hiace - Toyota HiAce front quarter - Toyota HiAce: Winner by a nose

What is it?

Take an iconic Light Commercial Vehicle, reskin it, redesign the office space, add in some modern tech, and the 2019 HiAce is here.

Toyota’s venerable van, and a vehicle I learned how to drive in, has been given a pretty thorough update.

The petrol engine is Toyota’s free-spinning 3.5-litre V6. The diesel engine, their familiar 2.8-litre donk.

Power is 207kW and torque is 351Nm from the V6.

Transmissions are manual or auto, both with six cogs.

The diesel is 130kW and can be spec’d with a manual or auto — for 420Nm or 450Nm.

The rev range for torque is slightly different, but not that much to be noticeable.

Fuel consumption for the petrol version is quoted at 8.2L/100km on the combined cycle.

That’s probably not far from reality as our urban drive saw an average of 13.3L/100km at one point.

Bear in mind however the quoted figures are in a different driving environment to our test, unloaded and with just one aboard.

hiace - Toyota HiAce rear quarter - Toyota HiAce: Winner by a nose

What’s it cost?

Starting point is $38,640 plus on-roads. It’s a not unreasonable ask for the LWB petrol range. 

Head to the Toyota website and it says the driveaway price is circa $43,300 for the manual.

The auto is shown as from $45,331.

Colour choice is French Vanilla, or French Vanilla. Or if you really want something different — there’s always French Vanilla . . . in other words white or white. 

The exterior is part one of the do-over. In profile it’s not unlike the outgoing model bar one crucial difference. There’s a nose, a proper nose — and a proper bonnet.

This gives far better protection in a front impact and better handling in terms of weight distribution.

One noticeable part of the ride and handling is the feel of the front wheels in relation to their actual position. 

Although something like a metre ahead of the driver’s seat, when turning corners they feel almost as if they’re underneath the driver.

The view from the front showcases a black urethane bumper, silver/aluminium grille cover, and angular headlight cluster with non-LED driving lights.

The rear is a box — literally, a box.

There’s extra width, a non-powered tailgate, the same black urethane for the bumper, and larger tail lights.

On either side is a sliding door, with a window for the passenger side door.

Wheels are steel and have reasonably styled plastic covers.

There are parking sensors front and rear too.

Head inside, look over your shoulder and it’s a van all right.

White painted metal meets melamine trim, with a couple of tie down hooks tossed in. 

There were rubber mats fitted for the driver and passenger’s positions.

Seat trim is a light grey cloth weave and they’re well padded.

The overall size of the HiAce LWB is big enough for an apartment.

Length is 5265mm, wheelbase is 3210mm and volume is 6.2 cubic metres, with room for a 1295kg payload.

The cargo area is 2530mm in length and 1340mm high, with 1268mm between wheel arches. Dry weight is 2205kg.

Look forward and it’s different. Completely different.

Although the trim colours of ivory and charcoal are familiar, the layout and tech are brand new.

The gear selector is mounted in a separate housing on the dash, cup holders are imbedded in the dash, and the 7.0 inch touchscreen features DAB audio and Bluetooth.

The DAB feature is something NOT found in the entry level CH-R or even the 86.

There is a full colour 4.3 inch driver’s info screen that shows, in graphical terms, fuel usage, expected range, and features such as Blind Spot Monitoring and Lane Keep Assistance.

Safety is high, with seven airbags and Pre-Collision Warning with pedestrian and cyclist detection.

There is also a nifty reverse camera feature. Flip the rear vision mirror, as if to block out following headlights, and a second camera is engaged.

Warranty is five years and 160,000km for commercial vehicles.

hiace - Toyota HiAce front seats - Toyota HiAce: Winner by a nose

What’s it go like?

It launches hard.

Yep, the silky smooth V6 has some serious poke.

Turn off traction control and there’s a very good chance the rear driven tyres will light up. 

A major plus to the new HiAce is its car-like handling.

As mentioned, the steering has a different feel in relation to the position of the wheels. This makes tight parking spots and three-point turns a doddle. 

Ride quality is noticeably improved too. Think car-like in absorption and bump resistance. 

The tradeoff is push on understeer from the 215/70/16 Bridgestone Duravis rubber.

Brakes are well balanced with a positive feel to the travel and feedback.

Naturally, though, road noise is high in an empty van and there’s drumming on coarser surfaces.

hiace - Toyota HiAce touchscreen - Toyota HiAce: Winner by a nose

What we like?

  • Serious urge from the petrol V6
  • Steering feel better than expected
  • Car-like safety, handling and ride

hiace - Toyota HiAce side cargo - Toyota HiAce: Winner by a nose

What we don’t like?

  • Lack of sound insulation behind the driver
  • Exterior styling does little to hide “it’s a box on wheels”
  • Light commercial tyres compromise front grip

hiace - Toyota HiAce cargo - Toyota HiAce: Winner by a nose

The bottom line?

It’s a market segment that is really starting to change for the better in respect to interior tech and driving ability.

Toyota, however, needs to look to the Euros for exterior styling. 

It’s a fun and enjoyable drive, and the fact that as a commercial vehicle it has DAB is a nice touch.

And to harken back to the days of customising for camping, there’s plenty of scope for that.

hiace - Toyota HiAce wheel - Toyota HiAce: Winner by a nose

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Toyota HiAce LWB Petrol, priced from $38,640 plus on-roads
  • 7/10
    Looks - 7/10
  • 7.5/10
    Performance - 7.5/10
  • 9/10
    Safety - 9/10
  • 7/10
    Thirst - 7/10
  • 9.5/10
    Practicality - 9.5/10
  • 8/10
    Comfort - 8/10
  • 8/10
    Tech - 8/10
  • 8/10
    Value - 8/10
8/10

Conole

Dave Conole hails from Perth where he co-hosted a car show on one of the city's major community radio stations. Although he's had formal training in stage, TV, and film, it's his face for radio that gave him his start in the automotive field, both reviewing and motorsport commentary. After moving to Sydney in 2004, Dave has worked for some of Australia's biggest media groups and is the anchor commentator at Sydney Motorsport Park. This has lead to anchoring major events such as the Top Gear Festival (and, no, he didn't get punched by Jeremy).