Hyundai iMax 2021 elite

2021 Hyundai iMax Elite review

Rating: 6.5
$49,480 Mrlp
  • Fuel Economy
  • Engine Power
  • CO2 Emissions
  • ANCAP Rating
With a rise in seven-seat SUVs, and even smarter-looking MPVs, is the Hyundai iMax now redundant?
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When shopping superseded parts for an old car, there's something called 'new old stock'. These are things that were made a long time ago, yet remain unused in their original packaging.

The 2021 Hyundai iMax Elite feels that way. It's been alive and kicking for 14 years now. In this time, we've seen a full model generation of Kia Carnival come and go, and the latest version elevating the segment to new heights.

As for a new one, it's expected to arrive later this year. So, where does that leave the current iMax?

2021 Hyundai iMax Elite
Engine2.5-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel
Power and torque125kW @ 3600rpm, 441Nm @ 2000–2250rpm
TransmissionFive-speed automatic
Drive typeRear-wheel drive
Kerb weight2186–2230kg
Fuel claim combined (ADR) 8.8L/100km
Fuel use on test11.8L/100km
Boot volume842L
Turning circle11.1m kerb to kerb
ANCAP safety rating4 stars (2009)
Warranty5 years/unlimited km
Main competitorsKia Carnival, Toyota Granvia
Price as tested (excl. on-road costs)From $49,480

The range starts with the iMax Active from $44,930 before on-roads. Sitting above is the iMax Elite – what we're testing today – for $49,480. Putting one in traffic with $695 worth of optional metallic paint will cost around $54,500 depending on which state it's registered in.

Pricing is middle of the road. It feels expensive compared to a $57,790 drive-away mid-tier Kia Carnival Si diesel, and cheap to the north of $65,000 Toyota Granvia. Given the Kia is the benchmark, I'd lean more toward the iMax a few grand out of market.

Both iMax variants use the same diesel running gear, which is a 2.5-litre turbocharged diesel four-cylinder with 125kW/441Nm. More important here is the torque figure, which is just about satisfactory for lugging eight people around. With five on board, there remains enough performance to conduct more brave manoeuvres such as last-minute lane changes or merges.

Engine power is distributed to the rear wheels by a five-speed torque converter automatic. It feels traditional, with long gear ratios and doughy response levels reminding of old. While not an issue, it would benefit from an extra gear ratio or two to improve its fuel efficiency.

Speaking of which, it used 11.8L/100km over the duration of the loan, which is three litres over the official combined figure of 8.8L/100km. It's also quite noisy and unrefined compared to Hyundai's 2.2-litre 'R' series diesel, as found in its Santa Fe and Palisade models.

Consider it part of its commercial vehicle charm as, after all, the iMax is a commercial vehicle underneath. It's boxy, almost rectangular design says nothing more than a pedestrian van. Some may appreciate such honesty, but compared to the Kia Carnival and Toyota Granvia, it looks old-fashioned.

Inside, it's much the same story. There's no fancy switchgear or digital instrument clusters here, just Hyundai of yesteryear. Another sign pointing to its age is the sheer lack of storage. Other than two door bins per side, there is no centre console or lower dash-mounted cubby.

There's only an ashtray, which sits next to a cigarette lighter. Possibly the last car on the market to feature one, in fact. The storage issue poses a problem, as after you've plugged your phone in via USB, it either sits awkwardly on the carpet floor or on the passenger seat. You'd want to plug your phone in, too, as the 7.0-inch touchscreen system does feature Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

In terms of basics, its heated front seats cater well during long stints, and both feature fold-down armrests. The driver's seat also features cooling. Air-conditioning is managed by a single-zone system, with those up front able to control the temperature and fan speed for those behind.

The beige leather trim is an Elite-grade exclusive, and is the only colour offered. Black would make a more user-friendly option. A pair of cupholders fold out of the dash, but are not suitable for anything larger than a 600ml bottle of your favourite fizzy drink. Stepping up to the iMax Elite also introduces another luxury in the cabin, which is a pair of sunroofs. On top of brightening the cabin, they also open in the name of ventilation.

Moving on to the second row, ingress and egress can be conducted while standing up due to the high roof line. Even at 183cm tall, I was able to duck and weave my way out after loading a child. ISOFIX mounting points are in the second row only – one on either outbound seat.

The seat base itself is on a slider, and when adjusted as rearward as possible, leg room becomes as good as it gets. However, with the third row in play, most of this space is lost in the generous act of creating knee room for those behind.

Given the amount of shoulder room and general width on offer, three young adults will have no stress relaxing here. Those in the back have access to the second sunroof, air-conditioning controls, and roof-mounted air vents.

Getting in the back starts by folding the second row forward, which feels cumbersome and heavy. Once aside, it leaves a satisfactory aperture to climb through. Space in the third row is one of the iMax's best features, as there's enough to house adults here. Other touchpoints include cupholders plus more roof-mounted air vents.

It's also a three-seat bench seat, which makes it capable of carrying eight. While the third-row seat base is fixed, the back rests have a large arc of recline, and are as comfortable as those found in the second row.

Boot space measures up at a huge 842L, but take that figure with a pinch of salt. The space itself is literally a tall, rectangular void, with no tie-down areas, separation, or any way to secure things. It's a matter of stacking and seeing how you go. Given the rear window is quite large, there's a chance you'll end up with suitcases, or whatever you stack, applying pressure to the glass.

Another irritating factor is the fixed third row. Others in the segment feature stow-away extra seating. Not only is that impossible in the iMax, but its seat backs don't even recline or fold enough to become flat either, which makes loading long items tricky. A small hatchback offers more versatility at flatpack furniture wars than this ex-van does.

On the move, the iMax rides politely enough. Even unladen – which vans often struggle with – ride comfort and general softness are there. Tarnished road surfaces do cause the old 'commercial vehicle jiggle', or better put as a sensation of wobbliness after striking something uneven.

When loaded up, the ride does settle. The reason why you feel the suspension's working effort is because you almost sit over it in some areas. Given this proximity, it's naturally difficult to isolate your passengers, and the driver, from its movements.

As for active safety systems, there aren't any. The basics from 10 years ago feature, which include a reverse camera and rear parking sensors, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, and traction control. As for airbags, there are only four, which look after two of the possible eight occupants only.

Back to my original point. With new old stock parts, they've often fallen victim to the aging process. Decayed, as other modern solutions have come to offer more.

If you're after an eight-seater, the Kia Carnival is an obvious choice. If you're chasing seven, large mainstream SUVs nowadays are spacious and safe enough for kids to use frequently.

Both make more sense in today's market.

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