Hyundai’s iMax shows it’s still an interesting and versatile performer.
The rise to prominence of Hyundai’s iLoad and iMax has shown just how having the right product and the right price can shake the traditional market of vans and people movers.
The South Korean manufacturer brought its semi-bonneted design into a segment where Toyota dominated and Ford held sway with its Transit, almost by squatters rights. Within a relatively short time, the iLoad and its people-mover stablemate, the iMax, were advancing up the sales ladder, deposing the traditional incumbents and establishing a very strong reputation for reliability and practicality. Their progress was also helped immensely by the tradies, who showed off their new purchases and recommended them to their mates.
The iLoad now has 35.5 percent of the market segment, and this year is currently the top-selling model in the typical one-tonne payload van category. The iMax competes in the people-mover segment where, as in the van segment, this model has severely dented sales of Toyota’s competitor, in this case the Tarago.
The people-mover market is more sophisticated than that of the van segment, and, when analysing trends in the preference of buyers, we can see a softening of interest in the more commercially styled competitors.
Kia’s Carnival was the big winner in 2012, where it held 34.6 percent of market share in this segment, outselling iMax in second place by more than two to one. The Carnival scores highly by adding more car-like features and not looking like a van with windows and seats that are added almost as an afterthought.
At Delivery we believe buyers are now also looking further upmarket to add more luxury to their purchase, in particular considering the Mercedes-Benz Valente, Vito wagon and Viano, and the Volkswagen Caravelle and Multivan.
The iMax does have a few differences from its commercially focused iLoad, largely by way of running with coil springs supporting the rear axle in place of the leaf springs found on the van models. The front suspension design for both models stays with MacPherson struts with coil springs. Gas-filled shock absorbers are fitted all round, as are disc brakes.
Buyers of the iMax have the choice between a 2.4-litre petrol and a 2.5-litre CRDi diesel engine, with both options being four-cylinder units mounted longitudinally and driving the rear wheels. Choosing the petrol version means the only transmission available is a four-speed automatic, whereas a shift to the diesel alternative brings with it the options of a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic.
In terms of performance, Delivery would recommend the diesel every time. In automatic form, the 2.5-litre produces 125 kW of power at 3,600 rpm, only 4 kW less than the petrol 2.4-litre. The torque rise though is totally in favour of the diesel that produces 441 Nm rated at 2,000-2,250 rpm, against the petrol engine’s 228 Nm rated at 4,200 rpm. The power and torque figures of the diesel when optioned with the six-speed manual gearbox are less than with the auto, running at 100 kW at 3,800 rpm, and 343 Nm from 1,500 through to 2,500 rpm.
Seats are comfortable, and the semi-bonneted design does make the interior feel more spacious, especially for the driver and passenger. As far as seating capacity is concerned, it’s bucket seats for the front row, three seats in the centre row, with the 60/40 split seats folding on each side to allow access to the third row three-seat bench.
When used as transport for hotels, or to and from airport car parks, it is common to see these vehicles towing a small luggage trailer. Be aware, though, that there are towing limits for a braked trailer of 1,500 kg for the petrol and diesel automatic, or 2,000 kg for the diesel manual gearbox.
It’s easy to feel at home in the iMax, and with comfortable seating and good visibility the driver has every reason to feel happy with life. The twin sliding doors make access into the rear relatively easy, but these are still manually operated, not powered electrically as with the higher specified Kia Carnival, VW Multivan and Mercedes-Benz alternatives.
There was a time when a passenger version of a commercial van was still pretty basic, especially when it came to passenger safety. That is certainly no longer the case, and, with the iMax, there are active safety systems such as four-channel ABS anti-lock braking, electronic stability control with traction control, electronic brake force distribution, reversing sensor warning systems and three point lap/sash seat belts for all occupants. The driver and front passenger both get SRS airbags, but child seat safety anchorage points are only available on the second row of seats.
For a vehicle the size of the iMax, a four-speaker stereo system is probably not quite up there on sound performance as might be expected, but it is possible to connect through to MP3/WMA and Bluetooth streaming for those who prefer listening to their own music.
Interior noise levels are well subdued, and the ride comfort is certainly not reminiscent of a vehicle that has its origins in the commercial world. It’s comfortable to drive, and, with the ability to remove the second and third row seating to convert the interior back to commercial carrying mode, there’s a degree of versatility that can be very useful for family use.
There is one glaring omission with the iMax, and that’s the lack of cruise control. The ability to set cruise control, especially in Victoria where speed cameras are unrelenting in their decision making process, now has greater importance for the average motorist.
As with all Hyundai products, iMax comes with a five-year, unlimited distance warranty, three years capped price servicing, seven years roadside assist, and the benefit of a full-sized spare wheel.