Mission: Penetration of “Spaceship” Hyundai Staria into Van Market

May 21, 2021

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‘I am thinking of buying a van in the Philippines. What van should I buy?’ Without doubt, the first van that comes to most people’s mind would be Toyota Hiace or Super Grandia. There are other alternatives options such as Nissan Urban or Kia Carnival. If one, however, can afford to allow a touch of luxury in one’s van, Toyota Alphard or Mercedes-Benz V Class would top the purchase list. Whether you are considering for a daily family usage or VIP setting, here comes the biggest threat to all from Hyundai – STARIA! Would it be able to compete with the long-beloved vans in the Philippines dominated for so long by Japanese manufacturers?

Staria: Space Train?

Grand Starex is the major, if not the only, MPV offered by Hyundai. It has remained in the market for 14 years with only several facelifts since 2007. After 14 long years, Hyundai finally announced a complete phase out of Grand Starex and introduced its signature successor. The name “Staria” is a compound word of “Star” and “Ria” roughly translated as “Star Stream.” It is said to be inspired by the spaceship swimming between stars in the outer space.

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True to its name, Staria certainly shows off a unique futuristic design. The most obvious characteristic in the overall design is its gigantic windows. With the lowered beltline, Staria got rid of the look of commercial wagon but rather gives the mini-van vibe. The line between the car hood down into the radiator grille is so “future-oriented” that it is not easy to tell the boundary between the hood, radiator grille and the headlight.

Hyundai launched three major models – Lounge, Tourer and Cargo. For easier understanding of the discussion, I will call Lounge and the rest as the normal Staria. You will be able to distinguish the differences between Lounge and normal Staria from radiator grille and lamps design. Staria Lounge model has the radiator grille and Hyundai logo in slightly copper-brown color. The head lamps are also featuring a unique ice cubic design; from the bottom to the upper 3rd cubes are for the head lights and the last row functions for the yellow signal light. The Daytime Running Light (DRL) for Lounge reminds of the Cyclops from X-man series, one straight line connected from left to right while for the normal models the middle part does not light up.

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The design of the rear side as well as the rear lamp greatly intrigues the viewers. The parametric pixel design first applied on Hyundai EV Ioniq 5 has been applied on Staria Lounge. The vertical pixel light emits brightly and handsomely. Even the signal light distinguishes the presence of Staria with the sequential light. You will find the same design in the normal models but in bulb type. Overall lines are curved roundish unlike the strong character lines seen in most of the cars.

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Staria offers a variety of 7 seater, 9 seater and 11 seater, and the best of its changes can be experienced in 7 seater Lounge. The interior of 7 seater Staria is vast. The 2nd row seats especially provide the VIP experience and comfortable space; when adjusted to the backmost, your legs will not reach the back of the passenger seat. Ventilation, heater and position touch buttons are embedded on the seat for easy access.

The element that greatly enhances the sense of space in Staria is the dual sunroof. As mentioned, Staria provides a wide view as if you are in a train thanks to its low beltline. The presence of sunroof overhead looking out the sky even adds to the cool and vast view of the passengers.

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The low beltline also gives different driving experience to the driver. The wider angle granted by the bigger windows delivers more comfort in driving. The digital cluster is also re-located nearer to the windshield so that means driver of any height can adjust the steering wheel without worrying to hinder the view of the cluster.

You will find the navigation in the infotainment section in the middle of the dashboard, and all the operations are touch-button based. Staria Lounge is equipped with button-type gear shifter while the normal models has the traditional gear knob we are all familiar with.

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Staria is available in two types of powertrain – 2.2 Diesel and 3.5 LPG. A 2.2 diesel model performs with 177 horsepower with maximum torque 44kgf/m while the LPG model boasts 240 horsepower with the power of 32kgf/m. But, only the 2.2-diesel model is expected to be available in the Philippine market.

The diesel model seems lacking in maximum horsepower to provide a “wow” driving performance, but Staria is not designed to require an explosive speed anyway, so we believe it will not cause any problems.

Staria: Better than Kia Carnival, Toyota Alphard, Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey?

Staria is not only the big threat to van market, but also to the mini-van market. A mini-van is really popular in South Korea, perhaps due to the image of being the “celebrity” van. Not only that, a mini-van typically offers better passenger experience obviously because of lower car height. It is thus expected that Kia Carnival or other mini-vans would still provide more comfortable driving experience than Hyundai Staria. In fairness, though, Staria’s monocoque body surely improved the overall comfort.

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Staria begins Hyundai’s future mobility solution ‘Purpose Built Vehicle’ (PBV). PBV (Level 5 Autonomous Electric Vehicle) anchors on the concept of limitless individualized design that accommodates various lifestyles of the future society. A vehicle is now beyond just a mode of transportation but customized service provider for individual needs while travelling to one’s destination. PBV, for instance, can be utilized from city shuttle, restaurant, café, hotel to hospital, pharmacy and other essential facilities.

The reason for Staria being the dawn of Hyundai’s envisioned PBV lies in the innovative and futuristic design, vast space, customizable seat orientation and interior space freely convertible based on different purposes.

Staria boasts seriously comfortable space with tall height (1990mm), wide width (1995mm) and long length (5255mm). The tall vehicle height coupled with the low ground clearance allows maximized use of space by allowing a maximum interior height of 1379mm.

We were concerned it might wander at high speed or when changing lanes due to its height, but Staria did not even wander off showing impressive grip on the road. Staria's handling movement was also very smooth and comfortable. The latest technology such as Advanced Driver Assistance System and various convenience functions were enough for the drivers to have deep trust in Staria.

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In all models (Lounge and normal), Hyundai installed 3-way seat belt and headrest and 7 airbag system including collision-detect curtain airbag. Staria is also the very first Hyundai model furnished with Front Collision Assist (FCA), Lane Keeping Assist (LFA), Blind Spot Collision Assist (BCA), Rear Corner Collision Assist (RCCA) and Smart Cruise Control (SCC) as standard options.

Staria Lounge is additionally equipped with Highway Drive Assist (HDA), Surround View Monitor (SVM) to enhance the driving convenience; Smart Power Sliding Door, Smart Power Tailgate, Safe Escape Assist (SEA), Advanced Rear Passenger Alert (ROA) and other features safeguarding and aiding every moment of in and out of the passengers.

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Would Staria be able to break the uneven balance of van market long dominated by Toyota and other Japanese manufacturers in the Philippines?