This company turns the 2WD HiAce into a capable 4WD campervan base

Bus4x4 – best known for its 2WD to 4WD conversions for mining company transport – has introduced a high-ground clearance version of the HiAce range that’s also fitted with a two-speed transfer case and full-time 4WD.


Off-road bus and van conversion specialist, Brisbane-based Bus4x4, was quick out of the blocks with conversion kits for the 2019MY Toyota HiAce van, Commuter and Granvia people mover variants.

The Bus 4x4 conversion of the 2019 Toyota 300 Series HiAce, with full time high and low range gearing is the latest advancement in the company’s extensive product range.

Developed in-house by Bus4x4’s R&D division, using Toyota components, the Toyota 300 Series HiAce conversion comes with a 180mm body lift, modified independent front suspension, raised rear leaf springs and a rear axle differential lock. The coil-sprung Granvia’s revised rear suspension layout wasn’t finalised in late-2019.

The specifications and pre-release photos indicate that the latest Bus4x4 HiAce models will have more than expected on and off-road abilities, and the company’s testing indicates better ride quality and turning circle than existing Bus4x4 converted vehicles.

Bus4x4 expects the converted 2019MY HiAce Commuter mini-bus versions to be as popular with mining companies as previous HiAce 4x4 models it has produced over the past 10 years.


Nuts ’n’ bolts

Toyota has standardised the HiAce across global markets, with four-cylinder 2.8-litre turbo diesel or 3.5-litre V6 petrol power. In Australia, petrol and diesel versions are available only in the two-seat vans, and all models with five seats and above are diesel versions.

The Bus4x4 conversion kit covers the entire HiAce range from the two-seat LWB Van to the 12-seat SLWB Commuter, plus the 6/8 seat luxury Granvia.

All HiAce Bus4x4 models have a 1500kg braked-trailer tow rating.

Pricing for a converted HiAce five-seat crew-cab van starts at $95,780.

Options are extensive, covering front protection bars; rock sliders (to protect sills and rocker panels); upgraded wheels and tyres; wheel arch mouldings; UHF/VHF radio; roof-mounted lights; safety decals and signage; ROPS roll cage; mine spec’ bars, snorkel; reverse warning ; safety equipment locker; handbrake alarm with door warning mechanism; wheel chocks and safety triangles; lockable battery isolator with Anderson jumpstart system and 2.5kg or 4.5kg fire extinguishers.

Our testing of previous Bus4x4 HiAce vehicles promises some impressive on and off road results when we get into one of the latest machines in December 2019.



Previous models

As a commercial vehicle the Bus4x4 HiAce is a possible substitute for the LandCruiser Troop Carrier as a go-almost-anywhere people transporter, service van or ambulance. There’s also a camper van in the mix, with customised interior packages.

The Bus 4x4 4WD Hiace Commuter is based on a Hiace 2WD mini-bus that has seating capacity for 12 or 14. Vehicles with five-speed manual or four-speed auto boxes can be sourced.

The process of converting it to 4WD is similar to that employed for the Bus4x4 Coaster, but the drive train is designed to match 100kW/300Nm, three-litre diesel outputs.

This done by using a Toyota Prado dual range transfer case, giving All-Wheel Drive and electric operation of low range control.

Bus 4x4 increases the suspension an extra 30mm from the previous model (see below), giving the Commuter an overall 110mm lift. Front suspension is independent, with torsion bars, not with the coils previously used and with the rear axle under-slung to give increased belly clearance.

A long range 110 litre fuel tank is part of this upgraded package. Wheels and tyres are standard 16-inch, with 17-inch options. A number of patterns are available for different applications. Typical tyre size is 235/75R16.

The 4x4 Hiace Commuters are available in both manual or automatic versions, and are very similar in feel to the original 4x2 versions.

Will the 4WD Hiace Commuter replace the LandCruiser Troop Carrier? We think that it’s certainly a lower-cost, more ergonomically acceptable people carrier or ambulance platform than a modified Troopy but replacing the reliable and popular Troopy is not an easy task.

Bus4x4 has converted a combined total of 400 vehicles to four-wheel-drive and supplies major mining companies and mining contractors across Australia. The company exports and has supplied Coaster 4x4 kits to the Middle East, Latin America and the Dominican Republic.

With its 4WD HiAce Commuters and 4WD Coasters, Bus4x4 is targeting the campervan and motorhome industry as a go-anywhere alternative to the 4x4/Off-Road Caravan combo. Judging from the increasing number of grey nomads who want to go bush, this strategy could work for them as well!

2014 models 

Our 2014 test Bus4x4 HiAce HLT was the company’s prototype, in eight-seat, mine-bus configuration.

bus4x4 hiace hltGetting in and out of the HLT was something of a challenge, because there was no additional step provided. However, a drop-down step and additional grab handles are in the design phase.

The prototype was built on a HiAce Commuter, powered by the ubiquitous Toyota three-litre turbo-intercooled diesel that drops into HiLuxes and Prados. The transmission was a manual five-speed, but the Bus4x4 conversion should work just as well with an optional four-speed automatic transmission.

On road it drove just like a 2WD, but with a superior view! Ride and handling were as original, but the steering had a distinct ‘dead’ spot either side of centre: that was due for correction by a change of steering geometry.

Corrugated dirt roads didn’t worry the HLT, other than for road noise drumming inside what was a big tin box.

On road fuel consumption worked out around 13L/100km.

Switching from 2WD to 4WD could be done at any speed, provided the front hubs were locked. Low range selection required a stop. Engagement and disengagement of 2WD, 4WD and 4WD Low Range worked quickly, with no sing of driveline-torque ‘hang-up’.

Off road the New Process transfer case’s low-range gearing allowed the HLT to crawl up anything on which it could get traction and where its considerable front overhang let it climb without digging in. The approach angle was only 25 degrees and that’s one of the compromises of a cab-over-engine configuration. The plus side of the COE layout was a short wheelbase of 3110mm, for an overall length of 5380mm.

bus4x4 hiace hltThe prototype’s diffs lacked the tractive ability of a full locking setup and that would be our preferred arrangement.
However, as tested, the Bus4x4 HiAce HLT was easily the most capable vehicle in its class – well ahead of the 4Motion VW Transporter and Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 4x4.

Will it replace a LandCruiser Troop Carrier campervan conversion? We think that it’s certainly a lower-cost, more ergonomically acceptable camper van platform than a modified Troopy, but when it comes to extreme terrain a double-diff-locked Troopy still has go-anywhere and towing legs that the HLT lacks.

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