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Hyundai i800 2.5 CRDi Style

Click to view picture galleryHyundais new i800 People Carrier
  seats up to eight and still has 851
  litres of luggage space. Now that
  Big. But is this big actually better?

IF THE i10 IS HYUNDAI'S SMALL OR CITY CAR and the excellent i30 the brand's 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' 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, thanks to its size, weight and 2.5-litre 168bhp turbodiesel engine, also tow up to 2,300kg.

However the size of the vehicle, whilst undoubtedly a benefit for some, can be a real problem for many others. With an overall length of 5,125mm 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 even families and friends who need to have space for eight people, their luggage and perhaps even a boat, trailer or caravan. It is a larger alternative to the big MPVs and large people carriers such as the new Chrysler Grand Voyager, Ford Galaxy, Peugeot 807, Citroen C8 and the Renault Grand Espace — although 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 split (60:40) bench seats in the middle and rear rows. Unfortunately, neither the middle nor rear rows are designed to be removed or folded into the floor, as with purpose-built people-movers. In essence, the i800 really is a mini-bus — albeit a well-equipped one. Access to the rearmost row is achieved by folding the middle row seatbacks 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 — all use comfortable, well-equipped and roomy vehicles of this type.

The i800 has a huge and heavy tailgate and also lacks a rear tailgate wiper, so visibility is poor in bad weather. The side sliding doors are also heavy — and no electric 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 does score well 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. And the i800 is, with a four-ringed strengthened body with a rigid cabin, crush zones, side impact intrusion bars, impact absorbing bumpers, ABS, electronic stability programme and 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 airbags but no side or curtain airbags, which most other large MPVs do have.

It is not, however, all doom and gloom. The i800 has a pretty reasonable interior, some-what 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 also mood lighting, an overhead storage console, privacy glass, front cup holders but — and surely a serious oversight for family transport, none in the rear! — front electric windows, electrically-operated door mirrors, heated front seat, tilt-adjustable steering column and remote central door locking. Outside, the slab-sided behemoth sports front fog lights and 16-inch alloy 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 rather tall vehicle. Consequently, and as you would expect, it's not one to be 'chucked' into corners.

Driven sensibly it copes well and the rack-and-pinion steering serves up some consistent and predictable feel, which makes the i800 feel pretty sure-footed and safe.

The four-cylinder 2.5-litre turbodiesel (with intercooler) engine is quiet and, with 289lb ft 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 is light and precise to use. Top speed is 112mph; 0-62mph takes 14.5 seconds. Official fuel consumption figures are 25.9, 33.2 and 39.8mpg respectively for urban, combined and extra-urban. The 225g/km CO2 emissions means a Band F Vehicle Excise Duty rating which will cost i800 owners 210 in Road Tax (300 from April 2009).

All very efficient and reliable I'm sure — and that is all most people will ask of it. It does the job but there are much better alternatives on the market. The Chrysler Grand Voyager, for instance, with its clever 'stow-and-go' seats and storage, although that starts at 26,000. If that's too expensive, there's the 2.0-litre 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, that is, you really must have 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, it makes more sense to simply hire one.

Business users, hotel courtesy bus operators, airport chauffeur drivers and minicab companies will assuredly 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. For those private customers who have a genuine need for a 'minibus' as a family car, the Hyundai i800 is big on space, big for equipment and huge for size. It also has a five year warranty and can be bought for a fair price. — David Miles

Hyundai i800 2.5 CRDi Style
| 19,495
Maximum speed: 112mph | 0-62mph: 14.5 seconds
Overall test MPG: 31.4mpg | Power: 168bhp | Torque: 289lb ft
CO2 225g/km