Finding suitable transport for a large family on the move can still be surprisingly difficult, but as wheelworldreviews Editor DAVID HOOPER realised, Hyundai’s i800 could be the answer to your prayers.
A BIG family on the move is a challenge surprisingly few car manufacturers have risen to. Many offer vehicles with seven seats, some even offer eight, but when all of those seats are in use, there is usually precious little space left for luggage.
Owners then find themselves resorting to roof boxes for extra luggage space, or even trailers – and have to take the extra fuel costs they incur on the chin.
An invitation from relatives to spend New Year in Cornwall sparked my own search for a vehicle which could comfortably transport six adults, plus their cases and walking kit, which as well as boots, involves bulging ruck sacks packed with all-weather gear and bulky coats.
After a lot of thought weighing up the possible candidates, Hyundai came up trumps with the loan of an i800, a vehicle which fulfils all of these requirements admirably.
Some other manufacturers do offer a solution, like VW with its Transporter, or Renault, with its Grand Espace, but would-be buyers need deep pockets before they can park one on their drive.
Fear not, however, as Hyundai has an answer to the prayers of large families, hotels running a pick-up service for guests, or taxi firms doing airport runs. There’s just one i800 model, it has seating for eight and boot space at the back which is more generous than the majority of estate cars and you can have one for just £20,260 on the road.
There’s no getting away from the fact the i800 is based on a van, but it does have its benefits. In most seven seat “people carriers” the extra two rear seats in the boot area are only suitable for small children – not full-sized adults for an eight-hour journey, but with its two rows of three seats, which can be adjusted for leg room or boot space by means of runners set into the floor, the i800 proved ideal for our trip.
Sliding rear doors on both sides, complete with their own sliding windows, provide easy access to the seating areas, even in a tight parking space. The middle row of seats slide forwards and the seat backs tilt to make getting in and out as easy as possible, but unlike most people carriers, the seats cannot be removed or folded flat should you want to shift a wardrobe.
It’s reasonably well equipped, but a glaring omission in the filthy wintry road conditions at this time of year was a rear wiper. When I took delivery of the i800 it was covered in road grime and I couldn’t find the switch for the rear wash wipe. Eventually I got out of the cab and walked around to the back to make sure there was one, and was amazed to see there wasn’t. No wonder I couldn’t find the switch! I cleaned the side and rear windows myself with a bucket and sponge, but after hours on damp salty roads, visibility out of the back gets progressively worse, leaving you to drive on the large door mirrors, which are electrically adjusted.
The driver gets a heated seat, and there is a trip computer which shows average speed and range, but not average mpg. The official combined average is 33.2mpg, which is roughly what my test car returned.
Air conditioning comes as standard, as does independent ventilation for the rear seats, which is always a bonus in this sort of vehicle.
Having picked up our friends for our trip south, I was pleasantly surprised with the i800. It proved to be an excellent travelling companion. Despite its size it is very easy to drive and park, helped by rear parking sensors. It’s 2.5-litre diesel engine makes a nice grumbly sound, and its 168bhp means there’s plenty of power on tap. The five-speed box slots neatly and positively from gear to gear and progress can be agreeably quick.
The ride quality was very comfortable and I liked it’s high driving position that gave a commanding view of the road ahead, often allowing me to see over the tops of cars in front, which helped me to avoid a nine-car pile-up on the M5 which happened just in front of us.
Once in Cornwall, all eight seats were occupied for our trips out, negotiating the tightest of tight lanes, and even on the steeper sections, which were also icy in places, the i800 didn’t flinch. On the odd occasions when one of its rear wheels struggled for grip on an icy surface, the vehicle’s EST and traction control brought the errant wheel back in check to ensure we didn’t get stuck.
During our 400-mile drive home, we all heaped praise on the i800 and its impressive breadth of abilities. It cruised quietly at motorway speeds for mile after mile, while even long-legged six-foot-plus people travelled in comfort, altering the colour of the LED interior lighting in the back to suit their mood. Other than the lack of picnic trays, which would have been handy at times, and the rear wiper I’ve already mentioned, it was difficult to fault.
If anyone needs any further convincing, Hyundai’s five year warranty is surely the icing on the cake.
THE VITAL STATISTICS
MODEL: Hyundai i800 2.5 CRDi.
HYUNDAI i800 RANGE: e model, Hyundai i800 2.5 CRDi (£19,830).
ENGINE: 497cc, 168bhp four-cylinder engine, driving rear wheels through 5-speed manual gearbox.
CO2 EMISSIONS: 5g/km.
PERFORMANCE: Top speed 112mph. 0-62mph in 14.5 secs.
ECONOMY: City: 25.9mpg.
Fuel tank: 75 litres.
INSURANCE: Group 14.
WARRANTY: 5 years, Unlimited mileage.