COMMERCIAL VAN-BASED PEOPLE MOVERS ARE A FADING BREED BUT THE 2016 HYUNDAI IMAX SERIES II CLINGS TO THE CONCEPT. It remains a relatively affordable way of shifting eight people.
And, while commercial vans of old could be painful to drive, the iLoad, on which this iMax we’re testing is based, proved “not too bad” when launched locally in 2007.
Although the current generation is now nine years old, Hyundai has updated both iLoad and iMax this year with the Series II upgrade. While each comes with new features and safety technologies, there is now some stiff competition from newer rivals.
Vehicle Style: Large MPV
Price: $46,490 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 125kW/441Nm 2.5-litre 4cyl turbo-diesel | five-speed automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 9.0 l/100km | Tested: 9.8 l/100km
The iMax Series II starts from $39,990 plus on-road costs, which is cheap for a 5.15-metre-long bus that seats eight. However that model uses a 224Nm 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine.
It has its work cut out shifting a 2129kg van. Put another way, it has the same-sized engine and about the same torque (Nm) as Hyundai’s mid-sized Sonata sedan that is 626kg lighter.
Best, then, to option the 2.5-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder as fitted to our test vehicle. It is available from $43,490 (plus orc) with a six-speed manual or $46,490 (plus orc) for the five-speed automatic as tested here. Compared with the base petrol it almost doubles torque to 441Nm – much better, indeed.
- Standard equipment: power windows and mirrors, multi-function trip computer, single-zone climate control/dual-zone manual air-conditioning, cruise control, keyless entry
- Infotainment: 7.0-inch colour touchscreen with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, USB input, AM/FM radio, Siri and Google Now voice recognition
Settle inside the iMax Series II, and, aside from the seating position and ‘captain’s view’, it doesn’t feel like a commercial van. There are more concessions to creature comforts here.
However, the first thing to note is that this Hyundai’s switchgear and appointments are all shared with its circa-2007 range of products, almost all of which have been replaced including the previous-generation i30 of that year.
But, while it may feel dated, it is certainly well built.
There are also plenty of storage spots up front, including two in each front door and a handy split glovebox. However, without a proper centre console – you can physically walk through the front seats to the middle bench – there is no space to leave a smartphone when using the USB plug on the centre dash.
Hyundai updated the iMax in Series II guise with cruise control (for the diesel auto only) and a new 7.0-inch touchscreen with Siri Eyes Free (iOS) and Google Now (Android) voice control systems that are simple to use.
Not only does the big van miss the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring technology featured in other Hyundais, but it lacks satellite navigation and shares only four speakers across the wide cabin.
There is other equipment missing, too, including basics such as a multi-function trip computer and auto on/off headlights that are expected for $45K-plus. At least the newly added single-zone climate control for front occupants is complemented by manual air-conditioning controls for rear riders.
The iMax is as sizeable inside as the screen of its movie theatre namesake. The centre row slides forwards and backwards, where the rear row is fixed. But each bench has three proper lap/sash seatbelts and 60:40 reclining capability. Access through the twin side sliding doors is easy, too.
The only downsides are seat comfort that is park-bench-like, with the cloth-trimmed bases feeling overly firm and side support is lacking. An omission is the absence of curtain airbags (only two up front and side).
In any configuration the boot is huge (at 842 litres), although practicality could be improved because the third-row backrest simply flops down over itself rather than swivelling into the floor or being able to be removed, as with some rivals.
It’s worth noting that the passenger-car based Carnival eight-seater from Hyundai-owned South Korean rival, Kia, features a tri-split centre row and smarter third-row folding mechanism, all with similar level of space to the van-based iMax.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 125kW/441Nm 2.5 litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel
- Transmission: Five-speed automatic, rear wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, five-link rigid axle rear
- Brakes: Ventilated front and solid rear disc brakes
- Steering: Hydraulically assisted mechanical steering, turnng circle: 11.2m
- Towing capacity: 750kg unbraked, 1500kg braked
In isolation the Hyundai iMax Series II is a pleasant enough ‘people mover’ to drive. In fact, even compared with a passenger-car-based Honda Odyssey, for example, it feels more refined, particularly with its ride on chubby 70-aspect 16-inch tyres.
Others, however, such as the competing Carnival, have moved the game further ahead.
The diesel engine is a willing toiler and because its rev band is so narrow, five gears is plenty to keep the big van moving and grooving even with a load on board. It can get grumbly – that gravelly diesel thing – but refinement isn’t a sore point, it’s merely average in this respect.
Sometimes the body shudders over really rough roads and occasionally there is some boom and drone from the cavernous rear quarters. But, again, the iMax shows just how well-engineered the iLoad commercial van was when it lobbed in 2007 because it’s far from disappointing overall.
The problem for the Hyundai is that nowadays the best people movers don’t really possess a sizeable steering and handling deficit. Some drive as capably as any sedan or SUV.
With arm-twirling slowness and a slack rack, the iMax’s steering is a reminder of its humble origins. Likewise, dynamics are fairly non-existent, and, if giving things a bit of a push, the stability control can be heavy handed.
It is a ‘van’ however, and errs on the side of caution.
But, for a vehicle that will likely spend much of its time on city and suburban streets, the iMax feels unduly heavy and ponderous, and quite a way behind the better people movers.
ANCAP rating: 4-Stars - this model scored 25.81 out of 37 possible points
Safety features: Dual front and side airbags, ABS and ESC, rear parking sensors, reverse-view camera
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The Carnival is the stand-out contender in the class as much as the mediocre Odyssey isn’t. The Tarago is old, but is a perennial choice and still impressive in potent V6 petrol guise. The Multivan is expensive, but delivers quality and class.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Big and basic, the Hyundai iMax Series II continues to pitch its case on the strengths of its huge cabin and reasonably impressive diesel drivetrain. It’s not bad to drive and far from poor to sit in.
Ultimately, however, the game has moved on substantially. Holistically, the Kia Carnival covers the ‘big and basic’ virtues then adds substantial driving enjoyment, high-quality cabin furnishings and a surplus of features into the mix, all for about the same money as this Hyundai.
The iMax’s five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty is even outpaced by Kia’s seven-year cover, making this old van difficult to recommend to a family. That is, to be fair, more down to the strength of the competition than major failings with a model that has served its maker well.
For family buyers, the lack of curtain airbags in the rear is a major omission. Really, a new model can’t arrive soon enough.
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