Second the best. That was part of that childhood rhyme: first the worst, second the best, third the one with the hairy chest. You're probably now wondering, “How does that relate to the 2016 Hyundai iLoad?”
Well, first in the sales charts is the worst – the Toyota HiAce, which is a fizzer in reality despite it having been the top of the sales charts for aeons. In 2015, that model had 43 per cent of the mid-sized van market to itself in Australia.
Second on the charts – you guessed it – the Hyundai iLoad. It had 27 per cent of the market last year, and the updated model should help it push for a little more share this year.
Oh, and for shirts and gurgles, the third-best seller is the Volkswagen Transporter with about eight per cent market share (an all-new version of that van just arrived, too). Germans have hairy chests, right?
Back on topic.
The updated Hyundai iLoad has just gone on sale, bringing with it a mildly revised front end but, more importantly, it gains some important safety equipment as part of this update.
The big safety talking points are side (thorax) airbags that complement the existing dual front airbags. On top of that, all models with the liftback tailgate get a standard rear-view camera, but unfortunately buyers who want barn doors miss out on that safety tech.
The camera displays through a new 7.0-inch touchscreen media system, which is a big step up over the old CD/radio unit that previously held centre stage on the console. This new system includes Siri Eyes Free (iOS) and Google Now (Android) voice activation, and the console itself has also been redesigned.
However, the media system doesn’t mirror some of Hyundai’s passenger offerings (or the VW Transporter) with the availability of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto extended phone connectivity.
The model we have here is the iLoad diesel automatic, priced at $40,990 plus on-road costs. There’s a cheaper petrol manual at $31,990, and the diesel manual is a $37,990 proposition.
Our test model has the liftback, so it gets the camera, and because it’s the diesel auto it also gets cruise control as part of the update. The diesel engine is carried over unchanged from the pre-facelift model, retaining the 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbo unit producing 125kW of power at 3600rpm and 441Nm of torque from 2000-2250rpm.
It’s worth noting that those numbers only relate to the five-speed automatic transmission version of the iLoad, as the six-speed manual model uses the same engine, but has merely 100kW of power (at 3800rpm) and 343Nm of torque (but across a broader band: 1500-2500rpm).
On paper the diesel-auto drivetrain is one of the gruntiest on the market (without spending big bucks on a top-end Benz), and it’s a pearler in practise.
The engine may not be as refined as some of the newer, downsized turbocharged offerings from Europe, but the big engine capacity means it doesn’t feel stressed like some of those competitors. There is some lag below that 2000rpm mark and it doesn’t have the same level of flexibility on throttle as some others in the class, but it’s easy to see why this particular drivetrain is the bulk seller in the iLoad range, making up 72 per cent of sales (diesel manual: 17 per cent; petrol manual: 11 per cent).
There’s a wealth of pulling power, whether you’re loaded up or empty. We had about 350 kilograms on board at one point of our test and the load was barely felt.
The five-speed auto may be a ratio or two short by class standards, but it makes quick and clever decisions and is happy to rely on the engine’s torque rather than shuffling through the gears to climb hills.
However, that newly-added cruise control system is the worst this tester has encountered in more than six years of van testing. It is lazy and slow to react to hills and incremental speed increases demanded by the driver.
Fuel consumption may be a big consideration for fleet van buyers, and the Hyundai’s extra grunt comes at a cost. Its claimed fuel use is 8.8 litres per 100km – higher than most in the class – and we saw closer to 9.5L/100km on test.
While some vans in the class are supple over bumps whether they’re loaded up or empty, the iLoad is a bit rigid in both situations. As you may expect, the rear suspension does calm down somewhat when the van is loaded up with some weight.
The iLoad’s steering is better at speed than it is when attempting parking manoeuvres, as it is quite heavy at low speeds when going from lock to lock.
The cargo area is a big focus for van buyers, and the Hyundai has a strong selling point straight off the bat – it comes with dual sliding doors as standard, where the vast majority of vans in the segment require buyers to option a driver’s-side cargo door.
However, unlike most competitors, the Hyundai cannot be optioned from the factory with rear glass in its sliding doors. You can buy the glass to fit (at a cost of $155 per pane) but you’ll need to have it fitted by an installer, which could be a potential issue with warranty down the track. This seems even more odd when you consider the iLoad's Crew Van model with six seats has glazing from the factory.
The openings of the iLoad’s side doors are quite small – 970mm wide by 1180mm high – so there’s no chance of side-loading in full-sized Australian pallet (1165mm by 1165mm). That being said, no other competitor in this class offers this capability.
You’ll have to option barn doors to allow rear-loading of pallets, as the tailgate won’t allow a fork under, though to get barn doors you'll need to buy the diesel model. For some reason, Hyundai doesn’t offer barn doors on the entry-level petrol variant. They cost $550.
While competitors offer long-wheelbase versions of their vans, as well as mid or high-roof versions, the Hyundai comes as a one-size-fits-all offering.
It is longer than many short-wheelbase rivals at 5125 millimetres from front to back, and it rides on what most would consider a mid-length wheelbase (3200mm). It measures 1920mm wide and 1935mm tall.
The load space of the iLoad is quite small considering its exterior dimensions, with just 2375mm of load length on offer. Even the short-wheelbase VW Transporter, which measures 235mm shorter than the iLoad on the outside, has more load length available (2572mm).
The space isn’t overly tall at 1350mm, so you’ll have to hunch if you’re loading boxes in and out. The cargo area itself is also on the narrow side for a van of this size, measuring at 1620mm. Though it does have enough space between the wheelarches for pallets (1260mm).
What all that boils down to is an inferior cargo loading area of 4.4 cubic metres, which is well down on the likes of the VW (T6 SWB: 5.8m
There are eight floor-mounted eyelet hooks for securing loads, which you may need to use as the iLoad has an exposed rear windscreen washer bottle near the tailgate.
As for the payload, the iLoad again falls short of the best in class, with a 1098-kilogram capacity for the auto model (1113kg for the manual). Others in the class offer up to 1250kg. Towing isn't a strong point either, with unbraked capacity rated at 750kg and the automatic iLoad rated to just 1500kg with a braked trailer (manual: 2000kg). Best in class: 2500kg.
Unlike most competitors, the iLoad cannot be optioned with a bulkhead to separate the passengers from the parcels, but Hyundai does offer a steel mesh cage ($740 fitted).
The cabin of the Hyundai does look and feel better for the update, and the media screen certainly adds some flair. It is a fairly simple system to use for the most part, and the voice control interaction worked pretty well, too. Of course, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming is standard, and there’s a 12-volt outlet (placed down near the floor, oddly) and USB and auxiliary inputs, too.
The Hyundai misses out on a detailed trip computer screen, which makes keeping an eye on your fuel consumption a bit of a challenge, and the lack of a digital speedometer could be troublesome for some drivers to keep an eye on their pace.
The three-seat cockpit offers a very good amount of space – more than some rivals – and the fact the entire assembly can slide fore and aft is a bonus, considering most vans with two passenger spots have fixed passenger seats.
That middle seat can be folded down to reveal set of cupholders and a small storage box. When the middle seat is in use there’s enough room for an adult. Controversially, and despite a clear emphasis on improving the levels of safety on offer in the van, the iLoad still comes with a lap-only middle seatbelt. Terrible.
The iLoad lacks the storage options of some rivals, with narrow door pockets, a small dash-top cubby, and smaller-than-average dual gloveboxes.
Ownership is arguably the iLoad’s strongest selling point, and from that perspective it is easy to see why it’s the second-most popular van on sale.
As with the passenger car range, Hyundai’s light commercial vehicle offerings have a five-year/160,000 kilometre warranty and there’s also a lifetime capped-price service program. Maintenance is due every 12 months or 15,000km, so some fleet buyers may see their local dealer twice, or more, a year. The average cost per visit over five years or 75,000km (whichever occurs first) is $379, so the price of running an iLoad is relatively low.
That ownership program may be enough to get some buyers over the line. We could understand why that would be, because there are some other elements of the iLoad that aren’t quite as convincing.
This latest spruce from Hyundai has seen some worthwhile changes and additions, but it lacks configuration options available from the Volkswagen Transporter and Renault Trafic models. It’s still better than a HiAce to drive and live with, and for that reason we’d happily recommend the Hyundai ahead of the top-seller.
Click the Photos tab above for more images by Christian Barbeitos and Mitchell Oke.