Toyota HiAce TD Auto

By: Matt Wood


The Toyota HiAce TD Auto pretty much qualifies as a light duty elder statesman in this market.

It’s the last forward control style van left on the Aussie market yet has shown the longevity, durability and tenacity of a mountain mule.

And despite the fact that it’s showing its age somewhat, it continues to dominate sales in the mid-sized van market.


Our long–wheel-base TD Auto had a load capacity of 6 cubic metres and could lug a load weighing 1,160kg. And it’ll tow a braked trailer load of 1200kg. A 3 litre 100kW/300Nm turbo-diesel moves the back wheels via a 4-speed auto.

A 118kW 2.7-litre petrol powerplant is also available.

There’s no mistaking the utilitarian nature of the HiAce from any angle. The big white bread box is functionality expressed in its most basic form. But it’s that unashamedly spartan approach that also lends the venerable Toyota a certain honesty.


Toyota -Hi Ace

It still gets a few mod-cons including a reverse camera, electronic stability control, hill start assist on manual models, a couple of air bags and brake assist.

You don’t so much climb into the HiAce as swing into it.

The forward control lay out of the Toyota means that the front wheels are parked under the driver’s seat.

This means that the rear-wheel-drive HiAce has an excellent turning circle.

However, it also means that you’ll have to take speed humps at a steady pace as you’ll  be bouncing down the road wearing your latte, and/or anything else you may have floating around the cockpit, if you don’t!


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Access to the load area is via a sliding door on the left hand side and through the lift up tailgate at the rear. Barn doors aren’t an option which limits forklift and pallet access.

It seems to be a Toyota thing, but the huge popularity of Toyota vehicles in Australia means that there’s a familiarity on getting behind the wheel of the HiAce.

It’s pretty basic but you don’t have to go hunting for anything. Basic stereo and Bluetooth functions are within thumbs reach on the steering wheel and cruise control is accessed via a stalk on the steering column.

A skinny console sits between the front seats for storage and is home to a couple of cup holders.

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There’s some storage dotted around the cabin but none of it is really big enough for everyday work items like clipboards and paper work.

I suspect most of this would end up on the passenger seat and consequently the floor during a real world shift. And the cup holders sit too far back on the console which makes for a twist and reach to get to your latte, provided you haven’t already thrown it all over the cabin at the last speed hump.

With the advent of new and well-priced competition in the mid-sized van segment, the HiAce is very much generationally lagging. Especially when you flick the ignition key.

This common-rail 3 litre oil-burner was also standard fare in the previous generation HiLux ute, it’s a coarse sounding, modestly performing, yet admittedly reliable unit.

The coarseness of the powerplant is only amplified in the HiAce as it has a whole van cargo bay to resonate though. A mesh cargo barrier is an option, but a bulkhead separating the load area and the cockpit is not.

The 4-speed auto, is a good performer, though, and the option of a torque converter auto isn’t as common in this part of the van market as you may think.

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Around town the HiAce is nimble enough and really this is the best environment for it. It’s easy to park, visibility is good and the chatter of the diesel donk isn’t too intrusive.

The only fly in the ointment in this role is the uneasy feeling that there’s little between you and the outside world in the advent of a frontal accident.

While the Toyota does have some safety kit, your feet are effectively just behind the front bumper. It’s a little unnerving.

On the open road, the HiAce is loud whether empty or loaded.

Though a lack of load in the back only amplifies the drivetrain rumble and road noise. The best kind of load for the HiAce would be a load of mattresses and bedding. Or maybe some egg cartons.


The meat and potatoes Toyota does, however, have an enviable reputation for reliability and durability.

Yet in terms of comfort and performance it’s starting to feel more than a bit long in the tooth.

Our HiAce LWB TD Auto had a list price of $38,490 and comes with a 3-year 100,000km warranty.


Engine: 3.0-litre turbo-diesel

Power: 100kW/300Nm

Transmission: 4-speed automatic

Capacity: 6 cubic metres

Payload: 1,160kg


Picking a winner

If space isn’t your final frontier then it’s hard to go past the iLoad as a business proposition.

The availability of a torque converter auto widens the appeal of the Hyundai for fleet customers, and what it lacks in flair it makes up for in understated functionality.

Image aside, it really is an enjoyable little van to drive.

The Toyota HiAce is a perplexing vehicle, it really does feel ancient in comparison to the others.

Yet it remains the biggest selling van in this market segment, with the iLoad a close second.

I can only put this down to the Toyota’s image of durability and reliability as it really is outclassed by virtually all others from behind the wheel.

Trying to pick the better van between the Transit and the Trafic, however, is a tougher ask.

It’s like trying to decide which is the healthiest glazed donut.

Both vehicles are virtually neck a neck on drivability and appointments.

The Transit gets brownie points on the standard safety kit front.

But from a business perspective the Renault has a pretty attractive warranty 200,000km over three years versus Ford’s 100,000km over the same period.

Plus Renault’s claimed fuel figures are marginally better that the Ford’s, 6.2l/100km versus Ford’s 7.1l/100km.

Both the Ford and the Renault are seriously hamstrung by the lack of a full automatic transmission.

While Europe’s preference for stick shift vehicles remains, it’s not likely that we’ll see an auto in either of these vans anytime soon. Both manual transmissions, however, are excellent to operate.

The iLoad’s long warranty and capped price servicing regime also make it an attractive proposition. Most commercial operators however, will burn up warranty kilometres before they reach the 5-year warranty expiration. And it’s a great van to operate.

If you can handle the lack of space in the back and are after an auto this is your machine.

A long wheelbase iLoad, if it existed, would be a huge boon to Hyundai locally. But if you want more space then I’d recommend reacquainting yourself with a gearstick.

Out of this bunch, both the Transit and the Trafic are excellent vans to drive with levels of equipment, comfort and safety equivalent to most family cars.


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