Can a van eat into bakkie sales? Ryan Bubear drives the Hyundai H1 Multicab 2.5 VGTi...
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What do South Africans love as much as the tremendously orange Debora Patta loves self-tan lotion? Yes, bakkies. They account for a fabulously fat chunk of vehicle sales in our sun-drenched land each month.
And now Hyundai wants in (on those sales, not Debbie's faux glow).
But what we have here is not a bakkie, but rather a "multicab" perhaps designed to grab a slither of that juicy double-cab pie. And, despite coming across as a little confusing to the palate at first, it could very well achieve just that.
Based on the nine-seater H1 Wagon, the Multicab accommodates three fewer passengers, but gains a cargo compartment capable of swallowing small countries. This separate loading area boasts some 2500 litres of storage space and is rated to carry 1100kg. Access to this compartment comes via the swing-type rear doors, and the permanently closed side windows boast extra security in the form of thick steel bars. In effect, there's more space and versatility than offered by the typical double-cab bakkie.
Hyundai claims seating for six, but the unlucky individual slotted between the driver and front passenger is unlikely to agree. Indeed, this small seat folds down when not in use to double as a convenient shelf and triple cupholder, and it's best employed in this very manner. But there's definitely plenty of room for five, and the rear bench easily handles three life-size (even long-legged) humans. Handily, this seating can be accessed from either side of the vehicle thanks to the two large sliding doors (a nice touch), and steps and grab-handles make entrance and exit fuss-free.
The range is made up of just two models: a petrol manual and a turbo-diesel automatic. We had the latter on test, and judging by the performance figures of the petrol-powered H1, we got the better of the two. The 126kW/227Nm 2.4-litre petrol takes a super-sluggish 17.9 seconds to hit 100km/h, while throwing back 10.2 litres/100km from the 75-litre tank. Ouch.
Diesel > Petrol
The turbo-diesel, however, reaches three figures in under 15 seconds. It's reasonably refined too — a little rattly on start-up but it soon settles down — and churns out 125kW and a whacking great 392Nm. Thanks to this lump of low-down torque and a surprisingly smooth five-speed automatic gearbox, the diesel H1 is exceedingly easy (and even relaxing) to drive. Hyundai claims a fuel consumption figure of 9.7 litres per 100km.
Even without a heavy load over the rear (driven) wheels, the ride is fairly compliant. The steering is light enough to make the vehicle's exterior dimensions feel smaller than they actually are, and parking is easier than one might think. Visibility is generally pretty decent, but the rear-view is somewhat obstructed by the meeting of the rear doors.
The H1 Multicab may share its drag coefficient (just 0.34) with the Ferrari F40, but it's not going to win too many beauty contests. That said, it's pretty inoffensively styled, and the chrome-finished grille and 16-inch alloys lend it a bit of street-cred. In fact, it pulls off an understated coolness in typical van fashion. Unfortunately, Hyundai offers it in just white and silver, which — let's be honest — isn't very exciting, and shouts "all work and no play".
From the outside, the H1 Multicab appears to be longer than Schabir Shaik's nose. But measuring some 5.125 metres in length, it's actually (unexpectedly) shorter than a double-cab Hilux, and can just about squeeze into an average-sized parking spot.
Inside, cupholder-fetishists will find paradise, and there are a number of useful storage compartments as well. The light grey (on the doors) and black (on the dash) plastic trim comes across as pretty hard-wearing, and the seats offer a fair compromise of comfort and support. Remote central locking, auto-locking doors, electric windows, air-con, alarm/immobiliser and an audio system (radio/MP3/USB/Aux/iPod but no CD) are all standard equipment. The cabin is by no means luxurious, but it's far from utilitarian too.
A full-sized steel rim spare wheel comes standard, and is secured underneath the vehicle. In terms of safety, both models sport discs all round, ABS and EBD, and dual airbags for the driver and front passenger. The more powerful turbo-diesel gets ESP as well. Oh, and don't forget Hyundai's five-year or 150 000km warranty and five-year or 90 000km service plan. As a bonus, the Multicab is designed to tow up to 1500kg (braked) and 750kg (unbraked).
So, who would such a vehicle appeal to? Well, the very folk currently buying double-cabs. The extra seating, capacious cargo area, and overall versatility mean the H1 Multicab may well attract the buyer looking to use his/her vehicle as a workhorse during the week and a family lug-about on the weekend. The only significant downside to the Multicab over a traditional bakkie is its inability to go off-road.
Priced to compete with the leading double-cabs (the petrol model slips in at under R280k), the H1 Multicab may appear an unlikely choice at first, but actually turns out to be a viable alternative to the popular bakkie.
Now all Hyundai needs to do is add a few funky colours to the range. How about Patta-Orange™?
Follow @Ryan_Bubear on Twitter to see what he's currently driving.
See page 2 for specs and pricing.