Despite having generous towing capacities and reasonably good payloads, dual-cab utes sometimes won't meet the standard for proper load hauling and off-roading.
Previously, we hopped behind the wheel of the off-road-focussed Iveco Daily 4x4 and found it to be pretty impressive both on- and off-road. The Japanese alternative to the Italian Iveco is from Hino, the truck company owned by Toyota.
The Hino 300 817 4x4 is a big truck sold in both single- and dual-cab, with the option of a 4495kg or 7500kg GVM. The former of which can be operated on a car licence and doesn't require any additional licensing.
Kicking off from $81,134 (plus on-road costs), the 300 817 4x4 doesn't come with a tray on the rear, so expect that price to climb by the time you fit a tray like the one on our test vehicle.
Sitting beneath the driver and front passenger is a 4.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine that produces 121kW of power and 464Nm of torque. The drivetrain is mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, but an aftermarket five-speed automatic Allison (with single overdrive) is also available for greater ease of use.
Beneath the skin, the 300 817 4x4 uses front and rear leaf spring suspension, with the front end featuring shock absorbers and a stabiliser.
From the exterior, the Hino isn't quite as pretty as Iveco's Daily. It looks much more like a truck and lacks the styling elements found on the Daily.
Inside the cabin it's a basic affair with solid plastics used throughout. Central to the cabin is a functional infotainment unit with a colour touchscreen with inbuilt Bluetooth telephone connectivity and audio streaming.
Buttons and switchgear are logically laid out across the dashboard with a focus on simplicity. Storage cavities are contained throughout the cabin with the centre seat acting as a table when folded flat.
While you won't find any switchgear on the steering wheel, the cruise control is activated behind the wheel, with one stalk reserved for the headlights and indicator, and another stalk used to activate the exhaust brake and windscreen wipers.
Safety items always seem to be overlooked for tradesmen – despite the fact they spend more time on the road than most people. Hino has covered all bases with driver and front passenger airbags, along with traction control and stability control to keep the vehicle in check at speed.
In terms of four-wheel-drive equipment, there's a low- and high-range transfer case and free-wheeling hubs that are manually locked. It's pretty ancient technology, and can be a little painful given you will need to get out and manually lock the front hubs each time you want to switch over to four-wheel drive.
Using the reduction gearing, a low low-range ratio of 65:1 can be achieved, which is pretty impressive.
How does the Hino 300 817 4x4 drive? In a way, pretty roughly. While the shock absorbers aim to limit the impact of speed humps and other bumps, there is an incredible amount of springback after hitting bumps. It can throw you around the cabin a fair bit, and we found if you hit decent bumps at highway speeds, it can unsettle the ride.
On the open road, the 100km/h electronic speed limiter can get a little frustrating. It makes it difficult to overtake and causes a cat-and-mouse game on highways with rolling hills, where you may need to drop back through the gears to maintain speed.
In and around the city is where the 300 817 4x4 really shines. There's plenty of punch from the diesel engine, and you can lean on the torque band to extract the most out of the package both at low speeds and on the move.
Visibility out the front and rear is great, but the added height of the 4x4 package may make getting in and out of tighter city streets a little tricky.
The primary reason the 300 817 4x4 exists, though, is its off-road credentials. After extensive testing across rural Australia, the hardened chassis was put through a number of gruelling tests to ensure it would be suitable for the types of buyers that snap them up – namely forestry management and fire services, both of whom require reliable vehicles that will be able to go anywhere.
We didn't get enough of a chance to punish the 300 817 4x4 off-road, but found that even with light off-road work it felt right at home. Its breadth off-road would only be helped with an automatic transmission, which takes the fuss out of managing a manual transmission.
In terms of fuel use, our 350km run in the Hino 300 817 4x4 returned an average fuel consumption of around 17 litres of fuel per 100km. The Euro V-compliant engine uses a diesel particulate filter and features a 170L set of fuel tanks (100L main tank and 70L sub-tank).
The whole selling point of our test drive in the Hino 300 817 4x4 was that it could be driven on a driver's licence. But that benefit evaporates almost immediately once a tray is fitted to the vehicle.
With a standard chassis mass of 3160kg, it doesn't take long to hit that 4495kg GVM once a tray, spare tyre and tools are added, which makes it a somewhat pointless proposition on a car licence.
Obviously, an easy fix for this is obtaining a truck licence – but it defeats the purpose of a GVM that slots under the permissible limit for a car licence.
In terms of running costs, Hino offers a three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty (which can be upgraded to five years). Servicing occurs every 20,000km or six months, whichever comes first, with a capped-price servicing program.
Every other service is a major service, which means you're up for $579 for a minor service and $1519 for a major service. Over a three-year period that comes out to $6294.
Over the same three-year period, you'll also be up for air filters (every 60,000km or as required at $104 each), desiccant (every 12 months at $1079 each time) and coolant (once every three years at $156).
Hino's reputation for building solid and reliable trucks is worth its weight in gold in this segment. While the Hino 300 817 4x4 may not perform as well as the Iveco Daily 4x4, the added reliability and extensive dealer network will be enough to win over a lot of customers.
Hit the gallery to see many more photos of the Hino 300 4x4 in action