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Old 11-04-2009, 11:22 AM   #1
Mattk
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Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Sydney, Australia
Posts: 6,610
Default Driving the office van: the Hyundai iMax

This section has been pretty inactive of late. I've decided (out ofprocrastination) to start it off again with a left-field review of a van which earlier this year won a Best Car award for its category: the Hyundai iMax. It is one of those passenger vans which started life as cargo vans, in this case, the iLoad.

Given the imminence of our office becoming the statewide head office, a van was purchased for the future purpose of driving people around to various places. Right now, we only use it to its full capacity when we go to the pub. However, in my opinion, it is better than the other two cars we possess. I therefore drive it whenever I get the chance.

However, is it actually an objectively good car? I decided to give some thought to this proposition.

Exterior:

This is a huge van by industry standards. It can easily intimidate other motorists. Unfortunately, the wheels seem too small for the job and look out of proportion. It is better than most of the rubbish that Hyundai has peddled over the years, but still looks pretty ugly. However, nobody buys vans for their good looks.

Interior:

There is both front and rear air-conditioning, capable of cooling down the car rapidly even in extreme heat. There are also power windows, and controls for both sides are available for the driver. There is also an adequate sound system. However, that is it. The seats are made of cheap cloth. There are few places to stow things. There are no steering wheel mounted controls. Central locking is not available. It is a pretty barren interior.

There is plenty of space. There is heaps of head room and a huge amount of cargo space even with three rows of seats. Sitting three adults in one row is still very comfortable. Sliding doors on both sides means easy access. Despite the poor standard of upholstery, the whole package is generally comfortable.

Driving it:

The seats are adjustible, but not particularly so. Being of roughly average height, fitting into this vehicle was not particularly problematic, although the best position I have been able to find is one where I am sitting almost upright. It seems that the seat is raised too far off the floor of the vehicle. This is noticeable when you have to reach very far down to the floor to pull the handbrake up. I would imagine people of more extreme heights may encounter problems. On the positive side, however, the side mirrors are well-placed and adequately sized (and have electric controls). Rear vision is good, despite the massive size. You sit very high up on the road, which makes you feel powerful and masculine.

The performance of this car is where it stands out and is the reason why I prefer it. The 2.5L, 125kw turbo-diesel engine may not seem much on paper, but is a solid performer. It has so much torque that it effortlessly keeps speed. In fact, I have sometimes found myself speeding by over 10 km/h, after being lulled by the low revs into thinking I am travelling at a much slower speed. Mid-range acceleration is surprisingly good, although it is rather slow from a standing start. The engine rumbles like a snoring beast whenever it is pushed, but is reasonably quiet when cruising.

The gear shift mechanism for the five-speed automatic gearbox is disappointing, though. It is fiddly and feels cheap. There is no precision. Changing from D to R and vice-versa is a delicate operation as too much vigour in pulling the shifter could result in missing the intended gear.

The handling of this car suffers from the titchy wheels. It lumbers around corners like a drunken panda; only at very low speeds will it not wallow about like a yacht. However, the steering is solid and precise and it is very manoeuvrable. The turning circle is surprisingly tight for a vehicle of its size. It can easily handle the narrow laneways behind our office. Parking is never a problem, and it comes with a parking warning sensor to help you.

Verdict:

Over-looking the obvious aesthetic flaws, this is a good under $40k unit. If all you want is a people mover to ferry people, buy it. It also has reasonable performance. Being bigger than any other in its category, it can serve a dual passenger and cargo-carrying function.

Creature comforts are unnecessary. They can go in expensive models. In terms of value for money, this is the van to get.

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