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The Hyundai Stargazer is an emerging K-Pop star of MPVs

The Hyundai Stargazer is an emerging K-Pop star of MPVs

Botchi Santos

The Stargazer is Hyundai’s bet in the MPV segment that’s the next major battleground for big-name car manufacturers

I live in a townhouse complex and as is typical of densely packed communities, we get to know everyone else’s business, sometimes without meaning to. My old neighbors, particularly the helpers know me and my shenanigans fairly well so having a new car delivered regularly for a few days isn’t a big deal. At least they don’t think I’m a drug dealer, a car thief or a smuggler.

The neighbors generally don’t ask too much questions, but when the Stargazer arrived, I was met with some excited questions: what is it, who makes it, how roomy is it, how is it to drive and finally, how much does it cost?

And of course I tell them it’s a Stargazer 7-seat MPV, made by Hyundai, manufactured in Indonesia where it is in the top three of its segment (the biggest 7-seat compact MPV market in the world). I tell them it’s roomy inside, with oodles of space for a big boy like me, coupled with excellent fit and finish, all wrapped up in a stylish and good-looking interior that matches the sharp looking, futuristic exterior. There’s even both wired and wireless Apple CarPlay / Android Auto and the radio system plays decent enough tunes from Spotify.

But the Stargazer’s beauty is beyond skin-deep. Beneath its stylish design lies real depth and ability. Firstly, it’s loaded with safety tech: forward collision avoidance assist brakes the car in the event that the system detects imminent impact, lane following and are keeping assist monitors your drive and reminds you to stay within your lane and should you have a lapse in concentration, steers you back in line, high-beam assist automatically dips the headlights from high-beams if it detects an incoming vehicle on the opposite lane, blind-spot collision avoidance assist informs you of a vehicle creeping up too close on your blind-side with an LED indicator on your side mirror, a rear cross traffic alert that constantly monitors the rear when backing up, which I experienced this morning just as I was doing my errands in the tight inner roads of my neighborhood, and a safe exit warning, which is really handy when parallel parked on a busy road and you’ve got crying kids that just wanna get out of the car, or a crazy dog like ours excited to hit the park. Of course, as with any modern car, the Stargazer has a rear-view monitor and reverse camera, plus six airbags available. Fully loaded where it counts, for the segment it is directly targeted at. the 115ps / 113.4hp and 143.8 Newton-Meters of torque might not seem much to talk about, but when coupled with the IVT variable transmission, it surprisingly feels more than adequate, again especially at the segment it is aimed squarely at: young families.

Some quarters in the local car community decried the problem with MPVs being unexciting and the lacking in sex appeal and pizzazz. A more powerful engine, bigger wheels and tires and a subtle restyling they say would go a long way. The problem is, the loudest voice is usually not the core audience of such products, but are outliers looking at this compact MPV segment. The core market are quiet, conservative, no-nonsense types who look for value, versatility and reliability (coupled with longevity). And on these points, the Stargazer truly delivers.

But make no mistake, the Stargazer is no slouch to drive. On Friday evening, I drove it through hellish traffic to drop a friend off in Makati and we felt comfortable during the long journey. Dual a/c helps immensely keep the huge cabin cool too. And to think I was actually sick with a slight fever, the Stargazer kept me cool and comfortable all throughout. The 16-inch wheels and tires look retro-futuristic along with the rest of the two-box design, which helps it stand out like its bigger sibling the Staria. It’s not generically handsome like its competitors, helping the Hyundai establish its own unique identity.

In a segment vying for your cash and garage space, the Stargazer is stylish, distinct and truly unique in a way only the Koreans have mastered. I haven’t had a proper go at it yet since it’s been all short drives through traffic, but fuel efficiency seems to be impressive at right around 7.8-8.2 kilometers per liter of fuel. It’s not exactly exciting, but neither is it boring, providing a pleasant and reassuring experience, the type you want from a car on a long drive with rambunctious kids (or pets) excited to get to the destination.

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All models come with a 200,000 kilometer / five-year warranty, and the base GL IVT Stargazer starts at P1,038,000 all the way to P1,258,000 GLS IVT Premium. For the price, the features and the safety kit included, plus the industry-best warranty, the Stargazer will give rivals from Toyota, Honda, Mitsubishi and Nissan a really tough battle. I like the Stargzer, and cars like it. It’s the smart car for the modern Filipino family: small, versatile, value-packed and surprisingly sexy in a suburban sense.

As diesel becomes more expensive and people flock to cars loaded with safety gear, the compact MPV will soon become the ubiquitous car of choice in our country for private car owners with families. It’s easy to get in and out, easy to see in and out, and very effortless to drive with no frills, being almost comparable in size to a typical B-segment car most first-time owners will be graduating from, should they need a larger car for their growing brood.

No wonder the compact MPV segment is the next major battleground for the big-name car manufacturers.