Hyundai i800 review
Van-derived MPV is good value and simply enormous inside, but driving experience and safety kit disappoint
When you just have to have a car that can squeeze in as many people and their luggage as possible, the Hyundai i800 is one of the best cars for the job. With seating room for eight, as well as 850 litres of luggage space behind the rearmost bench, actually filling the i800's cavernous interior is something of a challenge. But all that room comes with a catch – the i800 has commercial vehicle underpinnings, so it's not quite as refined, luxurious or pleasant to drive as other manufacturers' MPVs. It is very competitively priced, however, so you get an awful lot of car for your money.
Our choice: Hyundai i800 2.5 CRDi Style
There's not a lot you can say about the styling of the Hyundai i800, as it's basically a giant box on wheels. Any notion of aesthetic appeal is sacrificed in favour of sheer carrying capacity. The headlights are big and ugly and the small wheels look mismatched on such a large car – really, the only defining visual quality of the i800 is its sheer size. The big Hyundai is a purely functional vehicle – something rarely seen in today's car market – so it will appeal to practical-minded buyers who place little value on style and desirability.
Vans are not renowned for offering a very engaging driving experience, so it's hardly surprising that the van-derived i800 is a pretty uninspiring vehicle to get behind the wheel of. At least it has enough grunt to make decent progress: a 2.5-litre turbodiesel is the sole engine option, producing 135bhp. Acceleration is stately rather than shocking, but you wouldn't call the i800 underpowered – it can overtake with ease and won't be overwhelmed by a steep gradient. The engine can be specified with either a manual or – for a £2,160 premium – automatic gearbox. Neither is particualrly impressive, but both get the job done.
The i800 boasts the basic durability of a commercial vehicle, with a proven engine and transmission, and not much in the way of fancy gadgets to go wrong. There's also the peace of mind that comes with the aformentioned five-year warranty. Behind the wheel, the Hyundai MPV feels safe thanks to its enormous bulk and raised driving position, but it does lack some safety equipment compared to the competition, with only two airbags up front. The i800 hasn't been tested by Euro NCAP, but it does get electronic stability control as standard.
Although the i800 offers unmatched carrying capacity for passengers and luggage, it does have an Achilles Heel when it comes to practicality: its middle row of seats cannot be moved, which is extremely inconvenient compared to the clever folding systems seen in rival MPVs. Aside from this, however, you get the aforementioned 850 litres of boot space even with all three rows of seats in place, as well as very generous head and legroom. There is a lack of clever cabin storage spaces, however – another area where the i800 falls down against more car-like opposition.
Although the i800 is diesel-engined, it can't compete with more up-to-date models for either fuel economy or environmental friendliness. You'll be lucky to get just over 30mpg in everyday driving and CO2 emissions approaching 200g/km will make you annual road tax bill quite high, too. On the plus side, the i800 comes with Hyundai's five-year warranty, removing the headache of potential repair costs, but on the downside, it won't be worth an awful lot when those five years are up, as residual values are not great. The only real finanical plus point for the i800 is its low purchase price – you won't transport eight people in comfort for less money.