The best family transports for the summer and beyondBy Jason K. Ang
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The summer season has arrived, despite what the raindrops on your windshield might be telling you. It’s time to take the family on a road trip, and if you’re transporting more than five, there’s no better way to do with more space for people and luggage than these diesel vans. Diesel power provides more torque for climbing your way to Baguio or Tagaytay, while still proving more frugal at the pump. These vans, all with sliding doors for easier ingress and egress, will provide compelling year-round transport even when summer is over.
The granddaddy of the commuter van segment, the Hiace made its modern appearance in 2005 as a replacement of sorts for the ten-seater capacity of the Tamaraw FX and Revo. Although the Hiace did not become popular for public transport, it has proven the workhorse of many a family for shuttling people to school and work. One of the strengths of the Hiace is the multiple (ie, four) variants, from the basic commuter to the more luxury-oriented Grandia. The Grandia offers roomier seating and headroom, albeit with a bigger footprint, and is available with more features such as automatic transmission, DVD player, and leather seating. From the 4695 mm length and 1695 width of the Commuter, the Grandia looms to 4840 mm and 1880 mm. More of concern is the 2105-mm height of the Grandia. Owners have voiced concerns that the height makes it impossible to fit in most parking garages, especially those in condominiums and even in malls. This makes it imperative for owners to hire a chauffeur.
Engine: 2.5-liter 16-valve dohc common-rail turbodiesel. 101 hp and 260 Nm
Seating capacity: 15 for the Commuter, 11 for the Grandia
Price: P1.245 million to P1.935 million
Nissan Urvan / Urvan Estate
Nissan has positioned the Urvan as a commercial vehicle in the true sense of word: as a vehicle that can be used for business, via its Ur Van, Ur Business program. It has thus more configurations available, from a 21-seater passenger van (in side-facing format) to a closed cargo van. The Urvan measures 4790 mm long, 1690 mm wide, and 1990 mm tall. The Urvan Estate is the counterpart of the Hiace Grandia, a more luxurious version within a bigger body, stretching to 4990 mm x 1690 mm x 1990 mm. The increased length gives a small hood in front of the van, theoretically making the van safer for the driver via the presence of a crush space.
Engine: 2.7-liter overhead valve diesel. 84 hp and 178 Nm
Urvan Estate: 3.0-liter dohc diesel. 105 hp and 209 Nm.
Seating capacity: 21, 18, or 15 for the Urvan; 12 for the Urvan Estate
Price: P1. 044 million (cargo van); 1.108 million for front-facing 18 seater up to P1.425 million for the Urvan Estate
As an alternative to the traditional refrigerator van, the Starex has carved out a solid niche. It has a real hood in front of the car, and thus a more passenger-car like driving position. The chauffeur, in this case, is optional. The Starex is nevertheless big, at 5125 mm length, 1920 mm width, and 1925 mm height. A specially kitted-out version called the Limousine is more like a mobile home, with a taller ceiling equipped with a flat-screen TV. What makes the Hyundai compelling is the common-rail diesel engine, which delivers 392 Nm of torque. That’s enough acceleration to keep up with all but the most powerful SUVs.
Engine: 2.5 liter sohc 8-valve diesel. 100 hp and 225 Nm
2.5-liter dohc 16-valve common rail turbodiesel. 170 hp and 392 Nm
Seating capacity: 10 or 12-seater
Price: P1.323 million to P2.728 million (Limousine AT)
The other big Korean brand, Kia has something different from the Starex: the Carnival, Kia’s version of the archetypal American minivan. The Carnival features a low floor and large sliding doors for easier ingress and egress, a carlike driving position, and sufficient space for some luggage behind the third row. All-independent suspension, four-wheel disc brakes with standard ABS and EBD, and front-wheel drive give it one of the safer and more driver-friendly configurations in this market. Available equipment include tri-zone air-conditioning and power-assisted doors. There’s also a long-wheelbase version that offers more passenger space-we actually recommend this version.
Engine: 2.9-liter common-rail turbodiesel, 158 hp and 343 Nm
Seating capacity: 8
Price: P1.150 million to P1.550 million
As might be expected, China is set to enter the commercial vehicle market in a big way, and the Foton MPX is at the forefront. The MPX recently won the Victoria Court Most Spacious Award at the 2011-2012 Car of the Year-Philippines Awards. A decently-equipped van that starts at just a tick under P1 million. The engine is a common-rail turbodiesel, coupled with a five-speed manual. For those who need to haul the family on a budget, this may be a suitable choice. Foton is also offering the View Van, a 15-seater refrigerator-type van.
Engine: 2.8-liter common-rail turbodiesel. 200 Nm.
Seating capacity: 10 or 12
Price: P1.120 million to P1.160 million
King Long Univan
Another entry from China, you may know King Long as the name that slots in front of you from a large bus. King Long also makes light passenger vans with a bubbletop roof and a CRDi engine. It carries the brand name Univan.
Engine: 2.7-liter turbodiesel, 76 hp; 2.7-liter common-rail turbodiesel, 90 hp
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