Australia’s top-selling van, the Toyota HiAce, has received a significant upgrade, led by the addition of a punchier petrol engine option with a new six-speed auto, and extra safety equipment.
At the same time, Toyota has also added two new body-styles to the range — a five-seat crew van and a reduced 12-seat version of the commuter bus that can be driven on a standard licence.
Perhaps most importantly, every new HiAce is also now equipped with the safety of electronic vehicle stability control (ESC), brake assist for greater stopping power in an emergency, hill-start assist control and an emergency stopping signal.
The Euro 5 compliant 2.7-litre petrol under the bonnet gets an extra 7kW, taking it up to 118kW at 5200rpm, while there is also a gain of 2Nm in peak torque to 243Nm at 4000rpm. These are courtesy of enhanced combustion efficiency and reduced engine friction.
Simultaneously, fuel use for manual variants drops up to 12.9 per cent on the combined cycle. A new six-speed automatic transmission now uses less fuel than the manual on almost every measure with consumption falling by up to 16.7 per cent, with the LWB van using 9.8L/100km.
The electronically controlled six-speed automatic transmission (AC60E) has a direct-drive fourth gear and overdrive fifth and sixth gears. It replaces the old four-speeder.
By comparison the carryover 3.0-litre diesel engine with carryover manual and four-speed auto gearboxes offers fuel economy as low as 8.0L/100km.
A diesel-powered five-seat crew van has been added to the range, along with the option of reducing the number of seats in the petrol commuter bus by two — from 14 to 12 — so it can be driven on a standard licence.
Long Wheelbase (LWB) variants gain a window in the left-hand sliding door to improve driver visibility.
The new diesel crew van, priced from $37,990 plus on-road costs, has seating for five people with a three-person second-row bench seat added to the two front bucket seats. When the seats are not required, they can be tipped and tumbled forward.
The crew van, in manual or auto guise, has sliding doors on both sides of the cargo area and is offered with the option of a new exterior paint colour, Ink (black).
Pricing has been held steady for most other HiAce variants, reduced by $1000 on the LWB diesel vans and increased by $500 for automatic petrol versions.
Inside, Toyota has added an ECO lamp on the HiAce instrument cluster to encourage economical driving. Other improvements include slide adjustment for the front passenger bucket seat instead of the previous fixed seat.
Standard features on HiAce include a reversing camera with the image displayed in the electro-chromatic rear-view mirror. It also has ABS brakes and cruise control. Other features include power operated mirrors, front windows and door locks, an LCD Multi-Information Display, hands-free telephone operation and voice activation for the audio and phone.
Commuter bus models have the option of a power-operated sliding side door.
HiAce is in its 45th year of sales in Australia with sales of more than 295,000. It has been the market leader of the combined van and light bus segments for more than two decades.
Last year, HiAce commanded more than 40 per cent of its light van segment with 6432 sales, well ahead of the Hyundai iLoad on 4344, and more than 90 per cent of its light bus segment with 2615 sales.
Toyota began selling HiAce in Australia in 1971, four years after it was launched in Japan. Over the past 20 years, HiAce vans have outsold buses by more than three-to-one and HiAce petrol vans have been at least twice as popular as diesel.
However, there has been a marked shift towards diesel during the past decade with customers buying more diesel HiAce vans than petrol vans each year since 2010.
Toyota executive director sales and marketing Tony Cramb said the two new variants – diesel crew van and petrol 12-seat bus – were being introduced in response to demand from business owners and operators.
“The five-seat crew van enables drivers to transport fellow workers during the week and family members at other times,” he said.
“Offering a 12-seat bus that can be driven on a standard licence will be much appreciated by tour operators and other users, saving them the cost of doing their own conversion.
“Simultaneous increases in output and fuel economy for the petrol engine, standard fitment of vehicle stability control and other safety features, plus other additional features will ensure the ongoing popularity of HiAce as Australia’s best-selling van and top-selling bus.”
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2015 Toyota HiAce pricing (plus on-road costs):