Remember when all seven-seaters were like this? Back before clever packaging meant you could squeeze an extra row of seats into something much smaller and the rear seats didn’t fold flat, they had to be hefted out by hand? That’s the Hyundai Trajet – a big, affordable family box on wheels. Not very sophisticated, but a reliable family bus for those who need the space.
Introduced in 2000, the Trajet was never supposed to be stylish or exciting – it was only ever about fitting in the maximum number of people with the best possible space. You get seven seats in all models, but unlike more modern MPVs, those seats don’t fold flat into the floor – if you want to take them out to create more boot space, you have to lift them out like big, velour suitcases. Mind your back – they’re heavy.
Up front, you have the choice of either 2.0-litre petrol or 2.0-litre diesel engines. There was a 2.7 V6-engined version as well, but as far as we can tell no-one in Ireland ever bought one of those so don’t bother looking for one. Who needs those kinds of fuel bills anyway? Actually, on the fuel bills front, the diesel and petrol engines are more closely related than you might think – the diesel was rated at 39mpg while the petrol could apparently manage 35mpg, and will be cheaper to buy so do your sums carefully. Both will cost the same to tax as production stopped before the new motor tax system came into effect in 2008, but it’s worth remembering that the diesel’s extra torque makes it slightly nicer to drive.
Not that nice though – the over-light steering and bouncy ride will quell your enthusiasm behind the wheel. The cabin is very old-school Hyundai too – all shiny plastics and cheap feeling, but actually it’s pretty well bolted together. The Trajet was one of the first wave of Hyundais to get the five-year warranty so you shouldn’t have any major quality worries. On the reliability front, watch for sticking gearboxes, problems with the engine immobiliser and pretty much all of them will come with an orchestra of cabin squeaks and rattles. Check the handbrake too – the cable can wear out and snap.
The Trajet is cheap as chips now, although it’s becoming a rarer sight and is slightly harder to find then it used to be. Even so, be picky and find a good one and remember that many will have seen service as minicabs and taxis. You can pick one up for as little as €2k, but you’re probably better off spending between €3,500 and €4,000 to get a good one.
Hyundai Trajet 2.0i 16v
Engine: 1,997cc four-cylinder petrol
Maximum speed: 179km/h
0-100km/h: 12.2 seconds
Fuel consumption: 10.3 litres/100km
Euro NCAP: ***
• Lots of space
• Temptingly cheap these days
• Solid reliability
• Bouncy ride and light steering
• Good ones becoming hard to find
• Cheap, brittle interior
It may lack the sophistication of a modern MPV, or a modern Hyundai for that matter, but the Trajet is a big-value, big-space big bus. Don’t expect it to be slick, but do expect it to be roomy, reliable family transport.