It's the futuristic minivan that's utterly unmissable on the road, but is it actually any good? We hopped into the top-spec model to find out.

What is it?

The 2022 Hyundai Staria joined the brand’s range as a long-overdue replacement for the iMax people-mover.

Like the iMax, it’s a massive thing that seats eight adults with ease. Similarly, it’s also offered as a commercial van as well – the Staria Load which replaces the iLoad.

Although the Staria starts at $48,500 before on-road costs, we sampled the range-topping Highlander Diesel which comes priced from $66,500.

What does it look like?

The Staria is based underneath on the same platform as its key rival, the Kia Carnival, which is possibly the best looking minivan ever made – for what that’s worth. However, this takes it to a different level with looks that are out of this world. Think of it as being halfway between General Motors’ DustBuster minivans of the 1990s.

At the front, there’s a full-width light bar which only enhances the futuristic styling. The taillights, meanwhile, are similar to those of the Ioniq 5 in featuring ‘Parametric Pixels’ – again, very futuristic.

It must be said the Staria boasts a massive glasshouse as well, although only the front windows roll down. In the second row, there’s only a small sliding hatch that’s manually operated, while the third-row windows simply pop out slightly.

The only thing more massive than the glasshouse, of course, is the Staria itself. At 5253mm in length and 1990mm in height, it’s a gargantuan thing, meaning it does look a bit silly riding on 18-inch wheels.

What’s the 2022 Hyundai Staria like inside?

Unsurprisingly, the Staria’s interior matches the exterior – it’s funky and futuristic, but still ultimately practical. Even just getting in asserts this with its big power-operated sliding rear doors. With its big glasshouse and dual sunroofs in the Highlander model, it feels incredibly light and airy inside.

While you might think the dashboard would be shared with its commercial van sibling, the Staria Load, you’d be wrong. Instead of open storage trays, there are two enclosed storage cubbies – one in the middle, and one right ahead of the driver in front of the instrument cluster.

The digital gauges stand alone atop the dash, although the 10.25-inch screen in this Highlander model is the exact same unit you’ll find in plenty of other Hyundai models. Go for the lesser base or Elite models and you’ll get the same dot matrix cluster that’s in the Staria Load.

Tech for the whole family

Elite and Highlander models also get the same 10.25-inch infotainment screen that you’ll find in most other Hyundais now as well. It features navigation as standard and offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. Ironically, though, it requires you plug your phone in with this system, while the more basic unit in the base model and the Staria Load offers wireless connectivity.

There are some quirky family-friendly features included as well. For instance, there’s a camera looking over the rear passengers that you can pull up on the screen. No need to crane your neck around to check the kids are okay back there. An intercom system also means you won’t have to raise your voice to tell them to quieten down.

If you opt for the Midnight Blue paint of our tester, you get the choice of black, blue, or tan leather. Ours features the blue, which is a nice greyish shade of it that looks quite unique in person. Go for any other exterior colour, however, and you’ll only be offered one or two of those interior colours. This Highlander model boasts heated and ventilated front seats just to add to the niceness, too.

What’s the catch?

There’s one big problem with the Staria’s interior, though – its seating isn’t flexible enough. Although it seats eight adults comfortably, the two rear bench seats don’t slide quite far enough to make it feel properly roomy. You can’t remove either row or fold them down into the floor of the Staria, either, so there’s no real option to use it like a van.

For those looking at using one for chauffeuring people around, there 11-seat version offered in some markets isn’t coming to Australia. This also means we miss out on the ability to put it into ‘full-flat’ mode which makes it a maskeshift campervan. Plus, the dedicated campervan model is only sold in South Korea.

Finally, it must be said that our tester had some build quality issues – very unusual for Hyundai these days. The stitching on the steering wheel was falling apart, although that could be due to its heavy press fleet use. The front sunroof cover getting stuck and the stereo freaking out and making some terrible screechy sounds (jiggling the fuse around fixed it) is less explainable.

What’s under the bonnet of the 2022 Hyundai Staria?

Two engine options are offered in the 2022 Hyundai Staria in Australia. The cheaper option is a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission with front-wheel drive.

Spend an extra $3000, however, and you’ll get the 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel our tester features. Making 130kW and 430Nm, it also comes paired with an eight-speed auto. All-wheel drive comes as standard with the diesel despite the Staria Load with the same engine missing out on it.

Being more comfort-focused than the Staria Load, this features independent multi-link rear suspension. The Load uses a solid rear axle with leaf springs for increased payload.

What’s the 2022 Hyundai Staria like to drive?

While you mightn’t expect a minivan to be anything brilliant to drive, the Kia Carnival being such a good steer means the bar has been lifted for these humble family vans.

Given the Staria rides on the same platform, it’d be fair to expect it to feel similar. However, the Staria hasn’t been given a unique suspension tune for the Australian market. This is unlike both other Hyundai models and the Carnival.

As a result, it lacks the composure its Kia-badged sibling displays. All the body roll you expect to feel is there, yet it’s not as comfortable and compliant a ride as the Carnival either. Truthfully, the Staria Load is actually the better handler of the two Staria siblings.

This 2.2-litre diesel engine making less power than it does in the front-drive Carnival is clearly shows as well. Hooked up to the all-wheel drive system and carrying a 2325kg kerb weight around, it feels strained even with its decent mid-range torque.

Now certainly, it isn’t entirely unpleasant to drive, but it’s just not in the same league as the Kia. Heavier, less powerful, slower, and lacking some Aussie revision, it unfortunately was never going to be.

How do the numbers add up?

The one place the Staria pips the Carnival is on price. This Staria Highlander Diesel presents a $1080 saving over the equivalent Carnival Platinum Diesel. As far as you’ll ever notice, it offers all of the same equipment for that price. It’s also much cheaper than an eight-seat Toyota Granvia.

Servicing is much cheaper as well. For the five-year warranty period, the first four services are capped at just $360. The fifth only jumps to $455. The Carnival, meanwhile, averages at $538 per service for its seven-year warranty period; the Staria averages out to just $402 per service over the same period. Pre-paid servicing is also offered at $1800 for five years.

It does pretty decently on fuel, too. Over my 500km of testing, it drank just 9.1L/100km compared to a combined cycle claim of 8.2L/100km. Not bad for a 2.3-tonne van with an underpowered engine.

So, what’s the verdict?

There’s no doubt that the 2022 Hyundai Staria is one cool-looking minivan. Its futuristic looks – and more so its massive size – might not be to everyone’s tastes, but it’s undeniably good fun.

Unfortunately, a lack of interior seating flexibility and some iffy build quality let the interior down for us. Its under-powered diesel engine and lack of a local suspension tune hurt its on-road performance as well.

For a family-friendly minivan, the Kia Carnival is easily the one to go for. We see the Staria being a better fit for chauffeur use, where it offers better bang-for-your-buck than the Toyota Granvia that’s clearly aimed at that market.

2022 Hyundai Staria Highlander 2.2D AWD List Price: $66,500 | As Tested: $67,490
  • 7/10
    Performance - 7/10
  • 7.5/10
    Ride & Handling - 7.5/10
  • 8.5/10
    Tech & Features - 8.5/10
  • 8/10
    Practicality - 8/10
  • 8.5/10
    Value for Money - 8.5/10

Pros: Long list of standard features, plenty of interior storage space, futuristic styling, good value for money against its two main rivals
Cons: Detuned diesel engine is underpowered in this 2.3-tonne van, not enough seating flexibility, no 11-seat or campervan models for Australia, some interior build quality issues

Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by Hyundai Motor Company Australia for three weeks with a full tank of fuel.

Patrick Jackson
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