Hyundai is taking the Southeast Asian market much more seriously than before, including the Philippines. Since the takeover of Hyundai Motor Philippines, the Korean automaker has been more aggressive not just in its branding efforts, but even to the point of offering models that are priced and catered to the needs of our region. Case in point, the first-ever 2023 Hyundai Stargazer GLS Premium that we have here. This is a segment where Japanese brands have long dominated, and in order to shake up the segment, the Korean latecomer managed to create what we think is the segment’s current benchmark.
That begins with how the Stargazer looks. Looks are an entirely subjective matter, so that’s up to you to decide whether the Stargazer’s robotic looks are your jam. In my own view, the 2023 Hyundai Stargazer GLS Premium hits all the right notes in order to stand out. The single curved roofline that begins from the hood all the way to the back gives this MPV a bit of high-speed train vibes. Dominating its face is an LED light bar where the outer edges are its daytime running lights. This is then matched to a wide mesh grille that’s flanked by separate LED headlight clusters–once again giving this MPV a robotic aesthetic.
Down the sides, the sculpted design gives it a very sleek shape, but the design is also one that will be perfected if it’s been fitted with bigger 17-inch wheels. As it stands, the 16-inch wheels look simply alright rather than being able to fill the wheel wells nicely. Out the back, the Stargazer once again looks very distinct due to its tall and wide H-shaped LED taillights. It’s somewhat spoiled though that the actual brake lights are incandescent bulbs, but apart from that, this Hyundai is one of my favorites in terms of looks.
That same futuristic vibe carries over to the interior, with shapes and colors that once again give it a Startrek vibe. Visually, however, the execution is a bit mixed. The large, grey bezel that surrounds the digital instruments (albeit a mixture of segment-type and a color multi-information display) and the 8-inch infotainment system somewhat sticks out like a sore thumb in a black dashboard. The silver trimmings are at least a breath of fresh air next to the scratch- and fingerprint-prone gloss black stuff that its competitors use. Material quality is also not the best, but not the worst either. Hard plastics dominate the interior, but unlike the Mitsubishi Xpander or even the Toyota Veloz, there isn’t an ounce of soft-touch plastics to be found.
Features and Infotainment
On the upside, the 2023 Hyundai Stargazer GLS Premium leads the way when it comes to cabin tech. The segment-type digital instruments look better than the analog ones, but the novelty factor of its design easily wears off. Some neat touches like the blue ambient lighting do uplift the nighttime vibe, but it’s the 8-inch infotainment system that uplifts the cabin tech for me. Hyundai Motor Group’s software is one of my favorites. Whether it’s the Kia Sorento I recently reviewed or this Stargazer, the execution is objectively great thanks to a responsive interface and large icons that are easy to tap while on the move. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as also offered, along with wireless charging.
Space and Practicality
Thanks to the Stargazer’s high-speed train-like shape, there’s plenty of space inside. The expansive dash due to the A-pillars pushed all the way forward has enabled Hyundai to create plenty of cubby spaces, such as the hidden storage between the aircon vents and the dash shelves. There’s also a great amount of adjustability for the driver, which is a rarity in the entry-level MPV segment.
Those seated in the second row will be treated to excellent head and legroom. It’s also one of the widest interiors in the segment, which means less arguing with other people for shoulder room. Hyundai even managed to add a single rear seat table, but we hope that in the next update, they would also add one of the rear left passenger. Other amenities at the rear include USB ports and cup holders mounted on the doors as opposed to the center armrest.
As expected, the third-row space is meant for kids. Thankfully, those seated in the second row have plenty of space to give in order for the third-row occupant to have more space. Behind the third row is 200 liters of cargo space, while folding down the third row gives you 585 liters. Both of these figures are on par for the segment, though Hyundai has not provided any figures once all seats have been folded down. On the upside, all seats are able to fold flat.
Under the hood of the Stargazer is a 1.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine that produces 113 horsepower and 144 Nm of torque. These figures are pretty much par for the entry-level MPV segment. While the engine itself produces okay numbers, out in the real world, it’s actually one of the best drivetrains in the segment.
Major credit goes to the transmission it uses–a CVT. The Mitsubishi Xpander and Suzuki Ertiga Hybrid are the only ones left using a four-speed automatic, which at this point are their major weaknesses despite promises or supposed claims of durability. With such a small engine trying to haul seven people, the last thing you want is to be constrained with just four gear ratios. Hyundai Motor Group’s CVT not only minimizes that “rubber band effect” wherein the revs are constant as you speed up, here, it mimics the cog swaps of a traditional automatic. In addition, even with seven people, it keeps the engine singing at its optimal rev range, thus giving the engine a whole lot of flexibility.
The 2023 Hyundai Stargazer also manages to be the most fuel-efficient entry-level MPV I’ve tested. Even when driven through heavy Manila traffic, achieving 11.5 km/l is an amazing feat. Throughout the week, my average is at 12.3-12.5 km/l, which is singlehandedly the best real-world fuel economy figure in its segment.
Entry-level MPVs need to make a lot of concessions due to the need to meet a low price point, but Hyundai’s engineers managed to create an MPV that singlehandedly has the best refinement in the class. The structure is rock solid for the segment with minimal vibration and cowl shake, while road and wind noise suppression is simply the segment’s best. Though the rear torsion beam suspension has a bit of firmness to accommodate seven people, it’s still the best in the segment in terms of ride–even if the tires are pumped up to 36 psi.
Unsurprisingly, handling expectations in this segment is low, and with the Stargazer’s soft suspension, this is another MPV that doesn’t encourage you to drive it fast. The steering has a degree of precision through the corners, but road feel is almost nonexistent. It’s not a bad thing, though, because what you get is an MPV with the best refinement and comfort levels in its class–aspects that matter the most to buyers in this segment.
What’s more, the 2023 Hyundai Stargazer GLS Premium we have here also has the most comprehensive suite of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) in its segment. With the Hyundai SmartSense suite, you get automatic emergency braking, automatic high beams, blind spot warning and rear cross traffic alert with collision avoidance, lane centering, and a feature that prevents you from opening the doors if there’s an incoming vehicle or cyclist. The only thing missing is adaptive cruise control.
When Hyundai decided to take the Southeast Asian market seriously, they were somehow late to the game when it comes to the entry-level MPV segment. Thankfully, it’s actually time well spent, because what they came up with may not be a revolutionary new car, but it’s what I think is the segment’s best. It doesn’t rule the war in having the most superlative spec sheet numbers, but in the real world, it’s the class benchmark–which is what matters in the end.
Pricing and Rating
Exterior Design: ★★★★★
Interior Design: ★★★★☆
Space and Practicality: ★★★★★
Safety and Driver Assistance: ★★★★★
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★★
Value For Money: ★★★★★
Overall: 4.7 out of 5