It's funny how you only become aware of certain cars on the road once you drive one of them. I found this again the other day when I drove Hyundai's refreshed H1 Bus.
According to Hyundai, its H1 nine-seater bus has long been one of the most popular vehicles in its lineup, with applications as a family vehicle as well as commercial use for businesses that require a car for transporting a number of people in luxurious comfort and safety.
What's it like?
The market-leader nine-seater H1 Bus has undergone a bit of a make-over recently to further enhance its comfort, style, and reliability.
And boy, is it comfortable.
We did a day trip to Riebeek Kasteel and back to Cape Town on the media launch and had the chance to drive, but also be backseat drivers - in absolute style, I might add - which gave us a 360-degree experience.
One of the most noteworthy changes is the new nose of the vehicle as well as the new 17-inch alloy wheels on the 2.5 turbodiesel derivative.
There's also the addition of an infotainment centre with a large touch-screen and the steering wheel can now adjust for reach as well as height. I find this feature particularly appealing since I'm rather tall and often find myself feeling uncomfortable if I can't adjust a steering wheel to my liking.
For a first-time bus driver, it's comforting to know the handling characteristics of the H1 are car-like and its road-holding ability will give even lesser-experienced drivers confidence. Rack and pinion steering ensure crisp responses while hydraulic assistance reduces the effort required in tight situations.
How about engine and safety stuff?
The refreshed version is still available two engines: A 2 359 cc petrol engine, delivering its 126kW maximum power and 224Nm maximum torque through a five-speed manual gearbox to the rear wheels; and a 2 497 cc turbocharged diesel engine that delivers 125kW maximum power and 441Nm maximum torque.
The 2.5-litre turbodiesel uses a five-speed automatic gearbox and is also driven through the rear wheels.
The H1 Bus has driver and passenger airbags as well as side airbags and Hyundai explains that the dual seat belt pre-tensioners quickly and securely grip the driver and passenger in the pelvic area during a crash to minimize injury.
Projection-style headlights have been added, which not only illuminates the road ahead more effectively, but also adds to the good looks of the new front-end of the H1 Bus.
Some other features that make the 2.5 turbodiesel bus an ideal family or touring vehicle include Bluetooth connectivity for the infotainment's sound system with multifunction controls on the steering wheel; cruise control; a full automatic air conditioner with climate control (rear passengers can control their own air flow if needed); glove box cooling (very cool!); electric folding mirrors; and an electronic stability programme (ESP).
The vehicle is easy to park and, along with the generous glass area and substantial mirrors, there is the park-assist rear camera with display in the rear-view mirror which really gives even the worst driver no excuse to park like the Romans do.
The H1 series is equipped with McPherson type strut with gas shock absorbers for its front suspension, and for the H1 Bus a rigid axle five-link rear suspension with oil-filled shock absorbers ensures a comfortable ride so you hopefully won't need any barf bags if you decide to go on very bendy, bumpy drives.
Adding to its appeal in a working application is the 1,500kg towing capacity of the turbodiesel derivatives.
How many bucks?
- H1 2.4 Executive Bus (petrol, manual transmission): R499,900
- H1 2.5 Elite Bus (turbodiesel, automatic transmission): R629,900
- H1 2.5 Panel Van (turbodiesel, automatic transmission): R459,900
Pricing includes Hyundai's five-year/150,000km warranty, with an additional to years/50,000km manufacturer's powertrain warranty, as well as a five-year/150,000km roadside assistance plan and five-year/90,000km service plan.
I was surprised to learn that 14,424 H1s have been sold since launch in 2009, which just once again shows the popularity of the vehicle.
Space and comfort abound in this vehicle and, as the manufacturer states, "a genuine ability to carry eight people and their luggage over long distances (or nine if the seat between the driver and front passenger is deployed) is the H1 Bus' key strength".
Also, looking at its biggest competitors in the market, it definitely delivers exceptional value for money and some convenient extras are thrown in as standard.
I'd say Hyundai's new H1 Bus would be a great choice for a big family or a tour company needing a reliable, neat vehicle (with a touch of luxury) to transport people in utmost comfort.