Hyundai iLoad CRDi crew
Price Guide (recommended price before dealer and statutory charges): $36,490 (diesel, manual)
Crash rating: Four star (ANCAP).
Claimed fuel economy (L/100km): 8.5 (man), 9.6 (auto)
CO2 emissions (g/km): 225/253
Also consider: Mercedes-Benz Vito, Volkswagen Transporter, Toyota HiAce
Overall rating: 3.0/5.0
Engines and Drivetrain: 3.5/5.0
Price, Packaging and Practicality: 4.0/5.0
Behind the wheel: 3.5/5.0
About our ratings
When the Hyundai iLoad went on sale in February 2008 many observers dismissed it as just another van. But anyone who underestimated it has done so at their peril.
You see, the iLoad became Australia's second biggest selling van within its first 12 months on sale. It even outsells the well-heeled and well-established Europeans. Only the Toyota HiAce, with a massive 33 per cent share of the van market, outsells it.
A sharp price, good build quality and a relatively long list of equipment have helped make the the iLoad an instant hit, and cut itself a 14 per cent slice of the van market. Indeed, market leader Toyota has been keeping a close eye on Hyundai's progress with the iLoad. Interestingly, it shares a view that I've long held: that this otherwise humble, unassuming delivery van will in fact do more for Hyundai's brand image than any of the worthy small cars that now wear the same badge.
Carmakers can promise long warranties all they like (the iLoad gets a five-year/160,000km warranty instead of five year/unlimited km for Hyundai passenger cars), but word of mouth from those who depend on their vehicles as a tool of trade is a much more powerful endorsement.
Think of it this way: every time you see a Hyundai iLoad in the traffic, it may as well be a billboard for the company. Gee, they should be paying iLoad owners to drive them! I'd like to see that...
We recently got reacquainted with a six-seater iLoad crew van (the three-seater petrol starts at $29,990 and the six-seater crew van at $31,990) after Hyundai got excited by the iLoad's four-star safety rating from the independent crash test authority, the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP).
It's a worthy result in a market dominated by vans with three-star scores and lower (only two other vans score four stars and one, the Mercedes Vito/Viano, scores five).
For the record, a study by Monash University has found you're twice as likely to receive life-threatening injuries in a two-star vehicle than in a five-star vehicle. You're going to see more written about this (here) -- in particular when it comes to commercial vehicles in the coming years as ute and van safety is put under the spotlight.
The iLoad's result was okay but close analysis of the score revealed it only just scraped into the four-star category. It turns out that the iLoad's crash structure and foot and leg protection is actually relatively sound, but the restraint system (the seatbelt and its pretensioners) didn't appear to work as well in the test as they have done in Hyundai passenger cars.
While we're on the subject of safety, the iLoad is one of the few vans with stability control (which can prevent a skid) available as an option, in this case, on the diesel only. By comparison, anti-lock brakes are, incredibly, still an option on the Toyota HiAce (which has only a three-star ANCAP safety rating by the way).
You may have noticed that I've only given the iLoad 2.5 of out 5 for our safety assessment; that's because two of the crew van's six seats have a lap only belt, no iLoad model yet has any form of side airbag protection, and stability control is not available on the petrol versions even though they account for almost a third of all iLoad sales.
We hope the fact that the Mercedes-Benz Vito and Volkswagen Transporter have side airbags as options will prompt Hyundai to soon make them available as well.
With the negative points out of the way, it's time to focus on what made the iLoad crew such a pleasant surprise for me. First of all, the quality seems top notch, from the materials to the way everything works.
Secondly, it drives well. For a van.
Much has been written about second rate Korean tyres, but the 215/70 R16 Hankook tyres on the iLoad worked a treat. They were quiet, gripped well, and steered well. Perhaps this was because the tyre development team was based in Europe.
I've got a soft spot for vans. I love the tall driving position, cabin room and in the case of the iLoad, the ample grunt from its 2.5-itre 125kW/392Nm turbodiesel engine.
The iLoad crew van with glass windows in the twin sliding side doors, and the glass window in the sturdy steel cargo divider makes it easy to manouvre in tight spots. The optional rear parking sensors (which I thought were standard until I checked the brochure) also worked well and made moving around a lot easier.
The vehicle tested had the twin door tailgate, a no-cost option which typically accounts for 20 per cent of iLoad sales. If you tick this box you don't get a rear wiper, but the standard iLoad single piece tailgate has had a rear wiper from March 2009 production following a buyer backlash.
In my week with the iLoad crew van I used it to do a big run to the local tip. Loaded to the roof, it was brilliant; the engine didn't even notice the close to one-tonne load.
And then it dawned on me: with a few more safety features this could make the ideal car for "working families". Dad's tool of trade during the week and the soccer taxi on weekends. It would make a good alternative to a crew cab ute -- plus the stuff in the back wouldn't get wet when it rains.
Best of all, though, it looks like a van -- not a peoplemover. So dad doesn't have to feel embarrassed to drive it on weekends.
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