Text and photos by Kap Maceda Aguila
CONFIRMING the veracity of the buzz leading to the much-awaited launch of its new vehicle, Toyota Motor Philippines (TMP) presented the all-new iteration of its popular van nameplate. Unveiled on Feb. 18 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Taguig City was the sixth-generation Toyota Hiace.
The model was presented by TMP officials led by vice-chairman Alfred V. Ty and Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) executives.
“We… are honored to host the world premiere of the all-new Hiace,” said TMP president Satoru Suzuki in a speech. “For the first time, the world’s eyes are on the Philippines to witness the unveiling.”
Mr. Suzuki publicly thanked TMC for the honor of holding the launch in the Philippines, and noted that it “comes at an opportune time for TMP — right when we are celebrating our 17th consecutive Triple Crown victory.”
The Triple Crown signifies the car maker’s sales leadership in passenger cars, commercial vehicles, and the industry as a whole.
The executive revealed that the Hiace cornered 56% of the utility van market last year, and that TMP is the number one distributor of the Hiace outside Japan — besting some 150 countries where the badge is sold.
Also present at the launch event was TMP operating officer Satoshi Ogiso, who stressed in his own speech the importance of Filipino car buyers. “[They] rank ninth in Toyota’s 2018 global sales, which is why the Philippines is a very important market for us.”
The country has proven to be the largest export market for the Hiace since 2014. “Starting in the Philippines, we will make the Hiace available to all our global customers,” said Mr. Ogiso
Replying to a question from BusinessWorld in a subsequent news conference, the TMC executive added that “the new Hiace is mainly targeting the overseas market so, through communications between TMP and TMC, we decided that the world premiere would be suitable here in the Philippines.”
TMC chief engineer Takuo Ishikawa revealed that since the nameplate was launched in 1967, more than 6.2 million units have been sold globally. He said that the new generation was developed cognizant of “peace of mind for the driver, pride for the owner, and satisfaction for the passengers.” Domestically, the Hiace has moved more than 135,650 vehicles since its arrival here (under TMP) in 1994.
Supplanting the fifth generation presented back in 2004, the new model comes in three body variants: the GL Grandia Tourer, the GL Grandia, and the Commuter Deluxe. TMP first vice-president for marketing Ma. Cristina Fe N. Arevalo shared that the last two variants will be available on March 5, while the GL Grandia Tourer is expected to be sold in early April. She also revealed to this writer that TMP will continue to sell previous-generation Commuter units.
Immediately discernible in the new Hiace is a significantly protruding snout. Transitioning from a cab-over design into a semi-hood enabled engineers to move the engine further to the front, and helps to enhance collision safety. A welcome result of the relocated engine is that front occupants are freed from the discomfort of heat and vibration emanating from directly underneath them.
In a statement, Toyota reports that the Commuter Deluxe is equipped with a center-seat airbag — “the first manufacturer [to feature one] for its front center passenger.” The Commuter Deluxe thus banners three front SRS airbags, while the GL variants boast two.
The GLs get vehicle stability control, hill-start assist, ABS, and emergency brake signals. The Commuter Deluxe receives the last two features.
Powering the van is Toyota’s new 1GD-FTV 2.8-liter engine with a high-boost turbocharger. In the Commuter Deluxe and GL Grandia, it delivers 176hp; the GL Grandia Tourer’s version is tuned to serve up 163hp. Torque output is 420Nm for the GL Grandia Tourer and Commuter Deluxe, and 450Nm for the GL Grandia. The diesel power plant is mated to either a six-speed automatic or a six-speed manual transmission.
The Commuter Deluxe seats 15 passengers and stretches 5.265 meters; the GL Grandia is as long, while accommodating 12 people. The GL Grandia Tourer, seen to be the direct replacement of the Super Grandia LXV, is 5.915 meters long and seats 14.
Inside, the Hiace has been redesigned to have more legroom, and offers easier ingress and egress for passengers. Overall suspension has also been improved for less-jarring rides, said Toyota. The GLs receive headrests, as well as a host of accoutrements.
The all-new Toyota Hiace is priced between P1.59 million and P2.22 million.