When Hyundai first entered the South African market nobody new them from a bar of soap. Little did we know that Hyundai is actually a huge company who didn’t only apply themselves to car design and manufacture.
The first Hyundai Company was in fact a construction company and nowadays they have a hand in ship building, semiconductor manufacturing, elevators and in the past, even retail. Anyway here in South Africa even with our eleven official languages, nobody could pronounce their name, with ‘Hon-day’ and ‘Hi-un-dai’ awkwardly rolling off people’s tongues. Apparently the name Hyundai or ‘Hyeondae’ actually means ‘modern times’ in Korean. Either way I still don’t know how to say it properly, and for me the best way to say it in conversation is to mumble the first part slightly and then confidently emphasize ‘day’ at the end. With this strange new name entering the market came talk of “dodgy Korean build quality” and “they still have to prove themselves”. Well how times have changed.
Hyundai is now well established in South Africa and an excellent indicator of this is how well they have been rated in the JD Power and Associates quality survey – outdoing many more established brands in South Africa. They have an extensive model range, competing in most segments of the markets. And where rivals are complicating things to no end by inventing segments, (think BMW X6 and Mercedes R Class), Hyundai is more concerned with simplification. They have fewer models compared to some rival brands, but they compete and they compete well in key segments.
The Hyundai Getz was one of the first Hyundai models to reach our shores and has been a sales success for the Korean company; it offered reasonable looks and good specification at a decent price. Now in 2009 it’s due for replacement. Enter the i20. The new name doesn’t really instill a sense of excitement, but it’s not surprising considering the i10 was released not too long ago, no doubt to be followed by an i30 etc etc.
What is exciting though is that along with a new name comes a completely redesigned car, which compared to the fairly boring and boxy Getz, is full of curves and flowing lines. Don’t get too excited though because the new design is quite hard on the eyes. You get the feeling that they tried too hard when designing the i20. It’s a very busy design with your eye constantly moving around the car rather than flowing from front to back. The front grill section is reminiscent of the Toyota Yaris, where the Hyundai badge sits up high on the bumper rather than the bonnet.
The large bonnet bulge looks at odds with this type of car, however the enormous front headlights and fog lamp surrounds, are by far the prominent feature up front. Gaze towards the cars flanks and the large crease line under the side windows accentuate the flared wheel arches. Odd though is the door handles that sit below the crease, reminiscent of the BMW 1 Series. The downside of this design is that this crease line will bear the brunt of all that comes into contact with the side of your car, like other doors and shopping trolleys. And with it being so prominent, it will show the dents immediately.
The upside is that it looks great, but you have to think of longevity. At the rear things are generic hatchback stuff which seems a pity as the front and sides are so different. Overall I think i20 with its pickled Kimchi* type styling will definitely get you noticed amongst the throngs of ‘Mac n Cheese’ Polo’s and Yaris’s (no dig at you Ed).
Interior also gets reworked and fit and finish is much improved over the outgoing Getz. You’ll seat five passengers easily as there’s plenty of headroom, although taller rear passengers might not appreciate long trips. But like most small cars, deep vein thrombosis is a reality and if you want first class legroom then expect first class prices.
Hyundai never scrimp on standard kit and the i20 is no exception. Power windows all round, power mirrors, air-con, dual airbags, radio/mp3 cd player with six speakers and USB/Aux connectivity, five star Euro N-Cap safety rating and a multi-function steering wheel, which is height and reach adjustable are all standard fare.
Also standard on the two models available is a class leading 5 year/150 000km manufacturer’s warranty and a 3 year/60 000km service plan, the former indicating Hyundai’s commitment to reliability. Simply, you can choose between a 1.4 liter (R149 900) and a 1.6 liter (R159 900) and at only R10 000 more for the 1.6 it makes the inclusion of a 1.4 a bit of a no brainer.
Waiter may I have mine with a bottle of Soju** on the side, thank you.
(*Korean pickled dishes made of vegetables with varied seasonings **Strong Korean liqueur with a powerful kick