Hyundai Staria: Space and space age

2021 Hyundai Staria Highlander 10

What is it?

If there were such a thing as automotive astrologers, Hyundai would have claim to their effectiveness following wins for its Staria people mover, along with stablemate IONIQ 5 electric SUV — in the 2021 Good Design Awards.

Winning features, the company claims, include a strikingly futuristic look to the Staria exterior, reminiscent of a spaceship, while a single line from front to back recreates the curve of light that illuminates the Earth’s horizon at sunrise when viewed from space.

You’ve got to hand it to those South Koreans.

A cruise ship-inspired interior focuses on driver convenience and passenger comfort, with traditional Korean ‘hanok’ architecture allowing occupants to feel as if the outside scenes are an extension of the vehicle interior.

Taking the place of the iMax in the Hyundai scheme of things, the Staria is engineered from the ground up on a platform shared with the Santa Fe.

2021 Hyundai Staria Highlander 9

What’s it cost?

Setting the Staria apart from rival people movers is the option of Hyundai’s HTRAC all-wheel drive system, at $20,000 below the people mover alternative.

This is available with a 430Nm 2.2-litre CRDi turbo-diesel engine.

Front-wheel drive is left to a 200kW 3.5-litre MPi petrol engine.

Both are mated with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Three spec levels are available – Staria, Elite and Highlander – starting at $48,500, plus on road costs, for Staria 3.5 petrol (automatic) FWD, rising to $66,500 for the Highlander 2.2 diesel AWD.

On test was the Staria Highlander 3.5-litre petrol auto front-wheel drive, at $63,500.

All models come with a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty, complimentary roadside assist for 12 months, 1500km complimentary first service, a dedicated customer care centre and an exclusive owner website.

Owners servicing with Hyundai also receive a 10-year satellite navigation update plan, plus roadside support for up to 10 years or more.

Looking to the future, Hyundai says, the front of the Staria focuses on a wide body-coloured radiator grille flanked by low-set LED headlights, with a horizontal LED strip above comprising a centre light and daytime running lights.

Panoramic side windows and 18-inch alloy wheels in steel grey extend to a large rear area of glass with integrated Staria logo.

Vertical LED combination lights on either side are topped off by a spoiler with a built in high-mounted stop light and wiper.

A 10.25-inch colour LCD instrument cluster includes a digital speedo, trip information and visual warnings and system status updates from Hyundai SmartSense and other safety systems.

A 10.25-inch touchscreen sat nav multimedia unit is integrated into the top of the dash provides a clear view of navigation, audio and other info, including Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connectivity.

In addition to seven airbags – front, front-side, front-centre plus curtain bags on the A- and B-pillars – standard active safety across the range features include autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian/cyclist detection and junction assist, blind-spot assist, lane-keep assist and lane following assist.

There’s also multi-collision braking, driver inattention monitor, safe exit warning, rear cross-traffic assist and surround view monitor.

The Elite adds safe exit assist and 3-D view surround-view camera.

The range-topping Highlander incorporates a blind spot view monitor, which projects a live feed of what’s in the blind spot to the instrument cluster.

There are IsoFix child seat anchors on the outboard second-row seats, plus top-tether anchors.

There are no anchors in the third row.

2021 Hyundai Staria Highlander 6

What’s it go like?

Staria is offered with a choice of petrol and turbo-diesel engines, mated with an eight-speed automatic transmission, and front or all-wheel drive.

The 3.5-litre V6 produces 200kW and 331Nm and drives the front wheels, while the 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel dishes up 130kW and 430Nm through an all-wheel drive system.

With such a difference in load characteristics over eight seats, fuel consumption could be expected to have ranged wildly around the maker’s claim of 10.5L/100km on the combined urban/highway cycle.

Our test vehicle used 12.0L/100km in the city and 5.4L/100km on the motorway.

With all seats occupied, there is 831 litres of cargo space in the rear, while this can be expanded to a massive 1303 litres with the second and third row folded.

Access is via power side sliding doors or ‘smart’ power tailgate, the latter that closes automatically when the smart key is no longer detected.

A selection of drive modes – Normal, Eco, Sport and Smart – offers a range of powertrain responses to suit driving conditions.

Eco and Sport are at either end of the performance spectrum, with Normal the balance between the two.

Smart mode works with a driver profile system to tailor Staria’s performance to their preferences. That’s clever.

The pandemic put paid to the usual input into the development of the Staria suspension, as is the case with most new Hyundai vehicles.

Something must have rubbed off on Korean counterparts for the Staria ride and handling are up to class-leading standards.

Lowered belt-lines and panoramic side windows improve all-round visibility and create a feeling of openness in the large cabin.

The Highlander lets in even more light via a front and rear sunroof.

On the other hand, second and third row sunshades are on hand to block out unwanted glare and heat of the sun.

Sliding second-row seats have long runners for easy access and a step and ‘walk-in’ device sliding function for the second row creates extra foot
clearance for easy third row access.

Two USB-A charging ports for each rear row, along with 10 cup/bottle holders and second-row seatback storage pockets make for happy families on the road.

2021 Hyundai Staria Highlander 4

What we like?

  • Feeling of openness in the large cabin
  • Smart mode works with a driver profile system
  • Ride and handling are up to class-leading standards
  • Massive 1303 litres of load space with second and third row folded

2021 Hyundai Staria Highlander 2

What we don’t like?

  • No child seat anchors in the third row
  • That’s it

2021 Hyundai Staria Highlander 3

The bottom line?

The planets were aligned for the Staria to carry off the good design award, but will the revolutionary vehicle shine bright enough to show the way for people movers of the future?

Only time will tell.

2021 Hyundai Staria Highlander 5

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Hyundai Staria Highlander 3.5, priced from $63,500
  • Looks - 9/10
  • Performance - 7/10
  • Safety - 8/10
  • Thirst - 5/10
  • Practicality - 8/10
  • Comfort - 7/10
  • Tech - 9/10
  • Value - 6/10

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