Car reviews - Hyundai - iLoad - Van
Gutsy diesel engine, car-like driving position, ride and handling, cabin refinement, visibility, easily-accessible cargo area, build-quality, warranty
Room for improvement
Centre-seat lap belt, no standard cargo barrier, cruise control or reverse sensors
24 Aug 2012
THEY sell by the thousands, but vans like the Hyundai iLoad don’t get enough coverage from the motoring media.
They’re neither glamorous or sexy, but these sort of boxy load-luggers – the vehicle of choice for many a tradesman and bustling delivery driver – grease the economic wheels like few other vehicles on the road.
And no van is more popular in Australia right now than the Hyundai iLoad, the Korean company’s first foray into the segment Down Under.
It’s easy to see the appeal. For starters, the cabin is far more spacious than its Toyota HiAce arch rival, with an impressively car-like driving position, plenty of legroom and a pair of comfortable and supportive seats.
The instrument fascia borrows the Hyundai passenger car range, meaning excellent ergonomics and welcome soft-touch dash-top plastic that adds an air of tactility. More importantly, everything feels robust and well-made.
Simplicity of operation has become a calling-card of the Koreans, and this is no exception. The air conditioning dials are large and robust, the steering wheel audio and Bluetooth phone controls and clear and legible, and the USB and auxiliary points are located on the radio interface rather than hidden away in the glove box or console like some rivals.
There are various cubbies and hidey holes, including a pair of pockets on each door, two gloveboxes, flip-out cupholders and a fold-down middle seat that becomes a makeshift table.
Downsides are few and far between, but the middle seat is unsuitable for all but the most streamlined of passenger, and the disappointing lap-only belt renders it relatively unsafe. If you regularly haul more than one passenger, consider the six-seat iLoad crew-cab option.
While standard equipment levels are about on a par for the segment, we would like to see cruise control made standard. We also recommend buyers go for the optional steel cargo barrier ($617 plus fitting).
We would also like the see standard reversing sensors ($195 plus fitting), considering tight parking spots are likely to be a factor in the average use of this vehicle.
Outward visibility is acceptable, with a deep rear window, large side mirrors and a snub nose, but this remains a large vehicle. Side windows can be added to the twin sliding rear doors if extra visibility is required.
The rear cargo area is wider and taller than the HiAce, but slightly shorter. The dimensions of the loading area are a reasonable 2375mm long, 1350mm high and 1620mm wide, with an overall cargo area of 4426 litres.
The gap between the wheel arches is 1260mm, enough for a standard pallet, but loading said pallet would prove tricky with the standard roof-mounted tailgate, and we would fit the optional, more forklift-friendly 180 degree barn-style swinging doors instead.
Hyundai Australia claims its research indicates that those who don't need forklift access prefer the top-mounted rear door, however, often using it as a sheltered work area.
More than eighty per cent of all iLoads sold feature this arrangement.
There are 10 tie-down hooks sunk into the rubber-lined loading floor, plus a host of grab areas in the roof. There is not much in the way of insulation back there, and circulates plenty of road and engine noise without a load to absorb it.
Like the HiAce, the iLoad is rear-wheel-drive, enabling it to handle a decent 1100kg payload. This configuration also gives it sure-footed handling in wet conditions, assisted by an optional stability control system (not mandatory in commercial vehicles).
The hydraulic steering is on the light side, suitable for inner-city delivery driving but lacking in feel, although the iLoad feels planted and stable at cruising speed. The turning circle is a pretty tight 11.2 metres.
Road and wind noise is a factor, but kept commendably low for a work van, while the ride is kept acceptably stable even without a load on board. The iLoad bounces and hops over corrugations and speed bumps more than the average passenger car, but is acceptable for a vehicle of this type.
We drove the more expensive diesel variant, which is powered by a newly-updated 2.5-litre direct-injected, turbocharged four-cylinder engine developing 125kW of power and an impressive 441Nm of torque when hooked up to a five-speed automatic transmission.
This unit does not want for grunt, outstripping many work utes and SUVs for pulling power. It doesn’t burst off the line like many modern diesel passenger vehicles, but since it is geared for low-down muscle this is perfectly acceptable.
It’s not the most refined unit, with notable clatter from the outside, but commendable insulation keeps both noise and vibration at bay inside the cabin.
The 1500kg braked towing capacity for the automatic seems low, and we are quite sure it is not the engine that acts as the impediment to a higher rating – it feels like it could pull a train.
Then again, with a $4500 premium over the 129kW/228Nm 2.4-litre petrol engine variant, it would want to.
The automatic transmission has a slow-shifting manual mode, but is best left to its own devices, where it makes best use of the plentiful torque.
Hyundai claims fuel consumption figures of 8.8 litres per 100km for this engine and transmission combination.
All iLoads get dual front airbags and a four-star Australian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) safety rating.
At $36,990 plus on-road costs, the automatic diesel variant is hardly cheap, but still undercuts chief rivals like the equivalent diesel/automatic HiAce ($39,490) and Volkswagen Transporter ($42,990).
This is further sweetened by Hyundai’s excellent five year/unlimited kilometre warranty and recently-introduced capped-price servicing program.
All factors considered, the sales success of the iLoad should come as no surprise. It’s powerful, spacious, well-made and relatively sharp in price. Prospective van buyers would be mad to disregard it.
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