The domestic market for truly cavernous MPVs with the capacity to swallow not seven but eight people and a generous amount of luggage is probably a small one, but it’s nice to know the monstrously capacious Hyundai i800 exists anyway. You know, just in case.
In truth the market for commercial vehicle-derived people movers such as this – and the not-quite-so-commodious Volkswagen Caravelle – exists in the world of airport-run taxi firms and the like. But if you care little about the mechanical niceties of your next automotive purchase and are more preoccupied with coping with having to leave half the family at home on journeys, or else take two cars, then the i800 could be the vehicle you’ve been crying out for.
The i800’s first clear advantage over most MPVs is that it’s an eight-seater; elsewhere in the class, seven is the norm.
Its next trump card is that it has a vast boot even when fully loaded with people. Conventionally-sized seven-seat ‘large’ MPVs tend to be left with only token luggage space at the rear when all three rows of seats are in use, but with the 5125mm-long Hyundai, that simply isn’t the case.
A final point worthy of note is that it’s cheap: the high-spec Style model we tried comes packed with gadgets such as alloys, air-con, privacy glass, a trip computer, parking sensors and heated seats, yet it costs less to buy than a VW Caravelle.
The Style also benefits from a hugely torquey 168bhp, 324lb ft, 2.5-litre four-cylinder diesel, driven through a tall-geared manual five-speed gearbox, that gives truly surprising acceleration and 100mph performance. Or at least it is when devoid of a full load. In fact, it’s arguably more powerful than it needs to be. Fortunately, decent steering precision, ride and brakes also make it easy to drive, even in traffic. The driving position and long, occasionally flexible and less than accurate gearlever are the main giveaways to the Hyundai’s roots as a relatively unsophisticated Hyundai iLoad van.
On the road, the i800 feels very big and very tall, but that’s simply because it’s very big and very tall. As well as being more than five metres long, it’s 1925mm high and 1920mm wide – nearly matching dimensions which give the i800 a boxy, almost square front profile.
But its special coil-sprung rear end gives quite a decent ride. It’s a bit bouncy when unladen but actually improves the more you load up with people and things – another giveaway that this is, at its heart, a commercial vehicle. The interior, meanwhile, although lined with hard plastic, is comfortable. Plus, kids will love the panoramic view. It’s not for the style-conscious, however, and with privacy glass in place at the sides the i800 looks even more like the slab-sided van that it’s based on.
The novelty might, just might, wear off after a while, but the i800 really is a lot of fun. Its decent steering precision, ride and brakes also make it an easy thing to drive, even in traffic, and if you’re looking for passenger accommodation and price above all else, then it’s worth considering. The i800 is nothing if not spacious, practical and affordable. Big families will love it.