The ultimate family van: Hiace, Starex or Carnival

By Botchi Santos

Hi, Botchi!

I love Top Gear Philippines so much! I visit your website everyday to read your articles and the latest news.

I am a dad and I am planning to buy a full-sized van for the family. I have a wife and three kids. But I can't decided which is better between the Hyundai Grand Starex VGT, HVX and the Toyota Super Grandia. I have tried searching a number of forums, including Top Gear's, and almost everyone said it's a very tough comparo.

I will appreciate your answer to my letter and I hope you can help.

More power to Top Gear!

Sincerely yours,

Anton Gutierrez

Hi, Anton!

Thanks for the kind words. I'm sure it's tough being a dad and putting aside your four-wheeled desires while opting for a more reasonable, family-oriented vehicle.

I told myself I'm not getting married and won't have kids until I get my own project car running perfectly with 500hp, plus two more sports cars making at least 500hp each as well! That’s going to be tough! Kidding aside, here's what I think about your options.

Toyota Hiace Super Grandia. This is a great and comfortable van. It's roomy inside and it's tough as nails. It's as solid as one can expect of any Toyota vehicle, with a seating capacity akin to that of a minibus. The ride is surprisingly sporty and firm for a van, with good body control and steering response. My only problem with it is that it is grossly underpowered. In other markets, you can get a Grandia with the 3.0-liter D4-D engine found in the Hilux pickup truck and the Fortuner sport-utility vehicle. It delivers 164hp and 343Nm of torque. That would be a much better engine for the Grandia, which makes do locally with a 2.5-liter D4-D with an output of only 102hp and 260Nm of torque. You'll want all the extra horses when going up a mountain path like Baguio's Marcos Highway, or when overtaking a bus or a truck. Whether you drive fast or not, or whether you’ll be making use of the added power or not, it's always handy to have that in your arsenal. This is why despite the Grandia’s strengths, I wouldn't recommend it.

Hyundai Starex VGT. Now, this is THE van to look at. It's very car-like to drive, eclipsed only by the Kia Carnival LWB. It has probably the most versatile interior, thanks to the sliding seats. It's close to perfect as Asian vans go, with price being the only detriment to its appeal. It is pricey. Aside from that, there's nothing NOT to like in the Starex. Lastly, the Starex has 174hp and 390nm of torque. That's power!

Kia Carnival EX LWB. You don't see much of this around but it's a very good option, cheaper than the Starex. It feels more like an American mini-van, despite lacking the same polish as the Starex. It's also more car-like to drive but the interior isn't as versatile and as that of the Hyundai’s van. Still, I'd consider and recommend this one easily over the Toyota. It's a great van, and the engine's also mightily impressive! As a basic of comparison, the Kia makes 160hp and 340nm of torque. Not as good as the Starex, but a world away from the Super Grandia.

Hope this helps. Good luck and make sure your boys start reading Top Gear early on to get them hooked on cars! God bless!

Botchi Santos
Consumer editor

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Filter comments by:
  • dominic Apr 28 2011 @ 04:43pm
    go for starex!
  • RS500 Apr 28 2011 @ 04:57pm
    I highly recommend the Honda Jazz........joke....Starex for me.
  • barry Apr 28 2011 @ 05:13pm
    a carnival is a no no. i read a foreign magazine mentioned the carnival's performance and their verdict? the engine was some kind of a bothersome. hi-ace? underpowered engine. a grand starex, impressive van, spacious and you can see the brilliant legroom. bottom line......the best van to buy.
  • mts Apr 28 2011 @ 06:05pm
    the top tycoon is using hi-ace as a means of transportation. :) Maybe this has the most comfy ride? :)) or maybe not.. maybe it went through a major upgrade..? hmmmm
  • jetski Apr 28 2011 @ 06:22pm
    Grand Starex ^& Carnival
  • mariano Apr 28 2011 @ 07:01pm
    The problem with the Hi-Ace is the leaf-spring suspension at the back, too bumpy. Instead of having a relaxation while on the road, it will get you tired by always looking a way to comfort your sitting position.
    Go for the Starex
  • gvm0116 Apr 28 2011 @ 07:04pm
    The carnival may be the best one for you since you only have ONE wife and 3 kids. It's also more comfortable (ergonomics-wise) and easier to navigate through traffic than the other two. Likewise, you can't pretty much tell the horsepower and torque difference because the Kia is lighter than the Starex hence, power is just enough. If you decide to pick the Starex, though, you'll still end up with a very good ride and more durable for that matter, at least for the under chassis as the Starex is RWD and the Carnival is FWD. At any rate, both Korean cars are better, as far as I can work out than the Toyota.
  • Rem Apr 28 2011 @ 08:21pm
    Grand Starex HVX! I'v read a lot of forums sharing their experiences about grey market Starexes. Mas sulit daw po ito sa Gold variant. Dual airbags, ESP, Dual sunroof pa po yata yun eh. :D For me it has the best combination of space and comfort, not to mention the powerful engine yet consumes less oil. :) My classmate has two Hi-Ace, Grandia GL and the SG, both vans are huge, but our 2nd Gen. Starex is much more comfortable. I think you'll get more features in the CVX model compared to the local mid-spec. :D
  • legaity Apr 28 2011 @ 09:13pm
    I find the Grandia a bit noisy and firm especially on high speeds as compared to the Starex.
  • Feeter Silverster Apr 28 2011 @ 10:14pm
    Grand Starex has good legroom, and the most convenient to ride, the ride is very smooth, and it got front hood, which is still better because it can protect the front row occupant from severe impact if ever a collision may occur.
  • GTi Apr 28 2011 @ 11:04pm
    I'd suggest you get the grey market version of the Carnival from Hancars. The current KDM version uses the 2.2R e-VGT engine found in the Santa Fe and Sorento! 197hp and 436Nm FTW!!!
    Last modified Apr 28 2011 @ 11:05pm
  • hyundaiOliver Apr 28 2011 @ 11:35pm
    I'd like to invite you to testdrive the Hyundai Grand Starex. Then you decide if this van is for you!
    Hyundai Alabang, Muntinlupa City
    Look for Oliver ^_^
  • Drift Apr 29 2011 @ 08:24am
    Grand Starex it is
  • chinitoguy30 Apr 29 2011 @ 04:27pm
    I am a loyal Toyota user. I have a Toyota Innova and Toyota Vios. Its hard to admit but Hyundai Starex it is. I drove a friend's Toyota Hiace and it sucks. But I wonder why most celebrities prefer Hiace than Starex. Maybe its the space. But it would be really nice if you pick the Starex. I hope Mitsubishi could come out a new L300 van model.
  • gvm0116 Apr 29 2011 @ 05:36pm
    @Anton - You may want to go to Hyundai Alabang in Munti but avoid anybody by the name of Oliver. People like Oliver have no decorum and is one clear sign of a desperate salesman. He is the Borikyo of Hyundai, if you know what I mean.
  • jetski Apr 29 2011 @ 09:56pm
    @chinitoguy30: nice suggestion
  • Quinn_Andrei Apr 30 2011 @ 08:27am
    Go for Innova, if needs larger room . . . then Starex is better.
  • gundam Apr 30 2011 @ 07:56pm
    Super Grand(ia) Starex.
    just wondering if that is the 500hp supra. bakit di pa na feature yan sa TGP?
  • 997 GT2RS May 01 2011 @ 12:11am
    (Your thoughts on the article...)
    Last modified May 01 2011 @ 12:20am
  • 997 GT2RS May 01 2011 @ 12:17am
    None of the above, both the hi ace and the star ex were initially designed as commercial vans and rear passenger safety was not In the initial design. If your family's safety is the priority, I would go for the alphard which comes standard with side curtain airbags for the rear passengers,this car is engineered to carry rear passengers.bare in mind a car is replaceable but no amount of money can replace the life of a child..
    Last modified May 01 2011 @ 07:20am
  • mielricci0210 May 02 2011 @ 12:01am
    enough with the TOYOTAs... i've got the chance to drive the three vans being compared,courtesy of friends, and my top pick is the starex vgt, next is the kia carnival (i've driven the older version though). but the toyota grandia?...did i say "enough with the toyota?" hehehe!
  • andreikirq May 02 2011 @ 04:08pm
    (Your thoughts on the article...)
  • Botchi Santos
    Botchi Santos May 03 2011 @ 01:05am
    A really good test of a van's overall performance is the drive from Kalibo to Caticlan en route to Boracay. I've driven a number of vans on that route (roughly 70 clicks one way) and more than power, it's gearing, suspension and brakes that really determine how quickly you can get to your destination.
  • Rheome Feb 07 2013 @ 10:11pm
    Im a satisfied owner of Grand Starex :) it has 175hp and Euro V Crdi.. twas swesome because it has so many features that cannot be seen in local dealer.. even they're lowest variant have audio controls on steering wheel. it is imported and I bought it in Eurostandard.:) .. a grey market.
    I suggest guys to try this one.. it is worth the price.

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