2008 Hyundai Getz Review
Intercity treks throughout Europe hardly necessitate needing to drive. All anyone needs is a ticket and the ability to navigate a train station. It gets tricky, however, when desired locations are off the trains’ beaten path. Buses typically take too long and are not the best choice in a time crunch. Renting a car is pricey if traveling alone, but splitting costs with others lessens the blow to the wallet and the bonus is that the group can enjoy scenery at their own pace. After weighing all the options, my three friends and I opted to rent a car for a day-trip in the French countryside.
I reserved a “super-mini” three-door to be picked up at the St. Jean train station in Bordeaux, France. I anticipated with half excitement, half dread driving to the Midi-Pyrenees region, about an hour south of Bordeaux. This apprehension was not due to my six-month absence behind the wheel, but for France’s reputation for costly fines and the priorité à droite. This rule gives drivers coming to an intersection from the right priority over oncoming traffic. Drivers already on the road must slow for the joining vehicle – something surely to cause headaches (and hopefully nothing more) for foreigners.
Upon arrival at St. Jean, I expected a vehicle similar to a Ford Ka or Renault Twingo. Much to my surprise – and relief to the two rear seat passengers – the Alamo agent handed me keys to a shiny sky blue Hyundai Getz CRDi five-door with 4,932 kilometers (3,065 miles) on the clock. The day was full of firsts: the first time driving in France and driving a diesel-powered car that does not predate me.
Also available in a three-door, the Getz fails to offend with its nondescript lines – easy on the eyes but just as easily forgettable. Its front fascia, while refreshed last year with softened the head lamps and grill, remains firmly planted in 2002. It misses the mark in style, but the Getz makes up for it in value. The Hyundai measures 150.6 inches, 6.8 inches shorter than Honda’s Fit, but its wheelbase is 0.2 inches longer. Its corporate cousin, the Kia Rio5, is 7.5 inches larger with a longer wheelbase of 1.1 inches.
Inside, the dash was no-frills but functional. Its design, like the exterior, was clean yet uninspired. All HVAC controls were simple and easy to use. Three cup holders were available: one for rear seat passengers situated behind the emergency brake and two placed in front of the shifter, far enough back to not block center controls. The car’s radio/CD unit with detachable faceplate looked aftermarket; music was directed to four speakers. Unfortunately for us, no adapter was available to connect an mp3 player. The Getz was comfortable enough for all four of us with supportive seats for our journey; adding a fifth person would have made the trip less pleasant for those in the back seat, however.
Our Getz came with the standard five-speed manual transmission mated with the 1.5-liter four cylinder diesel engine, creating 87 horsepower. On two-lane roads, going the posted 90 km/h (55 mph), the Getz provided a smooth, firm ride taking curves with ease. Handling was responsive, but not sporty like the Honda Fit. The engine churned out adequate power, enough to keep me confortable. Downshifting was not necessary to overtake vehicles, but sometimes it was done to minimize passing time.
The Hyundai remained stable and sound on the freeway also. With no cruise control, freeway speeds varied from 120 to 140 km/h (75 to 87 mph). When cruising at the posted 130 km/h (81 mph) speed, the diesel motor hummed with smooth revs at just under 3,000 rpm. Not having much experience with diesels, I expected hefty engine noises and strong steering wheel vibrations. Nothing like this occurred; from the motor standpoint, the driving experience differed little, except for paying less for fuel.
After a day in the country and dealing with Bordeaux traffic and numerous inconvenient one-way streets, we parked the Getz with an additional 377 km (234 miles) on the odometer. About 340 kilometers (211 miles) were going at least 90km/h. It burned just under a half a tank of diesel, returning 41.3 mpg, likely because of my heavy foot. Regardless, my right foot and I walked off impressed.
This segment is crowded in Europe with the Renault Clio, Peugeot 207, Ford Fiesta, Toyota Yaris, Suzuki Swift, and Honda Jazz (Fit), just naming several. Seeing how the Fiesta and Swift will enter the US market in less than two years, competition stateside will also heat up. Hyundai already has the Accent stateside, so anyone looking for a Hyundai hatch should check out the Kia Rio5.
Any shortcomings the Getz has should be remedied when its replacement, the i20, debuts at the Paris Auto Show in September. The Getz – as it stands right now – is a comfortable, solid, capable vehicle perfect for urban errands, yet handles the freeway without appearing too diminutive. If the i20 uses all the ingredients to be as good of value as the Getz, Hyundai better prepare for another hit.
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