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Click for pictures“Space — the final
  frontier. Unless you’re
  travelling inside one
  of Hyundai
s roomy

YOU CAN PAY AS MUCH AS 30,000 for a seven-seater MPV. Ouch. And almost inevitably, any family of seven is likely to have more pressing needs for that kind of money. Which is where Hyundai comes in. For not much more than half of that they'll sell you a people-carrier that won't break the bank — and which will comfortably accommodate you and your family in seven individual full-sized seats, with ample room for luggage.

With the MPV market doubling in the past five years to over 2 per cent of the entire market, there is clearly an ever-increasing number of people looking for the kind of value-for-money that Hyundai is well known for offering. Just because something is good value doesn't mean it has to be cheap and cheerful. The Hyundai Trajet proves that. In fact, not only is the Trajet one of the best value full seven-seaters on the market, but it's the only one with a five-year unlimited mileage warranty complete with a comprehensive roadside recovery package. All very reassuring, particularly if budgets are tight.

Trajets come with both petrol and diesel power. The petrol 139bhp 2.0-litre GSI now benefits from the CVVT engine previously seen in the stylish Hyundai Coupé and offers a combined fuel consumption of 32.5mpg. We tested the 1,991cc common-rail turbodiesel CRTD GSI, which returns 43.5mpog on extra-urban journeys. The name 'Trajet', incidentally, comes from the French word for journey. Its 111bhp and 188lb ft of torque at 2,000rpm is sufficient to give it a top speed of 106mph. It costs 16,495 on-the-road.

First impressions are good. The paintwork of our metallic silver test gleamed and panel fit was even. The single-box styling of MPVs doesn't leave a lot of room for flamboyant flourishes, but Hyundai's European design studio in Frankfurt has managed to do a good job with the Trajet. It looks fine, and neat highlights such as the chromed door handles and the silver clear-lens of the headlamp units — echoed on the rear lamp clusters — and the white indicator repeater lenses on the front wings all help lift the overall ambience. Slim satin black roof rails and body-coloured door mirrors and bumpers give the Trajet a comfort-able all-of-a-piece appearance. Enhancing the chrome-topped slatted grille is a purposeful and functional lower apron housing.

Open one of the big doors and you'll be pleased to find that you don't have to clamber upwards to get inside. While there's plenty of head-room, it's not at the expense of a sensible floor level. Consequently, you only have to sit on the seat and swivel and you're in. Good news for the children, too. The interior is trimmed in grey — the upholstery and door trim of our test car was all soft leather (a 1,400 option) — nicely offset by the black textured, full-width fascia and dash top. The cabin is physically roomy, with not quite enough room to stand up in, but certainly your younger kids will be able to. Better still, sit down — you'll find each of the seven individual seats is comfortable.

Practicality is one of the top priorities for those needing a people-carrier. The Trajet offers a multitude of seating permutations, from seven-seater people-carrier to two-seater cargo-carrier. In the latter configuration the Trajet's luggage space is a generous 114.3 cubic feet. The massive, top-hinged tailgate opens effortlessly to above your head and stays there, protecting you from the weather while you load up — an easy task, thanks to the low rear sill. The full-size spare, should you have need of it, lives externally under the boot floor.

Reassuringly, all seven seats have full 3-point seatbelts and adjustable, padded headrests along with illuminated warning red lights in the door edges. All four outboard set belts are height adjustable — useful for growing kids. Along with loads of head- and legroom in the middle row, passengers also get big, wide doors with deep, wide windows, which makes travelling that much more interesting. Outer centre row seats recline and slide fore and aft. Third row seats are equally snug, with outer armrests. While both of these two individual seats are fixed in place, they do recline and there's plenty of elbow room between them.

The five rear seats are very easily removed in the traditional way by folding them flat, tilting them forward via a rear pull handle and then fully releasing them by the two grab handles at the front. Combine this with front seats that can swivel 180 degrees to face the rear, plus the slide facility on all three of the middle row of seats, and there are more combinations than a Rubik cube — and a lot easier to work out!

You don't have to look too hard to spot all sorts of useful touches that will make day-to-day life easier for families. Most importantly, there's lots of head- and legroom for every adult and child passenger. The second and third row features double folding seats, all five of which are individually removable. Front doors have wide, rigid pockets shaped at one end to accommodate a large bottle and there are plenty of cubbies and cupholders. You'll also find a roof-mounted drop-down pocket for your sunglasses and an accommodating luggage net.

The driver gets a height adjustable steering column, manual lumbar adjustment, a well-placed left foot rest and a height-adjustable seat — a useful feature is that not only does the adjuster lever raise the seat base, but it also extends the seat base length and angle progressively as it does so.

Both front seats have adjustable side armrests for that extra bit of comfort. There's excellent kneeroom too, and the power steering is easy on the arms. Standard kit covers most of what the average owner would like and includes air conditioning with separate controls for those in the back, driver, passenger and side airbags, remote central locking, four electric windows, a 'see you home' option on the lights, a decent stereo with CD player, electric and heated door mirrors, metallic paint, three 12-volt power outlets and ABS with electronic brake force distribution.

The elevated driving position is commanding, with clear visibility. The four-spoke steering wheel is a good shape with nicely positioned thumb rests. Small fixed quarter-lights help make up for sitting quite a way back from the long sloping screen and the A-pillars are quite slim. Overall, there aren't any problems seeing out, with the high driving position giving a good view both to the front and to the rear and it definitely gives you an advantage over the other traffic. Not driving that many MPVs, we had expected it to be tricky to place while parking but it turned out okay — even without the optional parking sensors. Given the choice, I'd still have them, particularly as with tall vehicles such as MPVs you're not always able to see a small child or bike behind the car.

Major controls are light and positive in use and instruments easy to read, with well-positioned switchgear and big buttons for most of the controls. While there's nothing fancy about the four dials, they're clear to read and tell you everything you need to know at a glance. The speedometer incorporates a display for the trip computer readouts that cover outside temperature, range and journey time.

The driver's door armrest houses a switch panel for all four electric windows, central locking, rear window lock-out and the joystick for the large door mirrors with a handy neutral position. Doors can also be locked or unlocked separately using their own individual lock buttons. We liked the button set into the driver's armrest that releases the fuel filler flap: not only can't it be operated by accident, but it makes a sound when used so you know that the flap has actually opened.

The neat central console sited in the middle of the deep fascia has foolproof, easy-to-use rotary switches for temperature and fan settings, along with large push button switches that control distrib-ution, etc. Below this, but still at an accessible level, is the single CD/radio which also benefits from easy controls. Immediately below the audio unit is a small damped drawer, rubber lined, which pops out automatically when touched and which is ideal for storing your mobile.

Beneath this is a drop-down ashtray, also damped, which doubles perfectly as a coin box. And in addition to the cigarette lighter there's also a power output and two more open storage bins. Other apprec-iated features include the deep sun visors, both with large illuminated mirrors, the two gloveboxes, the larger of which is lit and lockable, and the pop-up picnic tables built into the backs of both front seats — they have hydraulic rams to keep them up so you can put things on them without worrying about them suddenly collapsing.

Fire up the turbodiesel and get under way and you'll like the fluid shifting five-speed manual 'box. The gear lever is nicely to hand, and the knob fits comfortably into your palm. An automatic is available with a column-mounted change, which has the added benefit of permitting walk-through access either between the front seats or from front
to back. You'll also be impressed by the very compact turning circle.

Astonishingly, and in spite of it's clever seven-seat capacity, the Trajet doesn't take up much more road than a Mondeo. The turbodiesel offers a nice blend of performance and economy and although you can hear the diesel working when you accelerate hard, at a steady pace — whether it's a town-restricted 30 or 70mph on the motorway — it's pleasantly subdued. The legal limit works out at 2,700rpm in top gear. You certainly won't have any trouble keeping up with traffic — in fact you'll need to watch your speed on the motorway, although we did find that it was fairly simple to gauge the speeds correctly.

Official consumption figures are 30, 39.2 and 47.1mpg respectively for urban, combined and extra urban. Our test average worked out to 36mpg and with its 14.3-gallon tank, the turbodiesel Trajet should go 500 miles between touring fill-ups.

There's more than enough grip from the 215/65 section Michelin Pilot tyres for anything you'd want to do with an MPV, and the Trajet rides comfortably and handles tidily. Brakes are reassuring, with progressive pedal feel and positive stopping power when called for. Drive sanely and the body control is fine, even when travelling briskly on A- and B-roads of all shapes and sizes. No-one complained about the ride or the seats — wherever they were sitting — in over several hundred miles. Which says a lot.

Hyundai have not forgotten that most Trajets will be moveable 'dens' for young adults, many of whom belong to the irritating 'are-we-there-yet' tribe. Trajet drivers can breathe a sigh of relief because there's an (optional) on-board DVD player with a roof-mounted, flip-down 7-inch high-resolution LCD screen with cordless stereo headsets and remote controls. Tinted rear windows prevent the sunlight from spoiling the picture quality. Not only will you save money by buying a Trajet, but you could save some more if you watch a DVD while parked up in your drive — not only is it more comfortable than going to the cinema, but you' won't have the tiresome drive home afterwards!

Family buyers in the market for a people-carrier should test drive a Trajet — even if you don't have an immediate need for all the Trajet's seven seats but still have an ever-expanding family in tow. The Trajet's versatility and passenger/cargo flexibility is hard to ignore and it offers a lot for your money. Which in this day and age is no bad thing.

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Hyundai Trajet 2.0 CRTD GSi | 16,495
Maximum speed: 106mph | 0-62mph: 13.7 seconds
Overall test MPG: 36mpg | Power: 111bhp | Torque: 188lb ft

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--------------------------------------------------------------------- Hyundai Trajet