A relative newcomer to the light-commercial van segment, the Hyundai iLoad has only been on sale in Australia since 2007, which – when compared to 1967 for the Toyota HiAce and 1965 for the Ford Transit – makes it impressive that in just seven years, the model has worked its way into the market’s number two spot.
It is easy to see why. Starting at $30,990, the Hyundai iLoad is one of the cheapest ways to get into a new medium-sized van in Australia – behind only the Fiat Scudo ($28,990) and LDV V80 ($30,800). Couple that with a five-year/160,000km warranty, standard air-con, Bluetooth, twin-sliding doors and a stylish (for a van) design, and the iLoad makes a solid case.
For most of us, though, vans tend to be seen as simply a tool of the trade, so I spent the weekend with one to see how it fared from a driver’s perspective.
The base Hyundai iLoad is a spartan thing – less of the ‘mullet’ (business in the front, party in the back) we enjoyed with the Chrysler Grand Voyager recently; more of a short back-and-sides all business approach. Even the key is basic, with a single button for both lock and unlock (this caused some minor frustration as a result of my usual OCD multi-clicking of the lock button – don’t laugh, I’m sure you do it, too – meaning I was never quite sure if it was locked or unlocked.
I even accidentally locked myself in a couple of times by holding the button on the key as I turned it in the ignition. Not exactly the crowning achievement of my adult life – trapping myself inside a 4.3 cubic-litre cargo van – and despite none of my CarAdvice colleagues being able to replicate the situation, I’ll try to keep some dignity and blame the car.
The seating position is high and comfortable with all the controls being simple and straightforward. Pairing a phone was easy and the standard audio streaming means you can make yourself at home quickly. Being a working vehicle, there is a multitude of hard-wearing storage bins and containers, making any discussion about the lack of soft-touch dashboard material redundant. The centre armrest and its big cup holders easily fit a large coffee, or, say, a camera lens, without any issue.
The standard 60:40 seating setup allows room for three up front and Miss Five enjoyed a couple of trips sitting in the middle spot. It would get a bit cozy with three full-size adults, but there is a six-seater crew van configuration if you are regularly more than two-up on the road.
Our $38,990 test van was fitted with the 125kW/441Nm 2.5-litre common rail turbo diesel engine and five-speed automatic transmission. With an empty load, the iLoad’s performance was certainly within expectation, cruising easily up to 100km/h on the freeway. The road noise and overall feel was again to be expected, with crosswind being much more noticeable compared with being in a car, but never overly concerning.
Getting a true feel for the van would require me to carry a load, so I took the opportunity to try and clear the house of some excess ‘stuff’ and set up a pop-up stall at the Docklands Sunday Market in Melbourne.
The Docklands precinct is growing every day yet is still trying to find its own little ‘niche’ as a destination for Melburnians. Close to the city, and crammed with high-rise apartments, the location sounds good on paper, but without the support of a major event and with ‘questionable’ weather, my day of selling to passing foot-traffic was looking challenging.
The market has been running for the past five years and attracts sellers of various arts, crafts, produce and second-hand goods. A bit flashier than traditional ‘car boot’ trash and treasure sales, market sellers use their car as an anchor and set up a storefront with other equipment.
I lobbed our Hyundai between a bonsai nursery (in another iLoad) and a photographer (in a Jeep Wrangler) and felt slightly unprepared without a covered marquee or a-board sign, but did my best to position ‘CarAdvice Bear’ in the ride-on BMW M3 to attract prospective buyers (ie: children with tired parents who would gladly part with $5 in exchange for some silence – a market I know too well).
With a 4308-litre load bay, the Hyundai iLoad is smaller than the Toyota HiAce, Ford Transit, Mercedes-Benz Vito, Renault Trafic and Volkswagen Transporter. The twin side doors allow very convenient access for both loading and unloading, as I crammed the Hyundai full of toys, books and clothes that would hopefully not be missed by Miss Five.
Sliding larger items through the lift-up tailgate was easy, too, until I noticed two of the tie-down hooks in the middle of the floor. Positioned between the wheel arches, and sitting proud of the load bay, these hooks scuppered any plan of simply sliding a large table into the back of the van. I spoke to a friend who owns a number of iLoads for his industrial supply business and he said these were the first thing removed as soon as he got the vans. There are also other hooks along the van’s sides.
The lift-up tailgate is standard – which worked well as an umbrella during the numerous showers over my market day – but the Hyundai iLoad can be optioned with barn-doors for easier forklift access. The gentleman running the bonsai stall had opted for these doors but said the centre join line reduced rear visibility. The van is not fitted with parking sensors or a reversing camera (available as $286 and $1337 options respectively), making reverse parking a bit of a ‘hit and miss’ exercise.
Bonsai man’s van had also been customised with a sealed barrier between the load bay and driving compartment to better insulate for heating and cooling to cope with Melbourne’s ‘flexible’ weather. The standard air conditioner was not up to keeping the whole van cool, but the barrier enabled the system to work more efficiently and helped keep him comfortable on hot days.
He said that despite this, the iLoad was the best van he had owned and provided excellent reliability and economy for its budget. In fact all the iLoad owners I spoke to during the weekend were happy with their vans. Sure there were aspirations of Vitos and Transporters, but in the bang for your buck stakes, the Hyundai presented a strong argument.
My market day continued with small success, CarAdvice Bear doing a great job wooing small children to the tables of Thomas the Tank Engine trains and random soft toys and the iLoad providing shelter and comfort during the frequent ‘scattered’ showers. Alas, though, I don’t think market life is for me. I seemed to pack up and leave with just as much stuff as I came with and spent most of my earnings on coffee.
That said, I did quite enjoy the Hyundai iLoad. There’s something fun about sitting high and forward and driving around with a sense of serious business. It’s a bit like a hobby farm for me, though – a little bit of country fun for the city guy, but I don’t have to get up at dawn every day to milk the cows. To be there day in, day out? The iLoad is economical, comfortable and, as noted by actual owners, can be easily configured and customised to suit specific requirements. It’s not the quietest or best equipped, but it is well priced and drives, well, like a van.