Hino has unveiled the latest iteration of its light duty 300 series models with an increased emphasis on safety and technology, following in the vein of its 500 series, which has been a sales success for the Japanese brand since its launch early last year.

The new truck has been launched with the slogan, ‘Built for Safety, Ready for Anything’, underlining the safety credentials of the new truck.

The new 300 Series  trucks feature  what Hino calls its SmartSafe package,  which it describes as a ‘comprehensive safety package with advanced driver-assist technology focussing on protecting the life of drivers, passengers and other road users’.

The 300 series safety package includes its Pre-Collision System (PCS) which boasts Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), Pedestrian Detection (PD), Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS), Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Reverse Camera and a suite of other standard safety features.

Hino took a chance with the 500 Series it launched last year, packing it full of safety equipment as standard, betting that the old automotive maxim ‘safety doesn’t sell’  had seen its use by date and fleet buyers would embrace its new offering. Hino was right and the market, and in particular bigger fleet customers have embraced the safety proposition. The company is putting the same strategy into play with the new 300 and you can assume that it will also play it out with its new 700 Series due this time in 2021.

Given the requirements of the Covid 19 restrictions the launch for the 300 Series was held on Zoom with the trade press tuning into see the new features and listen to Hino executives explain the strategy behind the new truck.

Hino’s manager of product strategy, Daniel Petrovski said that it’s been about 20 years since Hino first entered the light-duty truck market in Australia with its Dutro model, a truck that morphed over time into the 300 Series over time.

“Dutro at the time was the safest light-duty truck to be launched here and the latest iteration of the 300 Series continues to be class leading in many ways,” said Daniel Petrovski.

“At Hino, safety is paramount, and the new 300 Series boasts a list of standard safety features that makes it the safest truck ever offered by a Japanese manufacturer in the Australian light-duty truck market,”  he added.

The introduction of new 300 models Hino says will open up new market opportunities for the company in the Australian market.

“Over the last 20 years, we have offered our customers a large range of light-duty models, building an enviable reputation for performance, reliability and safety,” said Daniel Petrovski.

Hino has expanded the range to more than 60 models with the choice of standard wide and wide crew cab variants with both a four litre and a high horsepower five litre power plant to choose from, mated to either manual or automatic transmissions or a new version of the 300 Hybrid.

The company emphasised that the 300 is the only light duty Japanese truck to boast a full automatic transmission, in this case the Aisin six speed,  rather than an AMT unit available in Isuzu and Fuso light duty models.

“The key advantages associated with a true automatic transmission are superior start-ability and take-off; no torque interruptions between gear shifts resulting in a smoother drive and quicker acceleration; lower whole of life costs and no clutch replacements,” said Daniel Petrovski.

“All of these benefits mean car-licenced drivers can easily take the wheel of a light-duty truck.

“Currently almost 80 percent of our light duty 4×2 sales are automatics – given the current driver shortage, and the changing market, this is a figure we expect to increase,” he added.

The range has also been expanded with the introduction of its new 721 models, featuring the five litre J05E-UJ engine boasting 205hp and 600Nm of torque, mated to the six-speed double overdrive true automatic transmission, along with a 3.5 tonne towing capacity.

“The new 721 opens up many opportunities in the 6.5 tonne GVM class for tradespeople and local councils, with the true automatic transmission matched to the most powerful and highest torque engine in its class,” said Mr Petrovski.

Petrovski added that the 721 is available in multiple wheelbases, as well as single and crew cab models and fills an important gap in the market for Hino.

“We have listened to our customers, especially councils, who have conveyed to us that the availability of a 6.5 tonne GVM true automatic transmission model is a particularly important factor in their purchasing decision, so it is an area we have focused on,” he added.

The new line-up starts with the entry level  616 Standard Single Cab boasting independent front suspension, 4.5 tonne GVM, 8.0 tonne GCM ratings, powered by

the  four litre N04C common-rail turbo-diesel with 150hp and 420Nm of torque. It’s available with both manual and auto transmission and features towing capacity of up to 3.5 tonne on a car licence. The increased capacity of the automatic has meant the towing limit could be increased from 2.8 tonne to 3.5 tonnes. Along with the Standard cab it is also available in Wide and  Crew Cab variants.

The 616 Standard Cab can be upgraded to a 5.5 tonne GVM  with a light rigid truck licence.

Wide Cab models start with the 616 and 617, both of which have a standard GVM of 4.5 tonne for car-licenced operation and can be uprated to 5.5 tonne GVM on a light rigid truck licence.

The 616 Wide Cab model  comes with the  150hp four litre N04C engine coupled to the six-speed automatic while the 617 manual  gets the 165hp/464 Nm version of the NO4C mated to Hino’s six-speed double overdrive gearbox.

Moving up to the 6.5 tonne GVM 716 and 717 Wide Cab models powered by the  same four litre engine, with a choice of either  the Aisin automatic or a manual transmission available.

The 816 Wide Cab model is equipped with the automatic and is fitted with 17.5-inch wheels, higher rated tyres, and axles, which increases the GVM to 8.0 tonnes and boosts the payload offering.

The 917 model pokes up into the medium duty sector but retains the four litre engine mated to the six-speed manual with an 8.5 tonne GVM requiring a medium rigid truck licence, while it can be rated to 7,995kg for light-duty truck customers.

The 920 is fitted with the five litre engine option with a manual transmission and can be registered for a light or medium rigid truck licence, with GVMs of either 8.0 or 8.5 tonnes respectively. The 921 uses the  automatic transmission with the high horsepower five litre engine, delivering 3.5 tonnes towing capacity. It can also be configured with either an 8.0 tonne GVM for light rigid truck licences, or 8.5 tonnes for medium rigid licences.

Last but not least, the new Hino Hybrid electric-diesel model has been updated and is available in four variants, starting with the 616 Standard and Wide Cab car-licenced models through to the 716 Wide Cab and the 916 Wide Cab, with a maximum GVM of 8.5 tonne.

Daniel Petrovski underlined the safety credentials of the new 300, saying that the foundation of the safety specification is the truck’s Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), which has been a feature of the 300 Series for almost 10 years.

“The addition of Hino SmartSafe in the new 300 Series will reaffirm its position as the safest Japanese light-duty truck in Australia,” said Petrovski.

If the system determines that a collision is imminent, it can autonomously apply the brakes to minimise the damage or even avoid the collision.

“PD can detect a pedestrian in front of the vehicle – if the system detects a pedestrian, it will warn the driver to apply the brakes using both visual and audible alerts and, if the driver takes no action to avoid a collision, it can autonomously apply the brakes.

Petrovski says Hino customers have embraced PCS as an active safety system and have been requesting its introduction across other Hino models since its introduction as standard on the 500 Series Standard Cab last year. The company says that 30 per cent of truck crashes are rear end collisions due to driver distraction or inattention.

Accitionally the system’s Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS) alerts the driver visually and audibly if the truck is deviating from its lane without the turn indicators being engaged. Hino says that 40 per cent of truck accidents are as a result of what it describes as ‘off path accidents’, where trucks wander out of their lane or off the road limits/

Other features that distinguish the new 300 from its predecessor include Daytime Running Lamps (DRLs) along with the PCS radar in the bumper and an updated grille.

“The DRLs are a unique feature for Hino in the light-duty truck segment – they ensure that if headlamps are not turned on in low light conditions, the vehicle will still be seen, adding to the overall safety of the vehicle.”

Other carry over  safety features from the previous 300 include dual SRS airbags, four-wheel ventilated disc brakes, and Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD).

The 300 Series Cab has been tested to the UN ECE R-29 cab strength certification and features narrow A-pillars which ensure a nearly uninterrupted forward view.

Forward vision is complemented by heated and electrically operated external mirrors.

“When combined with the high definition waterproof and infrared Reverse Camera, the new 300 Series offers near 360-degree vision for improved safety when manoeuvring the vehicle,” said Petrovski

The updated Hybrid models are still Australia’s only electric-diesel hybrid light-duty trucks according to Hino. While the conventional models are Euro 5 compliant, the Hybrids meet Euro 6 emission standards using EGR and DPR combined with SCR.

Hino has updated the Hybrid system with changes to hardware and software, aimed at improving fuel efficiency and reducing emissions.

The battery has been reduced in size but retains a 6.5 Amp Hour rating and is still a Toyota Group-sourced nickel metal hydride unit, while the  Power Control Unit (PCU), which encompasses the battery, inverter, Engine Control Unit (ECU) and DC-DC Converter, have been redesigned for lighter weight and smaller packaging, resulting in a PCU weight of 85kg, down from 113kg.

“The engine and transmission have also been improved with the aim of further fuel consumption reductions,” Petrovski said.

The N04C-WR four cylinder common-rail turbo-diesel produces 150hp and 470Nm of torque, which is delivered in combination with the electric motor from just 1000RPM, while the revised automated is now a six-speed replacing the five-speed in the previous model and is coupled directly to the electric motor.

Hino says the additional ratio and the wider spread of gears enable the engine to spend longer in its most efficient rpm, resulting in maximum driving efficiencies.

Hino has also improved the interior with comfort and functionality upgrades which it points out are especially important for professional drivers spending so much time behind the wheel.

“The interior has been designed with the driver as the central point. An improved dash layout includes a new driver instrument panel with an enlarged and centralised speedometer to improve readability, and a new easy-to-read high contrast 4.2-inch TFT LCD Multi Information Display.

“New steering wheel controls operate both the Multi Information Display and the multimedia unit, which features a large 6.5-inch high definition, capacitive touch screen,”  said Daniel Petrovski.

An ‘intelligent’ multimedia unit is standard across the entire Hino range and boasts AM/FM and DAB+ digital radio, Bluetooth music streaming and mobile phone connectivity with voice dialling as well as being capable of connecting up to four multi-position cameras. It also features an Android operating system, and Wi-Fi connectivity for over-the-air software updates.

Options for the multimedia unit include a digital video camera recorder (DVR), tyre pressure monitoring system, and truck-specific satellite navigation that takes into consideration parameters of the truck such as weight and height.

All models are fitted with an ergonomically designed fully-adjustable driver’s seat for maximum comfort.

“The driver’s seat in the Wide Cab models also feature torsion-bar suspension and a large slide adjustable range on inclined rails, to accommodate varying occupant heights to maximise comfort and reduce driver fatigue,” said Daniel Petrovski.

Hino is also trumpeting its Hino Advantage business solutions as another  advantage to buyers,  offering a suite of business solutions designed to reduce costs over the life of the vehicle.

“Our Hino Advantage solutions include Hino SmartSafe, capped price servicing, telematics, Hino Genuine Parts, 24/7 Hino roadside assist, our finance options, and customer support provisions via our Customer Care Centre,” he continued.

All of the new 2020 Hino 300 Series models come with a three years or 100,000km standard warranty (whichever comes first), and the option of extending the warranty to five years.

With a boom in last mile delivery as a result of the burgeoning on line ‘e-tail’ market, which has seen so many consumers switching to internet shopping, the arrival of the updated Hino 300 comes at an opportune time, particularly with the growing emphasis on work place health and safety by major fleets and corporate buyers.

Hino’s success with its safety oriented 500 Series models is a template for further success with the new 300, but ultimately the market will decide if its safety features will give the light duty Hino a sales boost enough to challenge  the market leading Isuzu N series range.