When Hyundai first revealed the Hyundai Staria via a Digital World Premiere back in April 2021, I was very much impressed with what I was looking at, as the MPV looked like it came straight out of the movie Blade Runner 2049.
At the same time, I couldn’t help it but assume that there is no way this thing is coming to Malaysia because cool and premium vehicles like this, with our wonderful tax structure, will be sold at a very high price, which is why a lot of cool vehicles don’t make it here because they just won’t sell well.
Much to my surprise, Hyundai decided to take the chances and launched the Staria Premium 7-seater MPV in Malaysia last week with a starting price of RM358,888.
Contrary to popular belief, the Hyundai Staria is not just a more luxurious version of the Grand Starex. In fact, the folks at Hyundai said that the Staria here does not share any component with the Starex.
Built on a completely new platform, the Hyundai Staria is a fresh new product that is available in 11-seater, 9-seater, as well as 7-seater configurations around the world. The one which we are getting here in Malaysia is the 7-seater version. No other version is available here for time being.
Powering the Staria is a tweaked version of the same 2.5-litre turbocharged diesel engine as the Hyundai Santa Fe, paired to an eight-speed automatic gearbox by ZF. A maximum output of 177 PS and 431 Nm of torque is sent to the front wheels.
The list of safety and driver assistance features is quite comprehensive, comprising Forward Collision-Avoidance Assistance (FCA), Lane Keep Assist (LKA), Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist (BCA), Lane Following Assist (LFA), Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist (RCCA), a Surround View Monitor, Smart Cruise Control, and High-Beam Assist (HBA), Safe Exit Assist, Driver Attention Warning, Rear Occupant Alert, and a Tire Pressure Monitoring System.
Convenience features on the other hand include Smart Power Sliding Doors, a Smart Power Tailgate, and buttons on the remote to open the sliding doors, the tailgate, and all of them at the same time.
The Hyundai Staria’s biggest strength is without a doubt, the exterior design. Looking like a spaceship, the colossal MPV is guaranteed to turn heads not only due to its sheer presence, and how cool it looks.
Up front, taking centre stage is the slim and long signature LED DRL that runs across the face of the Staria, complemented by a huge, funky grille below it which comes integrated with Matrix LED headlamps.
Unlike most vehicles where the DRLs are part of the headlight cluster, the designers at Hyundai did not only position them separately, but placed them at the most unconventional places.
The DRL is where headlight is usually is, and the headlamps are where the fog lamps are usually found. The fog lamps on the other hand are part of the headlamp cluster.
Regardless of the unorthodox positioning, all the lights look like they’re in place, they look cool, and most importantly, they are not confusing when you look at them.
Moving to the side, we have funky 18-inch wheels unlike any design you’ve seen before, and huge windows that provide the occupants with superb visibility.
At the rear, we have LED tail lights with a cool “pixel” design, as well as a rear spoiler. Last but not least, we have two panoramic roofs.
While the exterior looked like we are in the year 2049, the interior brought us back to the year 2019, which is not a bad thing. The cabin just doesn’t look as futuristic as the exterior.
The main highlight inside the Staria is the 2nd row Relaxation Comfort Seat which reclines into a full “Relaxation” mode at a touch of a button. Offering top-class level of comfort and support, the second row seats are where you want to be in the Hyundai Staria; not the front, or the third row.
But that doesn’t mean that the third row is bad because the seats are actually quite comfortable and spacious enough to accommodate two six-footers, or three regular-sized individuals without any issues.
Making life better for occupants at the rear are four roof air vents, curtains for all windows, USB charging ports for everyone, a Bose audio system, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, as well as wireless charging in front.
Experience as a passenger in the Hyundai Staria
As an occupant, life was fantastic in the Hyundai Staria. While the seats offered top-notch level of support and comfort, the build quality and noise insulation level were impressive as well.
However, for a vehicle that aims to take on the Toyota Alphard, the Hyundai Staria didn’t feel as luxurious as I expected it to be.
For example, the design of the rear air cond controls and the air vents on the roof made it feel like I was in a very comfortable window van rather than a full-blown luxury MPV.
And then we have the windows which reminded me of my Bas Sekolah back in the 1990s, which you have to manually slide to open and close in the second row, and unlatch to open in the third row.
As cool as they were, the way which I had to operate the windows took away the whole “premium” experience as an occupant, because I was expecting powered windows like what you find in an Alphard or a Honda Odyssey for that matter.
On the upside, features like the Suede upholstery in the cabin, the door handles, metal accelerator and brake pedals, 10-colour ambient lighting, the humungous centre-console, and the dual panoramic sunroof show that the folks at Hyundai have put in a lot of thought and effort into making the vehicle look and feel good for occupants.
Driving the Hyundai Staria
Despite its massive size, I could get used to the Staria and become one with it in no time as the visibility level was amazing and all the controls were where they were supposed to be.
Holding my big butt together was a 12-way adjustable powered leather seat with heating and ventilation, providing good support at all times.
With the driver assistance features doing their thing and beeping when they need to, things were kept under control at all times, instilling more confidence in me while driving.
The 10.25-inch LCD display was an absolute pleasure to look at, with four funky display styles for the various driving modes – Normal, Eco, Sport, and Smart.
My favourite feature was the Blind Spot Assist feature which uses the cameras situated under the side-mirror and displays what is in the blind spot on the LCD display mentioned above every time you turn the signal lights on.
For a vehicle this big, having a clear vision of the blind spot every time I changed lanes or direction was a certainly a blessing in disguise.
With 431 Nm of torque available on tap, the Staria showed no signs of struggling even when it was fully loaded with occupants. It was just a case of “ask and you shall receive”.
It was an enjoyable and comfortable vehicle to drive both on the highway and on city roads, and the body-roll was actually barely noticeable, thanks to the well-built chassis.
The only downside was that the infamous diesel engine note was audible at the driver’s seat when I accelerated. Fortunately, it couldn’t be heard in the second and third rows.
Overall, the Hyundai Staria Premium 7-seater MPV is a mighty impressive product. Not only is it arguably the funkiest people-mover in the market at the moment, but it is also very good at what it is supposed to do.
Thanks to the long list of safety and driving assistance features, the super-comfortable seats all around, the generous amount of space for occupants and luggage, the premium Bose audio, and a good build quality, it is a very enjoyable vehicle to drive and also to be in.
The only downside, to me at least, is its price tag of RM358,888. While its futuristic and funky exterior design somewhat justifies the hefty price, the interior does not.
Yes, it is much cheaper than the Toyota Alphard which asks for RM446,609, but the Staria is nowhere near the Alphard or even the Kia Grand Carnival in terms of the level of luxuriousness offered.
The Hyundai Staria here actually feels much more similar to the likes of the Weststar Maxus G10 (RM136k), and the Mercedes-Benz Vito Tourer (RM287k) – large MPVs that are ideal to be used for shuttle services more than family vehicles.