Nov 10, 2023

Toyota HiAce 2023 Review

Barn doors are seen by many as essential items on a work van – not just by forklift operators – but they’ve been absent on the Toyota HiAce for many years. Now, Toyota has moved to correct that anomaly, though not without asking for a premium over the equivalent tailgated version amid a fresh round of price hikes across the HiAce range. That leaves a slightly bitter taste from what is otherwise a sweet pill to swallow with Toyota’s long-wheelbase mid-size van, which impresses on many levels.

As with any number of model lines from almost any brand you’d care to name these days, the 2023 Toyota HiAce is steadily rising in price as a direct result of our inflationary times – and without a specification upgrade that softens the blow.

Since pricing for the upgraded HiAce was announced in August last year, the tradies’ favourite van has copped a $2360 increase across the range.

That means the regular LWB van now starts from $47,120 plus on-road costs – a rise of $4980 since its launch in 2019 (if you really want to study the van’s upward trajectory) – with auto adding $2000 and the auto-only long-wheelbase van with rear barn doors and two sliding doors on either side a further $750 up the ladder, priced from $49,870 plus ORCs.

There’s a super-long-wheelbase (SLWB) option with barn doors from $58,430 plus ORCs, but no crew van with the new split rear-end.

HiAce is the biggest-selling van in Australia but has plenty of competition and its market share has eroded this year as Toyota struggles with supply from its production plants.

Amazingly, barn doors haven’t been seen on HiAce for about two decades. They’re found on rival vans and bring advantages in tight spaces and with forklift loading. They’re easy to open and close, although they do reduce rearward vision.

So it’s about time they turned up again on HiAce. Among its major rivals, the Ford Transit Custom LWB fits them standard (from $52,390 plus ORCs), Hyundai Staria Load has them for no extra cost (from $46,240 plus ORCs), while the far more affordable LDV G10 offers them for an extra $600 on the auto-equipped diesel (from $39,537 drive-away); the G10 oiler also has a cheaper manual gearbox option.

Service intervals are a typically Toyota-short six months/10,000km, costing $260 a pop up to 70,000km, but after that the prices head north. At 80,000km, it’s currently $771, at 100K it’s $436, 120K is asking $961, and so on…

So, is the premium $50K-plus proposition for the HiAce worth it? Let’s do some more digging…

All 2023 Toyota HiAce work vans are fitted with 16-inch steel wheels, a full-size spare tyre, halogen headlights with dusk sensors and auto high beam, daytime running lights and dual sliding doors on each side.

As mentioned, the barn door option adds $750 over the standard single tailgate. The vertically split doors open 90 degrees with a soft lock and can be folded back to 180 degrees. They also have dual rear wipers on the LWB models.

The front wipers have variable intermittent control, but no auto function, while both electric front windows have auto up/down, which is good.

A LWB GL pack is available for an extra $1000 and brings body-coloured paint for the door handles and front/rear bumpers, chrome garnish front and rear, fog lamps (filling the large blank slots at the front-end of the van you see here) and an auto-dimming digital rear-view mirror.

The two-seater compartment up front includes rubber floor mats, fabric seat upholstery and a leather-accented multi-function steering wheel. With the latest upgrade, electric lumbar support is also provided for the driver.

You get air-conditioning fitted standard (not the climate control type) and cruise control, too, which is easily managed via steering wheel buttons but doesn’t have ‘active’ functionality such as reducing speed when approaching a slower vehicle.

The 2023 Toyota HiAce carries a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating based on testing conducted in 2019 – a time when the protocols weren’t quite as tough as they are today, but still represents a strong result for a commercial van.

A separate study from ANCAP in 2020 that compared driver assist safety tech among the leading commercial vans also rated HiAce at the top of its class, alongside the Ford Transit.

That’s a tick not only for the array of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) fitted standard on HiAce, but also how well they operate.

We’re talking here about autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and (daytime) cyclist detection, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, road sign assist, lane departure warning/brake assist and a reversing camera that’s supported by front and rear parking sensors.

And we can attest to most of those systems working well out on the road, with the caveat that some systems appear to be calibrated for when there’s a decent load on board.

Unladen, the lane assist system often sees the HiAce braking hard and lurching back towards centre of the lane in what feels like an overcorrection when the system thinks you’re drifting towards the edge. Yowzers.

The auto high beam on/off switch is on the lower dash and, as we’ve seen across a variety of vehicles, the system is slow to dip the lights in built-up areas, when you’re approaching other vehicles or when they’re coming at you. It pays to always be ready to manually override the system.

It’s a shame there’s no active cruise control system for a work vehicle like this, or a 360-degree camera to help with manoeuvring the 5265mm-long van, but at least the centre dash screen display is nice and clear and the reversing camera includes guidelines. The parking sensors also have the option to ‘mute temporarily’ which is handy.

The traffic sign recognition system can’t discern school zones.

In the event of a crash, there’s seven airbags protecting the two occupants, which is reassuring, but when the HiAce is bought as a blank canvass there’s no cargo barrier/bulkhead to prevent the load intermingling with people, so that’s a worthwhile accessory to have fitted.

The 2023 Toyota HiAce has the basics covered with its standard infotainment tech, which is centred around an 8.0-inch colour touch-screen with (wired) Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring, Bluetooth connectivity and satellite navigation.

Supporting the process is a single USB-A port and a 12V outlet underneath the high-mounted transmission lever (the auxiliary jack that was previously there has been quietly deleted; it really should’ve been replaced by another USB slot), plus a second dashtop 12V barrel in the bottle recess left of the dash screen.

The tech highlight of the HiAce is the integration of Toyota Connected Services (TCS), which combines with the myToyota Connect app to enable you to receive vehicle information away from the van, such as odo and trip details, fuel level, vehicle location and access to the owner’s manual.

TCS also includes stolen vehicle tracking, automatic collision notification (ACN) and an SOS emergency call you can make from inside the van.

The first three years are complimentary, but after that you’ll pay $4.95 a month to access the service (today’s rates). Happily, the safety-related bits (ACN, SOS, recall notices, etc) will remain free.

The 2023 Toyota HiAce is powered by the familiar 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine (codenamed 1GD-FTV) that’s on duty in the top-selling HiLux ute.

Driving the rear wheels via a six-speed automatic as seen here, the 2.8-litre in HiAce delivers 130kW at 3400rpm and 450Nm of torque from 1600-2400rpm.

A six-speed manual is also available in the LWB van (though not with barn doors), producing the same power but a lower 420Nm (from 1400-2600rpm).

Those outputs differ slightly from the HiLux, which offers 150kW and either 500Nm or 420Nm (auto/manual).

Claimed combined-cycle fuel economy for the auto-equipped 2023 Toyota HiAce with barn doors is 8.2L/100km, up 0.2L/100km compared to the equivalent tailgated version.

This is mainly due to the extra weight brought with the barn doors, adding 20kg to tip the scales at 2245kg.

On the highway, Toyota claims 7.6L/100km, while on the city cycle, where most medium-size work vans such as HiAce live out their lives, the mileage claim increases to 9.2L/100km.

With a 70-litre fuel tank, that translates to a theoretical 761-921km between refills, depending on your work route and loads, with an average distance of 854km.

Our 250km drive included mixed conditions but found the HiAce spending the bulk of its time on arterial roads and country highways with only light loads on board, delivering a very good 8.9L/100km.

You can expect double-digit average economy if you spend at least half your time running around the suburbs, even with standard fitment of a fuel-saving automatic engine idle-stop system.

Out on the road, the 2023 Toyota HiAce performs all tasks required of it with a minimum of fuss.

Driving either unladen or with a relatively light load, the 2.8-litre turbo-diesel engine returns the favour with a strong response whenever asked, aided by relatively smooth and nicely timed shifts from the auto transmission.

The engine spins at a tick under 1600rpm in top gear at 100km/h, so it’s close to the entry point of its maximum pulling power whenever an overtaking move presents itself and a generous mid-range sees the task completed with ease.

You never feel the need to send the tacho needle beyond the 3400rpm peak power point, and while we could always ask for more from Toyota – such as output parity with HiLux, and mild-hybrid assist that’s also coming for the ute – the diesel in this application, with these loads, is enough.

Ditto for the braking performance, the HiAce fitted standard with ventilated discs at all four corners, while the ride proved to be comfortable whether it had 600kg (estimated) loaded in, or not. Adding extra kilos does help settle the rear-end down on the long-wheelbase van, but the front strut/rear live-axle suspension’s absorbency and comfort when unladen across B-grade city and country roads, combined with good control, is especially welcome.

The halogen headlights are less impressive and the noise generated in an open setting like this one, with no bulkhead separating occupants from cargo, is always intrusive – especially at high speeds and on wet and gravel roads.

The steering its light and the 11m turning circle tight enough for easy U-turns in the suburbs, while narrower areas like city lanes and car parks present few problems but could reduce that to next-to-none with a surround-view camera.

We’ve run the tape measure over the barn-doored 2023 Toyota HiAce to give you an accurate picture of what you’re dealing with here in blank-canvas form.

In overall terms, the LWB van measures 5265mm long, 1950mm wide and 1990mm high, resting on a 3210mm wheelbase. The load area can hold 6.2 cubic metres.

Open the barn doors and the load height from ground to floor level is 610mm. Opening width at the doors is 1497mm and height 1340mm.

Once inside, floor-to-ceiling height is the same but maximum load width increases to 1760mm. The distance to the back seats is up to 2700mm, but the official load length is 2530mm. Floor width between the wheel-arches is 1268mm, which accommodates the standard Australian pallet (1165x1165mm) and Euro pallet (1200x800m). Length and height intrusion of each wheel-arch is 850/250mm.

From the two sliding side doors there’s a 370mm step up, then another 240mm to the cargo floor. At this point, the floor width tapers in to 1330mm. With the door open, there’s 1110mm width for loading.

In particular, barn doors simplify forklift loading. They require minimal effort to open and close but do restrict rearward vision for the driver. They can be prone to being caught by gusts of wind, but don’t fold back against the bodywork, stopping at the 180-degree mark. You can fix them into place at the 90-degree point.

We’d like to see a step integrated into the rear bumper to help with access to roof racks.

The sliding doors are also lightweight and easy to use, remaining open even on a downhill slope, as you’d expect (but can’t always assume that’ll be the case). The step on the left-hand side has attachment points for the tool kit and jack.

The steel floor is ribbed, includes eight drainage plugs and six tie-down latches. There’s some cheap fibreboard panelling and two cabin lights in the cargo area, but it’s really up to you to customise.

The build quality is up to Toyota’s high standards, but a flexible membrane that’s clearly applied by hand between the floor and wheel-arches in tight spots near the sliding doors looks to have been hastily done, leaving an unsightly gap on one side of our test car. We tipped water down it and the seal looked okay, but each vehicle will be different.

Gross vehicle mass (GVM) for the LWB HiAce van is 3300kg, while gross combined mass (GCM) for this auto-equipped, barn-door model is 4800kg. Maximum towing capacity is 1500kg, down to 400kg without trailer brakes.

Climbing up into the 2023 Toyota HiAce is a simple enough affair, even though floor level is high at 620mm from the ground. The front door openings are wide, there’s a step at 320mm and grab handles on the front A-pillar and at the centre mark above the door opening.

You’re perched up high at about 970mm off the ground (depending on the seat position) and provided with decent visibility with the aid of front quarter window panels, low sills, large exterior mirrors and a reversing camera.

There’s still no escaping the challenges that come with driving a blind van, with patience and even some guesswork required at certain intersections, such as those needing a 45-degree right-hand turn.

The front seats are heavily cushioned and prove comfortable over long distances. The driver’s seat adjusts manually in all directions, including full-seat height adjustment via a ratchet-style lever, while the electric lumbar support is a welcome new addition. A wide (570mm) sun blind is appreciated too.

The steering wheel adjusts for reach and rake, while the pedal and footrest position encourages you to sit bolt upright. There’s plenty of room in every direction and all controls are pretty basic and easily mastered.

Ergonomics are good, as seen with the high-mounted transmission lever, important switchgear close to hand and the ability to change driver assist system settings via the steering wheel. The climate controls are refreshingly old-school, while a heater idle-up button can boost cabin temperature in cold conditions when the van is stationary (at the expense of fuel economy, of course).

The instrument panel could do with a larger central LCD display, but at least you can set it to show a digital speedo.

Storage facilities include an abundance of bottle holders, large door bins, a lockable glovebox, a massive lidded centre console box (260mm deep), a large shallow tray between the seats at floor level and some room under the front seats for stashing away smaller items.

There are cheaper options out there and some closely matched competitors to dissuade you from buying the 2023 Toyota HiAce, but the long-overdue inclusion of barn doors provides another reason for swinging buyers to stick with the popular long-wheelbase medium-size van.

Despite a fresh round of price hikes, the HiAce isn’t an outlier in class and, if anything, remains an excellent all-rounder with its dependable performance, good economy, comfortable ride, solid road manners, high safety credentials and practical cabin and cargo layout.

We also canvassed the opinion of an experienced independent mechanic, and the HiAce, now four years into its sixth generation, was rated highly for its general reliability. Residual values are strong, too.

That’s enough for us to see the HiAce as a worthy asset purchase for your business.

2023 Toyota HiAce LWB Barn Door Van at a glance:Price: $49,870 (plus on-road costs)Available: NowEngine: 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-dieselOutput: 130kW/450NmTransmission: Six-speed automaticFuel: 8.2L/100km (ADR Combined)CO2: 214g/km (ADR Combined)Safety rating: Five-star (ANCAP 2019)

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2023 Toyota HiAce LWB Barn Door Van at a glance:Price:Available:Engine:Output:Transmission:Fuel:CO2:Safety rating: