity, even though it is surpassed by rivals with one tonne-plus payloads. And given it's designed to carry up to five passengers, that payload figure could be more than halved with just a full load of adults on board without luggage.

It is rated to tow up to 1400kg (braked) which also lags behind rivals boasting tow ratings in excess of two tonnes. However, its GCM (Gross Combination Mass) of 4200kg at least ensures that it can tow its maximum load with a full payload on board.

If load volume is more important to you, the HiAce's squared-off lines and slab sides offer a still- competitive 6.0 cubic metres (6000 litres) of cargo capacity, minus of course the space taken up by the rear seat which can be tumbled forward and locked in an upright position to provide more floor space if required.  The load area behind the seat has four tie-down points on the floor but there's not enough space between the wheel arches to fit a standard pallet.

For a vehicle wearing a Toyota badge, the biggest surprise and disappointment is the high internal noise levels at all speeds.

A large and useful console in the middle of the front seats has a number of pockets for different sized items, including two cupholders at the rear for back seat passengers to use. Each front door also has a bottle holder and deep storage pocket and there are two more pop-out cupholders in the dash.

How much fuel does it consume?

What's it like to drive?

For a vehicle wearing a Toyota badge, the biggest surprise and disappointment is the high internal noise levels at all speeds, particularly under acceleration in lower gears. It's a throbbing, pulsating sound similar to that of an air compressor and given that it emanates from beneath the cargo floor suggests it may be some sort of harmonic issue with the substantial particulate filter exhaust system.

In any case it is loud enough to make conversations difficult and becomes quite wearing during any drive longer than a short suburban commute. There is also noticeable wind noise around the windscreen and door mirrors at highway speeds.

Because the swing-up tailgate does not allow forklift access, we had to use a hydraulic engine crane instead to load 650kg of weight blocks behind the rear seat, which with a 90kg driver resulted in a payload of 740kg (or 145kg less than its maximum 885kg rating).

The rear leaf spring suspension only compressed about 35mm under this three-quarter tonne payload and there was no sign of bottoming out over bumps, but we did find ourselves a bit busy at the wheel keeping it tracking straight at highway speeds where it felt easily unsettled by side winds.

It also proved a capable hill climber with 740kg on its back, easily powering up a long 14 per cent gradient at 60km/h in third gear. It also displayed useful engine braking on long descents, even though we had no idea of how many revs we were using on overrun due to the lack of a tachometer.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

The HiAce's four-star ANCAP crash safety rating is outranked by some competitors. Standard tech includes twin front airbags plus dynamic electronic vehicle stability control, brake assist, hill start assist, and emergency stopping signal.

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

Toyota's standard warranty is three year/100,000km, and service intervals are every 10,000km. Capped price servicing of $240 is valid for up to six standard scheduled services for first three years or 60,000km, whichever comes first.

The HiAce has earned its stripes over the years and can still get the job done. However the current (fifth) generation is now more than a decade old and showing it, particularly in the areas of NVH and driver/passenger comfort.

Fact is, a long day behind the wheel of the Crew Van felt like hard work compared to more modern competitors that offer superior refinement, performance, safety, features and driver comfort. We hope industry rumours of an all-new HiAce replacement are true, because it is now overdue.

Is the HiAce's reign as king of the white vans coming to an end? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Click here to see more 2017 Toyota HiAce pricing and spec info.

$29,980 - $54,999

Based on 234 car listings in the last 6 months


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Price Guide

$29,980 - $54,999

Based on 234 car listings in the last 6 months

Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.