This week we were out in the New Toyota Proace, with prices starting at €21,800 including vat. The Proace is now in the second generation, the first of which may have taken the Hiace faithful customer by surprise.
In the 1970s the Toyota Hiace started to work its way into the Irish commercial van market. Like all or most vans in them years one size fitted all, the Hiace first arrived with a petrol engine and had only the one model size and that was it. The petrol version was a massive success and even when the diesel version arrived, Hiace customers had to be surgically transplanted from petrol vans to diesel versions.
There was also demand for a smaller version of the Hiace, and the Litace arrived.
I remember buying a second hand Liteace in the early 80s to start a bread run for Ormo Bread in Donegal!
My van was first registered in Sligo “716 EI” before making its way to Donegal. The van looked like a unsliced pan loaf itself as it made its way across the border every morning into Derry to Stevenson’s Bakery for a load of Ormo bread.
The last order loaded on the bread van every morning was 4 dozen jumbo rolls, fresh out of the oven at Stevenson’s Bakery on Williams Street, and was transported to Boyce’s Café at the Station in Letterkenny. The smell of that freshly cooked bread, which was still hot would put an appetite on the pickiest of eaters.
The van had a 1.3 petrol engine similar to that available in the Toyota Corolla at the time, back in those days my neighbour in Wolfe Tone Place, Mick Dunleavy welded together a shelving system for the van to fit the bread trays from the bakery in Derry.
I always described the van’s reliability as bullet proof until the day I was held up at gunpoint at the Rossville Flats near Stevenson’s Bakery in a riot in those days.
The only thing that saved me that day was the fact the the van was right down on the nail and I convinced my hijackers there wouldn’t be enough petrol in my van to burn!
So 30 years on and the Hiace and Liteace are no longer available in Europe and have been replaced by the Proace. Available in three wheel base sizes including compact, medium and long wheelbase with two diesel engines with a variety of power outputs. The compact which we drove had the 1.6 diesel engine with 95bhp on tap.
According to Toyota this version is not the easiest on fuel because the stop start is not standard on it but this diesel engine is still able to reach 50MPG which is nearly twice the fuel economy of the old diesel Hiace the Proace is replacing.
On the road with the New Proace you sit with a very good commanding view of the road. Every comfort for someone who uses a van to earn his living can be found in the new Toyota. The Compact comes into its own in town driving with one of the best in its class turning circles and the fact that you sit nice and high in the Proace makes judging the van on the road a treat.
This was the compact version, but with four loading door for the cargo department of the van makes this Toyota is very versatile. All doors on this van have a great feel of quality to them with a heavy clunk when they are closed. The whole appearance of the Proace has a feel of quality and robustness.
With the Hiace and the Liteace no longer available in Europe, Toyota now look at their European van market in a different way. The development and production price has to be considered in order to survive long term in the European market. Toyota have teamed up with Citroen and Peugeot to produce this new van. The three companies have shared the cost in the development and the production of the Proace.
Part of Toyota’s long term plan on their reduction of their carbon footprint is to reduce the global travel of their vehicle from manufacture to the customer. The Toyota is made in France, Toyota are looking forward to the loyal Hiace and Litace customers view of the new replacement the Proace.
Summing up the new Proace and as a big fan of the old Hiace and Litaace, The Proace has a lot to live up to. I can only see this as a good move for Toyota in Europe, The new Proace will have a different van range for all the old loyal Hiace customers and will also appeal to new customers starting off on the road of setting up their business where they need a good reliable and stylish van to build their business.
Happy Motoring Folks