Trans­port for a tribe

Mov­ing seven or eight needs a durable de­vice. We rate the three top-sellers

Mercury (Hobart) - Motoring - - COVER STORY - CRAIG DUFF craig.duff@news.com.au

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.

HONDA ODYSSEY

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.

HYUNDAI iMAX

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.

KIA CAR­NI­VAL

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.

VER­DICT

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.

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