Car reviews - Hyundai - Staria - 2.2D AWD
Flexibility, space, smooth driveline, functional tech, safety equipment.
Room for improvement
Wind noise, front row ergonomics, love/hate styling, can’t open rear windows from front seat.
Hyundai’s spacious Staria people mover takes one giant leap for van-kind
17 Sep 2021
By MATT BROGAN
FOURTEEN years is a long time for any vehicle to serve in the Australian market. Hyundai’s outgoing people-mover, the boxy, commercial van-based iMax, has been a stalwart of the category since 2007, outlasting several rivals including the Subaru Exiga, Fiat Freemont, Dodge Journey and Kia Rondo.
In many ways, surviving 14 years in a market with overwhelming preference for SUVs takes some doing. SUVs outsell people-movers locally by a ratio of five-to-one, in Australia the iMax’s peak market share of 22 per cent (in 2014) declining steadily against the strong-selling Kia Carnival, a model that now accounts for more than half of all people-mover sales here.
But it’s the newly launched replacement to the iMax that may just turn those numbers on their head.
This week, Hyundai released its eight-seat Staria people-mover into the Australian market, the sub-$60,000 model vying directly against the Kia Carnival (from $43,190), Honda Odyssey ($39,140), Volkswagen Multivan ($58,990), and LDV G10 ($31,490).
Based on the underpinnings of the seven-seat Santa Fe SUV, the Hyundai Staria is physically larger than all current rivals. It offers the choice of petrol and turbo-diesel power, the availability of front and all-wheel drive, and three model grades ranging in price from $48,500 to $66,500 (before on-road costs).
It’s a price point that places the Staria in the thick of it as far as its competition goes – whether that’s directly from other people-movers, or indirectly from comparably-sized SUVs – and its segment-straddling appeal makes the new Hyundai Staria quite enticing.
Beyond its space-age looks – which let’s face it, are somewhat divisive – the Hyundai Staria is a flexible and practical family hauler with the kind of user-friendly technology certain to appeal to mum and dad buyers. From cameras to keep an eye on back-seat shenanigans to the latest SmartSense active safety equipment, the Staria packs a lot in.
As a people-mover, the Staria’s ease of access and spacious interior – there’s over a metre of legroom in each row of seating – make it supremely practical for family buyers. But in a market like Australia, where SUV-like driving dynamics, equipment levels, and a high driving position are favoured, that ability to walk the line between segments should give the Staria a massive sales advantage.
The dashboard includes dual 10.25-inch displays – one for the infotainment array and the other for the instrument panel – Qi wireless smartphone charger, USB charging points, and dual lidded storage covers. The minimalist design allows a clear view of the road ahead and provides plenty of knee and legroom for front seat occupants.
According to Hyundai, the Staria draws its interior design inspiration from that of a cruise ship. The heated and ventilated leather upholstery and electric adjustment of the seats in the Highlander model certainly add a Titanic sense of grandeur, but could benefit from a fold-down armrest or a higher console bin.
The Staria Highlander includes a Qi wireless smartphone charger, five USB charging points, and 16 cupholders, as well as a nifty feature that enables busy mums and dads the chance to open and close the sliding doors and tailgate by simply standing by or moving away from the vehicle.
The top-spec Staria can be started remotely and, useful considering the vehicle’s significant footprint, there’s a handy 360-degree external camera to aid manoeuvring in and out of tight spaces, as well as generous wing mirrors and low window lines to improve outward vision.
Seven airbags are standard – including curtain airbags across all three seating rows – along with blind-spot, lane keeping, and lane-following assistants, auto high-beam, AEB with multi-collision brake, driver attention monitoring, safe exit earning, and rear cross-traffic assist.
Hyundai Motor Company Australia says this is the safest people-mover on the market. Despite this claim, the Staria does not feature child seat anchor points in the third row. The Staria is yet to receive an ANCAP or EuroNCAP safety rating.
Cargo space extends from 831-1303 litres (VDA) depending on the seating configuration utilised. The Staria takes a giant leap for van-kind in offering more cargo space than many of its key rivals, and indeed more luggage capacity than most family-sized SUVs.
Braked towing capacity for either driveline is listed at 2,500kg, 500kg more than the Kia Carnival and now on par with the Volkswagen Multivan, giving the Staria another ace up its sleeve.
The Staria is offered with a 200kW/331Nm 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine and front-wheel drive or a 130kW/420Nm 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel with Hyundai’s in-house developed HTRAC all-wheel drive. Both are paired to a shift-by-wire eight-speed automatic transmission as standard.
Combined cycle fuel economy is listed at 10.5L/100km (CO2 emissions of 239g/km) and 8.2L/100km (218g/km) for the duo respectively. On test, the diesel-powered AWD version of the Staria finished a week of mixed driving at 8.9L/100km.
The diesel engine is quite subdued in the Staria and only really makes its presence known under heavy acceleration. The transmission keeps the R-Series mill in its sweet spot, negating the need for higher engine speeds in most situations, improving economy and cabin tranquillity substantially.
Hyundai offers four driving modes in the Staria that in turn change throttle response, transmission shift points, and the instrument panel, but in truth they’re somewhat redundant. The driveline is flexible enough – and the all-wheel drive system clever enough – that the drive modes feel surplus to requirements.
The Staria’s SUV underpinnings are evident in its ride quality too. There’s none of the commercial van clash and clatter evident of the iMax, just a calm and well-damped ride aided in no small part by Hyundai’s decision to fit only an 18-inch wheel to its newest people-mover (including a matching spare).
Bump absorption is first rate, as is body control during swift directional changes. The Staria doesn’t feel as tall or as wide as it looks, and offers light, progressive steering feel reminiscent of a polished German sedan. The pedals are well placed and the brake pedal stroke smooth, adding to Staria’s car-like feel behind the wheel.
If there’s a downside to the Staria, it’s that the rear glass can’t be opened or closed from the front of the cabin. The third row of seats receives only pop-out windows, but is served by overhead air vents, as is the second row (which benefits from its own climate control panel). The only other criticism of the Staria is a note of wind rustle from the wing mirrors at freeway speeds.
The Hyundai Staria is covered by a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty. Servicing intervals are set at 12 months or 15,000km (whichever comes first) with the first five services priced at $360.
Straddling the divide between people-mover and SUV as well, if not better than, its Kia Carnival cousin, the Hyundai Staria is a great fit for growing families… assuming of course they can live with its looks
As adventurous and space-age as the Staria’s styling may be, it might be too extreme for conservative Aussie households. Let’s just hope the Staria’s family-friendly function can outweigh its futuristic form.
2022 Hyundai Staria pricing*
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Model release date: 17 September 2021
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