TAKING THE HYUNDAI MIGHTY TO THE NEX LEVEL
The introduction of an Allison automatic transmission has taken the Hyundai Mighty to new heights, with the truck now able to compete toe-to-toe with its strong Japanese competition.
The light-duty truck market in Australia is completely dominated by the big three Japanese truck makers, Isuzu, Hino and Fuso. These three brands set a very high standard to which any serious contender in this market sector must aspire and, to a certain extent, exceed. This is the task that Hyundai trucks have decided to take on. Examples of light-duty trucks from South Korea have been around for some time, but numbers and market penetration have been limited. Hyundai declared its intentions to become a more important voice in the truck industry when it introduced the heavy-duty Xcient last year. This was not the action of a fly-by-night truck importer, but instead, a brand making a serious attempt at credibility.
Now, Hyundai has overcome one of the problems which were holding the brand back from selling large numbers in the Australian light-duty market, namely, the lack of an automatic transmission with credibility. By introducing an option for the Hyundai Mighty to be fitted with an Allison automatic transmission, the market should become much more open to suggestions from the Hyundai brand. The Hyundai Mighty does come in four separate models. There is the EX4 with a GVM of 4.5 tonnes, the EX6 with a GVM of 6.5 tonnes, the EX8 with a GVM 7.8 tonnes and the EX9 with a GVM of 8.5 tonnes. This selection of models fit into the four main categories of the light-duty segment, without offering a complete range across all of the options at this size and weight. The Mighty range is powered by the 3.9 L Hyundai engine which comes in two Markets. There is still a part of the market, which is extremely price-sensitive and will always choose the cheaper manual option, but the improved performance of the latest generation of Allison autos and the reduced maintenance costs associated with an automatic gearbox protecting the driveline has won many truck buyers over.
Chosen for this particular test was the Mighty EX6, fitted with the refrigerated body which is also a Hyundai product. The complete vehicle is imported directly from Korea with a Hyundai refrigerated body already fitted. The truck was fully loaded and taken through a particularly hilly route in order to test the mettle of the Allison and its installation. When looking at a truck which will be doing this kind of work, the ease of use and the ability to handle all of the situations which may arise in a day's work has to be assessed. This truck has to be easily driveable for someone who's only previous experience will have been driving a car.
This is where the Allison comes in, it is a transmission designed to cope with the stresses and strains of hauling a reasonably heavy mass around, but also to be simple to use for the driver. They need simply to be able to get into the truck, hit the accelerator and go, and then press the brake in order to slow down and stop, and that's it.
Climbing into the truck, it does feel quite familiar. This looks like a well• designed interior with a modern-looking dashboard and up-to-date controls. The steering wheel does feel quite small but is extremely modern with a vast array of buttons available. This is the latest trend from the heaviest trucks down to the lightest, a confusing array of switches available to the driver's thumbs as they rest their hands on the steering wheel.
The experience of starting up the truck and setting off down the road is reassuring. This truck has a solid well-finished feel. The steering is positive and accurate; the pedals are well-positioned, with a responsive feel. In recent years, we have become used to the Allison transmission hitting all the right notes in its installation, and it is no different here. The truck is always in the right gear and able to cope with everything thrown at it. Some of the road junctions in the Western Brisbane suburb of Bardon can be quite tricky, especially in a manual truck.
A T-junction on a steep climb with a stop sign requires good handbrake and clutch control when the truck is fully loaded. This truck sailed up and around the corner without missing a beat, we expect no less from the Allison 1000 Series, these days. The communication with the rest of the truck works well. The driver simply activates the engine brake and the Allison immediately goes down one or two gears to get the rpm levels up to the point where the engine brake can actually be effective, and not just make a different engine note.
In terms of manoeuvrability, the trucks scores well, with a neat turning circle, comparable to anything else in the market and vital for a truck like this to get into tricky loading and unloading situations.
The price premium which has to be paid for the Allison transmission option will be a disincentive for some buyers. Sharper pricing would up the percentage of operators who opt for the auto transmission. The more the merrier, in this case, the more customers who are impressed by the Allison fitment, the more word of mouth will get around about the overall quality of the Hyundai Mighty. Looking at the truck driven on this test, it comes over as an altogether effective package. The fit and finish of the truck are excellent. The performance of all of the systems is a match for any of the opposition. The quality of the fridge body fitted was good, with the Hyundai badge stamped into the metal on the top corners of the box. Hyundai seems to have got the product right.
Someone looking to buy a light-duty truck and testing this Mighty side by side with an N Series, 300 Series or a Canter would be able to put this truck into the same category.
The difference would be in the next step the Japanese truck makers are currently making, as they up the ante on state-of-the-art safety and electronic systems. This, of course, comes at a price and maybe Hyundai can exploit the gap in costs with this truck. Or, we might see just how sophisticated the Koreans can get?