With Ford holding the reins of the ute market since about 2014, it was always going to be a case of when – not if – Toyota NZ would deliver a model to compete.
The arrival of its fifth series in 2019, sees the hardy workhorse being radically reworked for the next decade.
Already incredibly popular in New Zealand, the Hiace is the country’s 11th most popular vehicle for overall sales and captures around 40% of all van sales each year. The latest incarnation must be high on the wish-list for vegetable growers or horticulturalists with product to transport, especially those who head out on the weekend to add value at farmers markets.
Offered in five variations, with two body sizes and two body types, our ride for a week in early December, was the ZX, four door model. It certainly raised the eyebrows of the domestic manager, who was more used to seeing a stream of SUV’s or utes on the driveway.
Fitted with the well-known 1GD-2.8 litre turbo diesel – as used in the ubiquitous Hilux – the powerplant pushes out 130Kw, up 30Kw on the previous series. This comes alongside a torque output that is 50% more at 450Nm – mated to a six-speed auto transmission.
The result is a drive that is brisk by any standards, that belies the size of the vehicle and – in many cases – results in more compact vehicles being left for dead in a traffic light drag race. And, let’s be clear, size is what the ZX is about. Overall dimensions see a length of 5265mm— up 570mm on the previous version – an increased body width of 1950mm, a height of 1990mm and a payload of 1170 kg.
That all adds up to an integral load space of 9300 litres, allowing a load length of 3395mm, 1775mm width over the wheel arches and 1610mm load height – making the Hiace ZX truly cavernous.
The layout offers a semi-bonnet front-end, allowing the engine and front wheels to be located forward of the front seats, meaning there’s more comfort, easier access, less cabin noise and a lot of steel up front to protect the occupants in a forward impact- confirmed with a 5-star ANCAP safety rating.
Offering an elevated driving position, all sizes are accommodated with a height adjustable seat, allowing excellent forward and lateral visibility and complimented by the rear side windows and dual-zone, rear -view mirrors.
This latest Hiace also features the latest developments in driver safety. It comes with the company’s Safety Sense Suite and delivery high-end functions like autonomous emergency braking, lane departure alert with a vehicle sway warning, road sign assist and automated high beam control. Add in trailer sway control, rear cross traffic alerts, reversing camera and front and rear parking sensors and you’ll see the Hiace is particularly well equipped – a reassurance given this vehicle is nearly 20 feet long.
In the cabin, the controls fall easily to hand with a logical layout, typical of Toyota’s design strategy, with a 7-inch touchscreen audio unit front and centre, that covers areas such as Satnav, blue tooth and voice recognition.
The Hiace offers many options, given that the load space is so voluminous – lending itself to pure transport duties or configured to meet individual requirements.