Johannesburg - Hyundai Automotive South Africa has updated its H1 range of buses and vans with technology tweaks and freshened styling.

With nearly 15 000 units sold since its launch here in late 2009, the H1 is the market leader in the family bus segment ahead of the VW Kombi, Toyota Quantum and Ford Tourneo Custom, and this upgrade is intended to keep the Hyundai at the cutting edge in terms of styling and tech.

A major frontal redesign sees a new grille and new projector-style headlamps giving the H1 a bolder face with more road presence, while the range-topping bus gets new 17" alloy wheels. The new headlamps now also switch on automatically when it gets dark.

Inside, Hyundai's nine-seater adopts a larger and fancier new touchscreen infotainment system, with navigation available as a R2500 option. The steering wheel is now newly adjustable for reach, and not just height, making it easier for different-sized people to find a comfortable driving position. 

The bus is sold in two versions selling at the same price as before: the 2.4 petrol Executive manual (R499 900) and the 2.5 diesel Elite automatic (R629 900), and there's also a 2.5 diesel panelvan (R464 900). The multicab has been discontinued but is available on special order if customers request it.

Standard gizmos in the 2.4 Executive bus include manual aircon, cental locking, audio system with Bluetooth, and leather seats, rear park assist, and electric windows, and safety in the form of dual front airbags and ABS brakes.

The top-of-the-range 2.5 Elite adds side airbags and ESC (Electronic Stability Control) to the equation, along with features like a reversing camera, full climate control, and electrically folding exterior mirrors. Curiously there's no fuel consumption meter in the onboard computer, just a distance-to-empty indicator.

Petrol or diesel

Engines remain unchanged, with the 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol sending 126kW and 224kW to the rear wheels through a five-speed manual transmission, while the 2.5 four-cylinder diesel musters 125kW and 441Nm and powers the back wheels via a five-speed auto.

I drove the diesel Elite version at the media launch in Gauteng earlier this week, and with its hearty power and fully-loaded spec sheet this range-topper is the H1 to go for if you can spare the budget. With all that hearty torque available between just 2000 and 2250rpm, it's the ideal type of power delivery for schlepping a full load of passengers and luggage, while Hyundai claims a frugal 9.8 litres per 100km consumption (10.2 for the petrol).

With just three of us aboard, the diesel H1 cruised effortlessly and felt like it had a lot of grunt in reserve for the kiddies soccer team and all their kit. It performs mostly lag-free at reef altitude and scoots off the line without any annoying hesitation.

It's also a refined diesel engine that doesn't conjure any tractor jokes, though there's some noticeable wind noise in this bus whilst cruising.

Part of the driving route was on gravel roads and the H1 impressed with its ride quality on corrugated surfaces, along with a very solid and rattle-free feel to the body. The bus has independent suspension all around while the van gets load-lugging leaf springs at the rear.

Hyundai's bus will carry more than the abovementioned junior soccer players, and eight adults will comfortably fit aboard - nine, if you squeeze one into the tight middle seat between the driver and front passenger.

The backrests of all the seats are adjustable for comfort and the boot is huge at 842 litres; it isn’t a bus that suffers from the shortcoming of having minimal luggage space once the rearmost seats are in use. 

All versions are sold with Hyundai's 5 year/150 000km warranty with roadside assistance, and a five-year/90 000km service plan.