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  • Torquey, efficient diesel engine; ride with eight on board; comfortable seats; vents to all three rows; big boot; price compared with German rivals
  • Lacks sophistication of seven-seaters; four-star ANCAP rating and only two airbags; no reversing camera; heavy doors and wide-swinging tailgate

6 / 10

Hyundai iMax Review
Hyundai iMax Review
Hyundai iMax Review
by Mark Hinchliffe

The Hyundai iMax loves a load.

In fact, it seems to ride smoother and handle better with eight people and luggage on board.

The eight-seater passenger version of the Hyundai iLoad commercial van also delivers enough torque from its 2.5-litre diesel engine to haul with ease.

There are only a dozen or so genuine people movers on the showroom floor if you discount the seven-seater SUVs. Even less when you count the number of eight-seaters and fewer still if you want to carry eight people plus some luggage.

That basically leaves the vans – Volkswagen Multivan, Mercedes Viano, Valente and Vito. The rest are sort of fat wagons.

The sales leader in the people-mover segment is the Kia Grand Carnival with daylight second. The Hyundai iMax used to be number two, but it slipped a little in 2012 despite making its diesel engines more fuel efficient and adding a six-speed manual, as well as Bluetooth audio streaming and iPod connectivity via USB.

Of the van-style people movers, it’s the most affordable starting at $37,290, compared with the Mercedes and Volkswagen, both from $49,990.

There are only three iMax variants – a 2.4-litre petrol model at $37,290 and manual and auto 2.5-litre diesels at $39,990 and $42,490, respectively. Metallic or mica paint is an extra $695. That’s a lot of vehicle and people-and-luggage-moving efficiency for your money.

Hyundai iMax Review
Hyundai iMax Review
Hyundai iMax Review
Hyundai iMax Review

But vans are vans, right? They handle like a pie van and are difficult to manoeuvre in traffic and shopping centres, right?

We drove the 5m-long Hyundai iMax diesel auto, which doesn’t feel like a big van until you put it in reverse and try to park, especially under shopping centres (note it’s about 1925mm high and most underground car parks are around 2m).

It could certainly do with a reversing camera, although it does have rear sensors. There’s no need for front sensors as you can see the stubby nose from the driver’s seat.

Despite the high driving position, it feels and handles more like a big car than a van. It’s hardly nimble, yet the hydraulic steering is light for parking duties although unsurprisingly feel-less. The van’s body pitches and rolls in corners but no more than some of the smaller people movers.

At the heart of the Hyundai iMax is the new 2.5-litre CRDi turbo diesel engine with more torque, better fuel consumption and lower emissions.

Power is still 125kW with the five-speed auto, but 100kW in the manual. More important than power for a vehicle that has to shift big loads is torque and here the manual married to the wastegate turbo diesel is up from 343Nm to 392Nm, with the peak coming on earlier in the revs for more grunt around town.

Usually a manual has more torque than the auto variant, but in this case the variable geometry turbo diesel auto has a stonking 441Nm between 2000-2500rpm.

Hyundai iMax Review
Hyundai iMax Review
Hyundai iMax Review

Better still are the economy figures. The diesel manual iMax has improved five per cent from 8.5L/100km to 8.1, while the auto improves eight per cent from 9.8 to 9. For the greenies among you, it is also nice to know that corresponding CO2 emissions are down from 225g/km to 213 for the manual and down from 259g/km to 238 in the auto.

Despite the extra poke, towing capacities are unchanged at 750kg unbraked, 2000kg braked manual and 1500kg braked auto.

The Hyundai iMax is not the most powerful people-mover out there – that award goes to the Kia Grand Carnival with its 202kW/336Nm 3.5-litre V6.

But it isn’t far behind. It is genuinely strong enough for the tasks at hand.

We didn’t drive the new manual, which, like all Hyundai transmissions, is designed and manufactured in-house. Hyundai says it uses multi-cone synchronisers for improved shift quality, and has a short stroke for quick and accurate shifts. The auto certainly changes smoothly and efficiently, although it’s no lightning dual-clutch gearbox.

Inside, driver and front passenger are pampered by soft yet supportive perches with folding armrests. The other seats are equally comfortable: well contoured, with good lateral support. There are also two Isofix points for baby capsules in the second row.

To access the third row, you need to slide the second row forward and tilt the back rests forward. Once in this position, rear passengers have plenty of room to enter and exit.

The rear seating arrangement is not near as flexible as the Volkswagen, which has seats that rotate, tilt, slide and remove. These bench seats are permanent, only the second row slides and the rear row backs will only tilt forward, allowing big objects in the rear.

Dual sliding doors allow access from both sides of the vehicle. They are heavy and manually operated. Electronic doors would be better, but would add to the expense and weight of the vehicle.

They can be particularly difficult to close or open if the vehicle is on a slope. But don’t get too vigorous when closing the door as you can easily jam your fingers.

The tailgate is also massive and heavy. It swings a long way back, so you have to stand back when opening it. Don’t park too close to a wall or another car, or you won’t be able to access the cargo area. Also, when it’s open, short people will have difficulty reaching the hand recess to pull it back down. That could easily have been solved with a hand strap. Again, an automated function would have helped here.

The cargo area behind the third fixed row is cavernous at 1400mm wide, 850mm deep and 1200mm high, swallowing big and awkward-sized loads.

While the cabin area is dominated by hard grey plastic, it’s the perfect hard-wearing combination for the rough and tumble of kids.

You can take half of your son’s footy team with you and have no qualms about football boot tags leaving marks on the plastics. Your sweaty passengers will also be able to cool down with separate air conditioning controls in the rear and air vents for both the second and third rows.

Most of the features you expect in today’s passenger cars are available such as power windows and mirrors, plenty of storage compartments (including twin gloveboxes) and cup holders. You can also buy a portable cooler and DVD player as genuine Hyundai accessories, plus a towbar and roof racks for outside. We would have liked auto headlights and wipers included as standard, however.

The Hyundai iMax scores a four-star ANCAP safety rating and comes with an array of active and passive safety features such as ABS, electronic brakeforce distribution and electronic stability and traction controls.

There are, however, only two airbags for the driver and passenger. Curtain and side airbags for the second and third row would be welcome.

Thankfully, there is a full-size spare fitted. The 215/70 R16 spare is attached under the rear of the vehicle and you have to winch it down via a bolt on the inside of the cargo area.

If you absolutely need eight seats then the Hyundai iMax is almost the default choice for the money. But dropping a pew gives buyers a huge increase in style, sophistication and dynamics in the seven-seat Honda Odyssey.

Hyundai hasn’t yet mastered that level of ability with its budget-priced van with seats.

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  • Shak

    I hired one of these recently while on holiday. The review basically says everything i felt. The van has bucketloads of torque and can handle a full load and hilly terrain with ease. The interior felt much better quality than it appears in these pictures, and the air-con vents in all the rows were lifesavers. The only problem was rear vision is pretty abysmal, and the model we had had no sensors or cameras. Other than that it was a wonderful van, and a testament to how much Hyundai have improved.

  • Cars

    “It is genuinely strong enough for the tasks at hand and will light up
    the front wheels with ease with a light load and a bit of turn.”
    It is seriously embarrasing for a motoring journalist to get a FWD and RWD mixed up.

    • Robin_Graves

      Just thinking the same thing.

    • Dave

      Makes you wonder if they actually drive them…

    • CarAdvice

      The article has been corrected. Thank you for the spot.

      • Cars

        Fantastic reply. Very professional moderation – thankyou.

  • More choices please!

    Problems with the big Hyundai:
    The single fold seat in the middle row should be on the Left Hand side,
    not right. The 3rd row should offer child seat anchor points, split-fold
    and removability. There should be curtain airbags, at least as an
    option. It should have a rear window wiper. It should have cruise
    control. It should have electric windows all-round.Even if they had
    an up-spec model with all these features for a premium price, you’d see a
    whole lot more of them on the road. 

    • Henry Toussaint

      There is a Rear Window Wiper on the back window.

      • Morechoices

        You are correct. This was not present on the 2009 model – well picked.

  • theillestlife

    The first line of this review made me giggle.

    (The Hyundai iMax loves a load)

  • Captain Nemo®™

    Only buy the VeeDud Crapivan over this if your idea of fun is waiting on the side of the road with 5 kids whilst the tow truck arrives. 

    • Cars

      How many posts does it take for a troll to appear? I counted 6!

  • Chevrons

    Having owned a Hyundai for 10 years, being happily surprised with the reliability and now needing a people mover for the family I was looking forward to checking this out.

    The roominess of the cabin, high driving position was impressive but for us it lacked essentials like cruise, the kids found it very difficult to access the third row without adult assistance and far too much cheap plastic throughout.

  • Gfg

    This car was reviewed in 2011 (albeit quite poorly) and it’s barely changed, nor is it a popular car, so why bother reviewing it again?

    • Cars

       Hyundai kick-backs perhaps?

    • CarAdvice

      Out aim is to review every new car once every 12 to 18 months, Gfg.

  • Springvale_Boi

    This thing is based on a delivery van and is structurally very very weak especially at the cargo area. One should get a vehicle designed to be an MPV from the ground up like the Kia Carnival or Tarago for safety reasons. Van based people movers are so 70’s and 80’s.

    • Henry Toussaint

       Why is it structurally weak?

      • Springvale_Boi

        Coz this is based on a commercial vehicle, the safety tests aren’t as stringent. Cargoes don’t need the protection and so the cargo compartment of the delivery vans behind the 1st row of seat don’t have beams for crash protection. To see the amount of reinforcement (or lack of) there, just take a look at the iLoad (without the trimmings) around the area there. The top and side panels of the cargo area are only good for protection against wind and rain.

        • Karl Sass

          I take it you’re talking about in a roll over. You may be right, but this van was always designed to be both a commercial vehicle and a people mover, so I think that was taken into account.

        • Henry Toussaint

           I think it may have a 4 Star safety Rating because of the Lack of side and curtain airbags, and it could be because of a weakish stucture if it is weak. But 4 stars isn’t that bad however, but it should have 5 stars.

    • Dsfgf

       It has a 4 star safety rating. Not sure how safe the rear is where the cargo area would be in the commercial version – but then, how safe is the rear in any car? They don’t test rear end accidents.

  • jekyl & hyde

    * and if you hate the style start wearing condoms*  lol

    • Cars

      That could be assuming everyone is getting laid. I reakon there are quite a few here that are knocking around with Mrs Palmer. Chances are better than good they won’t need to worry about protection!

  • jared

    I’m pretty sure they still sell the Toyota Hiace SWB and LWB.  And what about the Chrysler models ?  And Foton ?

  • Alpha101

    Why is the power and torque of the manual so heavily reduced? I would love to have a ballsy manual diesel van but it has substantially less output than the diesel! 

    • Alpha101

       Correction – less output than the auto*

  • Cazzo

    lorry load?

  • sharon

    Does anyone know if this can fit 4 adults and 4 car seats plus luggages?

Hyundai iMax Specs

Car Details
Body Type
New Price
Private Sale
$31,460 - $35,750
Dealer Retail
$31,820 - $37,840
Dealer Trade
$24,500 - $28,600
Engine Specifications
Engine Type
Engine Size
Max. Torque
392Nm @  2000rpm
Max. Power
125kW @  3800rpm
Pwr:Wgt Ratio
Bore & Stroke
Compression Ratio
Valve Gear
Drivetrain Specifications
Drive Type
Final Drive Ratio
Fuel Specifications
Fuel Type
Fuel Tank Capacity
Fuel Consumption (Combined)
8.1L / 100km
Weight & Measurement
Kerb Weight
Gross Vehicle Weight
Ground Clearance
Towing Capacity
Brake:2000  Unbrake:750
Steering & Suspension
Steering Type
Turning Circle
Front Rim Size
Rear Rim Size
Front Tyres
215/70 R16
Rear Tyres
215/70 R16
Wheel Base
Front Track
Rear Track
Front Brakes
Rear Brakes
Front Suspension
MacPherson strut, Coil Spring, Gas damper
Rear Suspension
Leaf spring, Gas damper
Standard Features
Air Conditioning
Control & Handling
16 Inch Alloy Wheels, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Electronic Stability Program
Mobile Phone Connectivity, Power Steering
Radio CD with 6 Speakers
Power Mirrors
Power Windows Front
Dual Airbag Package, Anti-lock Braking, Seatbelts - Pre-tensioners Front Seats
Alarm System/Remote Anti Theft, Central Locking Remote Control, Engine Immobiliser
Optional Features
Metallic Paint
Service Interval
12 months /  15,000 kms
60 months /  160,000 kms
VIN Plate Location
Pass Side Front Floor
Country of Origin