If you want the ultimate in van reliability, this is it. Welcome to my Toyota Hiace review.
This review covers the KLH model code HiAce, sold in the UK between 2001 and 2012, with a particular focus on the 2004-2007 version. There were updates and restyles in 2004 and 2007, but the vans were essentially the same. 2004 saw the introduction of a more efficient 2.5 D-4D engine, while 2007 saw increased power outputs from the same engine.
Note this isn’t the same Hiace that was sold in Japan, although you’ll find the same body shape available to import as a Hiace Regius or Granvia. The UK/European market Hiace is a semi-bonneted van (SBV) in a nod to increased driver and passenger safety. Having a bonnet means the driver’s legs are further away from the front of the vehicle, improving safety in front end collisions. There is obviously a trade off in terms of reduced load space.
I owned one of these vans in SWB format for several years and covered 45,000 miles in that time, so I think I’m in a good position to comment on them. It commuted, was a low tech camper van, towed a 2 tonne trailer, collected firewood and building materials, helped 2 people move house and transported my motorbike.
Body and Chassis
The Hiace is available in short and long wheelbase options: In Toyota’s nomenclature, the SWB is known as the 280 and the LWB is known as the 300. Both wheelbases are available with a single lift up rear door (tailgate) or with twin rear doors hinged at the sides. There is a single sliding door on the left.
The load area dimensions are as follows:
|Model||Length (mm)||Width (mm)||Height (mm)||Load area volume (m3)|
Engine & Drivetrain
The engine is the 2KD-FTV 2.5 litre 4 cylinder D-4D common rail turbo diesel, available in 88 or 102 bhp states of tune. If this engine is treated well with regular oil and filter changes, plus the occasional timing belt, it will go on for a long long time. I’ve seen several examples still going strong with over 400,000 miles. The timing belt change interval is 100,000 miles.
This is best described as adequate, but at the same time refreshing in it’s simplicity. Manual windows and mirrors, no air conditioning (although this was available as an option on the higher spec. models).
On the plus side there is remote central locking, a built in (but removable) clipboard, remote fuel door release and my most favourite feature of all: the ‘idle up’ button. If you’re accustomed to using a brick or broom handle to rev your vehicle slightly in winter months to warm the engine up more quickly, this is the button for you…..because it revs the engine for you!
Another piece of technology I was surprised to find in the Hiace is a drive by wire throttle. It never went wrong, I was just surprised to see it!
Other equipment worth mentioning is a driver airbag and ABS. It can seat 3 people in the front, although the middle person won’t travel in huge comfort and only gets a lap belt.
Driving the Toyota Hiace
I found the driving position very good and a lot more comfortable than many cars I’ve driven. The seats aren’t the most supportive out there, but I think the upright driving position means this isn’t so much of an issue.
Cornering and road holding (in the dry) wasn’t bad for a van – better than I’d expected, probably helped by the rear wheel drive. I did manage to get the back end sliding on a wet road, and became much more reserved in my wet weather cornering after that.
I rarely used the full 1140 kg, 6.0 m3 load carrying ability of the Hiace, and when unladen or lightly laden you certainly feel plenty of bumps from the road.
For me this is the key weakness of the Hiace. The combination of a light load in the back, rear wheel drive and high pressure in the rear tyres makes for very poor grip in slippery conditions. I’m thinking of wet grass and snow in particular, and I got stuck on several occasions. Things can be improved a little by fitting winter tyres to the back, and also temporarily lowering the tyre pressure if/when you do get stuck.
The mirrors are nice and big but don’t have any blind spot functionality. I found this quite unnerving because as supplied there is a substantial blind spot. This isn’t an issue on the offside because you could look out of the window – not so on the nearside. So one of my first modifications was to fit some large blind spot mirrors.
This iteration of the Hiace definitely isn’t the most refined commercial vehicle. I found this most noticeable in the form of road and engine noise. I’d have liked more sound insulation if I was going to be driving a Hiace all day every day. Indeed that was one of the reasons I ended up selling it. Needing to cover more miles more often, along with making less use of the van functionality made me look for something else.
As a music lover, the noise also meant a head unit and speaker upgrade was required. There is space for 2 small speakers in the lower dashboard, but the speakers they could accommodate would never be big enough to give decent music reproduction over the engine noise at 70 mph. So the second modification was a pair of 6 x 9 speakers in the bulkhead between the cab and the load area.
KLH Toyota Hiace diesel running costs
Call me a geek if you will, but I keep complete records of the running costs of all my vehicles. These figures made for very pleasing reading in the case of the Hiace.
Here are some of the key figures from my Hiace ownership, based on 45,000 miles of driving in a variety of conditions. I will say that I rarely got anywhere near the maximum payload for the van, and only very occasionally towed anything with it.
Average miles per gallon = 32
Total running cost per mile = 28.6 pence. This includes fuel, insurance, tax, servicing, MOTs and depreciation.
The most pleasing figure for me was the (lack of) depreciation, which amounted to an eye-watering £10 in the course of my ownership. Seriously.
The second most pleasing figure was how little I had to spend on repairs. This was the most reliable vehicle I’ve ever owned by a long way. Apart from servicing and standard consumables (brake pads, tyres, batteries – it has 2) the only work required was: replacement of 2 front suspension ball joints, re-riveting an exhaust head shield and replacement of the differential stabiliser arm bush.
You can probably tell I really liked the Toyota Hiace, and took great pleasure in its rugged simplicity!
If you’re looking for a super reliable van, ready for almost everything your life and work might throw at it, I hope this has encouraged you to consider a Toyota Hiace. Unless you need to drive into London’s ULEZ, in which case this isn’t the van for you as it doesn’t meet the Euro 6 standard. Sorry!
Sales of this iteration of the Hiace ceased in 2012 and it was replaced with the Proace in 2013, which appears to be essentially a Citroen Dispatch wearing a Toyota badge. Hmmm.
At some point in the future I might import a Japanese version of the Hiace. Hopefully a petrol engine, automatic transmission and fancy stuff like air conditioning will make for an equally enjoyable and more refined ownership experience.