Hyundai iLoad Crew van review

By: Gary Worrall


With a range of light-duty trucks soon to go on sale in Australia, Hyundai is looking to build on the market share of its light vans. Gary Worrall puts the iLoad through its paces

Hyundai iLoad Crew van review
Hyundai iLoad Crew van.

 

For a company with fewer than 30 years in the Australian market, Hyundai has come a long way. Starting out as an importer of cheap passenger cars, it evolved into a major player in the car market before making a foray into commercial vehicles.

In between times of course there has also been the Hyundai range of heavy construction equipment, which has won plenty of friends through reliability, durability and capability.

So when the first Hyundai iLoad vans came into the country, all eyes were on them to see if they maintained the high level of build quality and engineering established for the passenger car range.

With a design that falls somewhere between regulation and conservative, the iLoad has enough distinguishing characteristics to allow its driver to find it in a crowd, but not enough to stick out from that same crowd.

This might have been the designers’ goal, but it means prospective purchasers will struggle to tell it apart from the pack. In an industry where differentiating yourself from the competition can be the key to survival, this sameness is not always a good thing.

The front features the usual, but safe, semi-bonneted nose, putting at least part of the engine and its ancillaries between the driver’s knees and an accident. A double grille effect under the bonnet looks like someone inserted a letterbox slot under a happy face, but it crowns a deep front bumper and chin spoiler.

This might sound like a recipe for constant body repairs, but the iLoad sits high enough off the ground to clear most obstacles. The ones it can’t probably weren’t designed to be driven over in the first place, like traffic bollards.

Possibly the most eye-catching piece of the whole frontal appearance are the headlights.

They look like an amalgam of a Porsche Boxster and a Nissan Tiida. They feature a porthole-sized central lens, encircled by one of the largest lay-flat lens arrangements ever seen on a vehicle of this type.

With a sloping windscreen adding extra aero efficiency to the laid-back bonnet, the iLoad is actually quite tall. From a distance its dimensions look rather more compact than the reality.

Like any good van body, the iLoad features plenty of roof height and a flat top, so it probably resembles an aircraft carrier when viewed from above (which might explain the light plane that circled us for about five minutes, probably waiting for landing clearance).

Despite its generous proportions, clearance is actually not an issue. Despite looking for a selection of low buildings, carparks and loading bays to play in, none of them even came close to bothering the paintwork.

In keeping with the design brief to make it look the same but different, the CAD work also included flared ankles (kind of like bell bottoms for commercial vehicles) complete with a eyebrow-like slash rising up over the wheel arches.

Hyundai offers a choice of either barn doors or a vertically-hinged tailgate. Our test vehicle came with the former. I suspect quite a few customers would opt for the barn doors as they give greater flexibility for loading and unloading.

The whole package sits nicely on a set of silver painted steel wheels shod with high profile tyres. This is both practical and comfortable with plenty of extra shock absorption from the tyres’ big sidewalls.

Engine

The 2.5-litre turbo diesel is a refined unit. It offers plenty of go even when there is a heavy weight out the back, which just helps the rear-wheel drive put the power down. The van puts out 125kW (168hp) of power and 392Nm (289ft-lb) of torque.

Transmission

The iLoad crew van is available with either a 5-speed automatic transmission or a 5-speed manual configuration.

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Cab and Controls

Vans like the iLoad can often suffer from a case of split identity. As they usually share their underpinnings with a people mover or some other large-scale passenger vehicle, it can mean compromises in the layout as designers try to serve the needs of different masters.

In this case, the passenger versions are sufficiently different to not have undercut the iLoad’s design parameters.

Possibly the one compromise that crept into the design is the height of the front seats when climbing in and out. The designers must have decided a proper step was not needed, yet the iLoad sits far enough from the ground to make it one giant leap for mankind (or woman). It was not uncommon to find myself sliding down the front wheel arch before touching down on terra firma.

There not many other flaws in the internal layouts. The iLoad offers good all-round vision through the multiple windows, while the door mirrors are large enough to ensure the driver has a good field of view to the rear.

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The dash layout follows convention — not a bad thing as it makes it easy to find the tacho and speedo and the additional gauges for fuel temperature and warning lights for a range of potential malfunctions. There is also a repeater display for the five-speed auto.

The centre panel is home to the entertainment and climate controls, with a single disc CD/AM/FM stereo providing the soundtrack to our driving experience, while the hot/cold air came from the more than competent air-conditioning unit.

Our test van was configured with a load cell separating the freight from the extended passenger space, providing room to fit an extra bench seat. To be honest it’s probably not something you would choose to sit on for a long distance, but it’s okay if you have the need to shift people and boxes at the same time.

The centre front seat has a fold-down back that converts into a workstation for the driver, as well as providing a couple of extra drink holders.

The driving position is good. You sit high and have a good view of what is happening out on the road. The steering wheel adjusts for tilt only, but I found the high seat did not cause any problems with the wheel arguing with my legs on tight corners.

There is also plenty of shoulder and head room, even for tall drivers, while down below there is no risk of the your boots getting tangled with the pedals. Sound proofing is good — it’s possible to carry on a conversation at highway speeds, something many vans struggle with as the load space converts into an echo chamber.

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Performance

Once you are onboard and settled the iLoad is a fairly simple device to master, there are no real tricks to getting it moving.

The steering is well weighted. There is a reasonable level of feedback to the driver (despite the relatively remote driving position). It is a good trait in a vehicle that will be working in tight spaces. It helps to know where your wheels are pointing.

Similarly, the brake pedal was reasonably communicative. It was easy to tell how much pressure was being applied at the bitumen end. The iLoad runs disc brakes front and rear with four-channel ABS, so there’s plenty of stopping power available in an emergency.

The suspension is also well thought out; the leaf springs at the rear do well to cope with the weight dropped on them on a daily basis, while the coil spring front end provides a decent level of control for the steering, making the iLoad safe and predictable at all times.

Although the suspension felt a touch too firm when the vehicle was empty, or near-empty, once there was some weight pushing down on the road it settled down beautifully, coasting over the bumps and lumps that make up the urban road network of South East Queensland.

This is also where the high profile tyres help. When close to the load limit the extra rubber in the sidewall and the air in the tyres combine to absorb the worst of the bumps coming off the road, allowing the suspension to be set slightly softer so the empty ride doesn’t have to be quite as jarring.

The only real complaint, in fact, to come out of the driving experience was the lack of cruise control.

Instead of concentrating on what is happening on the road I found half of my time was spent ensuring I did not creep over the speed limit and attract a glossy 8x10 reminder of my time in Hyundai’s finest.

In a time when there is a constant presence on the roads reminding us to either ‘slow down, stupid’ or that ‘speed kills’, it is difficult to believe there was not even an optional road cruise control.

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Verdict

While there is no doubt the iLoad is a great value equation, the bottom line is that without cruise control, even fitted at a dealer level, the iLoad will always struggle against its European competitors.

The iLoad is not a bad thing, simply it still has a journey to travel before it is in the top ranks of the van market. Given the way Hyundai has raced through the evolutionary stages to become the world’s sixth largest car company, this should happen sooner rather than later.

 

Likes:

  • Comfortable and easy to drive
  • Usable torque curve
  • Good cargo space and payload
  • Rear barn doors

Dislikes:

  • Lack of cruise control
  • Stiff suspension when empty
  • Needs a step for entry and exit

 

Specifications

Make/Model: Hyundai iLoad Crew Van

Engine: 2.5-litre 4-cylinder CRDi (Common Rail Direct injection) with intercooled variable geometry turbo

Transmission: 5-speed auto (option 5-speed manual)

Power/Torque: 125kW (168hp) / 392Nm (289ft-lb)

Length: 5,125mm

Width: 1,920mm

Wheelbase: 3,200mm

Cargo Space: 1,585mm(L) x 1,620mm(W) x 1,350mm (H); 1260mm between wheel arches

GVM/GCM: 2,171kg / 3,230kg

 

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