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Korea’s packed star

Korea’s packed star


Hyundai not only has swag but a true keeper in its stables

The mere sight of it seemingly resembles a distant dystopian world with this multipurpose vehicle stuck here in our own parallel universe

When the Hyundai Stargazer first rolled out in the local market late last year—honestly—I was just starstruck. Back then, selected members of the media had the chance to preview it along the streets of an exclusive village in Cavite before it was officially launched inside a posh mall in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig. Eventually, together with the Hyundai Creta, it was taken for a spin in the suburbs of Cebu island during a media drive a couple of months ago.

Just recently, the keys to the top-tier Stargazer 1.5 GLS Premium IVT landed on my lap for a weeklong test drive. My experience here just further cemented my first impressions about this Korean seven-seater.

Futuristic swagger

Just like the bigger Staria, it is a sure head turner with its futuristic swagger. Imagine the cars in Ryan Gosling’s Blade Runner 2049. The mere sight of it seemingly resembles a distant dystopian world with this multipurpose vehicle stuck here in our own parallel universe. With this, it instantly stands out from the rest of the crowd. This otherworldly signature look first starts at its front fascia with its stylish skid plate, flush-type radiator grille and distinguished multi-face headlights. It is highlighted by its “Tron-like” horizontal LED strip cutting across from one end of its bumper to the other, complementing its daytime running lights. From here, its avant-garde flair is further accentuated by its one-curved silhouette on its sides, showing its sleek body and angular wheel arches. These lines traverse across its 2,780-mm wheelbase, the largest in its class so it seems.

Its rear design layout, meanwhile, is equally stunning with its distinct H-signature tail lamp that also spans across both ends. This makes it a true standout on the road. Its 16-inch diamond cut alloys then cap the overall panache.

Functionality at its finest

Inside, its striking elements spill over with its superb functionality and creature comforts. Its exceptional materials, for one, spell premium. The overall feel of the cabin is a notch above its competition. Its leatherette seats from first to the third row, right mesh finish, spacious head, shoulder and leg rooms all seem to blend well with another. There is no rough patch, no strange item left isolated. All seem to be in their right places and order, notwithstanding the 31 total storage compartments from its dashboard, center console, seats and door trims.

Cargo-wise, it can take 40 inches of space. With the second and third rows folded, it can even go to more than 75.

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Functionality ups the ante with its 4.2-inch TFT-LCD cluster with a digital tachometer, speedometer, fuel indicator and many others. It also has four drive modes: Eco, Smart, Comfort and Sport. Front and center—meanwhile—is its eight-inch touchscreen display with wireless phone projection for Apple Car Play and Android Auto. Not to mention two device holders and six chargers, including a wireless power charger.

Under its hood is a 1.5 Smartstream Intelligent Variable Transmission (iVT) engine that churns out 133hp and 144N-m of torque. It’s pretty impressive, if you ask me, since it ranks further up the pedestal among its peers in the segment.

Safe drive to Bataan

Yes, these—so far—may be superlative compared to its contenders. But what impressed me more was when my wife and I decided to drive all the way to Bataan to attend a launch event in Dinalupihan, tucking this Korean stunner along with us.

Other than its emergency stop signal and hill-start assist control features—here—its SmartSense technology was in its true element. During our two-hour early morning drive, it was not just there to show off. But instead, it was there to be a perfect driving companion. The lane keeping assist, driver attention warning and blind-spot collision avoidance assist were all spot on, guiding me every time caffeine seems to lose effect, especially since I have been antsy like Christian Bale in the The Machinist these couple of days.

Moreover, to further up the tempo, we even had the knack to drive all the way to Bagac, Bataan, a near two-hour trip from where we were, for a historical tour inside Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar Resort despite having only a two-hour shut eye. There, all other safety features came into play. Like the forward collision-avoidance assist was on point when a local on his motorcycle decided to do a “Vin Diesel on a quarter mile”, almost brushing the vehicle on the side. The rear cross-traffic collision avoidance assist was likewise laudable when an oblivious carabao at the parking lot suddenly crossed my path.

Together with these are six airbags that go along with its highly rigid chassis, explaining its distinct engineering. Not to mention its excellent fuel-rating. I probably squeezed out 16km/L in a combined city and highway driving the whole time.

For me, I may have some qualms about its sluggish engine response at times or its NVH levels.

Overall—however—this Hyundai Stargazer with its P1.2M top-tier model is more than just a swag but is a true keeper. When it first arrived here, I knew right then and there that Hyundai had a new star in its stables. And my weeklong rendezvous, together with our recent Bataan drive, has further proven that.

Still, even with its marvelous design and functionalities, together with its packed class-leading features, it may have to put an extra mile to prove its mettle to other more proven contenders in the local market.