A big little truck for off-road
GENERALLY, a specialised piece of equipment performs one task, but does it brilliantly.
Think jackhammer, chainsaw or drill.
The Hino 300 Series 4x4 is of a similar ilk.
If you need a vehicle that will just about take you anywhere, this is the one.
Realistically, the only obstacle that could prove a headache for the Hino in most off-road conditions would be hefty low-hanging branches.
The Hino 300 Series 4x4 has an overall height of 2.565m (not counting things like beacon lights and antennas that you might add-on) and that means that the chainsaw I mentioned might be a good investment for woody areas.
Launched into Australia in late 2017, the 300 Series 4x4 was initially offered only with a six-speed synchromesh manual transmission. Now there's the option of an Allison 1000 series five-speed auto box and that transmission was fitted to my test truck.
I have driven both and would say that for off-road applications the auto has been set up nicely to deliver maximum torque from very low revs.
I reckon it also makes the Hino a little more manoeuvrable than the manual, too.
Either way, this is a vehicle with serious off-road cred. You get proper low-range gearing, 205mm of ground clearance and aggressive approach (34 degrees), ramp-over (159 degrees) and departure (30 degrees) angles.
The extra clearances (and increased height) come primarily by way of a second chassis that sits above the standard Hino chassis.
This lifts everything up 150mm.
So, great for applications like rural fire services, forestry services, high-voltage powerline inspections and mining etc.
On the road, however, the Hino isn't quite so at home.
The high centre of gravity from the hitched-up cab and chassis and relatively small overall footprint make this a truck that requires some care in the bends.
Add into the mix stiff leaf springs on all four corners and, as you can probably imagine, the Hino has a rather particular feel about it.
My previous test-drive of the Hino 4x4 involved a truck fitted with the standard dual wheels.
This one (as you can see in the photos) had single rears and didn't feel as well planted at higher speeds in open-road conditions.
It tended to shift around and feel a little floaty at speeds above 80km/h.
This is a big little truck. Literally you are sitting up as high as most other medium and heavy-duty trucks, and with just conventional hydraulic brakes they feel a little out of place.
How does the auto perform on the road? Generally, quite good.
The test truck had a tonne and a half of load on board and that contributed to fairly pedestrian initial acceleration. At speed, though, the Allison/165hp 4.0-litre turbo-diesel engine moved the 4x4 truck along at a respectable pace.
Pleasingly, the transmission proved responsive when wanting to slow the Hino, or hold a speed down a hill, in conjunction with the exhaust brake it would quickly slip down to a lower ratio and provide assistance to the aforementioned hydraulic brakes.
There's an overdrive button, too, on the transmission.
From the driver's seat of the Hino you need to be conscious of the mirrors and the rather hefty blind spots they tend to create, especially on the right-hand side of the truck.
I think this issue is exacerbated by the extra height of the vehicle (as compared to the standard 300 Series truck).
One strange observation that become more noticeable the longer I drove the truck - unexpected heat!
There was a fair bit of warm/hot air rising from the engine hatch under the middle passenger seat and therefore toasting the left-hand side of my body.
I mentioned the firm leaf springs. As we all know these are great for carrying a load (and in this case off-roading), however, they're top priority isn't keeping the (up to seven) occupants in the cab in complete comfort.
The driver at least gets a suspension seat, but not with a huge amount of travel or bump suppression.
Hino engineers have given the 300 Series 4x4 well-weighted and direct steering with a better than expected turning circle also featuring.
All your standard Hino bits and pieces feature on the inside, including cruise control, digital radio, reverse camera, sat-nav and Bluetooth.
There are also power windows front and rear, while safety is covered by dual front airbags, stability control, traction control and ABS.
This is a specialised piece of equipment that is ideally suited to the applications mentioned earlier. For just about anyone else though, it's probably just a bit too hard-edged and specific.