When we had the Toyota Hiace GL Grandia Tourer for a week, we couldn’t wait to give our readers a detailed insight into what they could expect from the H300 chassis. But there was just one problem. While the best way to review a vehicle with 14 seats is to just fill it up to capacity, I didn’t have the luxury of having that many people to come along and ride with me. So I did what other folks would probably do if they had a 6m-long van at their disposal: I daily-drove the thing. With only myself in it.
Now, that may seem a bit crazy. I’m not going to lie—it was. Especially in the sort of traffic I had to fight through to get from the north of Quezon City all the way to our office in Pasig. I constantly had to remember that the Tourer was 5,915mm long, and I couldn’t just shove my way into an open space in the adjacent lane like I did in my personal four-door sedan. Even overtaking at speed had me checking and rechecking my side mirrors just to see if I could indeed merge back to my original lane. In fact, I was so stressed out from the sheer size of the Hiace Tourer that I had a fever on the second day I had the van.
Another thing I had to keep in mind was parking. The Tourer is 2,280mm tall. Most mall parking lots only have 2.1m of vertical clearance, so I was definitely off limits there. When parking the Tourer, you need to pay special attention to its aforementioned length. The vehicle does have front and rear parking sensors—as well as a backing-up camera—but these don’t make it any less challenging to shove the Tourer into a standard-size parking slot. Just to give you an idea of how tricky it is to park this baby bus, I brought it to an event in Makati. The venue had street parking available and the slots were long enough for the van. But just to back into a space, I had to block all four lanes of the road to get myself squared up.
So those are the challenges unique to driving something as big as a Tourer. Not exactly the type of vehicle one would want to bring every day. But I understand that there are times when people would need to drive something this big on a daily basis. And Toyota does make that daunting task a bit easier on the guy behind the wheel.
Finally, the engine is under a hood rather than beneath the front seats like in the previous Hiace. Noise and vibration are reduced considerably now that there is a firewall isolating the 2.8-liter turbodiesel mill from the cabin. Speaking of that engine, it’s a powerhouse. Yanked out of the Hilux pickup truck, the 1GD-FTV motor spins to the tune of 161hp and 420Nm. That torque figure is available as early as 1,400rpm, so combined with the six-speed automatic gearbox, the Tourer never gets left behind accelerating from traffic stops.
Once you get used to the heft, the vantage point from the driver’s seat allows you to confidently judge distances to obstacles and other cars. And while it will always be a challenge getting the Tourer to come around tight corners, the two-tiered side mirrors make it less of a guessing game. Surprisingly, this van has a lot of steering angle, and I was astounded by how quickly I could whip it around U-turns.
The revised driving position and the new powertrain combo mean that the Hiace Tourer pretty much drives like a large SUV. The GMC Yukon XL and the Ford Excursion come to mind. Getting inside no longer requires awkwardly hopping over the wheel arches. Because the front wheels are now forward of the dashboard, negotiating turns is no different from doing the same in a massive off-roader. On the highway, Toyota’s big boy maintains the century mark at a very relaxed 2,000rpm. Again, no different from its sport-utility counterparts.
That’s the Hiace Tourer from the point of view of the driver. But for the lucky few that get to ride this van as a passenger, Toyota has thoughtfully decked out the cabin like a small airliner. Each seat is equipped with a three-point seatbelt. All but the last row have overhead reading lights and USB charging ports. Every seat back is equipped with a grab handle, a cupholder and a storage pocket. You will almost be tempted to conduct a safety demonstration, showing everyone that the nearest exit is through the massive sliding door.
Although each passenger has access to an air-conditioning vent, it has to be said that the blower could use a little more oomph. The raised roof increases the volume of air that needs to be cooled, and this is where I think the rear climate control struggles especially in the noontime heat. And since the Hiace is primarily a utility vehicle, the leaf-sprung rear solid axle rides somewhat harshly when the vehicle isn’t filled to capacity. The sliding door is big enough for easy entry and exit, although a power-opening mechanism would’ve been more than welcome. The door is quite heavy, and it can slam itself open or shut when the Hiace is parked at an incline.
After using the Hiace GL Grandia Tourer as my daily-driver, I can confidently assure you that anyone can hop in it and easily set off. The driving experience isn’t as laborious as the size of the vehicle suggests. Save for the stress of getting to know it for the first time, bringing it around corners and jostling for space in traffic quickly become second nature. Toyota has made it easier and less taxing to drive. What remains difficult is finding a spot big enough to park it.
TOYOTA HIACE GL GRANDIA TOURER AT
|Engine||2.8-liter in-line-4 CRDI turbo diesel|
|Power||161hp @ 3,600rpm|
|Torque||420Nm @ 1,400-2,200rpm|
|Dimensions||5,915mm x 1,950mm x 2,280mm|
|Upside||New exterior design, capable powertrain and generous seating capacity.|
|Downside||The rear air-conditioning can be a bit weak, and the suspension is still somewhat on the harsh side when the vehicle isn’t full.|