Filipinos are known to be closely tied to their families. The family road trip is practically a childhood staple and rite of passage. And I imagine, for very large families planning to go on a roadtrip, the logistics may be somewhat challenging. Thus, for that incredibly specific niche, Hyundai has a very elegant solution, the H350.
The H350 is one of the contenders in a relatively new segment in the country: the full-sized van or European van segment, although our tollways would prefer to classify it as a bus or, more precisely, Class 2. Unlike the vans we have grown accustomed to, the H350 is longer, wider, and taller by a very large margin. The already massive Hiace LXV and Urvan Premium are easily dwarfed. And so far, the H350’s only competitors are the Volkswagen Crafter and Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. And because we are gluttons for punishment, we have taken the Herculean task of test driving it.
The H350 measures in at a staggering 6.2 meters long. It will put any ‘LWB’ luxury car to shame with a wheelbase of 3.6 meters. It’s a hair over 2 meters wide. And finally, multi-level mall parking is definitely out of the question with a total height of 2.8 meters. Thankfully, its gross vehicle weight is just 4,100 kg, putting it well within the confines of a non-professional driver’s license.
Hauling this all along is a surprisingly small 2.5-liter direct injection common rail turbo diesel engine. It makes just 170-PS, but a whopping 422-Nm of torque. This runs through a 6-speed manual that drives the rear wheels.
In spite of its obvious commercial applications, the H350 is surprisingly civil and well appointed. Inside, the cabin positively cavernous. The broad dashboard has more surfaces, storage spaces, and hidden cubby holes than an Ikea kitchen.
The H350 will be comfortable for any driver. It unlocks with switchblade key fob. The driver’s seat adjusts for forward and back as well as height and recline. The steering wheel is also tilt and telescopic adjustable. Before him lies an instrument cluster with a speedo and tachometer with a multi-info display in the center. That display can be configured to display a variety of views from fuel range to current and average consumption, as well as many more complicated readouts such as total engine running time.
It’s a manual but there’s still a gear indicator, as well as an upshift guide to drive more economically. Finally, there’s also a disc pad wear indicator to advise fleet managers (the more likely target market) of the need to replace them. Towards the side is single din stereo with USB connectivity. There are also two 12V outlets to charge gadgets. In spite of the size, the visibility is excellent, with its broad and tall windshield, as well as compound side mirrors with heating.
Behind the driver are the 12 passenger seats laid out in a 2+1 arrangement. There are no jump seats, and the rails on the floor make it possible to rearrange the rows or squeeze in another one if desired. As it is, the seating arrangement is quite spacious, providing business class legroom for all passengers. Entering or alighting from the bus is quite easy as an automatic step board can be activated at the door. It takes some muscle to close it properly, though. At the back, the massive cargo doors grant access to the rear, which still leave room for quite a lot of large bags behind the seats.
Getting rolling is also an effortless affair. The engine provides more than enough torque to pull away from a full stop. The gears are short, allowing it to crawl along in heavy traffic or cruise at low revs on the highway. On paper the engine looks inadequate but in the drive, it proves to be quite potent. The H350 can accelerate from 0-100km/h in just 12 seconds when unladen. It can then go on to a top speed of 156 km/h. Bringing it to a stop is a set of disc brakes on all wheels, governed by ABS, with vehicles dynamics control, traction control and a roll over mitigation system. It’s also equipped with emergency stop signals. Over a mixed cycle of city and highway driving, we achieved fuel consumption of 8.3 km/L.
Another surprising aspect is the H350’s maneuverability. Granted, it’s a long vehicle, but it can still manage most of Metro Manila’s U-turn slots without having to take up an extra lane. On the highway, its stability is a boon. The vehicle simply feels like an SUV instead of full-sized van, easily taking on off ramps at the same speed as most passenger cars. One would think that its greatest weakness would be crosswinds, yet it remains fairly stable on highways, drifting only a little bit when passing other trucks and buses.
For passengers behind, the ride is quite comfortable. The cabin is tall enough to stand in. Shelves above the seats have more than enough room to store large bags in. The seats are very well padded, and provided a considerate driver, it will be easy to fall asleep in the vehicle with its very cold air conditioning.
The Hyundai H350 is certainly not for all large families, but for those that don’t mind its size or higher toll fee, provides far more space and comfortable seating than many of the large vans in the market. It’s surprisingly easy to drive, and has even more potential for those thinking of customizing the interior. A few celebrities have already snapped up some units and have had them converted into mobile homes. Priced at PhP2,728,000, it’s just a tad more than the Hiace LXV and Urvan Premium but offers practically double the space.