It’s not often we come across a vehicle that can induce feelings of happiness and joy every time you think about it, but the 2022 Hyundai Staria Highlander does just that. And as an added bonus, it sports all-wheel drive and a diesel powertrain.
Looking more like a star destroyer from the Galactic Empire’s Navy, it isn’t hard to imagine the Staria Highlander as a Vader family holiday/road-trip memory maker. Hyundai’s stormtrooper carrier turned heads wherever we went.
Its size and looks peaked plenty of interest from other road goers and pure jealousy from their cooped-up families. The Staria’s futuristic spaceship look is complemented by the gorgeous 18-inch factory alloy wheels, front horizontal DRL light bar and rear LED taillights.
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Sleek yet minimal lines and a rear tailgate spoiler give it the look and feel of an elegant intergalactic explorer. If it wasn’t for Hyundai’s logo on the front, rear and rims, you would be left scratching your head wondering “what the f$%k is that?”
Inside the Staria, the spaceship theme continues. Thanks to comfortable leather seating throughout, we guarantee at least one of your astronauts won’t be conscious by the end of your trip. The front pair are heated and ventilated, with the driver’s power-adjustable.
A heated leather steering wheel, mood lighting and 10.25-inch full colour touch screen infotainment system complete the package. Keeping in mind that the Staria Highlander has a commercial twin, the Staria-Load, there are some hard plastics as well.
We can’t help thinking these toughened interior bits are part of a ploy to keep costs to a minimum to cater for the van’s dual purpose. All variants in the people mover variety of Staria come as an eight-seater though.
Second-row seating receives top tether as well as ISOFIX attachments points, for the provision of child seats and restraints, but no matter where you end up sitting, the adjustability within the Staria allows for first-class travel, even with eight full-sized adults.
That’s all without compromise to luggage space (which is an awesome 831 litres with all seats in use and 1,303 litres with the third-row seating stowed away). Additionally, you get one 12V socket up front (additional passenger and rear 12V outlets would be ideal).
There are six USB ports though (two up front and two each for second and third-row seating), and ten cup holders. A word of advice, if you forget to use the wireless charging pad for your phone, you may lose it in one of the multiple storage pockets or cubbies.
Now that occupants are both entertained and hydrated though, you can appreciate the dual panoramic sunroof and massive glass areas, allowing for brilliant visibility. There’s also power-operated sliding doors and tailgate.
The infotainment setup is brilliant and features wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (wireless is only available in the base model at this stage), Bluetooth, satellite navigation, live traffic updates, AM/FM radio, and DAB+ digital radio.
There’s also USB input and even a handy nanny cam (roof mounted camera) to keep an eye on the inmates in your rear cabin Shawshank. Other than the missing extra 12V sockets, we reckon there are other improvements that would make the Staria epic.
For example, we’d love to see a centre console fridge, front seat arm rests, front passenger electric seating, automatic wipers, boot lighting, and a bigger instrument cluster or at least a head-up display.
If there was a speaker system upgrade with optional sub-woofer, we would tick the box multiple times too, as the standard 6-speaker system quotes Ace Ventura, quoting Scotty from Star Trek: “I just can’t do it, Captain. I don’t have the power”.
On multiple occasions, the desire to become a party bus was strong, but the distortion kills the mood as soon as you pump the volume on a Venga Boys classic (editor’s note: maybe it’s the writer’s choice of tunes).
On the road, the Staria is an absolute pleasure to drive. Fondly referred to as “Daddy’s Bus”, and despite being based on the Santa Fe SUV, it drives like a van, and is a real gentle giant in terms of handling and road presence.
The steering feels pleasantly responsive for a people mover, and the suspension and smooth gear transitioning provides a comfortable ride for all. The active on-demand all-wheel drive system helps deliver solid stability, especially during wet weather.
We managed some very light off-road driving during testing too, and clearance wasn’t an issue, with the HTRAC AWD delivering the goods for extra traction. The Staria’s 11.94m steering circle, is great for manoeuvring into that perfect parking spot as well.
The Highlander’s sensors and 360-degree camera system are the perfect co-navigators. The cameras also replace dials when changing lanes (blind-spot assist) and can be viewed while driving, providing crisp and clear imagery, day and night.
Towing capacity is 2,500kg, should you have other holiday recreational vehicles. The 2022 Staria Highlander AWD is powered by a 130kW 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel, paired with an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
But there’s no gear lever. Don’t freak out, but Hyundai have replaced the traditional shifter with buttons, connected to their shift-by-wire system, which will take some getting used to, as will the slight engagement delay when you grab Drive or Reverse.
It does have Sport mode, which gives you an altered instrument cluster and there’s some flappy paddles to keep you entertained, but it all feels more like a novelty than purposeful. It’s not going to achieve lightspeed, let’s put it that way.
It has a claimed fuel economy of 8.2-litres/100km – we managed 9.0-litres in real world testing. The Staria’s behemoth size, at 5,253mm length, along with its height and massive tailgate clearance, are also worth considering as part of your purchasing decision.
It has a glowing 5-star ANCAP safety rating as well as our two thumbs up, and is packed with safety features, including seven airbags, roll-over sensor, blind spot collision avoidance, forward collision assist, and lane follow and lane keeping assist.
There’s also rear occupant alert, traffic sign recognition and smart cruise control. We urge you to WWW your way to Hyundai’s website, to see the full list of inclusions. It comes with a 5-year unlimited kilometre warranty. Hyundai offers a range of service plans too.
Each of these includes roadside assistance and satellite navigation updates. Hyundai’s latest people mover is available in three variants (Staria, Elite and Highlander), and there’s two engine choices (the other is petrol).
Our review car has a drive away price tag of $72,249 – but we recommend you shop around for the best deal. Alternatively, you can visit a website like PriceMyCar to see if you can get the best deal.
There are five colours to choose from, including Olivine Grey, Moonlight Blue, Gaia Brown, Graphite Gray and Abyss Black (as tested). Inside, there’s the choice of standard black leather, or black and beige two-tone leather (also as tested).
Our test vehicle was provided by Hyundai Australia. To find out more about the 2022 Hyundai Staria Highlander, contact your local Hyundai dealership.