Versatility and practicality are key priorities in a vehicle purchase. As Diesel News’ Paul Matthei discovered during a recent test, Hino’s 300 Series Crew Auto fitted with a Kyokuto Slide Tray body has these qualities in spades.
Travelling south from the Gold Coast to Wodonga with a renovated car body on board was a good way to assess the new Hino. With the relatively light payload, and Hino’s claim of having the most powerful engine in the light-duty league ringing in my ears, it was perhaps easy to assume this wasn’t going to be a slow trip.
The engine boasts hearty power and torque figures of 151kW and 600Nm, respectively, with the latter produced uniformly between 1,500 and 2,000rpm. Peak power arrives at 2,600rpm, which is 100rpm shy of the red line. These figures feed into a six-speed Aisin torque converter automatic featuring double overdrive (0.77 fifth and 0.63 sixth) and lock up of the torque converter on all forward gears except first. The final drive ratio is 5.14:1, which allows a theoretical top speed of 120km/h, and 100km/h cruising at around 2,100rpm.
Due to my regular driving job I’m a frequent flyer on the Pacific Highway, so I chose to take the inland route for a change of scenery. This involved heading west through Lismore and Casino to Glen Innes then south through Tamworth, Dubbo and Wyalong. Through the winding mountainous terrain east of Glen Innes, the little Hino gave a good account of itself, maintaining a respectable average speed up hill and down dale.
Particularly impressive was the compatibility between transmission and engine, which kept the revs in the peak torque range between 1,500 and 2,000rpm. Furthermore, it was pleasing to note no tendency of the transmission to ‘hunt’ or kick down too early when climbing hills, thus keeping the revs in the aforementioned sweet spot. In fact, during steep climbs with the accelerator pedal pressed hard into the floor, the transmission remained in the right gear to enable maximum torque to reach the drive wheels.
Shifts aren’t as smooth as a car but this is largely because the torque converter locks up after each change to ensure full power reaches the road. This feature also helps maximise exhaust brake retardation, which proved surprisingly effective on the steep descent of the Moonbi Range, north of Tamworth. Locked into fourth gear, the Hino maintained the regulation 60km/h with only a few taps of the brake pedal. I think psychology comes into play here – due to its quiet operation the exhaust brake isn’t perceived to be having as much effect when compared with that of a bellowing Jake brake on a prime mover.
The lock-up function also helps fuel economy and in this regard the Hino averaged 5.5km per litre over the course of the trip. It was interesting to note the difference in fuel consumption when cruising on the freeway at the 110km/h limit compared to knocking the cruise control setting back to 90km/h. The difference was an astounding one kilometre per litre and I put this down to the considerable extra wind drag created by the ramps. Indeed, this added drag acted a bit like a parachute on long downhill freeway sections, holding the speed steady at 100km/h where you would normally expect to gain speed.
As for driver comfort, the ride is characteristically firm with the four-way adjustable driver’s suspension seat isolating all but the worst bumps from the driver’s bum. In typical Japanese light-truck style, the seat base is virtually flat which makes for easy entry and egress but doesn’t do a lot for lateral posterior positioning on long trips. The seats are clad with heavy-duty canvas seat covers that look like they’d take many years of hard use without flinching. Adding to driver comfort is a steering column that adjusts for rake and reach, although those with long legs and short arms would perhaps appreciate a little more telescopic extension.
Hino’s multi-function touchscreen ‘infotainment’ unit featuring sat-nav and radio proved easy to use and the digital radio maintained clear reception in the more isolated parts of the country.
In-cab noise intrusion at highway speeds could be a bit lower, in my opinion. Some extra underbody sound-deadening measures would do the trick here.
The rear seat area is fittingly utilitarian and features a separate aircon unit and a decent grab handle across the width of the cab. The squab is hinged at the rear enabling it to be stowed vertically against the seat back, thus providing a cavernous storage space when required.