If the i10 is Hyundai's small or city car and their excellent i30 their medium sized family car range then just imagine how big their third and latest new generation 'i' model is, the new i800.
Described as a 'people-carrier', not a crude window van with seats or a mini-bus by Hyundai, the i800 seats up to eight people and has 851 litres of luggage space behind the third row of seats. Impressively, and an important function for some users, the i800 can tow up to 2,300kg due to its size, weight and 2.5-litre 168bhp turbodiesel engine.
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However the size of the vehicle, whilst a benefit for some, can be a real problem for many others. With an overall length of 5,125 it is too long for most parking bays, the 1,920mm width also makes it a tight fit for parking and with a height of 1,925mm it is too tall for most multi-story car parks and typical home garages. Thankfully the i800 comes with rear parking sensors as standard.
It would seem ideal for 'active' families, or extended families, or families and friends, who need to have space for eight persons, their luggage, perhaps a boat, trailer or caravan.
It is a larger alternative to the big MPV, multi-purpose vehicles and large people-carriers such as the new Chrysler Grand Voyager, Ford Galaxy, Peugeot 807, Citroen C8 and the Renault Grand Espace but it doesn't have the clever and versatile seating combinations that true people-carriers have.
The eight seats are positioned in three rows, two command style individual seats at the front and three bench seats split 60-40 in the middle and rear rows.
The middle or rear rows are unfortunately not designed to be removed or folded into the floor as with purpose built people movers. In essence it really is a mini-bus, albeit a well equipped one. Access to the rear row is achieved by folding the middle row seat backs forward.
While Hyundai are aiming their new i800 at family and business users the taxi and private hire vehicle trades would seem more suitable customers, plus of course hotels and airport run chauffeur companies who use comfortable, well equipped and roomy vehicles of this type. The excellent Mercedes-Benz Vito Dueliner and Traveliner models plus the Peugeot Expert Tepee come to mind in this sector.
The i800 has a huge and heavy tailgate, but lacks a rear tailgate wiper so the visibility is poor in bad weather. The side sliding doors are heavy, no electronic motors to help as with proper large people-carriers. It has storage areas but not as many as a true MPV. However being a Hyundai it scores on price, a reasonable £19,496 and is covered by a five-year warranty.
Carrying multiple passengers calls for a vehicle of this type to be safe. The i800 has a four-ringed strengthened body with a rigid cabin, crush zones, side impact intrusion bars, impact absorbing bumpers, electronic stability programme, antilock braking, traction control, three-point seatbelts for all eight seating positions, ISOFIX child seat mountings for the middle row of three seats, and child locks for the sliding side doors. It also has front, but no side or curtain airbags which most other large MPVs have.
It's not all doom and gloom. The i800 has a pretty reasonable interior, somewhat car like in the front with well fitting rounded plastic panels and the equipment level is good. Most importantly air conditioning is standard with separate controls for rear passengers.
There is mood lighting, an overhead storage console, privacy glass, front cup holders but none in the rear - surely a serious oversight for family transport, front electric windows, electrically operated door mirrors, heated front seat, tilt adjustable steering column and remote central door locking. Outside the slab-sided monster has front fog lights and 16-inch allow wheels.
The long wheelbase, wide front and rear tacks with independent front and five mounting point rear coil suspension gives a stable and comfortable ride. Body-roll is of course evident as this is a tall vehicle. It's not one to be 'chuckled' into corners as you would expect.
Driven sensibly it copes and has none, as far as I was concerned, of the those roll-over tendencies we used to get from some early Japanese, Malaysian and Korean van-conversion minibuses. The rack and pinion steering gives some consistent and predictable feel at that makes the i800 feel pretty sure-footed and safe.
The four-cylinder 2.5-litre turbodiesel with intercooler engine is quiet and with 392Nm of torque delivered from 2,000rpm it is responsive in a workhorse sort of way. A five-speed manual transmission comes as standard and it's light and precise to use. Top speed is 113mph, 0-62mph takes 14.5 seconds and the average fuel economy is 33.2mpg. The 225g/km CO2 emissions gives it a Band F Vehicle Excise Duty rating costing £210 this year and £300 from next April.
All very efficient and reliable I'm sure and that is all most people will ask of it. It does the job asked of it but there are much better options on the market. The Chrysler Grand Voyager for instance with its clever 'stow-and-go' seats and storage, but starting at £26,000 it is much more expensive or you could try a 2.0-lite diesel Ford Galaxy from around £22,000 or the Mercedes-Benz Vito Traveliner for roughly the same price.
Living with the i800 as family transport is not easy for day to day use unless of course you really need eight seats on a regular basis. The vehicle is just too big and daunting to drive for the school run or going shopping. If you need one for holidays or activity outings - hire one.
Business users, hotel courtesy bus operators, airport chauffeur drivers and minicab companies will be the main customers and because it is well made and covered by a long warranty they will be very tempted especially if there is a financial incentive to be had at their local dealer.
Hyundai i800 MILESTONES
Hyundai i800 2.5 CRDi Style
Engine/transmission: 2.5-litre, four-cylinder turbodiesel, 168bhp and 392Nm of torque from 2,000rpm, 5-speed manual gearbox
Performance: 113mph, 0-62mph 14.5 seconds, 33.2mpg (31.4mpg actual), CO2 225g/km, VED Band F £210 but £300 from April 2009
For: Big on space, big for equipment, huge for size, 5-year warranty, fair price
Against: Do you want a minibus as a family car?