Originally launched in 2009, the Hyundai H-1 bus has quietly become a market leader and one of Hyundai’s most popular products. The recent facelift introduced some small, but welcome, improvements to a winning recipe.
- We like: All-round spaciousness for passengers, additional safety features, warranty/service plan
- We don’t like: Rear seats can’t be folded down, not as economical as rivals
- Also consider: Mercedes-Benz Vito, Volkswagen Kombi
With more than 10 000 units sold in the past six years, the H-1 is a segment leader, according to Hyundai. Looking closer at the (estimated) 2015 sales figures provided by Lightstone Auto, it is clear that the model we are evaluating here, the 2.5 VGTi 9-seater, is the most popular even though it is significantly more expensive than the 2.4-litre petrol derivative. The reason? Well, the superior driveability and economy provided by the diesel engine contribute significantly to the vehicle's overall appeal, but the additional specification should not be ignored either.
The centre fascia design and instrumentation have been updated.
At first glance, the recent facelift appears to be very subtle. You’ll have to be somewhat of a bus aficionado (if there is such a thing?) to spot the visual changes, which are mostly limited to new wheels and minor changes to the grille and bumpers. The more important alterations have occurred inside, where a redesigned centre fascia and instrument cluster, along with leather for the steering wheel and gearknob enhance the cabin's ambience significantly.
Buyers should be most impressed by the H1's additional features, however. The steering wheel now features multi-function controls and the audio system gets Bluetooth connectivity. Climate control has been added to the mix (cooling extends to the glove box), as have electrically folding side mirrors. The electronic stability control (ESP) system and side airbags are arguably the Hyundai's most important additions, from a family transportation point of view.
How does it fare in…
... Fuel Economy?
With a claimed consumption figure of 9.8 L/100km, the H-1 2.5 VGTi appears to be significantly thirstier than its rivals listed below. However, in real-world testing the H-1 manages to achieve figures quite close to this claimed figure, while the same cannot necessarily be said of its competitors. You should be able to travel for around 750 km between fill-ups of the 75-litre tank.
The relatively large-capacity engine is quite torquey; it pulls strongly from relatively low down in the engine's speed range. It certainly doesn’t feel sluggish once it gets going, and in general daily use, the five-speed automatic transmission performs well. Overall, however, the drivetrain can’t match the refinement of its rivals’ engines/transmissions.
... Ride and Handling?
It’s a large vehicle (only slightly shorter than a Mercedes-Benz Vito), but the H-1’s light power steering, good visibility from the driver’s seat and standard rear parking sensors provide welcome assistance when the bus needs to be manoeuvred around town. Judging by the numbers of H1s on the daily school run the vehicle's bulk is manageable. Out on the open road, the H-1 adopts a loping, comfortable ride quality that makes it a pleasant long-distance cruiser, and it’s quiet in the cabin as well.
... Cabin flexibility?
The H-1 offers seating for up to nine (including the driver, and including a small centre front-row seat). More realistically, it’s a spacious eight-seater that affords all occupants stretch-out legroom (and ventilation outlets). It’s easy to see why the H-1 is so popular with tour operators. As a family/leisure vehicle, there is, however, somewhat of a problem. While the luggage space is quite generous, even with the third-row seating occupied, that rear bench can’t be folded down flat or tumbled out of the way. Easy removal would add considerably to the vehicle’s overall leisure appeal. As it stands, awkwardly shaped leisure items, such as surfboards, are difficult to load into the rear of the vehicle.
At the current exchange rate and without earned export credits, the Korean brands (and many other vehicle importers) are really struggling to maintain a pricing advantage. As it stands, the H-1 2.5 VGTi is still more affordable than the rivals listen below, and offers more seating and specification, but the advantage is shrinking. The extra specification introduced by this upgrade is welcome, but to really boost the H-1’s appeal even further, and especially to families, Hyundai needs to improve the flexibility of what is otherwise a very comfortable and practical cabin.
This flagship Hyundai H-1 bus costs R579 900, which includes the company’s new 7-year/200 000 km warranty on selected engine/transmission components in addition to the regular 5-year/150 000 km manufacturer warranty. The expected Hyundai 5-year/90 000 km service plan is standard.
“The Hyundai H1 appears to be more of a shuttle bus than a family mover. Still, if you're after no frills and want to get your expanding family from A to B the H1 will get the job done. Just don't expect Kombi levels of comfort and refinement from the driving experience.” Ashley Oldfield