Check out our 20-image H1 Multicab gallery.
It sure looks like a people-mover but Korean automaker Hyundai has pulled a fast one on the auto market by creating a niche where nobody else seems to have seen one – a cross between a multi-seat minibus and a thoroughly workmanlike double-cab. That’s it in the picture above.
Doesn’t look like a disguised truck, does it?
It’s called the Hyundai H1 Multicab and it can carry more than a ton in a totally enclosed load box behind what the automaker claims is a six-seater cab and then use, depending on model, a 126kW/227Nm petrol engine or a 125kW/392Nm diesel to haul a caravan/trailer (1500kg braked, 750kg unbraked).
Or go shopping (a LOT of shopping, mom), bring home plants and sacks from the nursery, take your staff home, haul garden rubbish to the tip or deliver goods from your business. A sort of super-station wagon with a lot of muscle – except you don’t ever need to fold the rear seats for big loads.
Load volume over the roofed load floor is 2500 litres.
It’s the latest model from a company whose amazing growth over the past few years took sales beyond four million units in 2011.
Stanley Anderson, Hyundai SA’s plainly very happy marketing director, explained: “We could have called it a ‘crew cab’ but that doesn’t describe the H1 Multicab accurately – ‘multicab sounds better and accurate. The H1 is ‘multi-purpose’, not just ‘multi-people’.
“We also have a choice of petrol or diesel engine whereas our competition only offers diesel, which we hope will make the Multicab offering very aggressive in the market.
“High demand for Hyundai products has enabled us to focus on quality rather than quantity, to further entrench our new corporate identity, and we’ve made the H1 Multicab well, a double-cab with a canopy thrown in – except the doors are bigger than those of a double-cab to make access easier for rear passengers.
“And, yes, we’ll certainly take some of the double-cab market even though we don’t have cruise control – but it can be fitted as a R4500 after-market accessory.”
Anderson sees the Hyundai Multicab as an ideal vehicle for outdoors, lifestyle-orientated families, with potential buyers in the 40 to 45-year-old bracket with children though it’s not a 4x4. It could, he believes, se seen as a staff carrier with the benefit of rugged goods-carrying capability and plenty of towing power.
THE HYUNDAI H1 COMES IN SILVER OR WHITE: ...but it's perfectly happy playing with green and hauling flowers and shrubs home.
As a holiday camper, it’ll probably be ideal, with the security of its load box boosted by sturdy bars across the large glassed area superior to the usual glass-fibre canopy or plastic-and-canvas tonneau cover.
The rated load load-box capacity is also greater than that of a normal double-cab – 1100kg against the usual 850kg.
The Hyundai also scores with a five-year or 90 000 service plan – an option on the competition which could add R14 000 to on-the-road prices.
Worldwide demand, particularly in North America, for Hyundai products probably had a lot to do with the latest Hyundai Elantra winning the North American Car of the Year title – as the Hyundai Genesis sedan did at the Detroit auto show two years earlier.
But back to the passenger capacity – take a look at the images in the picture gallery and you’ll see that, strictly speaking, the “three-seat front bench” is really meant for two and, perhaps, a pre-teen youngster who would have to sit with legs folded to the left or a lower limb in each footwell, thanks to the projecting centre console and console-mounted gearshifter.
WATCH THOSE, ER, KNEES: Things could be a trifle uncomfortable for a middle front passenger during gearshifts so perhaps it's really a five-seater..
There could be some embarrassing moments for the driver with an adult seated closely alongside… but the centre front seatback can fold forwards and down to expose a documents/toasted sarmie shelf and double cupholder – useful on a long journey and even doubling as a tray for rear occupants.
The rear bench has way room for three adults, with vast legroom, and they’ll enter and exit through a huge sliding door on each side; front and back access includes a step.
Anderson sees the Multicab’s main competition coming from VW’s Transporter models – though the former scores highly on price (read value-for-money). Even more so against the upmarket Mercedes Vito crew bus. It also outranks double-cabs with its ability to take large items or, for instance, a huge amount of camping gear, without worrying about load height.
And the whole vehicle, load box included, is protected by four roll hoops built into the bodywork. Not, we hope, that you’ll ever find out…
The H1 Multicab does have a lineage: first there was the H1 Bus, Hyundai’s people-carrier that has, the automaker says, become a hit with families, tour operators and anyone needing to lift more than four people and their luggage.
GET A LOAD ON: The Multicab is good to carry more than a ton so don't be afraid to load up at the garden shop..
Then came the H1 panel van – “also a very popular vehicle in the Hyundai range”. Now there’s this oddity in the automotive galaxy; a very comfortable car with an enormous cargo bay separated by a steel bulkhead (with a barred window for rear vision, especially when parking) from the rough stuff in the extraordinary “boot”.
Maximum load length is 1585m and the load bay has a powerful light and six lashing points.
Now the H1 Multicab, available in two derivatives, has arrived with a blend of these great features and with a choice of a frugal petrol engine or a powerful turbodiesel that offers exceptional towing capacity.
Only the four-cylinder, 2.5-litre, quad-valve turbodiesel was available to test during the Cape Town launch this week. Drive (as with the 2.4-litre Theta petrol engine with its multi-point electronic fuel injection) goes to the rear wheels, I easily saw and unstressed 160km/h on the speedometer and the ride is smooth and very quiet. Both engines have already proven themselves in the earlier models. Both models have a top speed of 180km/h.
The petrol engine comes with a five-speed manual transmission, the diesel with a five-speed auto/manual sequential gearbox.
LEGROOM FOR TWO (AND A BIT): Three seat belts up front - but perhaps carry a pre-teen in the middle.
The petrol engine is rated for 10.2 litres/100km, the diesel 9.7 on a measured mixed cycle of city and open-road driving.
Fit and finish is better – much better – than you might expect in a vehicle such as this. It’s a good-loooking set of wheels, too (check the pix, you be the judge and tell us what you think in the Readers’ Comments section down below). The 16” alloy rims are standard (there’s a full-sized steel spare and the tool kit is behind a flap under the driver’s seat); the chromed grille is new and both models have a drag co-efficient of 0.34 – not bad for a big “bus”.
Turning circle is 11.2m and, Hyundai claims, front and rear track widths are the widest in its class.
Comfort on the move has been a priority in the Multicab, The steering wheel is height/reach adjustable, the driver’s seat reach, rake and height-adjustable and there’s a full range of “luxury” equipment: aircon, audio with MP3 player, USB and AUX input ports and iPod adaptability, trip data computer, remote-controlled central locking, auto-locking doors and a child lock on each rear door.
There are two front air bags and six seat belts (belt for front middle passenger) and the Multicab has received four out of five stars from the Australasian new car assessment programme.
H1 Multicab 2.4 petrol - R279 900
H1 2.5 turbodiesel – R339 900
…including a five-year or 150 000km warranty and roadside assistance plan and the five-year or 90 000km service plan. Service intervals are 15 000km for each derivative.