The Hiace is a user-friendly van
What you need to know:
- Popularly known as the drone, the Toyota Hiace is the most common van on Ugandan roads. To these motorists, the drone is reliable, user friendly and economical with fuel consumption, writes Roland D. Nasasira
I bought my Toyota Hiace shortly after the lockdown was lifted for the sole purpose of turning it into an ambulance. I had hired one during lockdown to use at the family hospital but it was becoming costly. When I eventually acquired mine, I opted to instead use it as a tourist van. After test driving it to Mbarara City in western Uganda, I fell in love with its ability to perform on and off-road.
My Hiace runs on a 2,500cc petrol engine. When I fill its tank, I can drive to Mbarara city (approximately 25km from Kampala City centre) and still use the same fuel for all my errands there. On the return journey, I only need to top up with Shs150,000.
Although the petrol engine consumes a bit more fuel, you will get value for money when driving on the highway. I also love the fact that the Hiace is one of the few vans that will give you absolute speed when you need it. However, one has to be cautious and attentive when driving at high speeds to avoid causing accidents.
One of the features I like about the Toyota Hiace is the fact that it can serve a number of purposes. For example, not only can it be used as a family van, it can also work as as a cargo van when the rear passenger seats are folded. I recently moved houses and my Hiace came in so handy when I wanted to transport fragile household items.
When I visit my farm in Kiryandongo District, western Uganda, the Hiace comes in handy, especially when I have to carry farm inputs or produce to the store. I am able to save the money I would have spent on hiring a truck.
Much as it can be customised to carry 14 passengers, for comfort, especially when travelling as a family, mine was customised to carry 10 passengers, including the driver and co-driver. Unlike a commercial van where the quality of seats is compromised, I sourced for the best seats that can be reclined for travel comfort. Each seat cost Shs200,000.
When I bought my Toyota Hiace, it only had two front seats and needed a lot of renovation. And because I wanted to use it for commercial purposes, I took it to Katwe Market in Kampala where a carrier was welded onto the roof.
I have driven it for two years and one of the features I love is its ability to remain stable at high speeds. Mine runs on a 3,000cc diesel engine which is quite economical. When I fill the tank, I can drive to Gulu City in northern Uganda and only top up on my way back either in Nakasongola District or Masindi Town. It is also a reliable car since it does not easily break down.
I service my van once in two to three months because it is always on the road, especially when going upcountry. To keep it running as good as new, I use high quality engine oil, transmission fluid, air cleaner, fuel and oil filters and engine coolant.
I also service it on time and I spend Shs300,000 each garage visit. For any commercial vehicle, it is even safer to service before reaching the 5,000km mark on the service manual as a means of preventive maintenance.
However, since it is a reliable van, sometimes you will not even notice when you skip a maintenance schedule since most drive like new.
One of the downsides of the Hiace is its low ground clearance that is not suitable for rough upcountry roads. If it is unavoidable, you have to drive carefully to avoid damaging parts underneath the car, especially the exhaust system.