PO Box 667 Moss Vale NSW 2577 Contact Us

BUYERS GUIDE - 4X4 CAMPERVANS

JACANA HIKER HIACE BASED CAMPERVANS
Compact, capable campervans from this motorhome specialist company.

 

Taree-based Jacana Motorhomes is employing its 30-year motorhome expertise in smaller vehicles. The Hiker is based on Toyota’s HiAce van and can be ordered in 2WD, 2WD ‘X’ and 4WD configurations.

 

 

Many Australian adventurers don’t want European-van-based campers, because of the lack of bush dealer support. Just ask any owner of a VW Crafter, Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Fiat Ducato or Iveco Daily who’s ventured into the Outback and you’ll hear what we’re talking about.

In contrast, Toyota is well known for its network of some 300 Australia-wide dealers.

As the Toyota HiAce van became progressively larger in recent years, interest in Hi-Ace-based campervans increased and that market potential wasn’t lost on Jacana Motorhomes – best known for its larger-vehicle campervan and motorhome conversion work.

 

 

In the early 2020s, Jacana introduced the ‘Hiker’ campervan, based on the long-wheelbase (LWB) HiAce van and supplemented that with a raised-suspension 4WD version.

By 2024, Jacana boasted six variants on the Hiker concept: Hiker Standard 2WD; Hiker Cross (X) raised-suspension with diff-lock 2WD; and the dual-range-geared 4WD model. All three variants were available on the LWB HiAce van and on the super-long-wheelbase (SLWB) model.

Incidentally, the SLWB HiAce has around 100mm more useful interior length than the mid-wheelbase Sprinter or Crafter vans.

 

 

The rear wheel drive HiAce van has 2.8-litre diesel power and comes with a six-speed automatic transmission, in a choice of long and super-long wheelbases. Jacana does the Hiker conversion on all these variants and Enduroco or Bus4x4’s 4WD conversion can also be fitted to any HiAce variant.

The Hiker ‘X’ 2WD model employs Enduroco’s 100mm suspension lift, aluminium wheels and off-road tyres, in conjunction with a Toyota rear axle differential lock.

Jacana uses a unique ordering method, with new HiAce vans being delivered directly by Toyota to Enduroco for suspension and driveline modifications, before then being delivered to the Taree (NSW) Toyota dealership. After inspection and pre-delivery at the dealership, the vans are taken to Jacana’s factory for campervan fit-out.

 

 

Before any work begins at Jacana’s factory, each HiAce is shrink-wrapped in protective plastic sheet. This special sheeting is purpose-designed for painted vehicles and doesn’t leave any residue on the surface.

The sheeting ensures that no swarf or other residue can enter panel gaps, keeping the non-modified parts of the vehicle as-new.

Jacana’s campervan conversion starts with moulded rear window ‘pod’ extensions that increase the width of the van at those points. This width increase allows fitment of a 1950mm x 1400mm east-west double bed.

 

 

All framing for bed and cupboards is fabricated from slotted aluminium square tube that’s purpose-designed to house L-brackets via captive nuts that slide in grooves in the extrusions.

This very strong system allows for some customising without compromising integrity and makes maintenance easier.

 

 

Jacana’s pop-top roof moulding is fibreglass and features a moulded fairing at the front, to streamline it into the roof. The cutout in the original roof is double-painted and the aperture is topped with aluminium framing.

The pop-top opens very easily and raises higher than competitor roofs, by virtue of stainless steel ‘scissor’ hinges at the aft end. This design also allows plenty of room for the  tailgate to lift, without fouling the pop-top.

Incidentally, the pop-top roof catches are simple webbing straps with clips, so they’re automatically self-adjusting and can’t mark or pinch the fabric pop-top canvas infills.

Sliding windows with fly screens and a manual roll-out awning are standard. A 180-degree awning is optional.

 

 

Under the standard innerspring-mattress bed is a multi-drawer module that can be accessed from inside the vehicle and through the rear door. The drawer module, galley and wardrobe are constructed from lightweight marine-grade plywood.

The interior floor plan takes the space-saving advantage of a swivelling passenger seat that can swing around to face the removable galley table. That table has an adjustable-height leg and can be clipped onto the sliding door, for outdoor use.

 

 

The galley sits immediately behind the driver’s seat and features an 85-litre front-opening fridge/freezer, a sink with mixer tap and an LPG cooktop. A wardrobe with shelf flanks the galley.

 

 

An optional fit-out features a shallower galley and a folding double or single bed on the right hand side, with a wardrobe opposite. This ‘load-through’ design allows bikes and surfboards to be stowed inside the van.

Electrical system inclusions are: 85-litre fridge; external 15-amp socket; 200Ah lithium battery with mains and 12V charging; 375W solar roof panel; 2000W inverter; power outlets; LED lighting and USB outlets.

 

 

A two-burner LPG cooktop, with griller is installed and water supply to the sink comes from a 55-litre tank, or from mains connection. A rear shower is standard.

Options include: folding, two-place ADR-approved second-row seat; portable toilet (cupboard storage space is standard); half-height shower/toilet enclosure; 22-litre grey water tank; cooling fan; roof bed; rear door enclosure tent; swing-away bike rack; battery upgrade to 300Ah; diesel hot water system and room heating; a manual awning; door flyscreens; TV with external aerial and DVD player; tow bar; window tinting and a body wrap.

The interior fit out choices are the same for 2WD and 4WD versions.

The SLWB version was a 2023 initiative, offering a roomier layout, more water and storage capacity, and the option of a swivelling driver’s seat.

 

 

 

 

Hiker X test

 

We had a brief drive and bush set-up of the LWB Hiker X model in early 2024 and were very impressed with its specifications and ability. We’re not surprised to discover that this is Jacana’s most popular Hiker variant.

Many people want a campervan with enhanced tractive ability, to ensure they can negotiate fire trails, firm beaches and secluded camping spots, without the risk of getting bogged.

 

 

That’s where the Hiker X comes into its own, because it offers off-road ground clearance and strong tyres, combined with the HiAce’s standard stability and traction control, plus an optional across-axle diff lock.

We checked it out on loose gravel trails and undulating terrain and found its off-road ability would satisfy the needs of most buyers. It had excellent rear suspension articulation and we needed to invoke the diff lock only in situations where one rear wheel was hung up.

 

 

We would’t venture onto the soft sand at K’gari (Fraser Island) or attempt The Simpson, but we’d happily take the 2WD Hiker X to the Victorian High Country and virtually any inland road or trail, including all the Len Beadell routes.

Most people would baulk at the considerable cost of the full 4WD version – add fifty grand plus to the Hiker X’s 140-grand RRP – and find it difficult to justify.

Despite its rather lofty ride height the Jacana Hiker X rode and handled like a standard HiAce van, except for noticeable front-end lean in tight corners. We reckoned a slightly stiffer front anti-sway bar would cure that trait.

 

 

Living with the Hiker X wouldn’t be difficult. Its claimed payload rating of 650kg and 1900kg towing capacity would be enough for most people and it’d easily fit in garages and parking stations. It was compact and economical enough to double as daily drive.

It came with a Toyota five-year warranty and all the Jacana-fitted bits had 12-month warranties.

We liked the Jacana Hiker X so much that when it comes time to replace our venerable LandCruiser 75 Series (‘Harry’), we’ll seriously consider buying a SLWB Hiker X 2WD, with diff lock and Enduroco suspension kit. We’d also opt for the full rear door tent extension.

The increased interior space of the SLWB model appeals to use, along with the flexibility of a two-swivel-seat dinette up front.

 

Advertisements