First Drive: Hyundai H1 2.5 CRDI Elite

First Drive: Hyundai H1 2.5 CRDI Elite
 

Ispent some time in the Kruger Park recently and while I spotted a few Toyota Quantums in the wild and even the occasional Mercedes Vito or V-Class, it appears that the tour bus of choice is the Hyundai H1. I even saw a few of the facelifted version just weeks after it was launched.

Having spent some time with the H1 2.5 CRDI Elite, I’m not surprised by its popularity.

Priced at R629 900 the top of the range seems pricey, but it’s cheaper than the Mercs and more solid than the Quantum. It is also very well equipped.

The latest version has a great interior, with a user-friendly touchscreen infotainment system, climate control and a dashboard that places everything well within reach, perfect if you have a busload of tourists shouting as they try to take yet another happy snap.

But we were not transporting tourists while the vehicle was with us, instead it was doing duty on the school run and around town. Here it also proved to be a superb and versatile package, providing loads of space for the kids and their child seats and even decent space in the boot for all their paraphernalia while all the seats were in place.

It is based on a commercial vehicle though and this does provide one compromise and that’s the tailgate. You could probably shade a Smart car underneath there when it’s open and that means being very careful where you park it.

The H1 ticks all the boxes when it comes to equipment, but it also proved to be a real surprise when it comes to ride comfort. I’ve criticised the latest V-Class for its firm ride, particularly for those in the rear where it should be the most comfortable. The Vito is the better-riding Merc, but the H1 redefines comfort compared to all its rivals.

It floated around town with none of the typical rear axle bumping that comes with not having a full complement of passengers and luggage.

At the same time, the CRDI turbodiesel engine provided more than ample power, in spite of its lowly 125kW. That’s helped of course by a decent 441Nm of torque and a strong gearbox, allowing it to pull away well and maintain a relatively quiet ride at national highway speeds.

It also handles well, with little in the way of body roll for a vehicle of this nature and steering that gives good feedback for a bus.

Then there is the design. Hyundai didn’t make a big song and dance about the changes with the facelift of the H1, but that new facade makes a massive difference. It looks much more upmarket than previous versions, even displaying a hint of athleticism. It’s a bus but it’s a good-looking bus. The V-Class wins in the design department in my opinion but Hyundai’s designers have elevated the H1 to a close second in this regard.

But it is the overall package that really counts, whether it is a vehicle to do the school run or as a bus to transport camera-clicking tourists. Here the H1 relegates everything else to the tour bus car park. Its ride comfort is superb, its interior provides flexibility and practicality and it has a high enough level of equipment to make it viable as a family commuter vehicle should you have outgrown the traditional MPV or seven-seater SUV and, of course, if you can look beyond the fact it is still a bus. – Mark Smyth