There aren’t many cars that can lay genuine claim to having a chunk of the market all to themselves, but I spent the Christmas break in one – the Hyundai i800.
Granted, the eight-seats-for-under-£20k segment isn’t a particularly major part of the automotive landscape, but if you’re looking for space on a budget then nothing else comes close. Even the most basic version of the Mercedes Viano is £3500 more expensive, and an entry-level Volkswagen Caravelle is most of the way to 30 grand.
Practical considerations dictated the choice of the i800 as Christmas wheels – alongside memories of trying to cram the extended family into compact MPVs on previous occasions. And I have to say that it proved itself one of the most useful vehicles I’ve ever piloted, dealing with everything from a six-up run to Heathrow with luggage to a 400-mile trip to Scotland laden with Santa’s sled quantities of presents and bags.
It’s not even that bad to drive. Granted, some parts of the experience are a bit commercial, especially the bouncy unladen ride (although Hyundai points out there isn’t a direct van version of the i800), and the 2.5-litre diesel engine was loud enough to wake the neighbours every time I cold-started it. But it sits happily at a close approximation of the motorway speed limit, the steering is accurate and it returns nearly 30mpg, even when fully laden.
On a per-passenger basis, that makes the i800 more economical than a Toyota Prius.
Scrutinising the small print also reveals that the Hyundai’s excellent five-year warranty is valid for an unlimited mileage. So if I ever start an airport minicab business, I’ll be buying a fleet of i800s.