If you asked us what vehicles we’re fond of these days, we might surprise you by saying that among the SUVs and the roadsters, we’re really liking Toyota’s humongous van--the venerable Hiace Super Grandia.
We borrowed it recently for our annual editorial planning session in Tagaytay, and at the end of the loan period we were reluctant to part with it. We knew it would be a solid transport vehicle, but we didn’t expect a van associated with tourism tours and UV Express fleets to be so enjoyable to ride and drive.
Here are seven reasons the Toyota Hiace Super Grandia won us over.
1. The comfortable ride. We suspect the thick 255/70 R15 tires may be a factor, but this Hiace is as comfortable as the couch in your lola's old house. I suspect the second-row captain’s chairs are as relaxing as La-Z-Boy recliners, but I wouldn’t know for sure because my teammates beat me to those prime perches. But I didn’t really mind because of...
2. The enjoyable drive. A 134hp turbodiesel with a four-speed automatic transmission isn’t anyone’s idea of excitement behind the wheel, but the 3.0-liter engine’s 300Nm is more than enough to move the massive 11-seater briskly through urban traffic. There was also the novelty of piloting the equivalent of a studio apartment with wheels, jostling with buses and other cars, and this lent a fun feel to the Hiace driving experience. After a few days, I didn’t mind doing driver duties at all.
3. The handsome visage. I know, it looks like a refrigerator tilted on its side. Or a Lego brick with headlights. But clean lines and a strong presence make the Hiace Super Grandia a pleasing sight. For something so big, it’s quite easy on the eyes.
4. The surprising features. The Hiace Super Grandia costs P2.105 million--an amount that will make you look over to the Camry and just consider family planning. It’s a pricey sum, and we expected that SRP given the cavernous interior space and the engineering that went into making this van relatively convenient to drive. But I was surprised to see it have automatic headlights--you know, the kind that activate once you enter a tunnel or when the light sensor detects nightfall. There’s also a built-in navigation system in the head unit, as well as a good number of cubbyholes. And if the kids get restless, there are monitors built into the front-seat headrests that can play DVDs.
5. The driving-skill improvement. You think this Toyota van is massive when you see it on the road, but when you’re in the driver seat this impression is magnified. The Hiace Super Grandia is huge, and learning to maneuver and park it properly will improve your driving skills.
6. The intimidation factor. When puny subcompacts and motorcycles see the Hiace Super Grandia’s imposing metal grille and bumper in their side-view mirrors, they immediately give way. I could even make midsize SUVs think twice before accelerating to ‘close the door’ when I signal to turn--which is a dick move regardless of the vehicle involved.
7. The space galore. There are 11 seats if you count them, but we folded the last row to make room for storage, and it left us with seven seats. At the end of the day, people will buy a Hiace for the roominess. I think this is the optimal balance of space for humans and luggage. We had generous room to move around in, and our bags weren’t compressed.