Good Oil: Toyota’s tinier van hiding in plain sight
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Toyota commercial vehicles are so ubiquitous they are the dictionary definition of “street furniture”. You didn’t notice that Hiace because it was parked behind all those other Hiaces.
But this year the Japanese behemoth has thrown the spotlight on its van offerings in a big way, as it rolls out a generational update on the perennial pallet-mover.
Van updates don’t come about all that often. It’s a box with some seats and an engine up front; there isn’t much to update. So when there is an update, generally it’s something your average manufacturer makes a big deal about.
And this update to the Hiace is the most significant in its long history. It gets a new front end, shifting the engine from under the driver and front passenger seats to ahead of the driver in a more crash-friendly (is that a phrase?) layout. When Mitsubishi banished the similarly blueprinted L300 van to the history books, the current Hiace remained the only vehicle of its type to have the driver perched atop the engine. The next-gen load-lugger brings the Hiace into the current era of motoring.
So, all good then. Carry on with your courier deliveries.
But wait; there is another chapter to this tale ... although the jury’s out on whether we will see it here in New Zealand.
Toyota has just unveiled a new Proace City Van for — at this stage at least — the European market. It’s a smaller, low-slung, car-based delivery van that will rival the likes of the Renault Kangoo and Volkswagen Caddy. Amazingly, Toyota has never played in this field on an international scale before. Its Hiace has proven so effective at doing everything, it has never needed to.
In Europe, the Proace will be offered in short and long wheelbases (load volumes of 3300 and 3900 litres respectively) and with petrol or diesel engines. Both models will have a maximum payload of 1000kg.
The little van should have plenty of appeal; urban compactness and the reliability of a familiar badge. Although Kiwis do already have access to a similarly shaped cargo-carrier in the form of the used import (and excellently named) Toyota Probox.
With an unapologetically square silhouette and a wheel at each corner, the Probox does what it says on the label. It’s utterly utilitarian, but somehow charming in its humbleness at the same time. Google up an image; much like the Hiace, you’ll instantly recognise it. But, you’ve probably never actively noticed one all the same.