Toyota Hiace pops open into a sleek turbodiesel camper van
Last year, Toyota turned its fugly but lovable cabover Hiace into a more attractively proportioned van with the release of the sixth-generation variant for select markets. Australia is one of those markets, and camper van conversion shop Frontline becomes one of the first to create a camper van around the new Hiace. It's a handsome little two- to four-sleeper with a space-optimizing asymmetrical-sofa layout, small but capable front kitchen, and plenty of under- and over-bed storage.
Toyota officially introduced the new Hiace in the Philippines in February 2019, launching it in Australia a few months later. Created for international markets (Toyota still sells the previous version in Japan), the new van was redesigned as a more passenger-friendly platform for shuttles, mini tour buses and other people-movers.
Frontline approached Toyota's newest van eager to take advantage of the interior width bump on the first new Hiace in 15 years. In certain configurations, the van can ferry 17 people around city and country, but Frontline was only concerned with two people, the tricky part being to keep that cozy couple comfortable and supplied for road trips and camping excursions of all styles.
It looks like they did it, adjusting their Avalon floor plan around the new (207-in) 527-cm standard-wheelbase Hiace. That cozy but functional floor plan starts with a rear U-shaped couch with a narrow bench on the driver side and fuller benches at the rear and passenger side. A removable table plants right down in the heart of that U, providing a place to set dishes and utensils. The kitchen is tucked behind the driver seat, featuring a dual-burner gas stove, 80-L fridge/freezer, and stainless steel sink piped to a 50-L water tank that also feeds an outdoor shower.
Frontline first developed its high-rising full-length pop-top around the particulars of the Australian climate, skipping the more common wedge-style pop-top popular in Europe. Three fly screens allow the fresh air to pour in from above, keeping things cool and ventilated. As standard, the roof is solely a means of improving ventilation and opening up standing room, but a roof bed can be added optionally to accommodate two more sleepers. The sofa lounge converts over into the primary 75 x 57-in (190 x 144-cm) double bed.
Frontline adds in a standard 100-Ah battery wired up to LED lights, 12-V outlets, a 12-V fan, a water pump, a control panel with voltage gauge, and a 240-V charger with shore power hookup. A 120-W roof-mounted solar system is available optionally, as is a microwave, portable toilet and water heater.
The updated Hiace brings a variety of safety and technological features, including a pre-collision safety system, a reverse camera and keyless entry. The base model is powered at the rear wheels by a 278-hp 3.5-liter petrol V6 and starts at AU$72,000 (approx. US$47,375) while the 174-hp 2.8-liter turbodiesel model prices in at AU$76,000 (US$50,000). A manual transmission comes standard with each; the automatic adds $2,000.