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New models - Hino - 300 Series - High Horsepower

Driven: Powerful Hino 300 Series lands

Power player: With 151kW and 600Nm the new 5.1-litre Hino 300 Series 921 is the most powerful light truck in its class, but can be driven with a normal car licence.

More powerful Hino 300 Series High Horsepower arrives from $62,840 plus ORCs

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Hino logo3 Jun 2014

HINO has shoe-horned a 5.1-litre four-cylinder engine from its medium-duty range into its smaller 300 Series light truck, resulting in Australia's most powerful light truck.

But despite the significant power-boost, the Japanese truck-maker is aiming the 300 Series High Horsepower at less experienced drivers.

As Australia's only true torque-converter automatic light truck with a range of safety features including range-wide electronic stability control (ESC), Hino says its easy-to-use vehicle is the safest option for car licence holders, and ideal for companies employing drivers with little or no truck experience.

Starting at $62,840, the 300 Series is Australia's only light-truck with ESC as standard, and coupled with the power-upgrade, Hino has segment leader Isuzu firmly in its sights.

By 2017 the truck-maker wants a 22 percent stake of the light truck segment, and if it hits the target, Hino could be in the running for the number-one spot currently occupied by Isuzu.

The power-boosted 300 Series goes head to head with Isuzu's N Series NQR, but with 151kW and 600Nm of torque the new Hino 300 Series High Horsepower (921) beats its closest rival by 12kW and 90Nm.

Its closest rival is yet to introduce range-wide ESC as standard and Hino is planning to make more sales as a result.

Attracted by aftersales training packages for less experienced drivers, Hino has already secured sizable orders with major supermarket chains, which frequently employ drivers with car licences.

The new High Horsepower flagship has a maximum gross vehicle mass of 8500kg, but by registering the light truck at a de-rated GVM of 4495kg it can be driven by anyone holding a normal car licence.

With combinations of three different wheelbases, crew-cab or three-seater and automatic or manual, the 300 Series High Horsepower adds ten new variants to the already extensive (more than 150 variants) 300 Series range but with only the 4X4 expected later this year, the line-up is almost complete.

To increase transmission service life, six-speed manual gearbox versions of the High Horsepower (920) have a detuned version of the 5.1-litre engine, which produces 139kW and 510Nm of torque.

With such a wide range of vehicle combinations, accurate fuel-consumption figures are not available for the 300 Series range, but Hino states that the larger engine wont have to work as hard as smaller 4.0-litre versions, offsetting any increased fuel use.

The extra torque and power will also appeal to customers wishing to use the High Horsepower in power take-off applications such as tow-trucks and tilt-trays.

The standard 4.0-litre version of Hino's 300 Series mirrors some of the equipment in the new 920 and 921 High Horsepower versions, with electrically adjustable side-mirrors, ventilated disc-brakes all-round and manual versions get hill-hold assist all standard.

A pre-selected maximum speed can only be set at Hino service centres with specialist diagnostic equipment so it cannot be overridden by the operator.

All existing 300 Series range safety features are also carried over to the newly introduced model with driver and passenger airbags, an ECER29 crash-tested cabin, reinforced door beams, optional reverse camera and deliberately slender 65mm high-tensile steel A-pillars, to keep pedestrians in clear sight.

Inside the cabin, comfort levels are enhanced with air-conditioning, touchscreen DAB digital radio, satellite-navigation, two-way adjustable steering and a magnetically-dampened driver's seat suspension.

In crew-cab versions, up to three rear passengers get their own air-conditioning, cup-holders, electric windows and a more comfortable flat floor.

The top performing 300 Series is offered in three wheel-bases starting at the shortest 3500mm, a 3800mm sits in the middle and longest 4400mm variant has the option of a crew-cab.

The newest variant has a widened and straight chassis frame upping the 4.0-litre width from 750mm to 840mm and retro-fitting aftermarket specialist bodies will benefit from pre-drilled grid-holes and rivetless top flanges.

Long haul applications are made possible with long-range 170-litre fuel tanks, while a 12-tonne towing GVM allows a towed mass of up to 3.5 tonnes on a medium-rigid licence.

Finally, a chrome Hino badge-decorated front grille sets the larger engined 300 Series apart from lesser variants in the range.

We took the newest addition to Hino's light truck range on a four hour haul from the national headquarters in Sydney to the iconic Mount Panorama race-way in Bathurst to see if all the Hino 300 Series is as user-friendly as its makers claim.

As far as trucks go, our test-vehicle was looking pretty smart in bespoke red paintwork with plenty of optional bling including LED daytime running lights, 19-inch alloy wheels with low-profile tyres, three-inch alloy tray-bars and matching tray.

If that's not enough jewelery, then Hino can supply even more warranty-backed accessories from premium stereo speakers and remote control, UHF CB radios, HID headlights and polished aluminium roo-bars.

Drive Impressions

From the first turn of a wheel it was clear the new variant has a larger than average powerplant under the seats.

Even loaded up to the car-licence maximum 4495kg GVM, the new 5.1-litre common-rail diesel had plenty of torque at all engine speeds and pulled strongly through to the 3000rpm governor.

Climbing the steep hills from Sydney's city limits in to the Blue Mountains was a breeze for the power-boosted Hino, and many a lesser light truck was passed at car-like speeds.

The Toyota-built six-speed automatic transmission operated as easily and intuitively as one would find in many automatic cars and made negotiating busier traffic simple.

On downhill sections, the beefy disc-brakes at each corner inspired confidence with a positive pedal-feel and would happily deal with much heavier loads in higher rated applications.

Skinny A-pillars and generous two-piece mirrors gave a panoramic feel to the forward view enhanced by an upright but comfortable driving position.

Over poorly maintained roads, the magnetically dampened driver's seat almost completely eliminated intrusive jarring surfaces, but even without the clever mechanical solution, the two front passenger seats still offered a comfortable place to spend an extended journey.

With most normal day-to-day driving and in the hands of an experienced driver, the ESC system would be like another passenger, but a moments distraction or lapse of concentration and it would jump in without hesitation.

Pushing a loaded truck to the limit on busy rush-hour roads would certainly end in tears no matter how many safety systems were watching over us but a deserted Mount Panorama circuit at sunset is another matter.

Even way below the legal speed limit, the torturous gradient and sharp twists of Bathurst's famous circuit quickly showed the importance of the electronic stability program.

We particularly liked how the system would give an audible warning if a maximum cornering speed was being approached before intervening if the warning was ignored, but what was particularly impressive is that the system adapts depending on the load being carried.

With a large mass on board, the audible warning would sound earlier but lighter or no loads would allow a faster negotiation of corners.

When deliberately provoked, the ESC would divert power to the opposite driven wheel and as a last resort extra braking and power eduction was applied.

As a final experiment, a lap of the hill was driven with the potentially life-saving technology switched off, and very little effort was required to get all six tyres howling in complaint.

With only moderate experience driving light commercial vehicles, we felt instantly at home behind the wheel of the 300 Series High Horsepower and were surprised at how effortlessly it ate up the miles of roads in a variety of conditions.

For a customer looking to staff a fleet with inexperienced drivers, we can't understand why anyone would look past a vehicle with standard ESC across the range, and until Hino's competitors follow suit, that leaves just one option.

2014 Hino 300 Series High Horsepower pricing*
920 Medium$62,840
920 Medium Trade Ace$71,101
920 Long$63,401
920 XXLong$64,523
920 XXLong Crew$68,494
921 Medium (a)$66,140
921 MediumTrade Ace (a)$74,401
921 Long (a)$66,701
921 XXLong (a)$67,823
921 XXLong Crew (a)$71,794
*Prices are for a single unit and exclude on-road costs.

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