If there is one product in the Toyota lineup that can last a decade without major changes, it has to be the Toyota Hiace. First introduced in 2005, the Hiace soldiered on for a decade without major changes apart from very minor nips and tucks.
Late last year however, the veteran of the range received major surgery with Toyota giving it a new heart. When we say new, we mean the familiar 3.0 liter, D4D turbodiesel that powered Fortuners and Hiluxes for a decade. Still, we took one out for a spin to see if it the changes level up the Hiace to a different kind of van.
One look and you'll be forgiven if you mistake the 2016 model for a 2006. Granted, it received a new grill back in 2014, as well as a reshaped front bumper and redesigned wheels. So how does one differentiate the 2016 from a 2014? Take a look at the tail lights and you'll see “fins” on them, perhaps to aid aerodynamic efficiency. Upright and boxy, the shape of the Hiace Grandia may be familiar and nondescript but it does maximize interior room, the main purpose of a large van.
Speaking of interior room, the Hiace Grandia simply offers acres of it. It offers four rows of seats that can accommodate up to 11 passengers and if you need more, you may need to consider a Coaster. Up in front, you are perched high with a commanding view of the road. Also, new this year is an average and real time fuel economy meter. No more guessing how much fuel you use on a trip.
Of course, the main highlight of the Grandia is not the driving experience. This van is all about its rear passengers. The second row consists of two, softly padded captain's chairs while the third row is split with a bench seat for two on the right side and a single seat on the left. Like the second row, its cushions are soft and can be reclined for comfort. I was expecting the fourth row to be cramped but sitting there wasn't bad at all. There's a little less legroom than the second and third row but it will be enough for those below 5'8”. Seat cushions weren't bad too although in terms of hip and shoulder room, it might be a squeeze for four. Still, the Hiace Super Grandia is a pleasant place to kick back and relax, especially in the second and third row.
If there is one point that needs improvement in the Super Grandia, it would have to be the stowage of the fourth row seats. To fold, one must remove the head rests just so the third row occupants don't have to sit too upright. Lifting up the seats was another chore as these were rather heavy. I do hope the next generation Hiace comes with the spring loaded mechanism used in the Innova and Fortuner.
As mentioned above, the Hiace Super Grandia now comes with a 3.0 liter D4-D turbodiesel lifted from the previous generation Fortuner and Hilux. However, don't expect to get off the lights like the old Fortuner did. For the Grandia, it is detuned, producing 136 PS and 300 Nm of torque. It's down by 27 PS from the previous generation Hilux and Fortuner but a healthy 34 horsepower gain from the old 2.5 liter unit. The 3.0 also gets an additional 40 Nm of torque from the old model.
So how does the extra power feel like on the road? For starters, the Super Grandia no longer huffs and puffs to get to 60 km/h. There is a lot less pedal movement involved and it sustains speeds far easier than before. It's rather vocal though, as it still uses the old 1KD motor but overall, it's a welcome boost especially when carrying passengers on board. From a passenger's point however, it sounds more hushed but you still hear a muffled clatter and the only hint that it got a more powerful engine would be the background appearing to move faster.
When driving a Grandia, there are two things to be wary about: height and width. Taller than the Commuter, one has to take note of vertical clearance signs in malls and multi-level car parks. While turning radius is good for such a large vehicle, its width takes some getting used to. Initially unnerving at first but you (or your driver) will eventually get used to it.
Sitting in front, road imperfections are transferred straight to your body but it settles down when you sit at the back. You feel isolated from the road with only a slight thud reminding the passengers that they are indeed passing through rough roads. However, some may find the ride a bit too floaty, wallowing after hitting bumps. Perhaps an extra layer of sound insulation a more controlled ride would truly make this a (rather large) cocoon of comfort.
With the new engine, the Hiace posts decent fuel economy. Owners of the old 2.5 liter reported 6 kilometers per liter in the city but with a better power to weight ration, economy has improved to 7.2 km/l in around town. On the highway, we got 12.3 km/l.
So has the new engine breathed life into the Super Grandia? In some ways, yes. There is more confidence in overtaking and fuel economy has improved. The rest of the package is unchanged but that perhaps is a good thing as this van has always had good feedback from owners in terms of comfort. Perhaps its no wonder then that the Hiace Super Grandia is still the de facto king of plush people movers. The new Super Grandia isn't cheap but at Php 2,105,000, what you are paying for here is comfort, convenience and versatility, as well as a bit of luxury. Are people willing to shell out that much for everything it has to offer? Just take a look at our roads and the answer would be a definite yes.