Hyundai iLoad

Date: Monday, January 26, 2009

Grim economic times have not deterred Hyundai from making its long-awaited return to the UK van market. It is doing so with the sensibly-priced iLoad, pitched by the manufacturer as a rival to established models such as Citroën’s Dispatch, Volkswagen’s Transporter, Toyota’s Hiace and Vauxhall’s Vivaro and designed with European buyers in mind. Hyundai reckons it might even tempt one or two customers away from the short-wheelbase Ford Transit.

 

Marketed in Britain with one wheelbase and one roof height, the rear-wheel drive iLoad is powered by a 2.5-litre four-cylinder 16-valve common rail CRDi diesel engine married to a five-speed manual gearbox. Top power of 114hp kicks in at 3,800rpm, while maximum torque of 343Nm — a not-ungenerous dollop for a van of this size — makes its presence felt across a 1,750rpm - 2,500rpm plateau.

 

Load Area

Access to the 4.3m3 cargo box is by means of a sliding door on each side plus twin rear doors and iLoad can handle a payload of up to 1,062kg. Gross weight is 3,160kg. Fitted with heated windows — why no wash-wipe system? — the back doors can be swung through 90° and through 180° if you pull out the pins that hold the stays in place. The pins are on chains, but it’s a slightly fiddly arrangement nonetheless and you’re guaranteed to get grease on your fingers.


Maximum load length is 2,375mm. Maximum width is 1,620mm narrowing to 1,260mm between the wheel boxes, while maximum height is 1,350mm.


A full height glazed steel bulkhead comes as standard and the load area’s sides, including the doors but excluding the wheel boxes, are clad with protective panelling to half their height. Half-a-dozen load tie-down points are installed.


Independent suspension with MacPherson struts is fitted at the front while leaf springs help support the rear of the vehicle. Steel 16in wheels shod with 215/70 R16 tyres (Hankooks on the vans we sampled) come as standard. The hydraulically-assisted rack-and-pinion steering offers 3.6 turns lock-to lock. Ventilated disc brakes are fitted all round — 300mm diameter at the front, 324mm at the back — and ABS and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution are included in the deal.


Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) is a £450 option and should really be fitted as standard. Other options include metallic or mica paint (£340), a vinyl cover for the back windows to frustrate prying eyes (£96) and a Trafficmaster Smartnav sat nav system with a touch screen plus three years’ worth of routes and vehicle tracking (£509). All prices exclude VAT.


Aimed at small- to medium-sized businesses, Hyundai’s newcomer will tow a braked trailer grossing at up to 2,300kg and is apparently capable of accepting a digital tachograph. Whereabouts it could be mounted in the cab is another question entirely.

 

Well Specced

There’s no denying that iLoad is well-equipped. Electric windows and mirrors — the latter are generously-proportioned — come as standard, as do air-conditioning, driver and passenger airbags and a high-quality MP3-compatible stereo radio/CD player. It boasts decent speakers rather than the cheap and nasty offerings that bedevil so many van cabs. There’s also a 3.5mm Aux input socket so that an iPod or the like can be plugged in.


Three seats come as standard, but the middle perch is narrow and of dubious practical value. The occupant is secured by a lap strap — not an acceptable arrangement in this day and age — and suffers from a lack of legroom. The set-up might be OK for a five-minute local trip, but certainly isn’t appropriate for a long-distance run. Good to see that the driver’s seat is height-adjustable, as is the steering column. As a consequence there should be no trouble finding a comfortable driving position.


Nor is there any shortage of in-cab oddment stowage space. Each door sports an upper and a lower bin; the latter features a moulding that will hold a water bottle or a flask. You’ll find two gloveboxes — one fairly small, one reasonably capacious — and the back of the middle seat flips down to reveal two cup-holders and a small working area that can be used when you’re completing paperwork. There’s a tray on top of the dashboard, which also harbours an auxiliary power point, and there’s plenty of space behind the seats for grubby workwear.


The driver’s door plays host to a button that releases the fuel flap while a moulding that bulges out from the front of the dashboard, slightly impeding cross-cab movement, plays host to the gearstick. Chunky heating, ventilation and air con controls make life easier for the driver as do the radio/CD player’s large, clearly marked switches.


The foregoing details apply to the £13,595 Comfort specification iLoad which Hyundai expects to be by far and away the best-selling version in the UK. Shorn of air con, electric mirrors and the passenger air bag, the more basic Classic is being marketed too and iLoad is also up for grabs as a six-seater Crew Van. Both are available to special order, the lead time is about three months and they are £12,995 and £15,595 respectively.

 

Crew Van

The Crew Van gets a second row of seats plus a 2.5m3 cargo area at the back separated from the passenger saloon by a glazed bulkhead. Top payload is 1,059kg, load length is 1,585mm — the width and height figures are the same as those quoted for the standard van, as is the maximum towing capacity — and it grosses at 3,230kg. The twin sliding side doors can be ordered with privacy glass for an additional £135.

 

On the Road

With just about the right amount of power on tap and the ability to dig in strongly when it matters thanks to all that torque, iLoad is a pleasing performer. For your money you get a gearchange that’s pretty much fault-free, predictable handling with plenty of feedback through the steering and a compliant ride.


Although we identified a little bit of vibration in the footwell from time to time noise levels are well-suppressed overall. Nothing creaked or rattled, a tribute to Hyundai’s top-notch build quality, and iLoad is easy to manoeuvre in tight spaces thanks to an 11.2m turning circle.


Driving in filthy weather, we really appreciated the triple screenwash jets that service each wiper blade. Six jets soon shift the dirt off your windscreen.


While iLoad is built in South Korea, it’s worth noting that Hyundai’s European R&D centre in Russelsheim, Germany has played a significant role in its design; hence the extent to which it meets European needs and tastes. Although iLoad is a handsome-looking vehicle, livery application companies are liable to find all the indentations in the van’s upper rear side panels a bit of a trial. We’d also like to see side rubbing strips fitted as standard to protect the vehicle from minor scratches and scrapes.


Central locking is standard, but it’s somewhat surprising that it’s not on a remote. A remote system is to be offered as an option in a package that includes an alarm, but the price was not available at the time of writing.


Flip open the bonnet and you’ll gain easy access to the screen wash reservoir, dipstick and oil filler point. Service intervals are set at 10,000 miles and Hyundai should really think about extending them.


Pursuing a policy of prudence in the face of all the economic gloom, Hyundai plans to sell a mere 300 or thereabouts iLoads this year through its 140 UK dealers. We reckon it will do slightly better than that, despite the recession, given the newcomer’s virtues.


Hyundai would certainly like to shift more metal. It’s set to slash output from its domestic plants by from 25 to 30 per cent during the first quarter of this year thanks to the global downturn in the demand for vehicles. It’s not the first time Hyundai has sold light commercials in the UK. Its last offering was the H100 panel van, which disappeared from the market almost seven years ago. Longer-term it may elect to offer a heavily-specified 168hp 2.5-litre CRDi diesel version of iLoad. The engine is already installed in the eight-seater i800 people-carrier, from which iLoad is derived.


All models are protected by a five year/100,000 mile warranty plus RAC breakdown cover, including recovery and home assistance, for the first year of ownership.

 

Verdict

Hyundai’s return to the British light commercial market after too long an absence is to be welcomed. Its iLoad ticks most of the boxes and any tradesman after a panel van would do well to check it out.



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