The Toyota Hiace is one of the industry’s most reliable and prominent workhorses. In markets where large vans are a common deal, one will find the Hiace around every nook and corner. However, India is not exactly the most sought-after market for such vehicles, especially those made by foreign brands. Of course, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a market for one at all. A few locally-made minivans are plying around, though these are relatively affordable. Toyota has thus become curious and has now introduced the Hiace, a luxury minivan in India. Available in just one trim level, the 14-seater version of the Hiace has come as a Completely Built Unit (CBU). For now, only 50 units have been imported.
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Priced at Rs 55 Lakh (ex-showroom, India), the Toyota Hiace is definitely not meant to be an affordable commuter van. And when you compare it to some of its logically-priced minibus rivals, the Hiace is currently a costly purchase. Having said that, the Japanese automaker seems to be just testing the waters, so to speak. Hence it probably doesn’t make much sense for it to bring the best and latest iteration of the Hiace to India, at least not for the time being. The Hiace on offer for buyers is the previous-gen model, first introduced way back in 2004. Meanwhile, the latest iteration has been on sale in other markets since 2019.
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Moreover, Toyota will only be retailing one variant of the Hiace in India – the 14-seater GL trim. As for the color options, that too is restricted to just two shades – White and Silver. Clearly, customization isn’t the core philosophy here, and that is understandable. This being a commuter van, the exterior design is not particularly exciting – even less so for this older-gen model. As most of these large vans, the front of the Toyota Hiace features a flat-ish yet broad face. There are large rectangular halogen headlamps flanking the equally-large and imposing grille, which is chrome-plated for some added appeal. The raked windscreen leads us to the side profile of the Hiace. Here you will notice the Hiace’s characteristic tall roofline and its rather small steel wheels. Yep, there are no fancy alloy wheels on the GL trim.
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At the back, the Hiace looks just as vanilla as the front. The only things to take note of here are the flat fascia, a small chrome bar below the Toyota badge, and slender vertically-arranged tail lamps. Like most large commuter vans of this nature, entry into the main cabin of the Toyota Hiace is only possible from one side. Once onboard, occupants can sit in one of 12 seats that occupy four rows in all. Of course, the front of the cabin has two more seats – one for the driver and one for the co-driver. As you can imagine, the interior of the Hiace is all about utmost practicality and sensible ergonomics. There are loads of cubbies and storage bins dotted throughout this cabin, with air vents for every row of seating.
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The Hiace’s seats (except for the last row) can be reclined up to a degree and are pretty comfortable. The large glass area means occupants won’t feel too hemmed-in over journeys, whilst the high roof also helps relieve claustrophobia. However, the knee room at the last row is limited, and not all of the windows open. And though there is plenty of storage areas in the cabin, the Hiace’s actual boot capacity is quite limited. Of course, if you fold away the rear seats, there is a lot of space liberated.
Moreover, there is no dearth of cheap and scratchy plastic in this interior, and the GL trim doesn’t offer much in the way of modern features. There is manual air-conditioning, front power windows, a pre-historic 2-DIN audio system with USB connectivity and a CD player, and fabric seat upholstery.
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On the safety front, this older-gen model of the Toyota Hiace doesn’t possess the best crash rating. However, it does get ABS with EBD, dual front airbags, a collapsible steering column, and a rear windscreen defogger. The India-spec Hiace is powered by a 2.8-liter four-cylinder diesel engine that makes 149hp and 300Nm of torque, and it comes mated to a 6-speed automatic gearbox. Overall, the Hiace is generally meant for those in the tourism and hospitality industry. It offers a spacious and relatively comfortable cabin along with Toyota’s legendary reliability record and brand recognition.
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