Sometimes, seven seats are just not enough.
Short of buying a minibus, a van is perhaps the most logical and practical way to shuttle people around town or in the province. Be it as a family hauler or a VIP mover, a van must be able to one thing well: carry people, and their luggage, in comfort.
In recent years, manufacturers have been making vans that have a bit more posh, adding more convenience features and more luxuries. If you want more of that upscale feel from your shuttle, there are four to choose from with one from China, one from Korea and two from Japan.
From China, there's the Foton View Traveller. It is the most affordable van of this spec and promises to deliver great value for money while carrying 14 passengers. The two vans representing Japan are established nameplates with the Toyota Hiace in Hiace Super Grandia form and the Nissan Urvan with the newly-launched Premium variant. Lastly, there's the Hyundai Starex GLS GLS and, like the Hiace Super Grandia, it is a well regarded name in its segment.
At 5,380 mm long, the Foton is the longest van here, followed by the Nissan Urvan Premium at 5,230 mm. The Starex GLS is the third longest at 5,150 mm while the Hiace Super Grandia is the only van below five meters at 4,840 mm. When it comes to width, it's the Starex GLS and the View Traveller that take the top spot with both at 1,920 mm. Coincidentally, the Hiace Super Grandia and Urvan Premium share the same width at 1,880 mm.
As for height, that tallest vans in this group are the Urvan Premium and the View Traveller, standing at 2,285 mm tall. As for the Starex GLS and Hiace Super Grandia, these vans measure in at 1,985 mm and 2,105 mm tall, respectively. With these figures, the Foton View Traveller is the biggest van in this spec check.
There is a common theme when it comes to the engines in each van. All are equipped with common-rail direct injection turbodiesels. However, the View Traveller is not equipped with a variable geometry turbo whereas the rest have it. As a result, the View Traveller brings up the rear with an output of 130 PS and 280 Nm of torque from its 2.8-liter Cummins engine.
Even though the Nissan Urvan has one less horsepower (129 PS) than the View Traveller, the 2.5-liter DDTi diesel puts out more torque at 356 Nm. While the Hiace Super Grandia has the biggest engine in the group with its 3.0-liter D4-D, it is only second in horsepower and third in torque with figures rated at 136 PS and 300 Nm. While it is tied with the Urvan Premium for the smallest displacement, the Starex GLS GLS is the most powerful van here as it produces 170 PS and 441 Nm of torque from its 2.5-liter turbodiesel.
As for their transmissions, the Urvan Premium and View Traveller come with a five-speed manual, the Hiace Super Grandia has a four-speed automatic while the Starex GLS GLS packs a five-speed automatic.
More recently, Nissan has decided to add an automatic transmission version for the Urvan Premium along with a styling update.
All these vans seat at least ten passengers with the Starex GLS offering exactly that. The Hiace Super Grandia has a one seat advantage over the Starex GLS with space for eleven. Meanwhile the Foton offers accommodations for fourteen passengers but the van that can carry the most people is the Urvan Premium with fifteen seats.
However, that is not the end of that as each of these vans have different seating layouts. To fit fifteen on board, the Urvan Premium has five rows of seats with space for three at the front, two on the second row, three on the third and fourth row and four on the fifth row. The rear seats are arranged in a way that there is a center aisle to walk through for easier passenger ingress and eggress. The View Traveller also five rows of seats with room for three from the second row and back. It loses a middle front seat but in its place is a center console bin. Like the Urvan Premium, the View Traveller has a pass-through center aisle.
Even though it seats less than the Urvan Premium and View Traveller, the Hiace Super Grandia holds the distinction of having a pair of captain seats for the second row. There is a pass-through aisle albeit shorter than those in its larger competitors. As for its seating arrangement, it seats two at the front, two on the second row because of the captain chairs, three on the third row and four on the fourth row. As for the Starex GLS, one can seat three in front, three in the middle and four in the third row. Unlike the rest of the vans here, it does not have a center aisle but the seats can slide forward to gain access to the third row.
Just because these vans are primarily people haulers, it doesn't mean they are void of features that make each of these offerings unique. For starters, the Hiace Super Grandia is the only one in this group which offers a touchscreen audio system whereas the rest have to make do with a 2-DIN stereo or head to the dealer options to avail of a touchscreen.
The View Traveller meanwhile offers three-point seatbelts for all its 14 passengers. Both the Urvan Premium and the Hiace Super Grandia have soft-close sliding doors with the latter having them on both sides. The Starex GLS too has dual sliding doors and it also adds stability control and swivel seats. The Starex GLS also has the distinction of being the only van in this spec check to use coil springs at the back.
All the vans mentioned here come with dual airbags, reverse sensors and anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution.