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Despite splitting opinion with its looks there's a whole lot of family car in the Hyundai Staria. Picture: SUPPLIED
Despite splitting opinion with its looks there's a whole lot of family car in the Hyundai Staria. Picture: SUPPLIED

The Hyundai Staria is a Mercedes-Benz V-Class, Volkswagen Caravelle and Toyota Quantum-size people-carrier.  Depending on your stylistic tastes, this is a boldly vivacious or a freaky Martian take on the people-mover niche. I belong to the group that loves the styling.

It was initially available for nine or 11 passengers, but the range has been bolstered by a five-seat Multicab variant. It’s tested here in Luxury nine-seat flavour that isn’t the typical “panel van with windows” treatment.

The nine seats are arranged in four rows in a two-two-two-three layout. They are covered in cream artificial leather and are movable fore and aft. The rear three-seat bench doesn’t leave much room for luggage behind — this being an achilles heel of anything vying to squeeze in a Bafana Bafana-size family — but you can fold it down for extra space.

The rest of the captain’s chairs with seat belts and headrests offer adjustability for easy access to the rear rows. The Staria has a wide appeal to families, the chauffeur-driven industry or groups of leisure travellers, and it has lots of luxury and driving aids.

This includes twin electric doors with remote operation by key, a power tailgate, sun screens for windows, air conditioning for front and rear passengers, electric windows upfront and mood lighting. There is an electric sunroof for front passengers and a wide skylight for the rest of the team.

Driver convenience features are extraordinary. There’s a camera-based blind-spot assist that feeds the car’s side view into the digital speedo and rev counter displays when you change lanes.

The vehicle also has active cruise control, lane-keeping assist and driving modes including a Sport setting. Minibuses aren’t traditionally meant to be this technologically strong, but the Staria is leading this revolution.

The big vehicle is hauled by a 2.2l diesel engine with outputs of 130kW and 430Nm driving the front wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. The motor doesn’t struggle to haul its 2.2-tonne weight and being a front-wheel-drive configuration it wasn’t unwieldy, even at higher speeds or on surfaces with poor traction. 

It was certainly frugal during its stay. It averaged 9.5l/100km and the turning circle is understandably wide but not a pain. To its credit, the drive doesn’t feel too van-like from behind the wheel.

The Staria is right up there with the V-Classes and SUVs for comfort and luxury and you do find a good driving position that matches the silky progression on a regular, rather than air  suspension. Road fissures are dealt with sufficiently and it doesn’t jiggle about even on sharpish turns.

It's six captain's chairs and a three seat bench inside the Staria nine-seater. Picture: SUPPLIED
It's six captain's chairs and a three seat bench inside the Staria nine-seater. Picture: SUPPLIED

You can opt for an 11-seat model if you want, but everyone in the nine-seater will find plenty of headroom. Those in the first row have a wider perch created by the door recesses. The second and third row crew will negotiate more for legroom as the seats are compacted, such as in a thrift airline.

There’s always risk of enduring a torrid time with the car due to a misalignment of a chair by a rear passenger on its rails, as it happened with us, and a concert of rattles and squeaks ensues. But it’s a smooth ride in town and on highways, with great visibility of the outdoors. Drawbacks are the little space for cargo that’s left when all the seats are propped up and that’s it really, there’s nothing else to complain about.

It’s choice galore in the minibus segment and from a price perspective the range-topping Staria 2.2D Luxury is R58,000 cheaper than the entry-level Mercedes-Benz V220d, which is a rear-wheel drive. The Hyundai is R156,000 cheaper than the VW Caravelle, which is all-wheel drive and more powerful. It’s also R62,000 dearer than the Toyota Quantum VX, but the Staria Executive gets lots of standard equipment. It didn’t feel like it could do with a specification upgrade or lose a beauty contest against any of its peers.

Lower down the range, this Hyundai’s price overlaps with a host of compact and premium SUVs with no hope of carrying as many passengers. If you can handle the polarising looks this Executive spec is potentially your best bargain buy at a sophisticated luxury shuttle or lifestyle car. Just prepare to buy a trailer.

Technology includes a live image feed of blind-spots through the digital speedo and tachometers when overtaking . Picture: SUPPLIED.
Technology includes a live image feed of blind-spots through the digital speedo and tachometers when overtaking . Picture: SUPPLIED.

Tech Specs

ENGINE

Type: Four-cylinder diesel

Capacity: 2.2l

Power: 130kW

Torque: 430Nm

TRANSMISSION

Type: Eight-speed auto

DRIVETRAIN

Type: Front-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE

Top speed: 185km/h

0-100km/h: 12.4 sec (claimed)

Fuel Consumption: 8.7l/100km (claimed), 9.5l/100km (as tested)

Emissions: 189g/km

STANDARD FEATURES

Electric windows, LED daytime driving running lights, auto on/off lights, multifunction steering wheel controls, electric mirrors, keyless entry, automatic doors, Bluetooth, artificial leather upholstery, dual sunroof, climate control, heated front seats, ventilated seats, surround park distance control, active cruise control, active blind spot assist, driving modes, tyre pressure monitor, ABS, lane keep assist, stability control and six airbags

COST OF OWNERSHIP

Warranty: Seven years/200,000km

Service plan: Seven years/105,000km

Price: R1,104,900

Lease: R23,570 a month 

*at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit

Hyundai Staria 2.2D Luxury

WE LIKE: Looks, features, refined drive quality

WE DISLIKE: Lack of luggage space with all seats in place

VERDICT: A very sophisticated minibus 

Motor News star rating

Design *****

Performance  ****

Economy ****

Ride *****

Handling ****

Safety *****

Value For Money ****

Overall ****

 

The Competition

Ford Tourneo Custom 2.0 SiT Limited, 136kW/415Nm — R787,400

Opel Zafira Life 2.0TD Elegance, 110kW/370Nm — R869,900

Kia Carnival 2.2 CRDi SXL, 148kW/440Nm — R1,024,995

Toyota Quantum 2.8 VX Premium, 115kW/420Nm — R1,068,200

Mercedes-Benz V220d, 120kW/380Nm — R1,157,673

Volkswagen Caravelle 2.0BiTDI Highline 4Motion, 146kW/450Nm — R1,255,900

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