Hyundai Staria Limited review: space travel
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Hyundai Staria Limited
- Concept car (van?) styling
- Loaded with luxury equipment
- Capable chassis and AWD system
- Cabin materials fall short of premium
- Shouldn't it be hybrid or plug-in?
- Price right up there with flagship SUVs
The Staria Limited is $85,990, which seems like a vast amount of money for a Hyundai van with some seats. But then, it’s a luxuriously equipped vehicle; and it’s not strictly a van.
The other-worldly-looking Staria is actually based on the Santa Fe SUV platform, and brings with it all the technology and driveability that entails. Essentially Hyundai has taken its most polished SUV and turned it into a van (specifically the light-commercial Staria Load, but more about that in a minute), and then turned that van into a people-mover that rivals many top-line SUVs.
We don’t need to talk about the styling, do we? You have eyes. It’s potentially polarising, but we love the out-there attitude, especially for what’s otherwise a practical family/corporate vehicle. The vox-pop seems to agree.
The only thing about the futuristic styling is that most people assume the Staria is hybrid or plug-in. In fact, it has the clattery 2.2-litre turbo-diesel from the Santa Fe, in a lower state of tune (130kW versus 148kW). It’s still a strong and potentially quite frugal engine, it’s just that raucous compression-ignition doesn’t quite fit with the design concept.
The upside of the powertrain is you also get Hyundai’s HTRAC all-wheel drive system, which is very good indeed. It provides surefooted handling and seamless traction on low-friction surfaces, although you’re definitely not going off-road. Not with that ground clearance.
The multi-link rear suspension is pretty sophisticated for a van, so you’re assured of stable handling at speed. It’s still a substantial thing to be punting around at speed, but your passengers will be complaining long before the chassis does.
The Staria Limited’s price is partly justified by the no-holds-barred tech. It gets all the good stuff from the top Santa Fe, including digital instrumentation (finally, that weird “cube” theme looks right in a Hyundai), Blind-spot View Monitor (which throws up a high-res video feed of the side of the vehicle in the instrument panel when you change lanes), Surround View, Rear Occupant Alert and Safe Exit Assist (to warn of approaching traffic when you open the door). The list goes on. It has driver and safety assists to spare.
But there’s also plenty of crowd-pleasing MPV stuff. You can call up a picture of the rear-seat crew on the infotainment screen for chats, there are rear-seat USB ports and powered sliding doors that open automatically if you’re standing there with the key.
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The rear seats slide but can’t be removed; the backrests can fold flat for longer loads and the third row has a “tip-up” feature for the squab, to maximise loadspace from the floor up.
Minor storage spaces are many and mostly quite large, including two dashtop bins. There’s a massive centre console which serves both first and second rows; handy, although it does also mean you can’t walk through to the second row from up front.
The rear seats are leather, but not exactly sumptuous. In that respect, the Staria is a bit more posh bus than corporate express: loads of space everywhere, but the predominant impression is functionality. It’s no Palisade Nappa edition.
While we’re on the subject, the cabin styling is great and the tech is awesome, but the materials used for the dashboard and door trims are still pretty, well, vanny. Not a lot of texture and not many soft-touch surfaces. It reminds you that some Staria variants also serve as workaday vans.
Speaking of which, we also spent a week in the $62,990 Staria Load. Not in any way a competitor, but still fascinating to see what’s been done with the same platform.
Same engine in the same state of tune, but FWD. And because it’s 300kg-plus lighter (unladen naturally), the performance feels sprightly in a way that the Staria Limited doesn’t.
It still looks impossibly cool for a van, albeit not as fancy as the people-mover; that sliver of trim across the nose is an LED light bar in the Staria people mover, for example, whereas on the Load it’s a… sliver of trim.
The rear suspension goes from multi-link to leaf spring in the interests of payload, which makes sense. It’s a killer commercial, fully forklift-loadable (the low floor is a boon for the Limited too) and offers nearly 5000 litres of cargo space.
You still get a comprehensive suite of driver assistance and safety tech, including adaptive cruise and four drive modes, and while the dashboard is much more sparse than the people mover, it still comes with a digital cluster and wireless phone projection.
If you really want a few more seats in the Load, you can have ’em. Our test vehicle was a two seater, but for extra $2k you can add a second row of seats. You lose 2100 litres of load space, but gain new friends.