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The Toyota Hiace Van
The Toyota Hiace Van first came out in 1967 and we are on the fifth generation now. It is a very popular vehicle to import to East Africa. In Kenya, in Tanzania, and in Uganda the Hiace is always in the top 10 or so of vehicles that customers want to buy from the Japanese car auctions.
Why? Because the Hiace is a reliable workhorse. Tough and robust, it will carry a lot, and I mean hundreds of kilograms, of goods. (If you are hauling goods up to around 600kgs or so, the 2.7 liter petrol engine is a good choice, but if you are always carrying around 1,000kgs of cargo, it may be best to choose the 3.0 liter turbo Diesel engine.)
The Toyota Hiace is a very long lived vehicle and, with just regular maintenance, will give you 250,000kms of service with no question; and if you take care of it you’ll get way over that 250,000kms. (And this is good because some parts can be a bit pricy.)
For a small businessman who has a lot to carry or deliver, the Hiace Van is it. It has lots of interior space and basically good power. All the engine options are compact inline four cylinder units. You can have a 2,000cc or 2,700cc petrol engine, or, if you need more low-end torque for heavy loads and rough roads, there is a 2,500cc turbo Diesel and a 3,000 liter turbo Diesel.
Our company president, Scott Bower ( [email protected] ), was recently in Kenya meeting with our Kenya Manager, Mel Odour ( [email protected] ) and he noted that, while the roads in Kenya are very good in many places, there are still many miles of unpaved roads in the countryside. Very beautiful, but sometimes rough.
And this is where the Toyota Hiace shines because it’s basically a bit old fashioned: It’s got drum brakes at the rear (very good for when you may have to go axel-deep in a muddy puddle), and it’s got a tough suspension that is easy to access and repair without too many special tools. The Hiace maneuvers well and the cargo bay is well fitted out with tough rubber mats and anchor points to tie down the load.
So it’s tough and simple, yes, but the driving cabin is comfortable and can double as your travelling office. The center seat can fold down and you get a handy table top to work on!
(My personal favorite feature is the specially shaped holding place in the door pocket for a bottle of water.)
From when it first came out in 1967, the Toyota Hiace has always used the cab-over layout with the engine between the front seats to maximize interior space. The newest fifth generation Hiace keeps this same basic layout but the engine has been moved forward a bit to increase interior space even more, and the gear shift has been moved from the floor to the dashboard to improve cabin space. Nice little improvements. And the body, which uses a Y-frame chassis, has improved crash worthiness and is safer in a prang than earlier models.
Although it’s big on the inside, the Hiace is not too wide on the outside: 1,695mm to 1,880mm depending on the model, and it’s not too heavy either: 1,700kgs to 2,100kgs (again depending on the model). The fifth gen which started in 2004 comes with a fairly long wheel base of 2,570mm, and you get a choice of a 4-speed automatic or a 5-speed manual transmission. It is also possible to get 4WD.