Tested: 2022 Hyundai Staria 2.2D Elite

Say hello to my latest champion for our next round of NamWheels Car of the Year candidates. Wait, what? A van!? You betcha…

Allow me to immediately spill all the beans of my Car of the Year bag: an ideal candidate should be great value, good to drive, easy to live with and have at least one distinguishing feature. After spending a bit of time with this silver press vehicle near Cape Town, I can confirm that the new Staria ticks every box. Sometimes repeatedly.

Great value

While we could argue all day about the definition of “value” with today’s insane new car prices, nobody can deny that this big bus offers plenty of metal for your money. Hyundai also offers different trim levels, more (or fewer) seats but this Elite derivative is a fairly good golden middle: eight seats, plenty of specs.

At just shy of a million bucks, you’re moving in a territory which includes luxury 4×4 double-cabs, small-ish premium SUV’s or compact German executive sedans. The equivalent Volkswagen Caravelle costs around 1.3 million dollars while Mercedes won’t even open their door unless you bring another 250,000 to the table.

The only real bargains out there are Opel’s new Zafira (report out soon) or the absolutely wonderful Kia Carnival. For the record, the Staria range starts with a half-cargo “MultiCab” at R765,000, going via Executive 9-seater (R800,000) and 11-seater (R810,000) past this Elite model to the posh “Luxury” at 1.115 million.

Good to drive

MPV’s aren’t exactly known for their amazing Kyalami times but that doesn’t mean they have to be rubbish to pilot around town. With fluffy light steering, a fairly punchy drive train, excellent brakes and pretty decent visibility for a van, this enormous Hyundai bus got a solid thumbs-up from all our testers.

The brand’s trusty 2.2L in-line four pot turbo-diesel stems up to 130kW or 430Nm against a kerb weight of 2,200kg for a claimed 0-100km/h time of 12.4 seconds and a top speed of 185km/h. I’m happy to report that our best acceleration run yielded a substantially faster time of just 11.07 seconds. Not bad for a luxury bus, as the following table demonstrates:

VehicleBest 0-100km/h
Kia Carnival 2.2 CRDi9.36 seconds
VW Caravelle BiTDi 4M9.88 seconds
Hyundai Staria 2.2 Elite11.07 seconds
Mercedes-Benz V250d11.27 seconds
VW Caravelle 4Motion11.94 seconds
VW Kombi Transporter12.02 seconds
Opel Zafira Life 2.0TD12.24 seconds

Easy to live with

Although this is model-dependent, here are just a few of the highlights which raised our mouth corners and probably give the Germans a dose of anxiety: power everything (including the side doors), climate front seats, heated middle seats, full pleather trim, multiple drive modes, surround parking sensors and camera, keyless everything and a digital gauge cluster.

Hang on, I’m not done yet. There are more storage nooks, cup holders, charging ports and covered oddment trays than you can throw an under-14 netball team at. The central dashboard layout is rather messy in my humble opinion, yet it houses full climate control and the obligatory media/infotainment system with smartphone integration.

Distinguishing features

Hoh boy. Have you seen this vehicle in person? While its absolutely striking design has grown on me with a few proportional imbalances, it is quite a petro-sexual experience to stand in front of a big van with frosted cube taillights, enormously continuous window lines, stylish cabin trim, bizarre alloys, weird headlights and that curious light bar.

I said it in my launch report of the Staria MultiCab: Hyundai has lifted the game to a completely different platform, never mind level, in terms of MPV design. What was once a sensible segment with dreary designs has suddenly gained a car which looks as great as it drives. And on top of that, it’s well-equipped, excellent value and thus, a great NamWheels Car of the Year contender.

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