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Car reviews - Toyota - Hiace - van range

Our Opinion

We like
Plethora of practical storage spaces and general driver-friendliness of cabin, excellent build quality and finish, huge load area.
Room for improvement
Vague steering, cramped front passenger’s seat, long step down to road when frequent egress is necessary.

Toyota logo11 Mar 2005

By JOHN WRIGHT

At a pre-release drive held in Japan last November, journalists were able to drive the new HiAce back to back with its predecessor.

It is impossible to evaluate a light commercial vehicle during a handful of laps of a short, totally smooth circuit, but the new model’s advantages in power, refinement, spaciousness and comfort were obvious.

But the real question remains: how will the fifth generation HiAce stack up against a range of new rivals, most of which are semi-bonnet Europeans?

Still no answer, but a one-hour drive around Sydney provided a better opportunity of evaluating the new van. The interior has lots of space to store things as well as an impressively designed fold-down centre seat back which can be used as a solid table.

Finish is excellent and the plastics look and feel good. Forward vision through a deep, non-distorting screen is exceptional. Minimum thought has been given to the outer front passenger who gets a non-adjustable seat and surprisingly little width and legroom. At least the driver is well catered for, along with the load.

Toting some 500 kg, including occupants, the petrol HiAce provided quite good performance. Peak torque (at 3800rpm) and power (4800rpm) look too close together on paper but this LWB van with automatic transmission had responsive acceleration and did not hunt between ratios.

The HiAce does not conceal its utilitarian purpose under any pretense of being carlike. There is some lost motion around the straight ahead position in the steering with the driver making regular small adjustments to maintain a straight line. Frankly, it doesn’t feel like a rack and pinion system, although it is. Enthusiast drivers would prefer more weight at the (plastic) rim.

Ride comfort is reasonable. A considerable amount of mechanical noise is transmitted into the cabin but this would be reduced with a full load on board. But the standard anti-lock braking system is powerful with excellent pedal feel.

Those inclined to use left foot braking in automatics will be discouraged in the HiAce by the positioning of the narrow brake pedal to the right of the steering column.

The driver’s seat has good adjustability, is comfortable and well placed in relation to the controls. Ergonomics are excellent. Toyota claims to have developed the new HiAce for drivers who cover up to 1000 kilometres in a day.

But those who get in and out a lot may find egress less than ideal because it’s a fair step down to the road for anyone less than about 180 cm tall.

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