Van for six: Hyundai Starex or Kia Carnival?

Help our letter sender decide
by Botchi Santos | Mar 24, 2011

Hi, Botchi!

I'm an avid fan of Top Gear, most especially your column, because it makes readers and car buyers understand and differentiate car models not just by their exterior features but also its overall package.

Now, I'd like to seek your expertise in searching for the right sport-utility vehicle for my family. We are a family of six--three boys and three girls--and we are planning to replace our ever-reliable Toyota Innova with an SUV. We want a car that would fit us all including our luggage, should we go out of town. It should also be comfortable ride and fuel efficient, with a good quality and a statement—it has to be pogi. We are checking out the Mitsubishi Montero Sport and the Ford Everest due to their good reviews.

But here's the twist: Our mom underwent brain surgery last July and she's currently using a wheelchair. She's not totally disabled and she can move the left side of her body so we never have problems when she gets in and out of our Innova.

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I hope you can help us find the right family SUV or even suggest a van or a multipurpose vehicle for us.

Thanks and more power to Top Gear Philippines!

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Hi, Paolo!

Thanks for the email, and I sincerely hope your mom's recovering well from her operation. I know how it is to have your mom in and out of the hospital and it's definitely no fun at all.

Due to your mom's condition, an SUV is out of the question, especially the ladder-frame-based ones, which are quite tight inside. Of the usual SUV suspects, only the Hyundai Santa Fe gives decent space for a wheelchair out back and still have decent space for other cargo. It's quite low so helping your mom get in and out will be easier. It's also more comfortable and refined compared to the Montero Sport and Everest, which I'm sure your mom will appreciate.

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I'd recommend the Hyundai Starex Gold or the Hyundai Starex Limousine. Both are really good, but the Gold in particular has seats that slide all the way back. The captain seats in the middle of the limousine, on the other hand, are quite difficult to slide and rotate--and we want a wide loading space to make your mom's ingress and exit as easy as possible. The Starex is also pretty quiet and refined inside, which is important for your mom. If you'll be driving, note that the Starex is also the second most car-like van so it's comfortable to drive.

The Kia Carnival is another good option, especially the one with the long wheelbase. It's almost as roomy as the Starex but it has a bit of an American twist-slash-flair to it. I've yet to drive the LWB version but I really enjoyed driving the regular wheelbase version, which is surprisingly fast, thanks to its 160hp and 323Nm of torque. It feels more like a typical American minivan than a Korean van. It's really good but it's unfortunately underrated. It's the best van to drive as it is the most car-like of all.

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Normally the Toyota Super Grandia should be mentioned here. It has the space, refinement and the coveted Toyota badge, but it is grossly underpowered. You need power and more specifically torque to haul all the weight you'd be carrying. The Grandia sorely misses the extra grunt of the 3.0 D4-D engine, which is unavailable here but available in other markets. It's a great van but it lacks an engine that matches its abilities. This is quite sad because the Grandia handles surprisingly well for a van. But your arse, specifically your right thigh, will really feel like Jamon Serrano after a long drive as the engine, which is under the front seat, really heats up your thighs.

I hope my comments will help you guys decide on what new vehicle to get. Take care, give my regards to your mom and God bless!

Botchi Santos
Consumer editor

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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