Following its official Australian launch in the third quarter of last year, Hyundai’s HD range of light-duty trucks is slowly starting to make some modest headway in the sales race. According to figures from the Truck Industry Council, the company sold 38 units in the first quarter of 2011 giving it a year-to-date share of 2.7 percent in the light-duty segment.
However, to put this in perspective, in the same period market leader Isuzu notched 460 sales while second placed Hino managed 300. Despite high ambitions, the Koreans have a very long and arduous journey ahead before they can even hope to see sweat on the brow of Japanese domination.
Still, they’re here to compete and as the car business has shown, it’d be naive and foolish to casually dismiss Korea’s commercial determination.
Hyundai’s HD range comprises three distinct models – HD45, HD65 and HD75 – with the numerals denoting gross vehicle mass (GVM) in tonnes. In other words, the HD75 can be legally loaded to a gross weight of 7.5 tonnes and with a trailer in tow is allowed a total mass of 11 tonnes.
Each model is powered by a 3.9 litre common rail direct injection four cylinder diesel with emissions standards met by exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) and what Hyundai calls a particulate matter catalyst, or PMC.
Respective peak power and torque outputs of the HD65 and HD75 models are 110 kW (150 hp) from 1800 to 2500 rpm and 578 Nm (426 lb ft) between 1000 and 1800 rpm, while the HD45 runs a slightly detuned version producing 103 kW (140 hp) at 2700 rpm and 372 Nm (274 lb ft) of torque between 1200 and 2300 rpm.
Sporting bore and stroke dimensions of 103 x 118 mm and a compression ratio of 17:1, the engine block is cast from compacted graphite iron (CGI) while the cylinder head houses an overhead camshaft and four valves per cylinder force fed by a waste-gated turbocharger with air-to-air intercooling.
While its smaller siblings make do with a five-speed manual gearbox, the HD75 runs a six-speed unit with well spaced ratios starting from a 6.7:1 first gear to an overdrive top of 0.73:1, feeding through a vacuum assist, hydraulically actuated single plate clutch.
The rear axle is rated to 5100 kg and employs a final drive ratio of 3.7:1. It’s supported by six-leaf main and four-leaf ‘helper’ spring packs, double acting shockers and stabiliser bar. At the front, a 3100 kg rated I-beam axle is located by five-leaf spring sets, also accompanied by double acting shocks and stabiliser bar.
Service braking comprises 320 mm drums featuring auto adjustment and dual circuit vacuum-over-hydraulic actuation modulated by Wabco four-channel anti-lock (ABS) with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD). This is augmented by a vacuum operated exhaust brake while park braking duties are taken care of by a 190 mm transmission mounted drum arrangement. The wheels consist of 6.0 x 17.5 inch six-stud steel rims encased by 8.5R17.5 12-ply rated tubeless tyres. Steering is taken care of by a conventional power-assisted recirculating ball and nut system.
The HD75 chassis consists of high tensile steel rails cold riveted to the cross members in a ladder formation with an overall width of 753 mm.
Available with either a standard cab or optional ‘super’ cab which provides an additional 300 mm of internal space behind the seats, in both cases the cab is located at four points and the front rubber mounts are liquid filled to effectively isolate occupants from road induced noise, vibration and harshness.
Wheelbase lengths include a ‘medium’ of 3415 mm and 3610 mm with standard and super cab respectively, and a ‘long’ of 3775 mm for both cab sizes. Therefore, available chassis length for body mounting is virtually identical for medium models at 4.2 metres while the standard and super cab long wheelbase variants have 4.7 and 4.5 metres of chassis space respectively. The 100 litre chassis mounted fuel tank is furnished with a lockable cap.
Inside the cab, creature comforts include a tilt and telescopically adjustable steering column complete with a soft grip urethane covered wheel. The well contoured driver’s seat features coil spring suspension and adjustable lumbar support while the two-person bench also includes an adjustable contoured backrest for the outboard passenger. In the absence of a second passenger, the centre backrest can be folded down to form a handy document storage receptacle and double drink holder for driver and passenger. Further storage space comes courtesy of a full width overhead shelf with a netting front to stop items falling out.
Other standard features include air conditioning, power windows, remote keyless entry, a 12 volt accessory power outlet, AM/ FM radio with CD player and MP3 jack, heated external rear view mirrors and five-stage variable intermittent wipers with integral washer nozzles.
The test unit supplied by Hyundai was fitted with a neat and robust tray body built by Almighty Industries at Orange in central western NSW. Standard features include heavy-duty rope rails, four steps, tail light protection, 600 mm headboard sheeting and a mesh window insert. Particularly impressive to my eye were the bevelled corners of the headboard, ladder racks, steps and light protection bars that added a real touch of class. In keeping with the obvious attention to detail of the build, Almighty’s bodies are professionally finished in durable 2-pack polyurethane paint.
A run over the local weighbridge revealed a tare weight of 3.82 tonnes and after being loaded with two 1.25 tonne pallets of bagged sand borrowed from Turtle Landscape Supplies in western Sydney, the unit tipped the scales at 6.32 tonnes.
Compared to the HD45 we drove last year (see ‘Korean Kick-Off’ in the July/ August 2010 edition of DIESEL magazine), the HD75 seemed noticeably more at ease when loaded thanks largely to the extra torque and better spread of gear ratios afforded by the six-speed manual transmission. This meant that less revs were needed to maintain respectable acceleration through the gears in urban driving environs.
This in turn enabled the HD75 to return better fuel economy than its little brother, despite carrying considerably more weight. In fact, it managed a highly commendable 7.77 km/ litre (almost 22 mpg) over a 150 km leg which included a mix of city, suburban and some motorway driving.
Other driving impressions were similarly positive including a surprisingly comfortable ride from the well bolstered and weight adjustable driver’s suspension seat. Interior noise intrusion was also commendably low showing that Hyundai has made good use of under-cab sound deadening materials. Also impressive was the instrument panel layout with all gauges and switchgear clearly marked and easily accessible. This, combined with the excellent driving position enabled by the fully adjustable steering column and superb all round vision, made piloting the HD75 an enjoyable experience indeed.
That said, there’s room for improvement in gearshift quality. While it certainly does the job well enough, there’s a somewhat vague and rubbery feel about the shift that detracts slightly from the otherwise excellent driving dynamics.
But when it’s all said and done, if that’s the only niggle it suggests Hyundai has done a respectably good job of bringing a new contender to the local light-duty scene. Price, however, will be a critical factor. Hyundai is the new boy on the block and it will need more than just a good specification to pull light-duty buyers away from the Japanese brands which have for decades dominated this notoriously price-conscious market.