Hiace sales juggernaut rolls on
TOYOTA’S HIACE REMAINS NEW ZEALAND’S BIGGEST-SELLING van by a considerable margin, and its sales are showing no signs of flagging.
In fact, they’re going from strength-to-strength, and the Hiace has been NZ’S best-selling van for more than 20 years running. Toyota gave the van a major revamp in 2015, but the changes were largely under the skin, though Toyota added two new body styles to the shortwheelbase ZL range.
The refreshed Hiace doesn’t look much different to its predecessor, and it retains the top-hinged tailgate/rear door, and the out-of-fashion cab-over-engine layout. There has been speculation about a new Hiace – originally expected to debut this year – but Toyota NZ sticks stubbornly to its policy of refusing to talk ab out future product.
The big news in the 2015 revamps was the addition of electronic stability control (ESC) across the Hiace range.
ESC became compulsory on all new vans marketed after July 1, 2015, and despite suggestions that Toyota couldn’t adapt the technology to the aging Hiace driveline, Toyota NZ announced late in 2014 that it would indeed offer the safety technology on its vans from early 2015.
Not being able to offer ESC would have meant having to withdraw the Hiace and replace it with another model, possibly the rebadged Peugeot Expert that Toyota sells in Europe as the Proace.
Doing that would have left the brand without a large van to replace the long-wheelbase, wide-bodied ZX.
ESC, which Toyota calls Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) was part of a safety suite upgrade that Toyota NZ added to the Hiace range.
The upgrade also included Traction Control, Brake Assist and Hillstart Assist.
VDC eliminated one barrier to increased sales – the growing number of operators who are becoming more safety-conscious and want the best-possible safety package for themselves or their employees.
That, of course, includes government departments – traditionally a key customer for Hiaces – which insist on their vehicles having safety kit like electronic stability control.
VDC across the range means the Hiace can now be added to the list of possible choices for safety-conscious van buyers.
Toyota says the two new body styles have been added to the 12-model ZL range as a result of customer feedback.
The familiar five-door body style with full-length side-windows continues for both the mid-sized ZL and the large ZX Hiaces, and has been joined by new full- and half-panel body ZLS.
A second row of seats – with seating for three passengers – is an option on the full glass and half-panel vans. The seats can fold forward to be stowed against the cargo area front when they’re not being used.
The wide-bodied long wheelbase ZX model has a cargo volume of 9.8 cubic metres and a GVW of 3150kg.
The bigger van rides on the same wheel and tyre sized package as the ZL.
All Hiaces have front disc brakes and rear drums with an ABS anti-lock system and Brake Assist (BA). The brakes are strong and progressive and in hard driving during LCV magazine testing proved to be excellent and fade-free
Toyota says the new ZL body styles, with solid steel side panels hiding all or part of the cargo area, “offer tradies looking for extra practicality and on-board security even greater choice.”
The extra sheetmetal improves security, and businesses transporting perishable items such as food products carried at ambient temperature will benefit from the potentially cooler, darker cargo space.
Toyota says the panels provide increased reinforcing, and operators looking to customise the loadspace also benefit from fewer windows to work around when implementing their fit-out.
The extra sheetmetal will also provide a better “canvas” for signwriting.
The four-door full-panel and five-door half-panel bodies are available in ZL specification, with the wide-opening side doors providing good access to the load space.
The ZL model is available with a choice of 2.7-litre petrol or 3.0-litre diesel engines across both full glass and full panel body styles, with five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission.
The full panel petrol van is available only with the five-speed manual, and the glass bodied petrol ZL offers a six-speed automatic gearbox option.
The ZL half-panel variant is sold in only one specification, with the 3.0-litre diesel engine and automatic transmission.
The revised front cabin seating in all models – twin buckets instead of a driver’s seat and bench for two passenger – allows room for a new storage unit in the centre front row to take a laptop computer, workbooks, tablets or a lunchbox.
Standard safety equipment on all Hiaces includes airbags and three-point seatbelts for the driver and front seat passenger.
Models with the second row bench seat have three-point belts for the outer passengers and a two-pointer for the person in the centre of the seat.
The ZX has a reversing camera which displays in the rear-view mirror.
Fuel economy depends on model and engine, but Toyota quotes combined cycle figures of 8.0 litres/100km for the 3.0-litre diesel fivedoor ZL with manual gearbox and 10.2 litres/100km for the manual 2.7-litre petrol five-door ZL.
Quoted prices start at $46,830 for the 2.7-litre ZL petrol-engined manual and rise to $58,330 for the 3.0-litre diesel automatic. The most expensive model in the range is the
3.0-litre diesel-engined, 12-seat Minibus with automatic gearbox, listing for $67,280.
Toyota sold 2600 Hiaces in 2016, an increase of 113 over the previous year and more than 1500 ahead of last year’s second-placed van, the Hyundai iload.
This year it has been selling at the rate of around 200 a month and by April 30, registrations sat at 973, a significant rise over the 798 it achieved in the same period of 2016.
It seems there’s plenty more life in the old campaigner.