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Hyundai iMax 2017 review

The Series II upgrade features minor styling tweaks and new equipment. (Image credit: Mark Oastler)

Daily driver score

4/5

Tradies score

4/5

Hyundai’s contender in the under-$60,000 people mover segment boasts a heritage spanning a full decade. During that time it has built a loyal customer base that appreciates its spacious and airy eight-seater cabin, ease of driving, proven durability and five-year warranty.

Even so, the iMax and other well-established people movers are getting clobbered by Hyundai’s sister company Kia and its widely acclaimed Carnival, which with four model grades across a broad pricing spectrum currently boasts a dominant market share of more than 50 per cent.

There are numerous reasons for the Carnival’s popularity but that should not stop a potential buyer from also giving the iMax serious consideration. Its most recent upgrade to Series II specification in 2016 brought styling revisions and new features which made a good people mover even better.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

Compared to the Kia Carnival, which looks like tomorrow’s people mover today, the iMax is looking more like yesterday’s as its tall and minibus-like dimensions are immovably defined by its iLoad commercial van birth twin. Even so, there is still plenty of practicality and ease-of-use inherent in this traditional design, including a bright and airy cabin with generous headroom for all.

The iMax rides on the same 3200mm wheelbase as the iLoad and shares many of its key dimensions (Image credit: Mark Oastler) The iMax rides on the same 3200mm wheelbase as the iLoad and shares many of its key dimensions (Image credit: Mark Oastler)

The iMax rides on the same 3200mm wheelbase as the iLoad and shares many of its key dimensions along with power-assisted rack and pinion steering and four-wheel disc brakes. However, to provide better ride quality than the van’s leaf springs, for human cargo the iMax’s multi-link live rear axle rides on plusher coil springs. The Series II upgrade also includes restyled 16 x 6.5-inch alloy wheels shod with 215/70 R16C tyres and a full-size steel rim spare.

The large front doors open wide for easy entry and exit and with no console between the front seats the driver and front passenger can literally walk through to the passenger area. Sliding doors on each side, with large windows that can be propped open for extra ventilation, allow generous access to the second and third row seating. These bench seats provide ample head room and adequate shoulder and legroom for medium-sized adults, even with three across the back row, which is a refreshing change from many SUVs that treat third-row adults as extra baggage.

The iMax allows for up to 125kg to be carried on the roof with a three-rack system. (Image credit: Mark Oastler) The iMax allows for up to 125kg to be carried on the roof with a three-rack system. (Image credit: Mark Oastler)

There’s also ample ventilation, with roof and floor-mounted air vents for the second and third rows linked to a separate control panel which allows passengers to adjust the fan speed and air-con temperature independent of the driver. Combined with generous headroom and large rear passenger side windows which can also be propped open, the iMax succeeds in minimising claustrophobic feelings particularly for those in the back row.

How practical is the space inside?

The iMax’s hefty kerb weight of 2230kg and GVM (gross vehicle mass) of 3030kg allows for a payload of 800kg and up to 125kg of that can be carried on the roof with a three-rack system. Eight average-sized adults on board would use up most of this payload capacity, so if they need to bring luggage it could easily surpass the payload limit. 

Sliding doors on each side allow generous access to the second and third row seating. (Image credit: Mark Oastler) Sliding doors on each side allow generous access to the second and third row seating. (Image credit: Mark Oastler)

It’s also rated to tow up to 1500kg of braked trailer and with a GCM (gross combined mass) of 4530kg it can carry its maximum payload while doing it. However, you also need to keep in mind that the 150kg tow-ball download limit is included in the total payload, leaving 650kg rather than 800kg to play with. Even so, any vehicle that can tow its maximum trailer weight with a full payload gets a big tick from us, particularly one with a cavernous (VDA) 842 litres of cargo volume available behind the third row of seats.

An impressive array of storage solutions includes dual map pockets and a single bottle holder in each front door, a dash top storage compartment, dual glove box compartments, central dash dual retractable cup holders and an overhead felt-lined sunglass holder. Those seated in the second row get dual map pockets and single bottle holders in each sliding door plus mesh-type storage pockets on the rear of each front seat, while third row outer passengers get storage recesses and cup holders.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

Our test vehicle was the premium grade with 2.5 CRDi turbo-diesel four cylinder engine and five-speed automatic transmission at $47,290 plus on-roads, with metallic paint an extra $695.

The Series II upgrade features minor styling tweaks and new equipment including driver and front passenger side (thorax) airbags, driver-front passenger climate control, an upgraded 7.0-inch touchscreen multimedia interface with connectivity including Bluetooth, 'Siri Eyes Free' (iOS) and 'Google New' (Android) but no Apple CarPlay, electric folding door mirrors, premium steering wheel and gear-knob, rear view camera and cruise control (on diesel auto only).

These upgrades boost what was already a well-appointed package including numerous passive and active safety features, tilt-adjustable steering wheel with audio controls, one-touch power front windows and a 12 volt dashboard power outlet to name a few.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

The iMax shares the same 2.5 litre common rail four cylinder turbo-diesel found in the iLoad and it’s just as well suited to moving people as it is to shipping heavy cargo. With 125kW at 3600rpm and a bountiful 441Nm of torque peaking at 2000-2250rpm, this refined and torquey engine uses its variable vane turbocharger (VGT) to good effect with great flexibility through the rev range.

The five-speed automatic with sequential manual shift option is the only transmission available with this engine and they are well matched. The torque converter’s stall speed and low 3.730 first gear combine with the 2.929:1 diff ratio to provide lively response from standing starts, making it well suited to stop-start city and suburban duties. The overdriven fifth gear allows economical cruising at highway speeds.

How much fuel does it consume?

Hyundai claims a combined figure of 9.0 litres/100km but our numbers based on trip meter and fuel bowser readings came in at 11.8L/100km. Based on these ‘real world’ figures expect a fuel range of around 640km from its 75-litre tank.

What's it like to drive?

Impressive comfort, refinement and low NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) levels ensure the task of moving people is not a chore. The iMax is well designed for its specific role in life and gets the job done with a minimum of fuss. Loads varied from driver only up to six adult passengers during our test.

Although fitted with rear coil springs the tail stills feel a bit jittery over smaller bumps.

In city and suburban traffic it’s a surprisingly agile and energetic performer that belies its 2.2 tonne-plus kerb weight, with nicely-weighted steering, responsive braking and a sharp 11.22 metre turning circle.

Although fitted with rear coil springs the tail stills feel a bit jittery over smaller bumps and road irregularities when empty or lightly loaded, as those thick coils are designed to cope with a GCM of more than 4.5 tonnes. In other words, ride quality is at its best with a decent load on board.

Wind, tyre and engine noise are well suppressed. The resulting low cabin noise is a big bonus, particularly at highway speeds where conversations between front seat passengers and those in the third row can be conducted at normal voice levels. Along with its comfortable bench seating, this quietness makes longer journeys less tiring and more engaging for all passengers no matter where they’re seated.

Driver and front passenger comfort is excellent with all controls and dash contours thoughtfully placed.

The iMax’s tall highway gearing results in only 1800rpm at 100km/h and 2000rpm at 110km/h where maximum torque also resides. Driver and front passenger comfort is excellent with all controls and dash contours thoughtfully placed, plus supportive seating with inboard fold-down armrests. Those front seats provide a commanding view of the road and all external angles thanks to large door mirrors and a rear view camera.

Our only major gripes are that in wet weather the swept area of the left-hand wiper leaves the front passenger with more than half of their forward view obscured by unswept glass. It also shares the iLoad’s terrible static interference on AM band radio at times. And one iLoad feature we would like to see shared with the iMax is its automatic central-locking mechanism which locks all doors when vehicle speed exceeds about 5 km/h

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

The iMax falls one star short of the maximum five-star ANCAP crash safety rating. Even so it’s equipped with numerous passive safety features including front (and now) side airbags for driver and front passenger, full lap-sash seatbelts and head restraints for all passengers, ISOFIX child restraint anchorage points for the two outer seats on the second row and three top-tether child restraint anchorage points.

There’s also the usual electronic active safety features including brakeforce distribution (important for load luggers), rear parking assist and rear view camera with guidelines, but no auto emergency braking (AEB), blind spot detection or collision alert.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

Standard warranty is five-year/unlimited km, with scheduled service intervals of 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first.

A capped-price servicing scheme is in place, with $349 the standard rate ($499 for 60,000km service only).

Roadside Assist is complimentary for the first 12 months, plus there's an optional Roadside Support Plan for up to 10 years, 'Lifetime Service Plan' and 'Sat Nav Update Plan'.

You can also expect a dedicated Customer Care Centre and the ‘myHyundai’ exclusive owner website.

It looks a bit old-fashioned in a ‘Tarago’ sort of way and is starting to show its age with a five-speed transmission and in lacking some of the latest safety features. However, if you need to regularly transport up to eight people and expect good comfort, economy, performance, practicality, reliability and warranty as part of the deal, then the iMax still has more than enough going for it to justify top three positioning on any people mover shopping list.

Does Hyundai's iMax tick all your people mover boxes? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

$28,888 - $37,990

Based on 23 car listings in the last 6 months

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

4/5

Tradies score

4/5
Price Guide

$28,888 - $37,990

Based on 23 car listings in the last 6 months

Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.