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The Stargazer is a pioneering spirit for the Hyundai brand

The Stargazer is a pioneering spirit for the Hyundai brand

Botchi Santos

With the Hyundai brand firmly back in the Philippine market directly under the Koreans, the brand brings a renewed vehicle line-up of sexy, stylish and K-drama worthy cars that truly suit and appeal to the Filipino motoring palette.

The newest car to make waves is Hyundai’s compact MPV, the Stargazer, aiming its sights squarely against rivals from Mitsubishi (Xpander), Nissan (Livina), Honda (BRV) and Toyota (Veloz and Avanza).

Tall order, but the Stargazer is well equipped. The familiar 2-box van-like profile is shared in this segment, but the front fascia is the most futuristic, out of this world face in the segment, with its multi-face reflector headlights that also house the DRL’s and signal lamps, a low-profile blacked-out upper and lower radiator grilles, a unique horizontal LED strip that separates the hood from the bumper and a faux skid plate with bumper surround finished in matte aluminium cum silver ties in the look with the headlight surround.

The rear compliments the front with a star-fighter-like tail-light arrangement and a broad red reflector spanning the entire length of the tailgate. The futuristic space-star theme continues with the 16’ alloy wheels finished in machined alloy and grey that resemble a star, wrapped in Kumho Solus tires, sized 205/55R16. It all sits on a chassis with a 2,780mm wheelbase, currently the largest in its class according to Hyundai, which translates to bigger interior space and comfort, coupled with easier entry and exit for children and elderly alike.

Shorter front and rear overhangs give the Stargazer a taught dynamism missing from other MPV’s. There’s a decent 185mm of ground clearance to tackle most bad roads, with the length, width and height coming in at 4,460mm, 1,695mm and 1,780mm, putting it squarely within in the compact MPV segment.

The futuristic theme continues inside with a design ideology Hyundai calls ‘modern furniture.’ Faux leather interior is available for the two upper tier GLS variants while the base GL variant comes with fabric covers.

A total of six airbags are standard, and form part of Hyundai’s SmartSense safety suite which also include forward collision avoidance assist, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot collision avoidance assist, safe exit warning, driver attention warning (which monitors driver alertness based on driving behavior), high-beam assist, lane-follow assist, rear-cross traffic collision avoidance assist, reverse parking distance warning and a rear view camera and monitor.

Hyundai tried their best to pack everything in such an affordable package. A 4.2 inch TFT digital display projects the vehicle’s vitals and operating parameters in lieu of traditional mechanical gauges, and an 8-inch touchscreen LCD display form the brains of the in-car infotainment system that also has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, six USB outlets and a wireless charger on the centre console.

There’s an unbelievable 31 storage spaces in total, so make sure you check the inside thoroughly lest you lose a gadget forever in the Stargazer. Even the seats look stylish themselves: slim and elegant, with sleek designs that minimize cabin intrusion, which ultimately frees up interior space. Small things go a long way indeed, which is why the 3rd row seats are one of, if not the roomiest in class and also allows for easy entry and exit.

The Stargazer’s heart is the brand’s Smarstream family of next generation engines which promise better efficiency and reduced emissions. In the Stargazer, the Smartstream is a 4-cylinder 1.5 litre gasoline engine that produces 113hp / 115ps and 14.7 kg/m / 144 Newton-Meters of torque, driving the front wheels via Hyundai’s iVT or intelligent variable transmission.

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The crucial question is, how does it drive? In a word, effortlessly. The Stargazer feels light and easy; you can easily see yourself driving the Stargazer for hours on end ferrying yourself, family and friends to and from destinations in comfort and confidence. Simply calling the driving painless would be selling it short, as Hyundai worked hard to provide a truly reassuring overall driving experience. You feel the Stargazer working with you, helping your day progress forward rather than being a necessary chore or hindrance to use. There is even a remote start function and windows can be opened via the key-fob, perfect for hot days where you want to cool the cabin before getting in.

The entire powertrain could do with a bit more pep, but the front disc and rear drum brakes feel powerful and progressive, the steering light yet accurate with a strong self-centering action, and the ride comfort comfortable yet controlled. The Macpherson strut front suspension and torsion beam rear suspension also help packaging and frees up more interior space, particularly out at the back.

Noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) insulation is excellent; with four adults having a lively conversation at speed, the engine, tire and wind noise did not pose a bother for our group. There’s even a hill-start assist and emergency stop signal wherein the brakes flash in the event of an emergency braking procedure. A tire pressure monitoring system is also fitted for better safety on the road. A proper long drive is in order, somewhere that’s at least 300 kilometers of round-trip driving.

Topping it all off is Hyundai’s 200,000-kilometer or five-year warranty whichever comes first, also one of the best in the industry where everyone offers either a three year warranty and / or a 100,000 or 160,000-kilometer warranty. Stepping up from a B-segment car but your budget isn’t quite ready yet for a 7-seat SUV? Daunted by lumbering rigs but need the space to seat your extended family comfortably and safely? Then look no further, the Hyundai Stargazer is your next car. Prices start at P998,000 for the base GL variant. Exciting times ahead for the MPV segment!

MAIN PHOTO: Hyundai Motor Philippines president Dong Wook “Eric” Lee with the Hyundai Stargazer