Transport for a tribe
Moving seven or eight needs a durable device. We rate the three top-sellers
WHEN domestic delivery duties turn into a taxi service, it pays to buy the best vehicle. Mum’s taxi cops a pounding in any guise so when it comes to a seven or eight-seater, durability is a significant part of the package.
People-movers are generally bought when there are no other options and held on to until they’re falling apart.
At least these days the options do extend beyond conventional van-with-seat shapes and into more car-like motorvation, albeit with sliding rear doors.
With that in mind, Carsguide has cast an eye over the three top-sellers of 2015. The Kia Carnival is the classleader, even with its four-star safety rating (see below).
Honda’s Odyssey is the smallest and most car-like of this trio, though boot space is tight with six or seven passengers.
The Hyundai iMAX is the classic box but is the one to buy if there’s an issue with walking into the rear seats without unduly bending the back. A massive cargo capacity seals the deal for those operating on the more for less principle.
The Honda is all about making the most of a relatively small package. The lack of cargo space relative to the South Koreans is the only obvious consequence of itbeing smaller, narrower and lower.
Cargo apart, it does a dutiful and well-presented job as a people-mover. The price doesn’t hurt: even in as-tested top-spec VTi-L guise the Odyssey is $46,040 before onroads, or $3000 more than the iMAX diesel.
The downside is it has the most expensive servicing costs of this trio, at intervals of six months as opposed to annually.
The bling for your buck runs from the eye-searing chrome grille to alloy wheels, powered side doors, eight bottle and cupholders, seven-inch touchscreen with satnav, 360degree reversing camera, sixspeaker audio and aircon vents (with independent controls) for the second and third rows.
Second row seats have separate armrests but not quite enough length under the legs and they don’t flip forward as far as the Kia to give third-row access.
Software aids are rudimentary with blind-spot and tyre pressure alerts.
The Honda drives securely, if too firmly without a full crew on board. Semi-laden, it jiggles over smaller bumps but is by far the easiest of this group to negotiate tight carparks.
If pace isn’t a priority and fuel use is, the Honda makes sense. The 2.4-litre petrol
engine won’t win many trafficlight launches but compensates with a claimed combined fuel use of 7.8L/100km.
Size matters when it comes to moving bodies and here the Hyundai excels. The van dimensions endow the iMAX with huge interior space and room to throw the chattels down the back.
It’s not nearly as pretty as the other pair inside or out but it’s practical and has genuine seating for eight. The turbo diesel is the better performer but is best reserved for outer urban mums who do a few kays on the school run or when dropping the kids’ friends off.
Running around the block and up to the shops isn’t going to recoup the $3200 premium over the petrol engine, which also comes standard with a four-speed auto.
The limited ratios in the petrol auto (even the diesel gets a five-speed self-shifter, at an extra $2500) tell of the iMax’s age and the engine doesn’t do much better than a serviceable job when assigned to move its own 2230kg plus occupants.
Fuel use of 10.5L/100km, more than reasonable for a small bus, also highlights how good the Honda is.
The iMAX earns a tick by being the only vehicle here with a handbrake — the ostensibly more car-like rivals make do with a foot-operated parking brake.
The Hyundai is also clearly the cheapest to service with $298 annual trips but the likes of brake fluid and engine coolant aren’t included, so check the extra hit when booking the car in.
Around town the Hyundai is sure-footed but rolls a little through right turns at roundabouts.
The diesel engine doubles as the enthusiasts’ choice with a solid punch out of the turns that settles into a lope at freeway speeds.
By far the most expensive in this field, the Kia needs to justify that with extra technology and convenience, especially in Carsguide’s $57,490 Platinum petrol version. That price is inflated by a bunch of active driving aids, from blind-spot and lane-change assist to rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision alert and adaptive cruise control.
A six-speed automatic is standard.
Gear on the Platinum includes 360-degree camera, powered heated and ventilated front seats, four bottle holders and 10 cupholders, along with three 12V sockets and eight seats if needed (the central pews in both back rows are reserved for those slight of shoulder).
Access and comfort in the second or third rows are as good as they get and the second row outer pews are smartly bolstered and designed. Even the pop-up third row seats have a reclining backrest to give taller passengers some prospect of enduring a short journey.
On the safety front the Kia is, at least for now, a four-star car, just like the iMAX. It picked up second-row seat belt sensors from August and has already had a factory production change to address ANCAP’s first-hit analysis of excess pedal movement in the frontal offset crash.
The updated crash test, due soon, will give buyers a more informed choice if safety is a key purchase decision (and the Carnival’s sales success to date suggests otherwise).
The multi-link rear suspension is better than Honda’s more rigid torsion beam at softening bumps with only the driver aboard and the cornering ability is on a par with the Japanese car.
The V6 is the best petrol engine here but you pay the price at the bowser with fuel use of 11.5L/100km.
The turbo diesel is again the performance pick.
Hyundai wins on practicality but the iMAX needs an overhaul to really appeal to mums and dads. The Honda is the smarter choice for smaller families but size hurts the Odyssey as a genuine seven-seater.
Those who simply want the best will pay — for now — the extra for the Carnival. In driving and appointments, the Kia is the most sedan-like of this group but more importantly has the safety aids expected in a top-spec vehicle, regardless of the segment.