Van wars: Toyota Hiace vs Nissan Urvan

By Botchi Santos

Hi, Botchi!

I always read Top Gear Philippines-the magazine, especially if the featured cars are budget-friendly; and the online columns, specifically Wrong Car, Right Car.

I just got married in March and my wife (who is now pregnant) and I are currently looking for our first car. We want a car that has very "reliable reliability" because we may decide to use it for business (like for public transportation) in the future.

I already did some research and so far, I've gathered that we may use the Toyota Hiace (commuter variant) as a family car and for business. Its D4-D engine has more power compared to the one in the Nissan Urvan and is more fuel efficient (based on what current owners say). However, it costs more than P1 million and I read it is affected by the alleged fuel system problem of D4D engines (fuel filter, fuel pump, and suction control valve issues. The parts of the CRDi engines are also more expensive to maintain compared to the non-CRDi engines (like the one installed in the Urvan. As an example, the cost of the modified fuel pump for D4-D engines range from P40,000 to P80,000.

The Nissan Urvan, on the other hand, has overheating problems and is quite sluggish.

We are also considering the Toyota Altis and the Toyota Vios. Although they are not as spacious as a van, our small family will be able to fit in and these cars may also be turned into a taxi, if needed. Of course, we prefer a much bigger car which would fit baby stuff and some relatives. Based on reviews, I understand that the VVTI engines are quite reliable but we prefer a diesel-fed vehicle because the fuel price is lower.

Of course, we cannot remove the Toyota Innova from the analysis. It satisfies most of our wishes, except that it also has the so-called D4-D fuel system issue. I also don't see any Innovas used for public transportation.

I know Toyota has not confirmed the D4-D fuel system problem but I know some owners have raised the concern to Toyota's management. I learned they are trying to work something out but Toyota does not plan to recall and fix the units. They help only those who complain.

At present, we are leaning towards used Toyota vans because they do not have the allegedly problematic CRDi D4-D engines. However, I have no idea on how they perform.

Our budget for a used or new car is around P500,000 to P600,000 but we can stretch it up to P800,000 if it's really, really worth the financial sacrifice.

We'd appreciate your input.

Thank you!

Myron Lu

Hi, Myron!

Congratulations! I hope to join your ranks soon as a happily married hubby and a proud daddy!

I had a similar dilemma in the past with exactly the same choice of vehicles. We ended up getting a Nissan Urvan precisely because the vehicle was to be used (in Boracay) for shuttling guests. We needed a vehicle with simple mechanical parts, which translate to the reliability of having less moving and complicated parts that can go wrong over time.

Even if the Nissan Urvan has less power, it is geared far lower than the Hiace and, since it is a simpler car, is much lighter than the Toyota. I can drive from Caticlan to Kalibo in 75 minutes at an average speed of 100kph to 110 kph-not bad for a basically ancient, lumbering van with a truck engine.

For a family vehicle, the Hiace will feel more luxurious than the Urvan, but the Urvan will cost far less to maintain in the future so you get your money's worth with both vehicles.

Now about your D4-D concerns: the truth is that the CRDi systems in general are very sensitive to diesel fuel quality, and if you own a vehicle equipped with CRDi, you must religiously follow the PMS schedule and use the very best synthetic lubricants, plus change the diesel-water separator filters regularly. Loading up diesel is the key factor. I always tell people that you should load up in a newish-looking and clean gas station located in a flood-free area that has good traffic so that the fuels are always restocked and replenished. Quality of fuel that sits for a long period of time in silos can deteriorate over time--chemicals tend to vaporize or get contaminated by foreign substances like rust and water).

My family owns a 2005 Toyota Hilux 3.0 AT D4-D with almost 100,000 kilometers and counting. It has been faultless and has never skipped a beat, having brought the vehicle all over Luzon on a regular basis as well as used in stop-and-go traffic on weekdays. The only time it caused a problem was when the diesel-water separator filter was suddenly filled up with water so we had to bring it immediately to the casa for remedy. Once the filter was replaced and a new batch of diesel fuel was put in, the Hilux ran again like clockwork.

Most of the people who complain about their D4-D CRDi-eqiupped Toyotas are those who live in faraway places where there is a lack of easy and immediate access to a clean gas station that offers fresh diesel fuel. They are usually also the ones who fail to religiously follow the 5,000km PMS schedule. The downside is cost for sure. Every time the Hilux goes in for servicing, the amount range from P6,500 to P8,000 per service. This is standard change-oil and filter stuff, but I noticed they use a lot of chemical additives and cleaners for the CRDi fuel injection and lubrication systems.

Hope this helps you in your decision. Good luck and God bless you and your family! Keep it safe!

Botchi Santos

Consumer editor

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Filter comments by:
  • keithdb May 27 2010 @ 11:02am
    the starex is above 1M. I personally prefer the starex but its a bit expensive.
  • keithdb May 27 2010 @ 11:09am
    BTW, i think that only the Toyota HiAce fits hits budget unless he buys second hand.
  • dumbo3:16 May 27 2010 @ 02:16pm
    @myron: I personally recommend the Urvan! Here at my office, we have the Hilux as our shuttle service and to be honest with you (no offense to the Toyota guys) the interiors are not that good! I don't know about the high-end version of it but ours is just to damn bad! Bad in the sense that My legs don't fit through the leg room of the seats (by the way, I'm only 5'7"). It is too "masikip" for a van. But the "masikip" part of the Hilux is well compensated by the muscle of the engine. It is fast (because of the CRDi engine). Going back to the comfort, the Nissan Urvan's seats are great! Not only that it's spacious, but your legs can fit through the leg room. I had the chance to ride one when we went to Pangasinan and travelling on it is great. Just as Botchi said, it's engine is not CRDi but runs just as fast as other CRDi engines. Afterall, you need a family car, right? All in all, I'm for the Urvan. Spacious, comfortable and really sums up to be a great family van.
  • dumbo3:16 May 27 2010 @ 02:19pm
    Sorry guys, I mean Hiace not Hilux! Hehehehehe....
  • BOOGIECAT May 27 2010 @ 03:05pm
    Nissan Urvan..Don't bother with that very cramped and very expensive Hiace Commuter..
  • maranello_5775 May 27 2010 @ 03:40pm
    for part business part family transport I prefer the Urvan or better yet the old reliable L300 versavan, they are cheaper than the hiace commuter and cost a lot less to maintain.The L300's edge over the Urvan is the longer service life,cooler aircon(wraparound unlike urvan's) and easier to find parts.As for the Urvan get the 12seater escapade or 15seater shuttle and avoid the cramp 18&21 seaters-they stressed the engine very much when fully laden plus the rear aircon isn't enough to cool the rearmost passengers.
  • Rem May 27 2010 @ 09:35pm
    You should get the Nissan Urvan. It offers more flexible seat options like 12, 15, 18 and the 21 seater kung gagamitin mo siya for your future business plans. And halos lahat ng school service namin dito puro Urvan kasi matibay nga daw. Based sa experience namin, nung pumunta kami sa Boracay ang gamit nilang transport vehicle eh yung Hi-Ace Commuter na napaka sakip para sakin (5'10 ako). Medyo matagtag din kesa sa Urvan/L300. :)
  • BOOGIECAT May 28 2010 @ 02:19pm
    sagaraemiru Super Grandia??OBOBS KA YUNG COMMUTER ANG PINAGUUSAPAN!OBOBS LANG ang taong gagawing pang shuttle business ang Super Grandia nya!
  • rndiv1 Jul 09 2010 @ 10:24am
    mas nakakatawa ka NATATWA. pro urvan ako kasi timing gear ito na napakalaki ng pagiging matibay at hindi mo kayang bungiin kaysa sa timing belt ng hiace na before 100k kms magpapalit ka na at pwde ring maputol.
    yung urvan rotary type ang injection system, yung hiace d4-d na electronic na pwedeng masira ang computer chip anytime, mahal pa.maraming tao ang nahahalina sa panglabas na anyo pero hindi alam kung ano ang nasa loob ng isang tao o maging ng sasakyan.
  • dominic Sep 05 2010 @ 06:01pm
    go for starex
  • erikson Jan 05 2011 @ 03:44pm
    I have own a second hand nissan urvan escapade.. and to be true.. wala akong gaanong alam sa saksakyan except konting check since driving is one of my bread and butter before maka afford bumili kahit second hand. Honestly surprised din ako sa performance of my 10 yr old van... considering that 6 yrs na sya at 120K ang milage ng makuha ko, but eversice (2006) until now wala akong masasabing problem... I use it for commercial use (for hire) for more than a year and then use now for family only. even the batteries un pa din nung pagkabili ko... Cguro sa paggamit na din ng sasakyan at kung sa separation ng waterfuel system.. I don't know about toyota but the nissan urvan has two fuel filter so mas efficient, ang importante lang is dapat regular basis ang PMS at walang exception (change oil, tire rotation, braking system, underchassis regular inspection, even wiring no problem at all).. I can say na I am for the nissan kahit na ang first choice ko b4 I buy is toyota kasi I found out mas matibay ang spare parts ng nissan... sabi nung iba mas mahal daw kasi ang parts ng nissan but if it will worth the price san ka pa? wala ka pang abala sa repair.. about the speed,, di pa ba kayo kuntento sa average na 110KPH?
  • NinoSalvador Feb 06 2013 @ 10:22pm
    Mga Sir baguhan lang po ako pagdating sa pagpili ng mga sasakyan...Ask ko lang po sna na bakit sa nabasa ko d2 ang sabi ng karamihan Urvan cost 400,000 more less compared to Toyota hiace commuter.Check ko nmn sya Urvan now cost 1,138,000 for cash payment while hiace is 1,275,000...Paki explain nmn po.....Thanks..
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