Hino 614 Auto Dump 4x2 truck review

By: Gary Worrall


With the light-duty rental market is emerging as a key sales battleground, Hino has come out with a factory-built tipper complete with auto transmission.

Hino 614 Auto Dump 4x2 truck review
Hino 614 Auto Dump.

 

It is said the true measure of a person is how they cope with adversity, and how well they respond to the constant challenges placed before them.

If that is the case, then it would have to be said Hino must be one of Australia’s most resilient truck companies, constantly striving to defeat arch-rival Isuzu in the sales war.

A microcosm of this struggle can be found in the T-Mark Truck Tracker results for March 2010, where Hino delivered a respectable 480 units, enough to comfortably lead home virtually every other truck manufacturer operating in the local market.

Except for Isuzu, which delivered an astonishing 700 vehicles in the month — not bad in an economy allegedly balanced on the edge of recession.

Despite this comprehensive defeat on the dealership floors, it is important to recognise Hino is not just picking up the bat and ball and heading home, promising not to be seen in this market again.

Instead, the product development team, headed by the ever-smiling Alex Stewart, went looking in the Hino product catalogue, seeking something capable of bringing the company the sales advantage.

The cries of ‘eureka’ emanating from the Taren Point head office of Hino would just about have been audible over the waves at nearby Cronulla beach when Stewart’s team set eyes on the 614 dump truck, complete with automatic transmission.

Not only does it make use of the proven 300 Series cab, but it can be registered as a 4,495kg gross weight vehicle, making it perfect for the rental market, as well as the trade sector looking for truck-like abilities, without needing an upgraded driving licence.

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Engine

Although it is the range-opener, which usually means the lightest and therefore least-powerful version, the 614 does very well for itself and puts every one of the 100 kilowatts from the four-litre, four-cylinder EGR turbodiesel to work for an entertaining driving experience.

Admittedly, it is never going to knock off much more than a Hyundai Excel at the traffic lights, but that is not the game plan Hino had in mind when screwing this one together.

Instead, with at least 300Nm (220ft-lb) of torque available from 750rpm all the way out to the far side of 2,700rpm, the 614 just buries its head and does an impersonation of the ‘Little Engine That Could’ and chugs away cheerfully.

Transmission

Making the tipper a little special is the A860E six-speed automatic. It makes light work of the gear-changing duties, as well as providing a tremendous set of ratios that dovetail really well with the power curve of the engine.

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Cab and Controls

With the 614 being the entry-level model to the popular 300 Series range, one advantage for Hino is the proven cab design, with well-sorted ergonomics and an internal layout that needs little adjustment for its latest role.

Externally, it could be anything from a 614 through to an 816, with only minor detail differences between the various cab configurations, other than the actual measurements, fitted as it is with the ‘family’ headlights and indicators, as well as the steeply raked front windscreen.

Although there are some concerns over the cab entry steps in its bigger brethren the 700 Series, there is no doubting the designers and engineers got it right on the 300.

With a door opening that exceeds 90 degrees, there is no problem at all with entry and exit. A single step is all that is needed due to the relatively low ride height of the 614.

All the window openings are large, which creates a feeling of airiness in the three-seat cab, but also offers plenty of view around the truck. This is possibly even more important than usual, given the 614 is intended to do plenty of work in cramped building sites and house lots.

The seats offer plenty of support, another important advantage for operators who are jumping in and out all day, as well as punting the truck along in urban traffic.

What this means is the driver is getting plenty of support under his or her legs, which stops them getting tired, and leaves more energy for fun stuff like spreading soil.

As well as offering good support, the seating position is well set up as a command centre. The steering wheel has tilt and reach adjustment. The accelerator and brake pedals are mounted on the floor.

Looking for all the world like a spare handbrake, the big lever that runs up the driver’s A-pillar is actually the control for the tipper, not a bad thing to remember at the traffic lights.

While the driving position itself is good, with the handbrake between the driver and the centre passenger seat and the dash-mounted gear shift, the power window controls are mounted to a ‘blister’ extension on the door panel. Throughout the whole drive this dug into my right leg just above the knee.

Hino engineers are aware of the issue, and are hopeful Japan will rectify the problem.

There’s a good spot for the switches on the flat top of the trim panel, under the grab handle that runs virtually the length of the door.

Other than that misdemeanor the 614 cab is comfortable and effective, with all switches within easy reach of the driver. The air-conditioning coped well during our four hours in the cab on a warm Sydney day.

Probably the only thing I do not agree with is the grey velour upholstery; it might go okay in a small pantech or removals truck, but seriously, who wants velour in a truck designed to run between landscaping projects.

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Personally I would go for something a little harder wearing and easier to clean.

The optional in-dash entertainment unit is not bad value; it is supplied by VDO Dayton and offers a combination of Bluetooth, satellite navigation, iPod connectivity, auxiliary input, as well as a reversing camera and a few other functionalities besides.

But for a truck that is going to spend a lot of time going backwards down narrow driveways and easements, it should be mandatory — and a little more shading would not go astray as at times ‘flaring’ made the screen unreadable.

Performance

Gear shifts in the Hino 614 Auto Dump are slurred deliciously to virtually eliminate driveline shock, even with a pile of sand in the back running up and down hills.

The best trick of all is saved for running down hills on a trailing throttle in overdrive with the exhaust brake switched on.

Despite the laws of physics demanding the truck do its best impersonation of Del Shannon’s ‘Runaway’, the Hill Descent Control logic in the gearbox detects that it is a good time to kick in, and actually downshifts a gear or two, depending on the length of the hill, and is good for knocking between 15 and 20km/h off the road speed.

The downshift pushes the engine revs up, allowing the exhaust brake to work more effectively, in turn taking more speed out of the truck. Add to that the four-wheel-disc brakes and you end up with a package that has plenty of stopping power, particularly for a relatively small payload.

As expected, the ride is on the hard side of firm, with plenty of feedback from the suspension when the back is empty. However, put a tonne or so of soil in the back and it becomes a lot smoother, although the short  wheelbase means this choppiness is never truly gone.

Also impressive is the relative quietness of the engine; you know that it is doing some work, yet at no time did it become overpowering. Instead, there was a steady stream of conversation, interspersed with music from my iPod, which plugged straight into the entertainment system.

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Probably the biggest downside is the notchiness of the auto shifter; it is possible to overshoot drive and end up locking out the top two gears because you find yourself pulling down too hard, to overcome the stiffness in the shift.

The other downside is the lack of a driver’s spotter mirror. This unit is designed to go into tight spaces, and will spend plenty of time reversing down laneways, driveways and around job sites, so having a second mirror on the driver’s side is not too much to ask, particularly given the target market of rental companies, where anyone with a car licence will be getting behind the wheel.

The 614 benefits from being a factory-built tipper; everything is ready to go when it rolls off the boat, but best of all, it is designed from the ground up to fit exactly into the cab.

This means the handles, switches and buttons all look the same, right across the cab. Everything belongs, nothing feels like an after-thought.

Operating the tipper is dead simple, even journalists can do it.

After deciding where to drop our load, it was a case of unhooking the tarp — by hand, no roller systems here I am afraid — and then making sure the transmission is in ‘park’, push the PTO button on the dash, and then pull the lever.

Just like a big tipper, the tray can be stopped at virtually any angle; not a bad idea for jobs with limited headroom, or to sweep out once you are finished.

Dropping the tray is the reverse of raising, no tricks at all. The 614 is the most fun in the backyard this side of your kids’ Tonka.

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Verdict

That is exactly what Hino should be doing with these little beauties. Heck I would even have one to replace my old Rodeo ute. Okay, it only takes two passengers, but it carries a lot more, goes to the same places, and makes short work of dumping the garden waste at the tip.

Although the 614 can be configured at 5.5 tonnes, Barry Noble, Hino’s manager for product and engineering support, says the majority will be sold as 4,495kg GVM, with rental fleets showing plenty of interest.

 

Likes:

  • Easy to drive
  • Hill Descent Control
  • Smooth shifting auto matched to engine output

Dislikes:

  • Driver’s door trim digs into leg
  • Lack of a driver’s spotter mirror
  • Notchy gearshift lever (this might loosen with use)

 

Specifications

Make/Model: Hino 614 Auto Dump 4x2

Cab: Three seat, cab over, lap belt only for centre passenger

Engine: Hino N04C TU; 4-litre, four-cylinder turbodiesel with direct injection

Gearbox: A860E six-speed automatic transmission

Power/Torque: 100kW (134hp)/358Nm (264ft-lb)

Emission Control: ADR80/02 US04 with EGR

Wheelbase: 2,525mm

GVM/GCM: 4,495kg or 5,500kg/9,000kg

 

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