Toyota’s 2019 HiAce SLWB is a big step forward for a van that was already leading the pack.
I’ll be honest, before doing this review it had been a while since I’d been in a HiAce, and when I thought back to my last experience as I climbed into the 2019 model, I was overwhelmed by the improvements, especially on the safety and comfort aspects. The semi-bonnet design, 2019 ANCAP 5-star rating and inclusion of the Toyota Safety Sense¹ range of features which are designed to protect and assist drivers while on the road, was great to see. The sensation of room and comfort in the driver’s seat was impressive and the SLWB (super long wheelbase) version we tested felt like a cocoon of comfort and safety – albeit a 9.3-cubic-metre cocoon, but I still felt very protected in the van.
The more familiar I became with the safety features, the more I enjoyed the driving experience.
First up I wanted to share my experience driving this huge van.
9.3 cubic metres²,³ is an impressive volume for any vehicle on the road, and for some without the driving experience of a van of this size the thought of navigating certain areas might be a little intimidating. But I was very impressed to feel it was much like driving a significantly smaller vehicle. It cornered well and has an outstanding turning circle for its size. There was more than enough ‘go’ to overtake if required, and the automatic transmission felt smooth, well-balanced and natural.
After just five short minutes in the Toyota HiAce SLWB I was enjoying the driving experience.
The more I started looking at the vast cargo area the more I found myself daydreaming of where I could fit a bed, table, surfboard and storage, and how I could spend 6 months on the road.
If only. But back to reality.
Right, left and centre
From a tradie’s perspective, the HiAce SLWB is going to be a game-changer purely because of its amazing size and flexibility, especially the loading and unloading access.
To test this out we headed down to see my good mate Jay Jay from Northshore Timbers at Warriewood. Jay Jay even told me what time the BBQ was on and fed the WTW team, as well as loading an Australian-sized pallet straight in through the side door. Both side doors and rear tailgate are capable of accommodating Australian-sized pallets. Due to the rear tailgate only opening approximately 90 degrees, you’ll need the overlength forks to load pallets. This limits the forklift from getting too close to the rear tailgate when loading. But all the same, having both the side- and rear-tailgate option is impressive.
We kept on piling material into the van – roles of insulation, large timber sections, a pallet of concrete and a host of other items, and everyone at Northshore Timbers was very impressed with its capabilities.
After getting used to the feel and comfort of the HiAce it was time to check out some of the technology and safety features.
I’m a die-hard Apple user, and the inclusion on the All-New 2019 HiAce of Apple CarPlay®4,6 and its massive list of features are very welcome inclusions across the entire HiAce range, and of course Android Auto™5,6 compatibility is also available. Another great safety feature was Lane Departure Alert (LDA)1 which is designed to inform you when you leave your lane if the indicator is not activated.
The steering wheel contains the function-ality needed to control making phone calls, audio, cruise control and voice control without having to take your hands off the steering wheel and to help keep your eyes on the road.
Behind the steering wheel sits the 4.2″ Multi Informational Display (MID), which clearly shows some great info on your trip, including fuel consumption, distance travelled and outside temperature, just to name a few.
I really wasn’t expecting to enjoy the HiAce as much as I did, and for a pro tradie looking for serious tool storage and transport from site to site, along with massive material-carrying capabilities, the HiAce ticks a lot of boxes. If I was a sparky, plumber or builder who loads plenty of tools and long materials every day – like pipes, conduits, large ladders and other oversized items – I would be taking the HiAce for a test drive for sure.
Personally, I’ve got a large number of tradie mates who have stepped away from the traditional work ute and gone down the road of a van due to the larger carrying capacity. Not a single one of them has regretted the change.
There’s no doubt having the engine sit forward gives improved driver comfort and overall stability of the vehicle, also adding to this experience is the view from the driver’s seat. It’s a large and light-filled interior with impressive visibility around the van.
I was a little nervous when I pulled into the local shopping centre. I hadn’t tested the turning circle or even tried to park it at that stage, but any concerns I had were instantly gone when I realised just how nimble the steering was. Then the digital rear-view camera² and reversing camera and sensors faultlessly helped guide the vehicle into the perfect park on my first attempt. It is the easiest larger vehicle I’ve ever driven by a country mile.
For tradies looking to take their HiAce to the next level and create the ultimate tradie van, Toyota has an awesome range of accessories (sold separately) to kit out the HiAce and maximise tradie efficiencies. Things like the internal ladder rack holder (ladder sold separately) make it so easy to transport a piece of equipment that’s often a real pain to secure in a cargo space, or takes valuable time to get on and off roofracks. Toyota obviously understands the needs of real-world tradespeople. Another great real-world feature are internal wall protectors. They can help save a heap of internal cosmetic damage that can seriously devalue what’s otherwise a perfectly sound and well-maintained vehicle.
The Courier Pack includes reversing buzzer, rear technician step, all-weather floor mats, first-aid kit, interior wall protectors, dash camera and canvas seat covers.
The Exterior Protection Pack includes headlamp covers, door-handle protection film, left and right weather shields, alloy nudge bar and bonnet protector.
It’s pretty safe to say the 2019 Toyota HiAce SLWB was a big hit with WTW. That’s always going to be the result when you listen to what tradies are asking for and then offer exactly that. Power, safety, comfort, size and storage volume are what tradies have been asking for, and we are more than happy to say Toyota has delivered.