Hino 500 Series 2630 truck video review

By: Gary Worrall


The Hino 2630 is aimed straight at the class-leading Isuzu F-Series. Gary Worrall took one for a drive to see if it scores a hit

 

Take a look into any depot handling a fleet of large urban delivery trucks.

Nine times out of 10 you will see a fleet of Hino or Isuzu trucks (with a smattering of other brands).

A little like the Ford versus Holden debate, these fleets will be almost exclusively one brand or the other, with no mix and match going on.

Fed up with being the perennial bridesmaid, Hino went all-out to take the number-one spot when it launched the 2630 and 2632 ranges late in 2008, giving it an updated truck capable of taking the fight to Isuzu’s F-series.

Has it worked? The answer is not as clear-cut as you would hope.

The Hino wins in some sections and is outclassed in others.

From the outside, there is no mistaking the 2630 as anything other than a Hino.

There are no definitive ‘family’ features but there is enough DNA on show to identify it alongside its siblings.

It is oft-repeated in these pages that cabover designs don’t offer much room to move when it comes to packaging.

The 2630 has a distinctive front — a few odd angles catch the eye, particularly around the indicators. It still retains the traditional horizontal grille, now updated to incorporate the round ‘H’ logo.

In keeping with its role as a work truck, Hino has used plenty of painted metal, rather than plastic or rubber-coated components.

It gives the initial impression of a no-nonsense vehicle that just wants to get out on the road.

The headlights are a clever touch: semi-recessed into the bumpers they are protected from errant loading docks and four-wheel drives, while still projecting a clear pool of light for night driving.

The headlights also feature a load-compensator in the cab, allowing them to be re-aligned if the rear is heavily laden and pulling the nose up into the air — what used to be known as ‘shooting the koalas’.

The bumper and grille feature plenty of slots to allow air-flow, helping to keep the engine at the right temperature.

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Unlike a couple of Euro trucks we have tested recently, including DAF and Volvo, the Hino has a more upright design compared to the European philosophy of sloping the windscreen for a more aero-friendly approach.

Surprisingly, and despite the door mirrors projecting out from the cab, there is very little wind noise, even at highway speeds.

It is not all good news though. On entering the cab you come against one of the big flaws in the 2630’s design.

The first step up is just below the level of my knee — and this driver is no dwarf (well over six feet). This is not good on a truck where the driver will be in and out of the cab a dozen times a day.

As part of our test schedule Owner//Driver ‘retired’ a fleet truck for the day and took the regular driver, all 160cm of him, out in the 2630 to complete his day’s work.

After the second stop, because he insisted on hopping out to say hello to his regulars and make sure everything went smoothly, the comment was made that he would require a parachute if he was to keep making this leap (and a forklift to hoist him back into the cab).

Another problem with the steps is that the bottom one is directly under the top one, rather than being staggered.

There is an increased risk of belting one’s shins, particularly in inclement weather (despite the good quality tread on the step).

The doors do not open to a full 90 degrees; this means it is necessary to push the door open with your shoulder to slide in behind the multi-adjustable steering wheel.

This might sound like a minor irritation, but imagine 20 or 30 drivers complaining daily about the poor entry and exit, suddenly the true scope of the problem is revealed.

The most annoying part is this could have been rectified if the factory had sent a truck out for evaluation and then heeded the driver and operator feedback.

Engine and Transmission

Running with an Allison automatic transmission, the Hino 2630 features an 8.8-litre, turbocharged and intercooled, six-cylinder engine.

With water-cooled exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) and a Jacob-type two-stage retarder, the in-line engine pumps out 221kW (300hp) of power at 2,100rpm and 1,079Nm (800lb-ft) of torque at 1,100rpm.

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Cab and Controls

Admittedly, once you are in the cab, it is a decent place to be, offering a reasonable workplace for the professional driver.

The driver’s seat is comfortable and includes air-suspension, and while the seatbelt is bolted to the B-pillar it is at least height adjustable to avoid hanging the driver on a bumpy road.

Regardless of where you place the seat, the view is generally good, and the afore-mentioned multiple adjustment on the steering column means it is easy to find the perfect solution.

The thin A-pillars make the most of the large windscreen and door windows.

I did have a problem turning right at T-intersections as the passenger-door mirrors create a blind spot to the left.

The dash is clear and easy to read, with big dials for the speedo and tacho, flanking smaller gauges covering fuel and temperature, plus front and rear brake pressures. Above that is a bank of tell-tale lights for other functions.

The one thing I thought could have been included is a repeater for the Allison auto-transmission showing current gear and mode. For example, if the driver locks out the top three gears when descending hills it would be better to not have to look away from the road to verify the gear selection.

Wipers, indicators, hazard lights and the magnificent two-stage retarder are all handled by steering column stalks.

Air-conditioning and radio controls are dash-mounted within easy reach of the driver, along with the diff lock and dump valve for the rear suspension.

A minor annoyance, which adds to the feel of the 2630 not being sorted for Australian operations, is the remote controls for the powered door-mirrors.

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The controls are toward the centre of the dash, and require the driver to lean forward out of their seat.

It means you need to make an adjustment then sit back and, if it is not right, lean forward to have another go.

This might sound nit-picky, but when the target market is considered, they are the type of things that can sway a large order between manufacturers.

In defence of the 2630, there are plenty of storage spaces, including two cupholders for the coffee plus another two larger holders for water bottles, along with overhead lockers for paperwork and a central cubby hole under the work/lunch table.

Meanwhile, there’s a compliant day bed, with curtains. The air vents are well-placed and give plenty of airflow around the cab, backed up by excellent heating and cooling characteristics.

The other big plus is the work that has gone into sound-proofing the engine and cabin. Even at cruising speed of 1,700rpm, or with the retarder working hard, the engine is just a background noise that is never intrusive.

Performance

Driving the truck reveals the good and bad of its true character.

After a bit of a rumble on start-up, the Hino motor settles down into a steady ‘thrum’ under the floor, more reassuring than raucous.

The Allison automatic is a delight, both around town and out on the highway. Just click the stubby lever from Neutral to Drive, release the car-style park brake, and the truck is away.

The brakes have plenty of bite, even when cold; this is a truck that appreciates a gentle touch rather than a heavy-fisted approach.

Combine that with the excellent engine retarder and you have a first-rate combination for urban delivery work, especially with the Allison gearbox.

The computer up-shifts at 1,650rpm, while the oh-so-willing engine is happy to work its way up through the revs to the next shift point.

Even with a heavy load the shifts are syrupy-smooth. In fact, it is difficult to pick the exact point of the change because the driver does not need to lift off at all — the computer simply tells the gearbox to change and it is handled with a minimum of fuss.

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After a couple of hours in the seat it is obvious plenty of work went on between the Hino and Allison engineers to ensure the ratios are perfectly matched to the torque curve.

At no time does the driver feel short-changed by the gearbox or left to sweat on the engine lugging its way out of a tough spot.

The only time the shifts are noticeable is when it comes to dropping into second gear with the retarder operating, running towards traffic lights, where the driver leaves the retarder to bring the speed down.

The retarder cuts out at 20km/h, allowing the driver to bring the truck to a smooth stop with the wheel brakes, however often that is the only time they are needed (other than in an emergency).

This gives the added bonus of reduced brake wear and therefore running costs.

The test truck was fitted with Hendricksen air-bags all round, they gave a comfortable ride across all but the worst of South East Queensland’s roads.

There were a couple of major potholes that managed to jar the cab, but these would have easily ripped the suspension out of a car.

While the steering was good, with plenty of assistance at low speed and good feedback (and without a real dead-spot off centre), it was not flawless and felt as though it was short of about a quarter-turn of lock — the kerb-to-kerb turning circle is 20.4m.

This was particularly evident when working in tight spaces on the delivery run.

Where a regular truck would only require a single turn to enter or exit a narrow driveway, the 2630 required two or three attempts to clear the same corner.

As is the way with delivery trucks, the weight hovered between 12 and 20 tonnes throughout the test, depending on how many stops had been completed.

Even with this variable weight the Hino engine performed flawlessly, providing plenty of power, while the Allison auto took the effort out of gearshifts and allowed the driver to concentrate on the task of driving.

Despite the best efforts of motorists trying to cut the truck off in traffic. The retarder, brakes — along with some sensible driving habits — were more than enough to keep us out of trouble.

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Verdict

Without a shadow of a doubt, the Hino 2630 is a good truck. It could be a great truck, provided Hino addresses a few basic issues.

First and foremost, it is a long way to the top when you are standing on level ground (apologies to Bon Scott) and that’s just not good enough in an age where operator health and safety, quite rightly, is something that is taken seriously.

Within a couple of hours of hitting the road I was feeling the step every time I climbed up, and getting down was worse as you were never sure when you would touch ground.

Marry this to the fact the steps sit under each other and you can expect a few complaints, particularly if it is wet or slippery.

Couple this with the need for a smaller turning circle and you can see there is still some work to be done.

Once those few issues are fixed, this truck will be a driver’s delight and would deserve to sell its wheels off, thanks mainly to its functional cab and excellent engine, retarder and gearbox.

 

Specifications

Model: Hino 500 Series 2630

Make: 6x4 rigid Cab-Chassis

Engine: 8.8-litre turbocharged and intercooled, six-cylinder in-line, overhead camshaft and water-cooled with Jacob-type two-stage retarder

Emission control: Water-cooled exhaust gas recirculation (EGR), US04 (ADR80/02)

Power/Torque: 221kW @ 2,100rpm (300hp) / 1,079Nm @ 1,100rpm (800lb-ft)

Overall length: 8.99m

Wheelbase: 5.25m

Width: 2.45m

Height (cab roof): 2.84m

Clearance: 24.5cm (bottom of diff casing)

GVM: 26,000kg

 

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