The words “sporty” and “van” should never be used in the same sentence. And yet, the 2022 Hyundai Staria Elite boasts a sport driving mode, paddle shifters and a thirsty petrol engine that likes to scream.
It’s a bizarre and exciting space-age luxury van that defies your preconceptions of the modern-day people mover. The Staria is effectively Hyundai’s replacement for the iMax, but this time it’s one hell of a looker.
It follows the Korean marque’s new “inside-out” design methodology, which is marketing-speak for prioritising cabin ergonomics over exterior style.
The low beltlines and colossal panoramic windows not only improve visibility, but offer a sense of spaciousness throughout the interior, and also contribute to the vehicle’s road presence.
In an industry plagued by dreary design and gargantuan grilles, the Staria is nothing short of a science-fiction masterpiece, in the flesh. From the body-coloured grille to the horizontal daytime running light, the front is more Robocop than Hyundai – and we love it.
Buyers are treated with LED headlights and 18-inch alloy wheels as standard, while the only downside might be the limited paint palette in higher trims, with Shimmering Silver or Creamy White not available down under.
That aside, the futurism continues inside the cabin with a tidy layout, a sleek 10.25-inch touchscreen and various storage chasms. The leather-appointed interior is a welcome upgrade over the standard Staria, as are the power sliding doors and tailgate.
Best of all, it’s effortless to find the ideal driving position thanks to a 12-way power driver’s seat and memory profiles. Outward visibility is brilliant, with our only gripe being that we couldn’t see the sloping nose of the vehicle.
However, with a crisp 360-degree camera and eight parking sensors, it’s a challenge to scratch this spaceship. All trims of the Staria are fitted with Hyundai SmartSense as standard, which is the brand’s expansive suite of the latest driver aids.
It’s a rather drawn-out list, but to name a few goodies, you get lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control and autonomous emergency braking. As an upgrade over the base Staria, you also get safe exit assist and surround-view cameras.
While these safety systems worked as intended, the lane-keeping system felt unnatural and a tad too controlling at times. Satan himself possesses the vehicle and corrects things that arguably don’t need to be corrected.
Nevertheless, with seven airbags and a 5-star ANCAP rating, we never felt unsafe during our ‘man with a van’ endeavours. Now back to the interior goodies.
Unlike the gauge cluster offered by certain rivals, the 4.2-inch one here is crystal clear, comprehensible and easy to configure. You may struggle to read the odd detail depending on your line of sight, but we wouldn’t consider it to be a dealbreaker.
Similarly, the infotainment is lag-free and child’s play to operate, but it’s not without flaws. The shortcut “buttons” are merely touch-sensitive panels and offer no haptic feedback when pressed.
The abandonment of physical buttons is not an issue exclusive to Hyundai, but rather with the automotive industry as a whole; bring back the swivel wheel!
Strangely, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are only available on the base model, meaning that the Elite and more prestigious Highlander trims require a cable. Even more odd is that Australia misses out the 12-speaker Bose system offered in foreign markets.
Believe us when we say your audiophile children will struggle to appreciate the might (or lack thereof) of the standard six-speaker audio. Thankfully, the Elite compensates with other techy treats, including DAB+ digital radio, live traffic updates and satellite navigation.
The second and third row are spacious enough for adults, offering both exceptional headroom and legroom for individuals over 180cm. Seating three adults abreast in the third row may be a squeeze, but children will be comfortable.
The inclusion of window shades and a split climate control system at the rear help keep matters ‘chill’ among the juveniles. Once you figure out what the various levers and straps do, it’s also a breeze to adjust and stow the seats in the second row.
Unlike the new Kia Carnival though, the third-row seats do not fold into the floor, nor are the second-row seats easily removeable. We therefore cannot recommend the Staria to more adventurous buyers who wish to use it as a camper van.
However, with 831 litres of cargo space (1,303 litres with the third row stowed), it should be enough for most trips to Bunnings and IKEA.
The Staria is available with either a naturally aspirated 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine (as tested) or a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel four-pot. With the petrol engine sending a punchy 200kW and 331Nm to the front wheels, it’s surprisingly fruity to drive.
You can opt for all-wheel drive (AWD) by getting the diesel, but after taking the vehicle out of its comfort zone on some “roads” in rural NSW (sorry Hyundai), we can assure you that AWD is unnecessary.
With power being leveraged via an 8-speed, shift-by-wire automatic transmission, the Staria offers a silky-smooth driving experience. However, with rising fuel prices, it’s worth noting that we struggled to achieve Hyundai’s claimed 10.5-litres/100km efficiency figure.
The diesel is a little down on power at 130kW but offers improved fuel economy at 8.2-litres/100km, and a little more ‘pull’ at 430Nm. Thanks to input from Australian engineers, the suspension allows you to simply waft over the imperfections in Sydney’s tarmac.
In contrast, the steering feels a tad too light in comfort mode, and the paddle shifters aren’t what you would call “DSG fast”. Such shortcomings are irrelevant as the Staria is a bulky family hauler – not an i30 N.
At the end of the day, Hyundai have recycled the outgoing iMax’s recipe and added a little more panache. No, it’s not as configurable as some rivals, but keep in mind that the third row is spacious enough for adults.
It’ll set you back around $62,000 drive away. Yes, this is one of the Korean brand’s more expensive vehicles, but with a 5-year unlimited kilometre warranty and optional pre-paid servicing, we reckon it’s a solid buy. If you need fuel efficiency, opt for the diesel.
Finally, other than our tester colour, you can also choose Olivine Grey, Abyss Black, Moonlight Blue and Gaia Brown. You can price one up on Hyundai’s website.
Our test vehicle was provided by Hyundai Australia. To find out more about the 2022 Hyundai Staria Elite, contact your local Hyundai dealership.