Neither zippy nor lazy

The world trend of small vehicles becoming the de rigeur choice of even those who can afford larger vehicles has filtered down to South Africa, where the launch of small cars is almost as eagerly anticipated as luxury car launches.

So it comes as no surprise that Hyundai South Africa expects the newly introduced baby of the family, the i10, to become a common sight on our roads.

Hyundai has been quietly creeping up the ladder of manufacturers that sell significant volumes worldwide and achieved fourth position in global vehicle sales last year — a goal the company had given itself until 2010 to reach.

Despite the Korean marque now establishing itself as a mass producer, it still seems to pride itself on being a quality brand as well. Hence the five-year/150 000km warranty.

Given Hyundai’s recent successes (locally and globally), I had rather high expectations of the new addition and I’m happy to say that it lived up to all of these, except for one (which we will get to just now).

The i10 will not replace the Atos or any other model in Hyundai’s range, but it falls slightly above the Atos in terms of price and specification.

It’s slightly longer than most entry-level city runabouts as Hyundai was hoping to fit five adults into the i10, but four South African adults are about all you can hope to squeeze into this jelly tot. And with just a 1,1-litre power plant to get you from A to B, you really don’t want space for five adults.

The engine, which pushes out 49kw of power and 66Nm of torque, is not zippy, but it’s not lethargic either. It gets up to speed in a decent amount of time and will cruise on a highway at 120kph without too much fuss. But, as expected, the engine is a bit noisy and, when driving at speed, the wind noise also has the potential to become annoying.

All in all, you’re not going to want to do many Jo’burg-to-Durban trips in this car (or any other entry-level vehicle, for that matter), but if you have to, it would do the job well enough.

Standard features include air-conditioning, central locking, power steering, electric front windows, a full-sized spare wheel — and the estimated fuel consumption on a combined cycle is six litres/100km.

The i10 comes in either a five-speed manual (R89 000) or a four-speed automatic (R99 000) and though the price is perfect, I’m not happy at all with the fact that it doesn’t have ABS.

Now I know that all manufacturers spec their cars according to what their customers request and this is why there are differences in, for example, a European spec vehicle and an African spec vehicle, but when it comes to safety there needs to be more uniformity.

The bottom-of-the-range i10 model in the United Kingdom comes equipped with ABS and four airbags, and sells for the equivalent of roughly R95 000.

Hyundai says that in order to keep the price down, it chose not to add ABS or an airbag to the South African model and though it’s completely acceptable to make cars affordable, I don’t think it’s acceptable to sacrifice safety. Yes, there are arguments for and against safety aids such as ABS and airbags, but if a company isn’t convinced one way or another, then why not sell the i10 sans ABS and airbags across the globe?

The reason I’ve made this point with regard to safety aids is because Hyundai sees itself as something of a pioneer and I would expect an innovative, successful company such as this to lead the way in making features such as ABS standard on all its vehicles.

Ultimately, the i10 is a great little car and I might even go so far as to say that it would have been on my list of top three entry-level cars available in South Africa, but the fact that I can’t purchase this vehicle with the most basic of safety aids is a huge issue for me.

It has to be said that it’s not only Hyundai that doesn’t offer ABS on its entry-level vehicles and a quick glance at other entry-level cars shows that, disturbingly, there are too many vehicles without ABS. So, whenever any new car is launched, especially entry-level cars, M&G Motoring will make a point of highlighting the safety features in the hope that manufacturers will start bringing cars to South Africa with at least ABS brakes as standard.

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

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