Ageless performance

In Light Commercial Test, Hyundai, November 20199 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineNovember 18, 2019

Long model cycles between redesigns don‘t work in the fashion-fickle passenger market. But commercial vans put fads aside to focus on function – iLoad proves it‘s just as relevant today as it was when it first arrived.

Photo: Relatively compact footprint and well-drawn lines minimise body size until you get up close.

Regular readers will recall that we tested Hyundai‘s iLoad van back in February 2017 and may wonder, given how infrequently these workhorses get an update, why they‘re seeing it again. Partly of course it‘s a reminder that while Toyota has launched a brand new Hiace, its competition still sells steadily: a Toyota may be our top-selling light commercial van, with 1471 Hiace sold in the year to September 30, followed by Ford‘s Transit (last tested July 2018) on 906 over the same period, but the iLoad sits third on 727, ahead of the Mercedes- Benz Sprinter and Fiat Ducato. Not bad for a vehicle that‘s getting on a bit, now: the second-generation H1 launched internationally in 2007. However, it did get a mild update last year, with a new front grille and headlight design, a new fabric pattern for the seats and door cards, auto on-off headlights, and an updated stereo unit with an ‘improved‘ interface – Hyundai-speak for different graphics. It still delivers the same functions, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Last time, we trialled the 6-speed manual version with 100kW and 343Nm on tap. This time it‘s the auto, with 25 additional kilowatts and 98Nm more torque, likely to be most appreciated with a full load on board. And back then we filled the cargo bay with around 200kg of load spread between a number of large cardboard boxes, each just able to be lifted manually on board. Ideally this time around we would have taken our standard load, an IRB carrying 500kg. Sadly that requires a forklift to manage – and the swing-up rear door stretches too far rearward, and too low to work well with the forklift at our disposal. You can order an iLoad with barn doors, by adding $1000 (incl GST) to the purchase price, useful for those loading the likes of a standard 24×12 building sheet.

For those loading by hand, of course, that swing-up door alongside the side sliding ones works very well to access the spacious cargo bay, with its standard load hooks and window bars. We like the door catch too; hook your fingers behind when sliding the door forward, and in front when sliding it backwards – believe us, it‘s much easier to manage these doors on a hill than it is on those vans where the catch/handle is not this flexible about the direction it latches in. Like last time, what initially stood out about the iLoad is how useful it is inside, while still fitting in a standard car parking space and manoeuvring capably among other traffic. But don‘t let that fool you into thinking this is a small van. Its design certainly downplays its dimensions, until you open the door and realise that for the average woman, like this writer, it‘s still quite a clamber up onto the driver‘s seat. iLoad‘s cabin was realistically built with seating for two. However, in theory it will seat three; the central pew doing without a head restraint, and instead folding flat to reveal two cup holders and a tray for whatever paperwork or small packages the driver needs to have to hand. It can of course seat a passenger, but with only a lap belt, as it‘s meant just for that unexpected emergency.

Photo: Centre back folds down for a desk and cup holders, lifts for an emergency seat.  Photo: Rubber floor cover is standard, as are 10 tiedown loops. Cargo barriers are a cost option.

There are also two gloveboxes, as well as a slot next to the AUX/USB sockets to hold your device, a flip-up below it revealing two 12V chargers, and a flip-out double cup holder below that. There‘s no excuse for rubbish floating around your cab – or for being uncomfortable; our tester being on the short side especially appreciated the height-adjustable seatbelts. Otherwise the dash and controls will feel familiar to anyone used to a recent-model mass-market car, complete with steering wheel controls for many functions, and that central infotainment screen, which also allows you to monitor progress when making or taking hands-free phone calls. Sadly accessing a phone via voice is only compatible with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Car-like levels of safety tech are a must these days, and the iLoad includes traction and stability control, plus ABS brakes, rear parking sensors and a reversing camera, and front and side airbags for driver and front passenger. There‘s also a locking diff, which made even this two-wheel drive van predictable on the steep gravel driveways near our tester‘s home.

Photo: Rear door lifts high, but can complicate loading with a forklift – barn doors are a cost option.

One aspect we particularly like about this van is its on-road handling and feel. Yes, it didn‘t have extra weight aboard – but then again, many load-haulers actually feel better full than unladen, as they‘re designed to carry stuff. The iLoad felt more sure-footed on winter-slick country roads than some massmarket cars; the engine never stressed at legal speeds, and the steering is light, yet still has some road feel, to keep the driver connected with what‘s going on beneath the wheels. The iLoad we took out was bog standard, bar the front mats – the window bars and cargo area rubber floor lining are standard fit. As you‘d expect, Hyundai stocks an array of own-brand accessories, from a bulkhead at $1800 to a rear bull bar step and tow bar package ($1550; a tow bar alone is $1200), or 3-bar roof racks ($1500), down to headlight covers ($190), window visors ($300) and dash mats ($120). Yes, you can get fitted shelves too – these are just examples. All in all, iLoad may not be the new kid on the block, but at $50,990, it still holds its own in the New Zealand market.

Photo: Window bars standard: visibility out is excellent, even at awkward junctions.

Photo: Auto headlights – dark clouds triggered the lights the day we took this pic.