Despite being a popular manufacturer in the country for many years now, the Hyundai brand is having its second coming in the Philippine market. Now that Hyundai Motor Philippines, Inc. (HMPH) has taken over operations in the country, the brand is going in a new direction.

Their initial lineup consists of the Creta, Tucson, Santa Fe, and Staria. But now their fifth model is here – the 2023 Hyundai Stargazer. Set to take on the likes of the Xpander, Avanza, Ertiga, and Livina, the Stargazer is Hyundai's small 7-seat MPV contender.

HMPH gave us the opportunity to try out the 2023 Stargazer ahead of its official launch. And while we were only allowed to drive it around a private village, we were able to familiarize ourselves with the Korean MPV.

First Impressions: 2023 Hyundai Stargazer image

Let's begin with the Stargazer's most striking feature – its futuristic exterior design. LED daytime running lamps cover the entire width of the MPV in front, while below it is the boomerang-shaped headlights that also house the foglamps. Putting it side by side against its bigger sibling, the Stargazer looks like a Staria that was blasted with a shrink ray.

But that's where all the similarities end. At the side, the Stargazer's styling is defined by sharp character lines and creases on the rectangular wheel arches. If you take a good look at it, the MPV looks more like a stretched compact hatchback with those steeply-raked A-pillars and short overhangs that house the two-tone 16-inch wheels.

First Impressions: 2023 Hyundai Stargazer image

Meanwhile, the rear of the Stargazer continues its futuristic vibe. It has unique taillights with an LED light strip that forms an H shape with the horizontal section running through the tailgate. Because of its distinctive exterior styling, I believe the Stargazer will easily be recognized on the road over other MPVs once it's out.

First Impressions: 2023 Hyundai Stargazer image

Once you step inside the Stargazer, you'll find that there are a lot of places in the cabin to place your stuff. I'm starting to think Hyundai only replied “Yes” when asked by designers how many storage spaces would they want. But seriously, the Stargazer's cabin is geared towards maximizing space and incorporates a black, gray, and silver motif. The cab-forward design has its pros and cons, but more on that later.

First Impressions: 2023 Hyundai Stargazer image

The flat dashboard houses a 4.2-inch TFT instrument panel and an 8-inch touchscreen media display with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity. If I'm not mistaken, it's the first local MPV contender to utilize a fully-digital instrument cluster, so that's plus points for Hyundai going forward. In addition, there's wireless charging and 12V power sockets placed just below the controls for the manual air conditioning. 

First Impressions: 2023 Hyundai Stargazer image

Hyundai previewed the GLS Premium, which will serve as the Stargazer's top-spec variant. However, the PH-spec GLS Premium does not have captain seats on the second row. This means the Stargazer has 7 seats across its variant range.

First Impressions: 2023 Hyundai Stargazer image

Second-row amenities include center armrests, side pockets, cupholders, an overhead A/C blower, two USB charging ports in the middle, and a small folding tray table just behind the front passenger seat. The second-row seats have a 60:40 split which can also slide forward or backward to adjust legroom. Meanwhile, the third-row seats can be reclined and folded flat to maximize cargo space.

First Impressions: 2023 Hyundai Stargazer image

Underneath the hood lies a naturally-aspirated 1.5-liter, four-cylinder that Hyundai calls the Smartstream G engine. It has double overhead camshafts (DOHC) and continuously variable valve timing (D-CVVT), producing 115 PS at 6,300 rpm and 144 Nm of torque at 4500 rpm. The engine is paired with an Intelligent Variable Transmission or IVT that drives the front wheels. Unlike traditional CVTs, the IVT uses a chain-driven system to eliminate slippage and improve fuel economy.

First Impressions: 2023 Hyundai Stargazer image

On our very brief time with the Stargazer, the MPV made quite a positive first impression on me, and it's because of how roomy it is inside. Ergonomics-wise, my 5'9” frame was able to sit comfortably in all three rows of the vehicle. There's good visibility at the driver's seat thanks to the A-pillar windows that minimize blind spots. However, headroom in front may be a bit of an issue for taller drivers as it is compromised due to the steep rake. But other than that, I don't see any other issues as of now.

I wish I could share more about the MPV's behavior when it's being driven, but we were confined to the conditions of driving in a private village. So all I can say for now is that both the brake and accelerator pedal gives a positive feel, while the electric power steering makes the MPV effortless to maneuver around. The ride is somewhat firm with just me inside the Stargazer, but not to the point where it's jarring and uncomfortable. Perhaps the ride is optimized for more passengers onboard. As for its engine, it pulls well on low RPMs and the MPV feels light on its feet, but then again I was driving it alone.

First Impressions: 2023 Hyundai Stargazer image

Expect more feedback regarding the engine performance, fuel economy, driver assist systems, and many more once we can do a more comprehensive review of the Stargazer.

By now, it's clear to see that to become a major player in the Philippine market, you better have a 7-seater MPV on your lineup. And with the all-new Stargazer starting at PHP 998,000, Hyundai has a product that has the potential to propel them back to being one of the top brands in the country.

For those interested in the all-new Stargazer, Hyundai is now pre-selling the MPV at their nationwide dealerships. Expect deliveries and official sales to begin later this year.