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Review: 2019 Hyundai Grand Starex GLS

Review: 2019 Hyundai Grand Starex GLS

If there is one model that helped Hyundai in the Philippines, you have to look at the Starex. It's not the most exciting kind of vehicle out there, but the Filipino mentality of bringing the extended family to a road trip might have helped sales. Without the Starex, Hyundai might not be as popular as they are today.

The Starex arrived here in the late '90s, while the second-generation was launched around 2007. While its proper name is Grand Starex, most people simply called it by its original tag, Starex. There hasn't been an all-new Grand Starex for over a decade. In fact, the current-generation of the popular van is turning 15 years old. However, it will soon be replaced by the Staria, its high-tech-looking successor.

Given its age, it's easy to expect it to be not as good as its competitors. However, you might be surprised if you take it out for a test drive. We recently reviewed it, and here's why it's still a van worth considering. It might even be one of the best used van purchases out there.

When it comes to design, the 2018 facelift did a huge favor for the van. That's mainly because it looked the same for almost a decade prior to the new nose. From the front at least, it almost makes the Grand Starex look like an all-new van. The hood, fenders, bumper, and lights were all changed in 2018, taking a lot of years off the admittedly aging design. As far as vans go, it looks good, especially in black. That's also despite the fact that this is the mid-level GLS variant. The more expensive Gold, Platinum, and Urban editions benefit from different wheels, a little bit more chrome, and more powerful headlights.

As for the rest of the body, it's the same from the 2007 model. That's not a bad thing, though, since you still got a lot of space inside. Speaking of the inside, the design of the front section still looks relatively fresh. The tan color also makes the cabin look and feel even more spacious. However, you'll need to look out for dirt because of the light color. This being the GLS model, there is no touchscreen or audio controls on the steering wheel. The entertainment system is a 1-DIN radio with auxiliary and Bluetooth.

The lack of a touchscreen is a bit of a question mark. In this day and age, some of the most basic cars have those fitted standard. Granted, it's a van, but all of its competitors have a screen at the front in their mid-spec models. If you want more entertainment options in a Grand Grand Starex, you will have to look for the Platinum or Urban models, and those are more expensive even in the used car market.

When it comes to space, there no complaints about the Grand Grand Starex. This is a van we are talking about, after all. What we have here is the three-row, nine-seater configuration, and we reckon it's the one to get. It's the best balance between space for people and cargo at the same time. There are four-row versions out there, but legroom is compromised in all areas. All three rows can be moved forward or back, and the rearmost seats are are easy to move around even from the tailgate area. Not only that, there is still more than enough room for passengers even if you move the seats forward. The only thing missing is underseat storage, but that's okay since it will lose the slide function if it had it.

The Grand Starex has always been one of the most powerful vans in its class. This particular variant uses a 2.5-liter CRDi turbodiesel, and it packs 170 PS and 441 Nm of torque. It's just a little bit behind the all-new Hiace but far ahead of the Nissan NV350. In this unit, that engine is paired to a five-speed automatic transmission. A six-speed manual is also available. If you want a little more power, you need to get the higher-spec models. Those make 175 PS and 450 Nm of torque.

Out on the road, the Grand Starex still feels modern even though it's now about 15 years old. From the driver's seat, the seating position is almost car-like, and that means it will be comfortable on a long road trip. The seats are soft, too, and the view out the front is good. Because of the high mount of the seats, it doesn't feel too wide behind the wheel. However, you have to be aware of its width and van reminds you of that when traffic gets very tight. Thankfully, the side mirrors are wide and show a good view to prevent little accidents. However, the length of the van means we recommend getting a wide-view rear-view mirror.

But this is a van we're talking about. How does it feel like being a passenger in this van? In one word, comfortable. The combination of soft seats, legroom, and stretch-out space makes it a relaxing place to be. The ride is still one of the best in its class, something South Korean automakers seem to tune very well. Even the third-row is a pleasant place to sit because of the space and seating flexibility. Of course, handling isn't the best if you compare it to a car, but as far as vans go, it's decent. That said, the steering is a little bit on the heavy side. It's not tiring, but you feel the weight. Also, the brakes can do a little more boosting. Thankfully, there is stability control to keep things straight in emergency maneuvers or foul weather.

Another reason why the Grand Starex feels comfortable is because of the relatively quiet interior. From the front, you can hear a fair bit of the engine, but it doesn't sound harsh. Vibrations are not felt inside, whether from the steering wheel or the pedals. Again, the Grand Starex still defies its age. It's even quieter when you sit further away from the front. If it's comfort you demand from a van, you must consider the Starex.

So are there any cons to the Starex? To be honest, there are a few issues here and there, particularly with the early models. There have been reports of turbocharger failures in aged, high-mileage models, as well as hot-start problems. That said, the key to keeping the Grand Starex reliable is frequent servicing and quality fuels.

Our recommendation is to get any model made during late 2018 and beyond. That's because Hyundai had ironed out the initial issues the van might have had about 15 years ago. The GLS is best for those looking for a spacious and comfortable van for less than PHP 1.5 million in the second-hand market. At Automart.PH, these facelifted Grand Starex models pop up from time to time, so you shouldn't miss out when one comes along. Of course, you have to see it for yourself before you buy.

So is the Grand Starex worth recommending? That would be a yes, for as long as you get a very good example of it.