Compared to some of Hyundai's more exuberant efforts, the Trajet's styling is contemporary and restrained with a minimum of Korean chrome. So it comes as no surprise to learn it was actually styled in Frankfurt, not Seoul, and made its public debut at the 1999 London Motor Show.
In size terms, the Trajet (pronounced 'Tra-jay', French for 'journey') is almost an exact match for the Galaxy/Sharan/Alhambra triumvirate. Yet the 2.0-litre Trajet GSi undercut the cheapest of the three Europeans, the Alhambra, by £2,500. And it's extremely well equipped with dual airbags, anti-lock brakes (with electronic distribution of the braking forces), remote control central locking with alarm, immobiliser, air conditioning, all-round power windows, power adjusted mirrors and a CD player all standard.
If you want diesel power, the identically equipped Trajet TD manages a rest to sixty time of 14.2s on the way to a maximum speed of some 106mph. Unfortunately, it isn't much more economical than the 2.0-litre petrol version, with an extra urban figure of 43.5mpg that is very little different. Overall, you should save about 7mpg by opting for the diesel variant: in other words, don't expect to make up the price premium too quickly.
Opt for the flagship V6 model - which undercuts European rivals by up to £7,000 - and you get a silky-smooth (but thirsty) V6 plus side airbags, traction control, leather seats, alloy wheels, cruise control, an electric tilt/slide sunroof, heated door mirrors, rain-sensitive wipers, light-sensitive headlamps and front fog lamps. Automatic transmission is standard on the V6 and optional with the two-litre engine.
In practical terms the Trajet is a good match for any of its seven-seat rivals though, like most of them, luggage space is somewhat limited with all the seats in use. The front seats swivel to face the back and the five rear chairs can be easily removed (you'll need somewhere to store them). Plus there's a full complement of the seatback trays, cup holders, fold-up trays, map, bottle and pen holders, gloveboxes, reading lights and luggage nets that today's MPV buyers expect.
The Trajet is built tough and not a lot tends to go wrong but it's well worth looking over the brake discs, pads and shock absorbers as they may have had a hard life, especially in the case of a high mileage 2.7 V6. Nearly two tonnes (and that's without occupants) of people carrier will put quite a strain on the clutch or automatic transmission torque converter, even with 'normal' use.
(approx based on a 1999 Trajet 2.0 GSi) A clutch assembly will be around £135. A starter motor will be about £150. Brake pads front and rear are about £55 and £40 per pair respectively. A replacement headlamp is close to £125.
Like the Kia Sedona, the top Trajet has a lusty 2.7-litre V6 engine which, via the standard four-speed auto, is good for the 60mph sprint in a little over 11 seconds on the way to 119mph. Like the two-litre four, the new V6 is all Hyundai's own work, the days of licence-produced Mitsubishi engines are long gone.
So, too, are the transmissions. Hyundai is particularly proud of its automatic controlled by a steering column shift lever that allows 'walk-through' access to the rear seats. The automatic is an up-to-the-minute design with electronic control that can adjust shift patterns to the driver's style, including skipping a ratio to provide greater acceleration or better fuel consumption. A novel lubrication system extends fluid changes to 60,000-mile intervals, the Trajet otherwise needs servicing every 10,000 miles. Hyundai's usual three-year/unlimited mileage warranty and three years' of RAC cover were included from new.
Coupled to the standard five-speed manual gearbox, the four-cylinder model makes 60 seconds in just under 13 seconds and reaches 111 mph. Everyday use should return between 24mpg (for the V6) or around 30 mpg (for the 2.0-litre) with a few mpg more if you're in the TD.
Handling and ride are adequate, if not as rewarding as a Galaxy/Sharan/Alhambra. Still, while fine road manners are important to MPV buyers, a pliant ride usually takes priority and the Trajet is unlikely to disappoint. You could say the same about refinement and performance: good enough to satisfy the needs of most but not really class leading in any respect. Having said that, the Hyundai is a big step up from Kia's Sedona, its closest rival, in all these areas. You can buy and own one without being constantly reminded of how much money you've saved.
If you're looking for a nearly-new full-sized MPV and don't want to fork out, it comes down to the Kia Sedona or the Hyundai Trajet. The Sedona boasts more room and is the cheapest, the Trajet is more sophisticated and smoother styled. What would we do? Hyundai every time.