After nearly two years on the street proving itself as a hard-working van, Hyundai has given the Staria Load a ‘Premium’ touch – but is the new grade worth the extra spend?
Following shortly behind its spaceship-inspired people mover variant in 2021, the Hyundai Staria Load delivery van has shown you don’t have to be ugly to be tough.
The trustee iLoad, which Staria Load has now succeeded, was in many ways the vehicle that solidified Hyundai’s reputation as a car maker that builds vehicles that could work bloody hard when customers needed them to.
In some ways then, the departure from the ladder frame iLoad to the unibody Staria Load, which shares its underpinnings with the likes of the Santa Fe large SUV, was a bit of a risk. So has it paid off?
In terms of sales at least, not just yet. After an interim switchover year in 2021, the Staria Load saw 3291 sales in 2022, which is still a touch off the 3919 recorded by the iLoad back in 2020.
This could be down to the fact that the Staria is a bit more expensive than its predecessor, even if it’s also significantly safer and far more modern inside with a larger cargo space in the back.
Regardless, it’s clear the Staria Load is nearing the end of its honeymoon period and needs to continue the momentum if it wants to take the top spot from the Toyota Hiace, which saw 8748 sales during that same period and made up 38 percent of its entire segment.
A perfect time then for a new and more ‘Premium’ grade, pardon the pun. But are tradies really after extra luxuries in their workhorses?
“Mate, as long as it’s affordable and does what it needs to do, it’s all the same to me.”
It was an abrupt response from a small business owner friend of mine who I had quizzed on the idea of a van that threw in a handful of luxuries for an extra five grand.
However, if the rise of the $70K+ utes has taught us anything, it’s that tradies don’t mind a few luxuries in their workhorses, and delivery drivers and small business owners are no longer the only customers for these types of vehicles either, not if the Instagram-led ‘van-life’ movement is to be believed.
You don’t have to look far on social media to see Starias filled with custom travelling kits, ranging from homemade setups to some pretty impressive custom jobs.
Perhaps the Premium is the vehicle for these buyers then, who are often flush with cash and who have been begrudged Hyundai’s Staria Campervan, which the Korean brand has cruelly reserved for its home market only.
To find out if the Staria Load Premium was fit for either audience, I spent a week with the flagship van that included, in typical motoring journalist fashion, moving house. A coincidence I swear.
Like all things when it comes to vans, the Staria Load range is pretty easy to get your head around.
Starting at $45,740 (before on-roads) for the two-seater Van or $49,640 for the five-seater Crew Van, both are offered with the choice of either a huge rear tailgate or the more carpark friendly twin-swing, barn door-style access.
Pictured: the entry-level Staria Load
In these entry-level grades, the Staria Load comes with:
Aside from the three-seat bench in the second row and extra windows to see out of, the Crew Van benefits from a storage box between the two front seats, just like the people mover variant.
Those who opt for the twin-swing rear doors on the Van variant – or the Crew Van – will receive a steel cargo area petition behind the seats.
Hyundai offers the ‘Premium’ variant from $51,240 but you can only score one in the two-seat van configuration with the liftback tailgate design.
Hope isn’t entirely lost for those keen on the twin-swing and Crew Van options though, as Hyundai has told Chasing Cars it could introduce these options if customers demand it.
Those who opt for the Premium will gain:
Our test vehicle was fitted with a few optional extras including all-weather floor mats ($235), a cargo barrier ($899), a heavy-duty rubber cargo floor mat ($745) and Monolight Blue premium paint ($695).
The switch to a unibody chassis for Hyundai’s latest commercial van has done wonders for what the Staria is like to drive. At best, it’s SUV-like, at worst it drives like a nice van.
It’s predictable behaviour from a fan with heavy-duty leaf springs attached to a solid rear axle, as is common across this segment, with classic struts up front to keep it planted.
By utilising this arrangement, the Staria Load supports a payload of up to 1072kg in the Van variant, which Hyundai says should give you about 800kg for cargo once you’ve got everything else on board.
During my week of testing, the most amount of cargo I was able to cram in the rear was around 400kg worth of furniture, which made a noticeable difference to the ride quality; essentially smoothing out some of the harsher bumps and vertical movements, which was noticeable but far from intolerable when unladen.
However, even as little as 200kg was enough to noticeably improve the ride of the Staria Load, so tradies who carry a baseline level of gear with them won’t likely even notice, though the coil-sprung rear of the smaller Volkswagen Caddy Maxi I recently drove was a lot smoother unladen.
Having a lot in the back also improves the handling but even with an empty cargo hull the unibody chassis provided a predictable and comfortable driving experience when navigating tight suburban streets. And while the payload weight is high, it never feels unstable.
Hyundai doesn’t offer the Staria Load with a 200kW/331Nm 3.5-litre petrol V6 as it does in the people mover variant but this is hardly a bad thing, as the torquier 130kW/430Nm 2.2-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder is a far better fit in our eyes.
Even with reckless throttle application, the oil burner is smooth without being slow, providing a steady climb up the speedo without any shunting that would unsettle your load, thanks also to the great tuning of the eight-speed automatic.
While the diesel Staria is offered with AWD in the people mover variant, don’t get any off-roading ideas in the Load because this model is FWD only but we doubt many buyers will miss the additional driven wheels.
We didn’t get a chance to tow anything during our review but the Staria has a braked capacity of 2500kg with a maximum towball weight of 100kg. The roof loading capacity is also capped at 100kg.
If you were expecting this plush grade to be oozing with luxury, think again as it’s still strictly a business affair inside, albeit with a few choice touches.
Inside, you’ll find the same two hard-wearing cloth seats, which I found to provide a good amount of comfort and lateral support for when you’re zipping around town, with the cabin itself providing plenty of room to stretch out on long drives.
You can call me a wuss, but I reckon some lumbar support and possibly even a heating option for these seats would be a great addition for those drivers who spend their days lifting heavy objects and would appreciate some comfort on their sore backs on the way home.
The material choice of the seats seems wise for this application, while I did notice they collected marks quite easily, they were just as easily removed with a wet cloth.
Something I was quick to notice about the cabin of the Staria Load is that, oddly, it’s a bit short on storage.
Hyundai hides small amounts of storage in the doors and two small cubbies on the dash, but the former are hardly big enough to store a clipboard, and one of them blocks your view of the speedo. Quite bizarre.
The Staria Load does win some points back by the addition of its overhead storage, but even this area could be a bit bigger if I’m honest.
As mentioned previously, the two-seat van variant misses out on the massive centre console box available in the five-seat crew van, leaving a huge space of unknown purpose between the two front occupants. It gave me an idea though.
During my move it was what some may call a “bloody hot day” and I quickly found this space worked perfectly as a storage space for my esky to keep drinks for me and the crew nice and cold for me and the crew.
Hilariously, it turns out I wasn’t the first muppet to stumble upon this bit of Aussie innovation, as Hyundai themselves offer a 25L fridge in this central position as an accessory for a crisp $1299 on top of the purchase price. A worthwhile option though I reckon.
By opting for the Premium grade, the Staria Load steps up to a larger pair of 10.25-inch displays, one tasked with multimedia and the other serving as a digital gauge cluster.
Both are a welcome addition, the latter especially as it allows Hyundai to introduce its aforementioned blind-spot view monitor, though it would be nice if the graphics and numbers were a touch larger given the distance from the screen to the driver’s eyes.
It’s also worth noting that Hyundai’s ongoing dispute with either Apple or Google, means that its larger screen options require CarPlay and Android Auto to be wired.
This is a shame, as the smaller 8.0-inch screen in the base model is wireless and if I was spending my day ducking in and out of the Staria Load on deliveries for example, the constant plugging in would prove tedious.
Hyundai quotes interior measurements of 2607mm, 1640mm, and 1436mm in terms of length, width and height with a total volume of 4935L or around 4.94 cubic metres.
Key rivals including the soon-to-be-replaced Ford Transit Custom (5.4m³) and Toyota Hiace (6.2m³) are larger inside and unlike these options, the Staria Load has neither a larger model nor a long-wheel-base option buyers can opt for.
The area itself can be accessed via the rear hatch or the two sliding doors on either side, with the latter providing an opening distance of 870mm, which I found to be more than adequate in my testing.
I was able to fit a wide three-seat sofa bed in length-ways within the Staria Load and secure other luggage around it with the eight tie-down points, though some additional hooks on the walls of the van would have been appreciated.
If there is one option that I would consider non-negotiable though, it would have to be the heavy-duty rubber cargo floor mat, which seems to stick a good balance between grip and slip, with leading lines to help you slide heavy cargo in and out.
The Staria Load Premium also benefits from Smart Power Tailgate which has a number of functions including an adjustable height, remote opening and an auto close feature.
During my testing, the latter feature was quite unhelpful during longer loading periods as it beeps when someone or something is in the way of it shutting, however, it can be turned off either temporarily via a button on the tailgate or permanently via a submenu in the touchscreen.
When it comes to safety, there’s the Hyundai Staria and then there’s everything else.
It’s not just us saying that either, with ANCAP recently evaluating the driver assistance technology of all vans sold in Australia.
Of those, the Staria Load saw the highest score of any van with a 90 percent rating making it one of two vans to score a ‘Platinum’ rating, while the Toyota Hiace was runner-up in the light commercial segment with a 77 percent rating.
With ANCAP’s new six-year expiry on its rating and the long-life of van generations, most rivals including the Peugeot Expert and Volkswagen Transporter are unrated, however the Staria Load was recently tested in 2021.
That test saw the Staria Load receive the following scores:
Some highlight safety features of the Staria Load Premium includes:
In my opinion, the most beneficial upgrade when comparing the Staria Load Premium over the base model equivalent is the addition of the Hyundai’s fantastic blind-spot view monitor, which is particularly helpful in the Staria Load Van given its lack of rear side windows.
This feature is activated by flicking on your indicator and triggering a live camera feed of your blind spot on the 10.25-inch display, a system I found was significantly more useful than the often primitive blind-spot monitoring systems that simply illuminate a light to warn you.
It’s a shame that the same can’t be said for the Staria Load’s lane-keep assistance function, which is frequently overly aggressive and reactive rather than proactive to changing road lines.
Active the fully-fledged steering assistance function and harmony is restored somewhat, with the Staria Load seemingly far more content with less control in the hands of its foolish driver.
However, I didn’t find the van accurate enough to leave it in this mode all the time and quickly found myself simply turning off all the assistance as soon as I climbed into the car.
During my time with the Staria Load Premium, I saw an average fuel economy of 7.6L/100km which isn’t far off its 7.0L/100km claim and pretty good considering it was spending most of the time carrying several hundred kilos in the rear.
Given the 75-litre tank, the Staria Load actually has some pretty good legs on it as well, enough to provide a theoretical 1109km of range based on my usage.
Like all Hyundais, the Staria Load carries a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty for private buyers, though the distance is shortened to 160,000km if you use the van for commercial purposes – identical to the Toyota Hiace – as many owners will.
Servicing intervals are capped at 15,000km or every 12 months, with Hyundai offering a five-year/75,000km capped-price servicing program, which will see buyers pay $1800 over that period or $360 for every service.
Alternatively, buyers can opt for three-, four- and five-year prepaid servicing plans priced at $1080, $1440 and $1800 respectively.
Buying a commercial van, to most people at least, is often more about investing in their business than it is about indulging in any personal luxury, and the Staria Load Premium doesn’t forget this.
While $5500 isn’t a negligible additional cost, it’s hard to argue that what you’re getting isn’t terrific value; with these upgrades helping to make the Staria Load not only easier to live with but safer, and perhaps most importantly, just a better van.
I could honestly do without some of the upgrades like the 17-inch alloys, however other upgrades like the LED lights and blind-spot view monitor seem like a no-brainer for those who often spend the wee hours of the morning battling traffic while half awake.
The extra dress-up, inside and out, also helps restore some of the retro-futuristic looks from the people mover variant back onto the stripped-down work van. And that’s quite a good thing in our eyes, literally.
Not everyone loves the look of the Staria though and that’s fine. But who cares, as Hyundai’s van remains a brutally effective, safe and cost-efficient vehicle which could be the best tool in your arsenal.
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Key specs (as tested)
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