BUSSING ABOUT | VAN REVIEW – Hyundai iLoad

Stuart Martin takes the semi-bonneted van option for transport with the latest upgrade to the Hyundai iLoad.

While the dual-cab ute market has taken the spotlight from passenger cars in sales terms, the LCV van market quietly rumbles along in the background … but that segment is changing. Still led by the long-serving HiAce, the Toyota segment leader is under siege from Ford, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen, as well as French and Chinese combatants.

But it is the Hyundai iLoad that has most eroded the HiAce domination, and it has been revamped to give it more ammunition in its fight to unseat the monarch.

A new more bullish snout immediately identifies this van as the new iLoad, a nose more aggressive in its style than its predecessor but perhaps not to all tastes – that said, it certainly stands out more in the traffic.

We’re sampling the liftback automatic version, which has dual sliding side doors and a three-seat bench as standard fare for its $41,790 asking price. There’s a six-speed manual on the pricelist as well, which sneaks in under $40K, as well as a twin-swing rear door set-up, which ups the price of the auto we’re in to $42,430, but would be money well spent if a forklift-loading scenario is a regular part of life.

The lift back rules out such a loading method and it also doesn’t rise far enough to put it out of the way for taller folks when loading the rear. The benefit here comes from being able to sort through the contents in the cargo area from the rear when the rain gods are busy showing off their ability. For those that do need forklift access, the side doors offer plenty of additional loading options and the locking mechanism keeps the doors open and in place when parked on hills.

The test vehicle had the rubber floor with ten load restraint hooks along the sides of the cargo area, but there’s the option of a wooden floor if that better suits the likely duties.

The cabin is still dominated by grey plastic trim, including on the steering wheel, which feels a little cheap for the driver, but at least that is now reach and rake adjustable. Combining with the manual seat height adjustment for the driver, it results in a good – if still upright – driving position.

There’s new cloth trim and a revamped instrument panel to greet the driver, which includes a trip computer between the easy-to-read dials, but no average fuel economy readout – either it’s too well hidden or not there – with range and average speed among the readouts offered.

Also updated is the sound system, which hasn’t grown any more speakers but has Bluetooth and now gets Apple CarPlay/Android Auto (connected via USB) within its touchscreen control, which in turn offers up satellite navigation.

The features list also includes manual air conditioning, a three-seat bench (but with a lap-only centre seatbelt), or seating for two and a fold-down centre section with cup holders and document area. This centre shelf option sits low on the bench and works well for drinks and paperwork, but is too low to be a viable armrest. There’s no overhead storage, but it’s offset to some extent by the two gloveboxes directly ahead of the passenger’s seat.

Also offering decent oddment storage are the cubbyholes in the doors and a second set of cupholders popping out of the centre stack. The features list also has battery-saving automatic dusk-sensing headlights, but not automatic rain-sensing windscreen wipers.

On the safety side, the iLoad has dual front and front side airbags (two more than the HiAce), pretensioners and load-limiters on the front lap-sash seat belts, stability and traction control, all of which is enough to maintain the four-star ANCAP safety rating earned when it was tested back in 2011 – the iLoad also has the advantage of a snout, which is beneficial from a crumple zone perspective.

There’s no separation from the cargo bay as standard – there is a cargo barrier option available, as well as an air-conditioning curtain – but the noise level from the rear isn’t obtrusive, with only a little bit of booming through into the cabin when the back is empty.

The three-seater bench doesn’t allow for a walk-through either, although members of the young and limber brigade might be able to clamber through without pulling a groin muscle. The exterior mirrors are power-adjustable – although not power-folding – and of a decent size, offering a reasonable view that is augmented by a reversing camera, but no standard rear sensors.

Unchanged is the drivetrain, which means the 2.0-tonne iLoad van is rear-drive with a five-speed auto, powered by a Euro-5-compliant, 2.5-litre, common-rail, direct-injection, 16-valve, four-cylinder turbodiesel. It has a variable-geometry turbo to help it produce 125 kW at 3600 rpm, with 441 Nm of torque between 2000 and 2250 rpm, putting it well ahead of the 100-kW/300-Nm four-speed auto HiAce on outputs.

The fuel economy claim under the ADR fuel economy laboratory test is 8.8 litres per 100 km from the 75-litre tank, and the iLoad is capable of returning high single digit fuel use.

The test vehicle had less than 1000 km on the odometer so it was far from loose, but covered over 230 km on a quarter of a tank, with much of that laden and running on metropolitan roads.

The powerplant isn’t overly noisy by LCV standards and offers plenty of in-gear flexibility, as well as decent punch off the line, which would be useful if the 1500 kg braked towing was being utilised.

Once laden, with up to something approaching its 1.0-tonne payload capacity, the MacPherson strut front and heavy-duty leaf-sprung rear settle down to a more comfortable demeanour, but even when empty it’s well within the realm of bearable thanks in part to 16-inch steel wheels wrapped in 215/70 profile tyres to take the edge off smaller road blemishes.

Longer, lower and wider than the HiAce, the iLoad is 5150 mm long, 1920 mm wide, 1935 mm tall, and sits on a 3200 mm wheelbase. The cargo area is 2375 mm long, 1620 mm wide, 1340 mm tall and measures 1272 mm between the wheel arches, all of which adds up to a 4426-litre load area volume. A turning circle of 11.22 metres is listed in the specs, with three and a half turns lock-to-lock, but it feels more nimble than that figure suggests.

The Hyundai also wins out over its Toyota opposition when it comes to regular maintenance, offering capped-price servicing at intervals of every 12 months or 15,000 km (the HiAce is still 6 months or 10,000 km). For those servicing at factory dealerships, the roadside assistance is extended for an additional 12 months up to 10 years. The five-year 160,000 km warranty also surpasses the three-year 100,000 km coverage from Toyota.

As has been the case in other LCV segments, the dominance of Toyota has been eroded but not erased by opposition. Where Ford has taken on the HiLux in the ute segment, Hyundai has taken a swing at the HiAce.

The Japanese model still has the wood on its competition from across the Sea of Japan, in terms of wheelbase and size choices, but the Hyundai iLoad has the foundations in place to become a far more regular sight on Australian roads.

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