Some time ago, I had mentioned on this weblog that in the search for my first car, someone had yet to give me a compelling reason to buy the Hyundai Getz. Well, over the last couple of days, someone did. With nothing else to do over the rather long weekend, I decided to make the best of it and took the Getz, the Ikon Flair and the Palio nv Sport out for test drives.
1. While I'm going to be talking mainly about the Getz here, I will draw comparisons now and then with the Palio and the Ikon.
2. This is the first car review I’ve ever written. Go easy on me.
Let's Getz this started then, shall we? =)
The first thing about this car that hits you smack in the face as you walk up to give it a closer look is its size. I'd seen a couple of Getzs zip by on the roads and quite frankly, didn't see what the 'big' deal was all about. All of that changed in an instant as I walked up alongside a smashingly good lookin' Passion Red Getz GLS and let out a silent 'whoa' under my breath. If you think the line about the Getz being deceptively small is clichéd by now, do yourself a favour: walk into the nearest Hyundai showroom and take a close look at the Getz. You will find it hard to be unimpressed. The design guys at Hyundai have managed to create a rather pleasant illusion of compactness. A nice sloping front, the lean towards the back of the car, neat angular lines (much unlike the Santro), a crease that starts from the headlamps and goes all the way down the sides to the back that adds to the squarish and stocky demeanor of the car, large, clear headlamps and one of the cutest backsides that I've seen on a hatch are some of the high points of the car on the outside. The Getz comes in a range of 9 colours, with the Potamaic Blue, Passion Red and Ebony Black being the pick of the lot. If you ask me, it looks like the Palio now has competition for the title of India's best looking hatchback.
Step into the car and one word springs to mind: space. I'm about 6 ft 1" tall and I was able to slide into the Getz without having to watch my head or without my legs hitting the bottom of the steering wheel. Though not the overblown tall-boy height of the Santro, the roof was high enough not to be brushing the top of my head while sitting. The door opens fully almost perpendicular to the body of the car which makes getting in and getting out a breeze. I like to drive slightly stretched out and the Getz allows me to do that and more. Push the seat back and there's more than sufficient leg room in the front, even for a guy of my height. A comfortable driver's seat, though slightly lacking in under-thigh support, allows you easy access to the pedals, the steering wheel, the control panel, the rear view mirrors, the glove box and the various other storage areas towards the front of the car. Plus if you're all legs in the front, there's tilt steering which means you can move the steering column higher for that extra legroom - or lower, depending on your need. Visibility is also very good with the large windshield, thanks to the larger frontage of the Getz. A-pillar blind spots? I don't think so. All in all, a good feeling when you're sitting in the driver's seat. Central locking and power window controls on the driver's door are at a nice, optimal height. The car gives you a nice roomy feel overall: turn around and the back of the car seems some distance away and you definitely don't feel all boxed in even with five people sitting inside the car.
The next most impressive aspect of the Getz is the superior quality of the interiors. The fit and finish of the materials used on the inside of the car beat the pants off the Palio (it hurts my heart to say this, but I think the Palio's control panel is as ugly as ass! What were they thinking when they put that gargantuan red button there? And I've seen better plastics on bathroom fittings!) or the Ford Ikon. It's a sheer pleasure to just sit back and take in that heee-uuu-uge dashboard and the handsome control panel. The styling of the buttons, knobs (do not miss the stunning gearshift knob) and AC louvres are practical and stylish, but without being too dressy. Good upholstery on the seats and on the insides of the doors, that same superior plastic for the storage compartments and utility trays lend a nice, plush feel. I don't remember having seen insides as good on the Accent. There's one small drawback in that the glove compartment is a small wedge-shaped affair. Overdrive surmises that that's because Getz in other countries has a passenger-side airbag and that the glove compartment is a last-minute add-on for the Indian Getz.
On to the back. To put the back legroom to the ultimate test, I took my brother along for the ride. Now he's taller than me (about 6 ft 4" tall) and with the driver's seat pushed back to the max, he was still able to sit comfortably in the back without his legs splayed in all directions. Nor was his head touching the roof of the car. This was one positive that was definitely missing in both the Palio and the Ikon. The back seat allows for 3 people comfortably, with a stress on the 'comfortably'. Seatbelts are provided for all 3 passengers in the back. Both the Palio and the Ikon were snug fits, at best, for 3 people in the back, with the small rise in the middle of the back seat becoming a pain in the butt, literally! The Getz's back seat is a 1/3rd : 2/3rd split with the option of being able to recline them too. With the back seats in place, the boot capacity is evidently 365 litres and you can get close to double that because the back seats fold over double. This was a good match against the 400-litre boot of the Ikon.
But it ain't over till the fat lady sings, innit? I may be a little technically lacking here but I'll try and make up for it by giving you the whole 'feel' side of it. Turn the ignition and feel the Getz let out a soft purr in response. In fact, you could be forgiven for wondering whether she's turned over or not - it's that quiet. There's a clutch-lock facility that prevents the car from starting unless the clutch pedal is depressed. Starts are therefore smoother and surer. Inspite of the car's size which I was slightly unsure of to begin with (you cannot see where the car ends at the front from the driver's seat), the Getz handles like a baby, which makes getting used to manoeuvering her a matter of a couple of minutes. She's quick and slick out of the starting block and once she gets moving, you can't help but thinking 'smoooooooth'. Though a little sluggish in the 3rd and 4th gears compared to the Ikon (I had the AC on full blast both times), the Getz more than makes up for that with its agility. On a straight stretch, I was gliding the car in and out of traffic with an ease that surprised me. Thanks to the recent rains that have all but ravaged Chennai roads, I had the chance to take her across some pretty bad patches of road. Feels pretty good in the front - she's responsive and hugs the undulations well, but be prepared for some bouncing and rolling if you're sitting in the back seat. I guess this was the most glaring fault of the car - her ability, or the lack of it rather, to handle a tough patch. But the suspension is good nevertheless - not as hard and 'thuddy' as the Ikon’s was. The gearshift is a little on the clunkier side, but that’s again something that the pleasure of driving her overcomes. The turning radius isn't as good as the Ikon's but isn't as bad as the Palio's - hugs the inside nicely enough for you to make that quick U turn before the light turns red. The AC was pretty effective- the car was nice and cool in about 3 minutes, back seat passengers included. The noise factor is pretty negligible too.The Palio does score over the Getz and the Ikon in the AC department. Brakes, as in all Hyundai cars, are quick to react to even the lightest touch - it helps then, to drive the car with light feet. Power steering feels solid and sure - not like the car's getting out of control and sliding into a parking spot is also pretty much a piece of cake. A pleasant, noiseless and fun ride.
To sum up: this car was a revelation for me. I went into this contest with my heart all set on the Palio with the Getz being a 'let me just check it out' option. But for the drop-dead gorgeous looks and that the car feels awesomely rock-steady and solid while driving, I was quite disappointed with the inside space, the hard seats and quality of the interiors of the Fiat hatch. The Flair did better on all of the above, and is an eminently driveable car, but that much money for a stripped down version of the Ikon just didn't seem worth it (an automatic boot release is an add-on in the Flair). Now for exactly the same amount of money as the Flair, I get the top end version of a hatchback that in my opinion, scores on comfort, looks and driveability and gives me bang for my hard-earned buck. While I don’t deny that I was one among the many who thought Hyundai had committed a pricing faux-pas with this car, the couple of hours I've spent with it have me reconsidering my decision. The Getz, at 4.5 lakhs, ex-showroom Chennai seems like a nicely 'scaleable' car in the sense that it conveys the impression of giving you so many more possibilities to work with on the inside, depending on the size and requirements of you and your family. It's perfect for a family of 2 as it is for a family of 4. And it does have the backing of a company that doesn't seem like it's made too many mistakes since it came to India.
And while all of this may be a tad too simplistic for you to base a decision on, I for the time being, am impressed. Hyundai's new hot hatch has itself an ardent admirer.