Facelift Barely Changes Cute Looks
Keen Prices, 5-Year Guarantee, Air Con Standard
Quality, Style Match Europeans; Brand Doubts The Obstacle
**** - out of 5
BARCELONA, Spain I first drove the Hyundai Getz a couple of years ago and called it the latest and potentially the most devastating threat yet from South Korea to mainstream European car manufacturers.
This was because not only was it exceedingly cute, but also great value for money, and last but not least, it had a 5-year guarantee. This amazing guarantee is better even than the 3-years offered by its sister Korean company Kia.
The Getz has been a huge success. Since it first appeared on the market in 2002, it has been bought by more 550,000 people across the world, 270,000 in Europe.
The European competition is reeling. Fiat of Italy has recently redesigned its Punto into a much bigger car, but will still produce a cut-price version of the old one to try and counter the price-threat from Korea. Renault has done the same with its little Clio III. The French company has spent lots of money producing spiffing new interiors to try and ward off the Koreans. Peugeot and Opel/Vauxhall will do something similar next year with their 207 and Corsa.
The weirdly named Getz was presumably christened so that Hyundai could use the toe-curling line “As Good As It Getz” (geddit?) advertising slogan. That embarrassing line didn’t look as bad during the launch press conference here though when Hyundai gave us “Innovation for Humanity” as the raison d’etre behind the Getz, not to mention Hyundai. Maybe Nelson Mandela or the late Mother Theresa will be endorsing the product soon.
Hyundai has now face-lifted the Getz and it retains its easy-on-the-eye good looks. It’s still not as cute as the Citroen C3 perhaps, and maybe a bit more attractive than the bland Ford Fiesta, not to mention the Fiesta look-alike and sibling Kia Rio.
Despite the face-lift claim, I couldn’t really spot any real difference with the old one. But Hyundai sees profound changes.
“The front end of the car has been given a fully integrated treatment with a redesigned bonnet and even stronger character lines that add visual emphasis to the grille, headlights and front bumper section. The wrap-around clear glass headlamps, black bumper inserts and front spoiler with neatly integrated fog lights (CDX models) give a clean and sporty appearance. This effect is further enhanced in subtle details such as the neater arrangement of the wipers and the way in which the bonnet character lines flow towards the A pillars,” said Hyundai.
Believe me, you won’t notice the difference.
Sometimes I don’t think the public gives us hacks the credit we deserve for sifting through the opaque, impenetrable and never-ending screeds of words foisted on us by the car companies, but I’ll let that bout of self-pity pass.
What is undoubtedly true is that the Getz has new engines a 1.4 litre, 96 bhp petrol motor, and two versions of a 1.5 litre diesel with 87 or 109 bhp power outputs. The diesels, also available in the Kia Rio, are nothing less than terrific.
I drove both the diesels in and around Barcelona. Firstly, you will notice how much quieter they are then the old bag-o-nails rattleboxes. Even with the lower powered version, pickup was brisk and punchy, motorway cruising quiet and easy at well above legal speeds. The top-of-the-range 1.5 CRTD CDX had a very attractive interior with colour-coordinated blue sections on the seats and door panels matching “leather” inserts on the steering wheel and gear lever. The dashboard was designed with a smooth, aluminium finish. The quality seemed at least as good as your average European supermini, but maybe not quite up to the latest Renault Clio III. The radio, with its weany little buttons and hard to read screen was cheap and nasty.
The doors slam with a satisfactory clunk. There is plenty of space, with the rear seats reclining. The rear seats also fold down to provide masses of load space, although not as efficaciously as the class leading Jazz, where the rear seats fold completely flat.
Handling was fine, even on the twisty bits in the mountains north of Barcelona. Hyundai claims that the Getz, and the Rio, will score 4 out of 5 stars in the Euro NCAP tests.
Prices start at £7,495-€10,900 euros for the 1.1 litre petrol GSI 3 door, that’s not as good as the price two years ago of £6,995-€10,200, but when you look at the competition, and consider that all Getzs have air-conditioning standard, you’ve got to be impressed. If you buy before the end of the year, you get 3-years free servicing thrown in, plus the five-year guarantee.
Like A Stone
This will be a powerful incentive to buyers. Not only because of the peace-of-mind factor that such a confident declaration in a product will induce. But also because the guarantee removes, or at least weakens, one of the big drawbacks that has faced buyers of Asian products like Hyundai second hand values going down faster than the average rock.
Hyundai concedes that it still needs to work on its brand image and is worried by what it calls its “perception” in the market. It does have the image of rugged, uncompromising reliability, although there have been reports of engine problems after about 50,000 miles. With a cast-iron warranty though, there’s not much to worry about. The face-lifted Getz will run until the new one appears in 2008.
The Getz has the same role as brand talisman for Hyundai as the cute little Yaris had for Japan’s Toyota an eye-catching car that’s affordable and easy to own that will be attractive to buyers that have not previously considered buying Korean.
The Getz range offers the choice of 1.1 and 1.4 petrol engines- they’ve dropped the 1.6 petrol - and the 1.5 litre with either 88 or 110 bhp. Prices start at £7,495 for the 1.1 GSI , moving to £9,345 for the 1.4 petrol automatic. The 1.5 CRTD CDX with the 110 bhp diesel and 3-doors costs £9,995.
GSI models include ABS, with EBD, electric front windows, twin airbags, central locking and power steering. CDX models add side airbags, electrically adjusted and heated door mirrors, remote central locking, trip computer two more speakers, front fog lights, and sunroof. The CDX level gives you more goodies including the leather steering and gear knob trim, and metallic effect to the dash.
Take It Seriously
The Getz can hold up its head in competition with the best of the European superminis in terms of style and engineering. With their keen prices and stunning warranty, any supermini buyers must take the Getz very seriously. The superior all round quality of the Honda Jazz, even without considering its so-called “magic folding seats” still leaves it in pole position, despite the fact that it will probably cost from between £500 and £1,000 more.
The Getz is based on a common engineering platform with the Kia Rio. You would think that Kia and Hyundai models would cannibalise each other, as their models face each other off across their ranges. But Hyundai apparently thinks that this is a positive advantage. It compares itself with the Peugeot Group, which has Citroens competing with its Peugeots which are mostly identical beneath the body work. It doesn’t make any sense to me. Maybe I’ve missed a subtlety. Both Kia and Hyundai are clearly on a roll, so the strategy is speaking for itself.
Neil Winton October 18, 2005
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