Chris Boyle stumbled upon the new Hyundai H1 when it was on display in a shopping mall. He was not looking for a new vehicle, but he was so impressed with what he saw, that he and his wife, Ruth, decided to take it for a test drive. Well, that sold it to them!
Chris has been a quadriplegic for more than 40 years as a result of falling from a foofi e-slide when he was 16. He was initially able to ‘haul’ himself around on crutches, mainly using the spasms in his legs to support his body weight, but the strain of this resulted in complications with his shoulders and elbows.
After 30 years of crutch walking Chris fell, breaking his arm. After a long, involved, process his right arm was amputated, leaving him with only one “quad” arm.
In his youth he had been able to drive an automatic vehicle but he stopped driving (even before the arm incident) as he felt he did not have adequate control of the vehicle. Ruth became his driver, and Chris became her “professional passenger!”
Transferring in and out of his chair with one arm proved difficult so they decided to go for van options, enabling Chris to stay in his wheelchair inside the van. They have experienced in both the Caravelle and the Vito but what impressed him the most about the H1, was the comfortable ride. Sitting in a wheelchair at the back of a van
exaggerates every bump, corner and change in speed. Chris was blown away by the comfort and sound levels in the H1. Even when sitting at the back, he could still be part of the conversation, which was not possible in his previous vehicles due to the
noise. Ruth fell in love with it because it is so easy to drive, and feels more like driving a car than a van.
For many years Ruth had to push Chris up ramps into the van, however after lots of visits to the Physiotherapist to sort out her back problems, they decided to install a lift. This has made life so much easier for her, and given Chris a lot more independence, as he is able to control it from his chair.
When the H1 arrived, Chris asked Shoprider to transfer the Ricon lift, which he loves for its smoothness and reliability, from his Vito to the H1. Unfortunately the H1 is a bit small to accommodate a lift plus a wheelchair passenger. The side door was too narrow so the lift had to be fitted to the rear entrance and this meant either sitting further back or loosing seats.
The challenge of getting the lift over the tow-hitch was ingeniously resolved by having the lift slide forward on rails before it deploys.
The internal height of the H1 is also limited compared with other vans, at 1260mm it is slightly lower than the Vito, and almost 140mm lower than the VW Transporter. The floor height is 600mm, which makes it inconveniently high if using wheelchair ramps, so a lift is almost essential.
Chris has to duck as he is lifted up and goes through the door, and, when sitting in his chair inside the vehicle, his head just brushes the roof. He has set one of his wheelchairs to its lowest position and uses that when being transported. But don’t be confused by this, Chris was aware of the limitations when he bought the H1 and decided that the compromises were worth the comfort. Even Pringle, his beloved Care-Dog, was happy to compromise!
The H1 has a powerful air conditioner with roof mounted air vents, which Chris can control from the back of the vehicle. Since quads easily overheat, this is an important feature in a vehicle. He also loves being able to plug in and play his MP3 through the CD player, and the clever design of packing spaces and cup holders around the vehicle, all evidence of the thought and attention to detail that has gone into the design of the H1. The luxurious feel from the carpets (through out) and the leather seats, while being chauffeured around in a wheelchair, makes you feel as if you should practice your royal wave!
Chris has the ‘Wagon’ version of the H1, which normally has three rows of seats, making it a 9 seater (3/3/3), with plenty of boot space behind the back row of seats – enough to accommodate a wheelchair (851l – to be exact!). It is also available in a cheaper panel van version, with or without windows.
With two side sliding doors, and a middle row of seats that slide forwards, Hyundai have created easy access to the rear seats. The exterior mirrors are controlled from inside and the driver’s mirror is photo-electric, automatically blocking out excessive light at night and saving the driver’s eyes.
Its 16 valve 2.4 petrol fuel injected motor with 5-speed manual gear box averages about 7.2km/l. The gears are well positioned and easy to find with a very responsive clutch, making it very easy to drive. It comes with a five year – 150 000km – manufacturer’s warranty as well as a five year – 100,000km – maintenance plan.
A lot of thought and planning has gone into the whole package, and in true Hyundai style they have included a generous number of luxury features.
With its comfortable drive it is a stunning vehicle for wheelchair users, with the main limitation being the low internal height. At R 295,900.00 it is good value for money compared with the other vehicles in its class.
Chris and Ruth had the pleasure of putting their brand new H1 through its paces at the Rolling Rehab Dynamic Driving Development day both on the skid pan and race track.
Even the driving instructors were impressed with its road holding and its safety features in action. It is no turbocharged racer, and its 2,4 petrol engine is known to be a bit underpowered for the body, but Chris will not be testing its 16,5 seconds for 0 – 100kph, nor the 14.1 seconds for 50 – 0kph braking speed.
Any professional passenger would tell you that when you are travelling in the back of a vehicle in a wheelchair, these figures are far less important than dignified suspension
and a graceful driving style – and Pringle agrees!