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Hyundai Getz CDX 5-door Roadtest

Amongst certain nomadic African tribes, the number five has special significance. People born on the fifth day of the fifth month are believed to enjoy particular peace of mind and to have all their worldly concerns taken care of by a hidden and benign Presence that demands only occasional visits to His temple in order for His promise to be fulfilled.

Such a society exists here in Britain, but we call them Hyundai owners. To them the number five holds a similar significance in that it represents the market-leading warranty dished out on all new Hyundai cars, including the latest Getz supermini. More than that, there is no mileage limit and so owners can be as nomadic as they like. And should they be caught napping by some incursion of ill fate when miles from home, the company also throws in three years' RAC assistance.

All this on a car costing as little as £6,995 seems to me to be a good deal, and since sales are booming punters evidently agree. Apparently young buyers are attracted by the modest prices and the high levels of standard equipment. Even the cheapest, lead-in models have as standard such things as twin airbags, ABS with electronic brake-force differential, immobiliser, radio/CD, an adjustable-rake steering wheel, electric front windows, Isofix child-seat anchorage, central locking and so on. Compared with most of its obvious budget-priced but more expensive rivals, the Getz epitomises the Korean notion of value for money.

But for the man or woman who likes larger doses of the good life and extra power under the bonnet, the range includes a 1.6-litre model, which is offered in CDX or Sport trim. I drove the former, which delivers a satisfying mix of added luxury and quite vivid performance. It's no GTi, but for most drivers a sub-10 second 0-62 mph time and a top speed of 109 mph are more than enough to make decent progress.

With a peak torque of 143 Nm delivered at a fairly low (for a naturally aspirated petrol engine) 3200 rpm, there is ample flexibility for fairly relaxed driving around town. Add light controls, good all-round visibility, a tight turning circle and a kind of no-nonsense capability, and is obvious candidate for driving schools, which I am told is the case.

During the week of the test, I needed to make several cross-London trips and I actually chose to use the Getz in preference to an altogether more powerful and sophisticated car. Although the merits of the Getz are perhaps more rational than emotional, I enjoyed the simple, back-to-basics feel of the car and found myself content to throttle back and enjoy the absence of high-strutting horses and an excitable temperament. Unless you subscribe solely to the 'what'll it do' school of motoring, I challenge you not to enjoy the simple pleasure of reaching B from A with the minimum of fuss and effort.

Now that Hyundai have grasped the fact that European notions of styling differ from those of Pacific Rim countries, their most recent models look much more the part, and the Getz is no exception. Just as modern-looking and stylish as the latest Fiesta, the Getz shows no sign of being the poor relation of the supermini market. This is hardly surprising since some 80 per cent of production is destined for Europe, and Hyundai evidently know what constitutes an attractive package. Not just in styling terms, but in the generous interior space, which struck me as being close to that of the Fusion, which Ford bill as an 'urban activity vehicle'.

Even with the folding rear seats in place, the 'boot' of the 5-door Getz will accommodate more than 10 cubic feet of luggage and over 34 of the same when the seats are laid flat. Not bad for a car measuring well under four metres in length.

Where the car does reveal its origins is in the cabin aesthetics, most notably the fascia, which looks a little dated and devoted to the less attractive sort of plastic trim. I would date the interior circa 1995, unlike the exterior styling, which is certainly as modern as the launch date - October 2002. A neat grille, short bonnet and distinct cab-forward appearance, with a large windscreen, together smack of a 21st Century city car. And even the most cursory glance reveals the source of the interior space - a wide track and long wheelbase. Together these also account for the ride quality, which would not disgrace a car from the class above.

Pushed hard, the 109 bhp engine does make itself heard, but by and large it's no more intrusive than other small cars with a busy engine just the other side of the bulkhead. Where it does, of course, differ from its main rivals is in the equipment levels, which in the CDX could be described as comprehensive.

In addition to the things I have already mentioned, the CDX has filtered air-conditioning, a 6-speaker sound system, electric windows all round, an electric sunroof, height-adjustable driver's seat, trip computer, tacho, alloy wheels, body coloured handles and mirrors, keyless entry and alarm, and a rear spoiler with an integral brake light. A four-speed automatic 'box is available on both the 1.3- and 1.6-litre CDX models for an extra £850.

Returning to my point about its rational values, the Getz should deliver relatively low whole-life costs. The 1.1-litre models attract a lowly 3A insurance rating, the 1.3-litre cars 4A and 5A for the GSi and CDX, respectively, and a still modest 6A for any of the 1.6-litre models. Unsurprisingly the 1.1-litre engine returns the best fuel consumption - 48.7 mpg on the EU combined cycle. The 1.3-litre manages 45.6 mpg and the manual 1.6 a very acceptable 43.5 mpg. The latter is derived from an urban figure of 34.0 mpg and an extra urban of 52.3 mpg. The worst performers are the two auto models - 1.3 and 1.6, which share a combined fuel consumption of 37.2 mpg.

Someone cleverer than me has worked out that the running cost of the lead-in, 1.1-litre Getz GSi is 16.44 pence per mile, which is less than the smart passion. The test car works out at 21.56 pence per mile. For the really parsimonious, there is a 1.5-litre diesel version due in the shops in the summer of 2003.

At one stage, build quality was sometimes an issue with Pacific Rim products - possibly the result of low labour rates generating a 'that'll do' philosophy on the production line. That is no longer the case. Hyundai's European design ethos extends to the fit and finish, which appeared to be every bit as good as its mainstream rivals, with the possible exception of Volkswagen, whose laser welding techniques continue to deliver the best shut-lines in the business.

Although lacking the strong brand-values of the Polo, and its long-established reputation for stolid reliability, the Getz looks set fair to gain a reputation of its own, for different reasons. You might even call it a poor man's Polo, although such an epithet does little justice to its specification, which lacks nothing of any value.

Safety too, is high on Hyundai's agenda and the Getz incorporates HAIST (Hyundai Advanced Integrated Safety Technology), which, says the company, ensures '...the highest possible passenger protection in a collision at any angle.' On CDX and Sport models, twin and side airbags are standard and, as stated, all models feature ABS with EBD. Also standard across the range is a fire-protection system that employs a sensor to cut off the fuel supply in the event of a serious impact.

Hyundai are no strangers to the small-car market - witness the Amica and before that the Atoz, both of which are a long way removed from the good old, bad old days of the Pony that graced (disgraced?) their product range in the mid-Seventies. But unlike the Amica, which satisfies a particular market niche, the Getz is the Pacific Rim's answer to the Fiesta and should develop an equally egalitarian customer base, albeit on a smaller scale.

Within its genre, I think it serves as a plausible and commendable alternative to its European rivals. Indeed, as they once would say on Juke Box Jury (ask your father) in respect of a potential hit, I'll give it five.

Posted on 03.01.2003 by Graham Whyte
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