Hino’s Slimline 500 Series | TRUCK REVIEW

The new mid-range Hino is winning significant support from operators looking to tick all the distribution boxes – Report by Brenton O’Connor. 

It’s not often that Japanese truck manufacturers launch a new model. The conservative mindset of the Japanese means they don’t change a proven truck formula lightly, and they don’t jump on fads or trends unless the benefit can clearly be proven.

One of the latest additions from Japanese manufacturer Hino is the new 500 Series narrow cabin. This was a momentous occasion in truck terms, as the engineering team at Hino Japan has significantly raised the bar in terms of vehicle safety, emissions standards, and operator comfort.

As an indication of the importance attached to the new 500 Series narrow cabin, the public launch was attended by all the significant staff members of Hino Australia including CEO Steve Lotter and newly-appointed President Sam Suda. Also in attendance was the project lead for the new narrow cab 500 Series, Koyu Goto, who provided valuable insight into the key objectives behind the development programme.

Lotter sees an ongoing trend in the sales of commercial vehicles due to the market conditions, and also the large infrastructure spending by both State and Federal governments respectively. So much so that Hino Australia was caught short in supply of the run-out model 500 Series narrow cabin in 2018, as market demand exceeded expectations. With the new model now in dealerships, Lotter expects increased sales going forward.

Despite Australia’s relatively small population, it is an important market for Hino, ranking as the company’s seventh-biggest globally − quite an achievement for an economy of our size.  It also explains the background to Hino Japan’s investment into this market and its willingness to adapt and create models suited to it, a classic example of which was the 718 4×4, a model developed between Hino Australia’s head of product development Daniel Petrovski and Hino Japan’s engineering department.

The three key objectives for the design team behind the new Hino 500 Series narrow cabin included satisfaction and delight in driving, safe operation, and solutions for management (in other words, increased fuel efficiency).

Hino has increased the appeal and model spectrum of the new 500 Series narrow cabin by introducing a number of new variants, including more flexibility in factory wheelbase offerings, with a total of 54 different models available across three ranges − FC, FD, and FE.

The FC kicks off the 500 Series narrow cabin range with an 11,000 kg GVM, an increase from the previous model’s 10,400 kg, and offering increased payload for customers.  This model will be known as the FC 1124 and includes a short cab (non-sleeper) and a transmission-actuated park brake rather than an air maxi brake.  The GCM is a maximum of 16,000 kg.

Stepping up into the FD 1124 adds in the Rest Cabin, which includes an ADR-approved sleeper berth and a higher 20,000 kg GCM.  In terms of safety, it picks up daytime running lights and LED headlamps over the FC.  Going one step further and into the FE 1125, the horsepower rises from 240 to 260 hp (179 to 194 kW). Improvements are also made to the GVM and GCM, which improve to 14,000 kg and 22,000 kg respectively.

One of the major changes to the new range of trucks is the engine.  Power comes from a new 5.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo-diesel, with the cleanest emissions ever produced by a Hino truck. All models meet the PLNT standard, which is the Japanese equivalent of Euro 6.

The A05 is a derivative of the larger A09 six-cylinder engine powering the 500 Series wide cabin.  This new engine comes in three power ratings – the 1124 models receive the AO5-TE engine producing 240 hp (179 kW) and 794 Nm of torque, while the 1424-Crew Cab receives the A05-TD with 240 hp and 833 Nm.

The range-toppers are the FD 1126 and FE 1426, both of which receive the top-performance engine known as the A05-TC, with peak power of 260 hp (194 kW) and 882 Nm of torque.

Hino has developed this engine to deliver high torque at low rpm, which it achieves through providing 10 to 20 percent more torque than the J07 engine it replaces.  The biggest change is the Jacobs brake now standard and integrated into the engine. This provides class-leading engine retardation, in addition to the standard-fit exhaust brake, making for both easier and safer operation and reduced operating costs through decreased service brake wear.

On some of the hilly terrain around the launch venue in Canberra, the engine was able to show off its credentials by providing plenty of pulling power up some of the inclines, ideally matched to an Allison automatic.  Hino is claiming an improvement in fuel consumption over the outgoing model; however, this was not possible to confirm on the day, through a lack of comparison data. What was impressive, though, was the outstanding performance of the engine braking. Controlled through a one-position (on or off) switch in general driving, I had to cancel it on some of the descents as it was providing too much retardation.

Transmissions includes six-speed synchromesh manual gearboxes as standard on the FD and FC models. The FE receives a seven-speed manual, adding an extra gear compared to its main rivals.

Automated Manual Transmissions (AMT) are available as option but were unavailable for evaluation on the day of the launch.  Both the manual and AMTs are standard with an automatic stop / start system.

The standout transmission option is the Allison 2500. This is a fully hydraulic automatic, which means Hino is the only company to offer a true automatic from car license trucks through to the 2632 wide cab bogie drive model.

The advantages of the Allison are true power shifts with no power loss, and also easier low-speed manoeuvring without the difficulties associated with the clutch actuation of an automated manual.  The gear selector for the Allison improves operation with a T-bar-style shift lever to make gear selection a breeze.

Throughout the drive day a range of models with various bodies and specifications were available to test.  As expected, the synchromesh manual was both light and direct and simple to drive, with a light clutch pedal feel.  The preferred transmission, though, has to be the Allison automatic as it is pretty much idiot-proof; this means in rental fleets and fleets with a revolving door of drivers, the risk of damage to the clutch and transmission is removed. Furthermore, with the increasing traffic congestion in our capital cities, the Allison allows the driver to focus their time on the traffic situation rather than contemplating which gear to select.

Vehicle safety is the area where Hino has invested much of its resources to make this a true ‘safety-truck’. Importantly, all safety features are fitted as standard.

In addition to vehicle stability control and reverse camera, the new Hino 500 Series narrow cabin will include Pre-Collision System (PCS) Safety Eye (SE), Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) and Pedestrian Detection (PD). Additional standard fitment safety features include ABS, traction control, driver’s airbag and a UN EVE R29 safety cabin.

PCS is an active safety system that can detect potential collisions with another vehicle, pedestrian and/or other object in advance of the impact and help prevent them, through use of camera and radar technology. Also included as standard fitment on the new truck is adaptive (radar) cruise control and lane departure warning, which throughout the test procedure worked very well.

The all-new interior is a massive improvement with an attractive chocolate brown trim colour rather than the drab grey found in most Japanese trucks.  The standard ISRI driver’s seat is great, although it needs armrests fitted.

The fit and finish is a step above its competitors with a multi-function steering wheel now included, something we believe is unique for a Japanese truck.  The interior is not only visually appealing, it’s also functional, designed with typical Japanese efficiency and a no-nonsense layout. The new 6.5-inch high-definition audiovisual unit provides audio entertainment as well as the reverse camera and satellite navigation, and has the ability for telematic connectivity.

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