Refreshed styling makes the H1 look less like a delivery van. Left: The infotainment’s been upgraded with Bluetooth and a larger screen.
Refreshed styling makes the H1 look less like a delivery van. Left: The infotainment’s been upgraded with Bluetooth and a larger screen.

People movers are bought more for their utility than their styling, but Hyundai’s bus now announces its presence a little louder with a recent facelift.

A larger and more prominent grille, along with new projector-style headlamps, give the nine-seater a bolder face while the top-of-the-range version also wears stylish new 17-inch alloy wheels.

It’s given the Korean bus a somewhat more premium look, and this continues inside the cabin with a smart new infotainment system with a larger touchscreen with Bluetooth cellphone integration, while navigation is available for an extra R2,500. As part of an equipment upgrade, the new headlamps now switch on by themselves when it gets dark.

The bus is sold as a 2.4l petrol manual and a 2.5l diesel automatic, and also a 2.5l diesel panel van. A multicab is also available on special order.

Safety has been boosted in the range-topping diesel version which has acquired stability control and side airbags to go with the front ones. All versions come standard with ABS brakes.

We recently took the R629,900 top-of-the-range Elite diesel bus for a coastal getaway — just the kind of trip the H1’s designed for with its enormous family-sized cabin.

The bus takes eight passengers in business-class levels of space with stretch-out legroom for all. All the backrest angles can be individually adjusted, and the middle row can also slide fore and aft for legroom.

A fold-up middle seat in the front row serves as short-term seating for a ninth person — but ideally a vertically-challenged one as there isn’t much space for their legs where the dashboard juts out.

On our Joburg-to-KZN trip there were four people aboard which wasn’t much of a test of the vehicle’s capabilities, but it made for happy campers over the seven-hour journey. The middle-row passengers joked that the cabin felt roomy enough to walk around and stretch their legs in, and that wasn’t too much of an exaggeration.

The third row remained empty as all the holiday luggage comfortably fitted into the cavernous 842l boot.

Once we arrived at the coast we acquired some extra people for trips to the beach, and with eight on board there was still space aplenty for everyone along with their beach umbrellas, chairs and cooler boxes.

Gutsy torque

The 2.5 diesel has plenty of gutsy low-revving torque with 441Nm on call between 2,000 and 2,250rpm, along with 125kW of power. It pulls strongly up hills when fully laden, and it’s a quiet operator that keeps the agricultural flatulence to a minimum.

For its considerable size the H1 isn’t particularly intimidating to drive. The steering is light, it gets through corners without feeling like it will imminently topple over, and the excellent visibility out of the large windows makes it quite easy to thread through busy traffic. Parking this bus is somewhat more of a challenge but there’s a reversing camera in the rear-view mirror to assist.

Onboard comforts are plentiful and the recent upgrades include replacing the previous manual aircon system with full climate control (with separate vents and controls for rear passengers). Also new is cruise control, which proved handy at avoiding fines on the speedtrap-infested N3 freeway.

The H1 is SA’s bestselling family bus and the latest revamps are likely to keep it ruling the segment, in spite of competition from the VW Kombi and Ford Tourneo Custom.