Saturday, 4 April 2009

Driving a one-tonne van is like being a Greek god in a chariot: you are forever telling mere mortals to hurry up and get out of the way. I spent the day beeping the horn and tailgating as I drove the Hyundai iLoad around Sydney. This is not the conventional view of a van, which is generally thought to be stodgy and underpowered. No such thing. The 2.5-litre, 5-speed manual package was responsive and aggressive, a far cry from the overloaded tradie-transport image.

Partly the aggro comes from constantly looking down on everybody else. Because in the cab you're high up in the air (the van doesn't fit into carparks that give only 2 metres of clearance) you can see not only the car in front but the car in front of that, too. So you're constantly frustrated by how slow people are to move on.

The other contributing factor is the manual transmission, which forces you to accelerate quickly. Before you know it the van, which is geared very low in order to effectively carry heavy loads, wants to slip into second, then third. At 60 km/hr you are in fourth gear. I didn't manage to get into fifth once during the day.

The manual gearbox also makes you work for speed, so you're less happy sliding through traffic lights. Instead, you tend to vroom through them as fast as possible.

One side-effect of driving the van is that you become a bit aggro. This is probably to do with the sheer size of the rig. And it comes in handy when you want to turn out of a petrol station's driveway into the far lane. You wait until the nearer lane is free then - bugger the next guy coming down the road: you're off.

Speed bumps are troublesome as, empty, the van bounces a lot. You end up sitting in second driving along roads with lots of speed bumps.

I hadn't driven a manual in a long time - years. It took no time at all to acclimatise myself to the different method of driving, however. Hyundai has put together a good, solid, and powerful package. The van is priced around $33,000, which is the same as what my Aurion costs (approximately). I would say that, were I a tradie, I'd be thinking of switching from Toyota, which makes the competitive Hiace, to an iLoad.

Fast, fun, and satisfying. We did a lot in one day and returned the van before the 6pm close time.

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