The mighty 5th generation
In a very successful 12-year run thus far, the perennial full-size van standard, the Toyota HiAce continues to be within the top ten best-selling vehicles in the country for good reason. I certainly accept and appreciate why it is so popular in the Philippines. Even if the Hyundai Starex is dynamically better despite considering Toyota’s new 3.0-liter powerplant (yes even with a humble 134 bhp, it is the most powerful engine that we have ever had in an HiAce), somehow our countrymen still get drawn to the road going shoebox. Perhaps it is precisely the proportions and configuration of the HiAce combined with its long-standing reputation as a reliable and dutiful load-bearing workhorse that earns its success.
The new 3.0-liter turbodiesel powerplant is a very welcome in a chassis shared with the Innova but it was still detuned compared to other markets that use the same engine but produce a more appropriate 188 bhp and 310 lb ft of torque. The current HiAce Super Grandia definitely drives better than before with a new sense of energy but I am still somewhat disappointed. It’s not just about the engine and the use of a 4-speed automatic that just adequately performs its labors. It’s the overall packaging combined with the fairly steep price that bothers me.
Considering how commercially successful the HiAce model is in our market, and for so long, it is my hope that for 2018, if the chassis is once again carried over for supreme heavy duty, that Toyota installs the excellent more sophisticated new 2.8-liter turbodiesel used in both the current Innova and Fortuner mated to at least the same 6-speed automatic transmission. So even if the shoebox does not get a major facelift or equipment upgrade, it would have the correct drivetrain that would not only make the HiAce even more drivable but fuel economy would improve dramatically.
Our test unit was Toyota Philippines’ top variant with two-tone paint, second-row captain’s chairs, and leather interior appointments. The Bridgestone Dueler A/T 225/70R15 110S all-terrain tires wrapping 15 x 6JJ 6-bolt alloys look out of place for a van because of its tread but given our road conditions it actually rode appropriately. Thankfully, the 4th row split bench seats can be collapsed and folded up to expand trunk space because while it is in place you can barely fit any kind of reasonable load to service 11 people. The captain’s chairs and third row seats are actually quite comfortable especially when you configure them to your required settings. The road and engine noises though need immediate attention. Noted that the Super Grandia leather model comes with soft-close rear trunk and dual sliding doors, it is a pity that the effort to improve NVH may have been overlooked.
I am still surprised at how Toyota expertly maximized the fairly short wheelbase shared with the Innova to gain so much more interior capacity, the tall roof height certainly helps create more headroom and general interior ambiance. As before, the engine sits low, beneath, and in-between the driver and front passenger so you do have a command of the road ahead with a lot of frontal visibility only curbed by the use of weak halogen headlights at night. The steering response is very light and effortless so you get a curious sense that the HiAce maneuvers easier than even an Innova. General handling performance was as expected though it pitches a little too easily which can make sensitive passengers dizzy.
It is clear that the HiAce is the last Toyota model in the Philippine market to get the attention it deserves to meet the demands of new customers. I am one of these customers. Being a family man with 5 children I had hoped that the HiAce Super Grandia would fulfill my requirements. So even how capacious the HiAce can be, our current 7-seater C! Fastfleet Toyota Innova V is a far better overall multi-purpose people mover that has most of the desired modern amenities needed already on board.
Specification – 2017 Toyota HiAce Super Grandia 3.0 Two-Tone
Engine: Inline-4, 2982 cc, dohc 16V, Commonrail Turbodiesel, 4-speed AT
Max power: 134 bhp @ 3400 rpm
Max torque: 221 lb ft @ 1200-2400 rpm
0-100 km/h (0-62mph): 12.9 sec.
Top Speed: 172 km/h (107 mph)
Fuel Mileage: 12.4 Km/L Overall
Price as tested: PhP 2,127,000.00
C! RATING 8.5/10
+Capacious, easy to pilot, can seat 11 people, versatile.
-4 audio speakers for 11 people and two headrest TV monitors, no rear camera, needs the 2.8-liter engine and 6-speed transmission of the new Innova, needs better LED headlights/fog lamps/rear light assemblies, needs considerably more sound (NVH) insulation.