| BUYERS GUIDE
HINO'S AUTOMATIC CREW-CAB GT
Hino's GT crew-cab combines a hot-shift PTO with an automatic transmisison.
The latest Hino GT variant is unashamedly targeting rural fire fighting fleets, but this versatile truck could have other applications.
The Hino GT 1322 4x4 Crew Auto model combines a seven-seat cabin with an Allison five-speed, self-shifter, on top of familiar mechanicals.
Inevitably, this truck competes with Isuzu’s FTS 800 4x4 Crew Auto and the comparison suggests Hino won’t find it easy to knock off the market leader. Both brands have come up with closely-matched specifications, but detailed examination reveals that Isuzu has the on-paper performance edge.
Engines are common-rail, turbo-intercooled, with exhaust gas recirculation and particulate filters to comply with ADR80/03 emission regulations. However, the Isuzu engine has marginally more displacement – 7.8 litres vs 7.7 litres – and more power and torque: 176kW/706Nm vs 158kW/637Nm for the Hino engine.
Both trucks have the Allison 2500 Series, torque-converter automatic transmission, but Isuzu has the double-overdrive six-speed version and Hino has the single-overdrive five-speed. The Isuzu can use higher-ratio, lower-speed final drives (6.5:1) compared with the Hino’s 5.4:1 gear-sets and so has more gradeability in low-low.
The Isuzu has full-time 4x4 operation, on and off road, with a manual lock for the centre differential. The Hino has no centre diff and has part-time 4x4, letting it operate in two-wheel drive on-road. Both vehicles have two-speed transfer cases.
The GVM honours go Isuzu’s way, with a rating of 13.9 tonnes, compared with the Hino’s 13 tonnes, but both trucks have identical front and rear axle capacity ratings – 4.7 tonnes and 9.2 tonnes – so the GVM rating is largely semantic. Another strength factor is chassis size and the Hino frame section is higher, wider and thicker than the Isuzu’s.
The evaluation Hino was a Crew Auto that came with a ‘hot-shift’ engine-driven PTO, but Isuzu lists its engine PTO only with the manual six-speed box.
On and off road
The boys at Hino put four tonnes of plunder on the back of the GT 1322 tray and we tooled around town for a day, checking it out in stop-start conditions and followed that up with a highway trip next day, culminating in a run around our gravel-road and off-road test course.
The first trick was actually getting into the GT, sitting on its standard 11R22.5 Bridgestones. Fortunately, there are well-placed grab handles and a double access step, but some buyers might want an additional, flexible ‘swinging’ step below the standard ladder. Ditto with getting into the crew seats, via the rear doors.
Although it’s a tall beast, at 2975mm to the rooftop, the Hino is actually 70mm lower than its Isuzu competitor.
Ergonomics were very good, with major controls positioned in easy reach of the driver. The driver scores a standard ISRI 6800 seat that adjusts every conceivable way. The six passengers don’t fare so well, with fixed seats and the two inboard rear positions come with lap-only seatbelts.
Hino has adopted a T-bar transmission selector, which worked logically except for the position of reverse, in the slot where car drivers would expect to find ‘park’. That’s an issue that would need to be covered in a driver-training session.
Hino’s multi-media system is a double-DIN touch screen, with fat buttons for menu changes and knobs you can actually turn. We had no issues with operating it and found the touch screen easy to use, even with the staccato effect on finger accuracy imparted by the rather ‘abrupt’ ride of the GT.
A part-load in the tray civilised the ride somewhat, but the Hino GT is a typical Japanese traction truck: firm for the initiated, who know what to expect and bloody rough for novices.
‘GT’ stands for ‘Get There’; not ‘Grand Touring’.
The springs were shortish, conventional leaf-spring packs, with helpers at the rear. Their primary function seemed to be ensuring that the massive axles rarely hit the bump stops. The telescopic dampers weren’t Dakar spec’, so their efforts to control spring action were limited.
Like its Isuzu equivalent the Hino is built to get there and back, not necessarily in the greatest comfort. We’ve driven some European off-road trucks, fitted with long, taper-leaf springs that gave a more comfortable ride, but these vehicles were also a lot more expensive than the Japanese models.
The Hino GT’s firm ride translated into flat handling on smooth surfaces and steering action was precise and well-assisted. Braking was powerful, without any grabbing or nose-diving.
The engine-transmission match was very good, but even a slick-shifting Allison couldn’t mask the fact that the GT could do with a tad more torque – about 100Nm more would be nice. Typically, the truck would hang onto fifth slot on long grades and then skip-shift back to third for some more pulling power. It could only match loaded 500hp B-Double performance on hills, where a bit more torque would have seen it well ahead of the 65 tonners.
We played around with the transmission overdrive button, making early downshifts to fourth on some grades and that helped maintain road speed.
Automatic-transmission trucks normally have poor engine retardation, but the GT’s engine-transmission programming is well done: dial in the exhaust brake on a downgrade and the transmission goes for successive downshifts, maximising engine braking power. It was almost too much in some highway situations, requiring a move of the exhaust brake lever to limit retardation.
Noise levels were generally low, except when the engine needed to work hard on steep highway grades.
The headlights were very, very ordinary, so driving lights would be necessary for those venturing on bush roads after dark.
On gravel roads the GT1322 handled well and when the going got slippery we stopped the truck to engage 4WD – a simple matter of selecting neutral and then pressing a dashboard button. In high-range 4x4 mode the truck was directionally more stable on sandy and muddy surfaces.
For serious off-road work the next stage was to engage low-range, by stopping the vehicle and selecting the ‘tortoise’ button on the dashboard. Low-range engagement was confirmed by the tortoise icon replacing the hare icon on the instrument panel.
The GT1322 climbed very easily in this mode, but hill descent was trickier, because even in low range the overall gearing wasn’t sufficient to hold the truck to walking speed on very steep descents. ‘Cadence’ braking to control downhill speed soon used the air supply and the low-air warning light and buzzer came on. For this type of terrain the manual box would be a much better choice.
Overall economy on this on-off-road test worked out at 4.6km/L or 21.7L/100km, which isn’t bad for a big, heavy brick on wheels.
The Hino GT1322 Auto Crew should find a ready market with rural fire brigades, thanks to its combination of engine PTO and fully automatic transmission. The truck would also suit many on-off-road applications where there’s a need for simple operation, reasonable performance and comfort, and Japanese-truck reliability.
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