Hyundai adds some style to its practical, popular MPV: we test the Hyundai H-1 2,5 CRDi Bus Elite AT…
South Africans’ fondness for the family bus precedes its fervent love for the SUV. The bus is the original lifestyle vehicle offering space and versatility for the larger family keen to go places and experience the outdoors. The automotive landscape has evolved drastically in the past two decades and has seen the rise of the crossover and decline of the sedan. However, judging by the numbers on our roads, the venerable family bus remains a constant.
It was mostly the German version associated with red veldskoene responsible for crafting the early memories. In 2009, Hyundai joined the fray with its value-for-money H-1 option and it has sold more than 14 000 units to date of the passenger version. A recent facelift gave us the opportunity to re-evaluate the vehicle.
The most obvious change to the exterior is the introduction of the now-familiar Hyundai trapezoidal grille reaching new levels of boldness thanks to its sheer size. In combination with the projector-style headlamps and a new 17-inch wheel design, it appears more modern and fitting with the current Korean line-up.
Peeking underneath, it is clear the rugged roots remain: a longitudinally mounted engine with rear-wheel drive through a solid rear axle. The lack of underbody covering shows its commercial origins, with the mid-mount fuel tank and full-size spare wheel clearly visible.
The concept of the minibus is simple: a rectangular box on wheels with a low floor and high roofline equating to vast interior space, shaming all in the SUV category. In the case of the H-1, three rows of leather-covered seats result in a carrying capacity of nine people (one more than the Hyundai’s closest competitor). It must be said the middle seats provide only lap belts and the front pew is especially minute, with zero legroom. It doubles as a cupholder and additional storage space (to complement the array of cubby holes) when folded flat, which we predict will be its default application.
The second row offers Isofix points and a 60:40-split. Passengers can access the third row by sliding the second one forward. It’s a pity no provision is made to remove the seats or alter the layout. Saying that, the legroom throughout is acceptable and a gigantic 616-litre boot is a result of the 5 150 mm length (which exceeds the sub-five-metre Volkswagen Kombi and Ford Tourneo Custom SWB versions). Despite its size, though, the H-1 is still easy to park and manoeuvre, and a low loading sill means filling that cavernous boot isn’t a chore.
The dash design is slightly dated, although the touchscreen infotainment system and climate control screens are welcome new additions. So, too, the rake and now also reach adjustment on the steering wheel (with satellite buttons for radio, telephone and cruise control). Although some surfaces are soft to the touch, there are plastics that maintain basic, commercial-vehicle-like grain. There is a small camera display in the rear-view mirror in combination with sensors to aid reverse parking manoeuvres.
The driving position is good, although taller CAR drivers felt the seat could be lower for a better view through the relatively low-sited windscreen header rail. Steering is hydraulic but offers little in terms of feedback while on the move.
The trusty 2,5-litre, delivering 125 kW and a healthy 440 N.m, is paired with a five-speed automatic. The latter is syrupy in its operation but suits the application to a T, as gearshifts are barely noticeable. The engine is punchy enough for a 0-100 km/h dash of 11,99 seconds, although it’s quite noisy under hard acceleration. Interestingly, the onboard computer showing fuel range is devoid of an average consumption readout and a manual fuel fill after our standard fuel run of 100 km added only 9,2 litres.
The ride is generally comfortable but it can get choppy over bumpy sections because of the solid rear-axle suspension layout. At least the all-disc braking arrangement with ABS and EBD scored a “good” rating in our punishing 10-stop braking test from 100 km/h.
We are regularly exposed to top-end luxury versions of family transporters which offer higher levels of comfort, superior sound-insulated cabins, more powerful engines, electrically operated sliding doors and tailgates plus highly configurable interiors (with tables). Unfortunately, they also carry a R1-million price tag and end up being employed as luxury hotel shuttles rather than for family use.
This is where vehicles such as the H-1 provide honest value. Yes, the Hyundai lacks most electronic gadgets but it has the basics more than covered. The automatic transmission makes town driving a cinch and rear-wheel drive is beneficial when towing or carrying heavy loads. It would be a safe bet to say the reinvigorated H-1 will continue serving the public as ably as the previous versions and will offer a real alternative to an SUV.
*From the November 2018 issue of CAR magazine