Vehicle Style: Commercial van
Price: $40,490 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 100kW/300Nm 3.0 turbo diesel 4cyl | 4sp automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 9.2 l/100km | tested: 9.2 l/100km
The Toyota HiAce; it’s the quintessential “white van” and the backbone of countless courier companies and other commercial fleets.
What makes it so popular? And, given its advanced age (2015 is the H200-generation HiAce’s 11th year in the market), how has it managed to remian competitive against so many newer commercial vans out there?
Earlier this year Toyota added a new five-seat Crew Van variant to the HiAce range, along with new safety equipment and upgrades to the petrol engine. We put it through its paces to see how it fared as a workday hack.
Quality: The HiAce’s design hails from the early noughties, but cabin materials hail from an even earlier era. The umbrella-handle parkbrake is especially quaint.
Hard plastics are abundant and while everything feels durable, it’s not the warmest, most inviting interior around.
And we’re not just saying that because it’s a commercial van. No, the Renault Kangoo and Ford Transit Custom offer a nicer 'office' - but then again we’d expect that given their relative youth.
The build though is certainly solid, in typical Toyota fashion.
Comfort: The seating position is high up, but because the seats are mounted directly to the engine cover there’s not a great deal of flexibility.
The driver’s seat slides and reclines but there’s no height adjustment. Nor is there reach adjustment in the steering column, though it does at least tilt.
Happily, front passengers can now slide their seat fore and aft, rather than have to make do with the fixed seat of previous HiAces.
Visibility from the driver’s seat is decent, with an expansive view through the big windshield and side windows. Over-the-shoulder vision isn’t bad either thanks to the glass windows in the sliding doors, however the wing mirrors could do with an upsize.
The back seat isn’t removeable (at least, not easily), but it offers reasonable space and comfort for workmates. In its rearmost position there’s legroom aplenty - scooch it forward to its 'cargo' setting and that shrinks markedly.
The lap-only seatbelt in the centre position is a safety oversight, though.
Equipment: There’s a meagre list of standard features in the HiAce, but the basics are covered.
Cruise control is there, as is a reversing camera, power wing-mirrors, power windows, a USB audio input/charging point, AM/FM/CD stereo and steering wheel-mounted audio controls.
Storage: The total cargo area measures 2930mm long, 1545mm wide and 1335mm tall. Toyota says you can cram six cubic metres of cargo in the back of the HiAce Crew Van with a total payload of 885kg.
In reality, it’s a little different. The second row seating isn’t completely removeable, and only tumbles forward against the rear of the engine compartment. It still takes up space, and robs the HiAce’s load area of around 400mm of total length.
But that’s the trade-off for being able to carry three more of your colleagues, and, even with the rear seat in its rearmost position, there’s still room for an average-sized pallet in the back.
Four tie-down points are mounted to the floor to help secure loads, however rear barn doors do not exist as an option.
(A plus of the lift-up rear door however is the shelter it affords when unloading in the wet.)
Up front, there’s a sizable 'lunchbox' between the two front seats, plus a pair of integrated clipboard/file holders, a pair of slide-out cupholders and a smallish glovebox.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The HiAce Crew Van’s standard 3.0 litre turbodiesel is a rather docile piece of equipment.
With 100kW and 300Nm it’s incredibly understressed, and while that’s great for longevity it doesn’t make it an especially alert powertrain.
By comparison the Hyundai iLoad makes 125kW and 441Nm from just 2.5 litres, leaving the HiAce well behind.
The petrol HiAce range gets a six-speed, but diesels are saddled with an antiquated four speed that’s distinctly sub-par. Acceleration is slow and the gaps between gears allow the engine to fall out of its torque band easily.
It’s fine around town, but its shortcomings become apparent on highways or when lugging loads up steep hills. It needs an extra ratio - at the very least.
Refinement: With no bulkhead to separate cargo from passengers, the HiAce’s interior is a noisy one. Having the engine directly beneath the fronts seats doesn’t help either.
Ride and Handling: With a coil sprung front end and leaf springs at the rear, the HiAce has a bouncy rump when empty.
It’s a lot more settled when loaded up with around 400kg of cargo, and actually handles lumpy roads quite well.
Braking: Ventilated discs sit up front with drums at the rear, and braking performance is respectable, if not stellar.
From 2015 brake assist is now standard on every HiAce, delivering more stopping power in an emergency. Hill start assist is also standard, and helpful when moving away from standstill on steep inclines.
ANCAP rating: 4-Stars - this model scored 25.50 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: ABS, EBD, brake assist and stability control are now standard across the HiAce range. Airbag protection only consists of dual front airbags, with no side or curtain airbags available.
Both front seats and the outboard rear seats in the HiAce Crew Van receive three-point seat belts, however the centre seat position is only equipped with a lap belt.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km
Service costs: Under Toyota’s Service Advantage scheme, the first six services are capped at $180 each for the first three years or 60,000km of the vehicle’s life.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Hyundai iLoad Crew Van diesel ($40,990) - The HiAce Crew Van’s chief rival is the Korean iLoad Crew, which boasts more power and torque as well as a five-speed automatic.
It’s also just as roomy in the back (though just as sparse), and has the option of rear barn doors.
Equipment could do with some improvement though. Cruise control is still not available, and neither are side airbags. (see iLoad reviews)
Renault Kangoo Maxi Crew ($28,490) - A more cost-effective, but also much smaller, solution for carrying five workers plus their gear, the Kangoo Maxi Crew benefits from more carlike handling and a low floor that facilitates loading.
Rear barn doors are standard but there’s just one metre of depth before you run into the back of the second row seats. They fold flat though, allowing you to carry more at the expense of its five-seat capacity. (see Kangoo reviews)
Mercedes-Benz Vito Crew Cab 113CDI ($48,990) - The most expensive option, but it does come with a six-, rather than five, person capacity.
Roughly par in size to the HiAce, the Vito 113CDI’s 2.2 litre diesel achieves similarly mediocre outputs of 100kW/310Nm but has a five-speed auto to help it along.
Volkswagen Transporter Crewvan LWB TDI340 ($47,690) - Also substantially more expensive than the HiAce, but also more versatile thanks to its larger load area and completely removeable rear seats.
It’s also got a slick seven-speed twin-clutch automatic to help it make the most of its 103kW/340Nm power and torque outputs, but only has one sliding door rather than the HiAce’s two.
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
After 11 years in showrooms, it’s clear that the HiAce is no longer the best van around. Best-selling? Undoubtedly. Best Van? No, there are better vans out there, but the HiAce holds a 'value card'.
In reality, in the world of five-seater load luggers, there is not a lot of choice and no perfect product.
The Hyundai iLoad has flaws of its own, the Kangoo will be too small for many, and all other similarly-sized five-seat vans cost more than the HiAce Crew Van.
And price is a massive advantage in the commercial vehicle sector, more so than passenger comfort, equipment levels or, it has to be said, safety equipment.
So, for five-seat commercial vans in this market, it seems it comes down to the trusted HiAce and the stout Hyundai iLoad. For its resale values and long, long track record, we'd lean to the HiAce Crew Van.