The great van quest: Hyundai Starex vs Kia Carnival

What's the best buy at P1.3 million?
by Botchi Santos | Dec 30, 2009

Hi, Botchi!

I enjoy reading your column and the practical advice I get from it. I want to seek your advice on choosing a van for my growing family.

I was just given a new car plan. After selling our old sedan, I computed I can afford a P1.3-million van, (P1.4-million maybe--if I bring packed lunch everyday). I have browsed through Top Gear Philippines' Buyers' Guide and found that most of the vans I liked--including the Kia Carnival and the CRDi Hyundai Starex--are hundreds of thousands above my budget. And even though they are perfect for us, Toyota Previas and Chrysler Town & Countrys are out of the question.

I saw there are TDi versions of the Starex that are well within my price range. I'm wondering if these are worth spending on considering the TDi is a soon-to-be phased-out technology. The entry-level Toyota Hiace is another possible option but I will be doing most of the driving. Are there technological improvements in terms of comfort in the engine under the driver configuration?

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I know there are the Toyota Innovas, Mitsubishi Fuzions and Nissan Grand Livinas but I have this near-irrational preference for vans with sliding doors given the size of our driveway and the practicality of getting seven people in and out of tight mall parking spaces. I remember when my relatives had the Toyota LiteAce and Nissan Vanette. Despite the faults (being underpowered and prone to overheating, respectively), the benefits of legroom, sliding doors and not-so-large vehicle size were enough to overcome it.

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I will be getting the car plan next year so I can still wait. Do you have any news if Honda is bringing in the Freed and Mazda the 5 next year? If the answer is yes, I guess my family can still fit into our Toyota Altis for a few more months.


Zachary Jacob

P.S.: A friend of mine wants to get a replacement of his flooded car. Should he wait for the new Mitsubishi Outlander, fall in line for the new Mazda CX-7 or go to Subaru and get the Forester? Thanks again.

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Hey, Zachary Jacob!

You know in Japan people are also obsessed with a van-like atmosphere. That's why new cars are getting taller and taller. A sense of space and luxuriousness gives peace of mind and a relaxed sensation especially while driving in our crowded, traffic streets.

The Hyundai Starex is a great van. Precisely for the same reason you hinted at: the driving experience. The Starex feels the most car-like of the bunch and, really, the Nissan Grand Livina is a rather tight pinch for a seven-seater and the Toyota Innova is more MPV than a true van. The Kia Carnival is okay but it still somehow reminds me of a cheap copy-cat of an American mini-van. It drives really well though.

The Toyota Hiace is perfect as an emergency response team vehicle (think SWAT). To haul your family in with you driving? Look elsewhere. It's tight and cramped up front despite the roominess out back.

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So, yes, I'd say get a Hyundai Starex. I believe you can find a good deal with the Starex if you drive around. A good place to start looking is the Hyundai showroom at the Bonifacio Global City. They give huge (and I mean HUGE) discounts and freebies, exclusive to them. Direct injection is not a dead technology, FYI. Common Rail Direct Injection is just an upgraded version of it but the main point of the technology behind it is very similar.

Good luck and keep us posted on your plans!

Botchi Santos
Consumer editor

P.S. Tell your friend to get a Subaru Forester Turbo XT! That is the very best of its kind! Well worth the premium. The Mazda CX-7 is a good one as well, but dynamically it isn't as polished nor as luxurious as the Forester. As for the Mitsubishi Outlander, I am not aware of a replacement coming out soon but I've been busy at work I haven't had a chance to keep up on the latest news.

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Lost in a sea of cars and not quite sure which one to get? Click here to email your car query so Botchi can help you pick the right vehicle! 


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