Hyundai Eyes Luxury MPV Inroad With ‘Customised’ Staria Premium

By Lee Pang Seng

HYUNDAI is not shy on its ambitions in Malaysia through Hyundai-Sime Darby Motors, especially when taking on established names with seemingly firm stranglehold in the market. The luxury people mover segment where MPVs (multipurpose vehicles) play a dominant role is one such area.

The recent introduction of the Staria Premium is clearly aimed at challenging for a good share of the luxurious MPV segment. To make the Staria Premium truly exclusive, customers could customise their purchase in body colour and interior appointments – there are more than 10 options for the former and four combinations for the latter.

By enjoying such a privilege, customers have a small price to pay in having to wait three to six months to receive their specialised Staria Premium. This is because their individual colour and interior selection is forwarded to Hyundai South Korea that would then build the vehicle accordingly at the plant. We believe few would complain as they would get to enjoy a personalised Staria Premium that’s exclusively tailored to their whims.

The Staria Premium is by every means more than a match for the its main rival, the Toyota Alphard and Vellfire, in dimensions. At 5253mm in overall length, it is more than 320mm longer, helped by the fact that it runs on a 3273mm wheelbase against the Alphard’s 3000mm. It is also almost 150mm wider at 1997mm in overall width although height-wise, the difference is marginal at 1990mm for the Hyundai to 1895mm.

Compared to the already dimensionally sizeable Starex, which is targeted at mass market appeal, the Staria is 3mm longer, 7mm wider and 65mm taller. The Starex wheelbase is also 73mm shorter. While the Starex could be available with seven to 11 people interior seating arrangement, the Staria would only be made available as a seven-seater MPV to maintain its upmarket appeal.

In body design, the Staria Premium looks like a concept model with its clean and smart looking front. The grille and LED (light emitting diode) multi-headlamps are embodied within a single section featuring rather unusual stellar styling elements that seek to reflect on its ‘spaceship’ oriented design. Its name Staria is derived from the word ‘star’ and has feminine leanings since it’s usually used as a girl’s name.

Adding to the cleanly styled front are the strip of daylight running lamps that are in three segments to light up accordingly for daytime and night-time running. The one-curve silhouette of the body with a lower belt line has also led to a lower aerodynamic co-efficient of 0.32, which is hailed as the lowest for an MPV. This even betters the Hyundai Santa Fe SUV’s (sport utility vehicle) Cd value of 0.33.

Power-wise, the Staria Premium would have diesel propulsion against the petrol models of its dominant rival. This is the new 2.2-litre (2199cc) CRDi diesel that takes over from the 2.5-litre unit. The engine, which is undersquare in configuration with a long 96.0mm stroke and 85.4mm bore, delivers 130kW (177PS) at 3800rpm and 431Nm of torque that develops early at 1500rpm and holds till 2500rpm.

This power output is delivered to the front wheels via a shift-by-wire eight-speed automatic transmission. There are four drive modes as well – Smart, Normal, Eco and Sport - to accommodate different driving needs and varying traffic conditions, in particular slow moving urban crawls to highway motoring and winding country road drives. There are steering wheel paddle shifters if one wished to be more ‘hands on’ in driving this luxury MPV.

As an idea of the Staria Premium’s performance, Hyundai says this luxury MPV would do a maximum 185km/h on open highways, accelerate from 0 to 100km/h in a respectable 12.4 seconds for a two-tonner MPV and return an average 7.2 L/100km (13.9km/l) fuel consumption in a mix of urban and highway conditions.

What is going to establish the Staria Premium as an upmarket MPV is the level of its luxury appointments, especially in accommodating its passengers. Here, the focus is apparently on the second row Captain seats – quality Nappa leather is used throughout - where the ‘big boss’ is likely to sit. It is described as a full folding seat although it is not quite like the business-class system on airplanes; the leg support has to adjusted separately to suit the respective individual.

And because the Staria Premium is a very long vehicle, when the full folding seat feature is used, it doesn’t constraint the space for the third-row occupants. In fact, the third-row folks also have seats – split 60/40 - that are slide adjustable as well. In a way, the seats must have that feature to provide some luggage room at the rear.

Although, interior space utilisation for luggage is not a main priority, it is interesting to note that with the third-row seats adjusted to the frontmost, there would be 117 litres of luggage space. Folding the seatrests down would triple that to a tad over 430 litres; enough for a motoring holiday for four people.

The dual sunroof that filters out the afternoon sun adds to good passenger comfort along with window curtains for all rear passengers and the Bose audio system with 12 speakers. The doors have smart features that could even recognise if the driver was approaching or moving away from the vehicle. The sliding doors are smart too; for example, the far side door wouldn’t open with the one-touch feature if it detects a vehicle approaching. This Safe Exit Assist feature is one up for passenger safety.

Getting comfortable in the driver’s seats is the usual array of eight electrical adjustments and the addition of four-way lumbar support for fatigue free drive on long hauls. The large central console means there is no walk-through convenience from the front to the passenger section but that feature is there for the second- and third-row seats.

Dash layout is well sorted out with the 10.25-inch LCD (liquid crystal display) multi-info touchscreen panel and the respective selection buttons neatly decked below. The instrument panel is a frameless unit that stands out like the central multi-info panel. During our mid-afternoon drive, the lack of an instrument panel cowl didn’t lead to the strong sunlight affecting the information readout; this being the speedometer and tachometer as well as the tyre pressure statistics (Tyre Pressure Monitoring System), among others.

Gear selection couldn’t be simpler; press D for drive and we were good to go. The other buttons were N(eutral), R(everse) and P(arking). With the Electronic Parking Brake, there was no need to release anything as the system would release by itself the moment we drive off. Likewise, by pressing the P button, the parking brake is electronically activated.

The updated 2.2-litre diesel engine combined well with the eight-speed automatic to move along effortlessly. For sure, we didn’t feel the 2000-plus kilogramme kerb weight or the fact that we had five people on board as well. The interior was spacious enough for all of us to keep a safe distance from each other during this pandemic times! The Staria picked up speed quick enough when the road was clear during the brief drive experience.

We also tried out the Captain seat when it was someone’s else turn to drive, luxuriating on the fully reclined position with the leg support adjusted to our liking. And with the good insulation keeping road and traffic noise out, it would have been a cinch to grab 40 winks were we on a long-distance drive.

The Staria Premium has a multi-link torsion bar rear suspension system to complement the MacPherson strut front. This rear suspension set-up is simpler and has fewer components while providing a reasonably good ride. We found the damping a bit stiff over rumble strips and speed bumps while being a passenger in the rear two rows, but ride was generally up to par for its upmarket motoring standards. The tyres fitted were Kumho PorTran KC53 235/55 R18 units.

While the Staria Premium comes with a Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), we were told that when the tyres are rotated after balancing, the system would detect the position of the respective tyre that had been moved. However, should it fail to ‘locate’ the tyre to monitor the pressure, the system had to be reset at the Hyundai Service Centre for it to function effectively.

Needless to say, the Staria Premium comes with a full suit of driving safety systems and alerts that include Forward Collision Avoidance Assist, Driver Attention Warning, Blind Spot Collision Assist, Rear Occupant Alert, Lane Keeping Assist, to name a few. We found the last item working in the steering wheel getting heavier when we ‘strayed’ out of our lane without using the turn indicators.

As an alternative luxury MPV in the market, the Hyundai Staria Premium is attractively priced for a ‘specialised order’ vehicle. Hyundai-Sime Darby Motors has priced the Staria Premium at RM358,888.00 on the road without insurance. At this price, it comes with a two-year or 50,000km warranty. For an additional RM10,000, this luxury MPV comes with a five-year or 300,000km warranty and three-year or 50,000km free maintenance service.