POSTED: Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - 5:25pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, July 31, 2012 - 9:26am
I remember the first Hyundai I ever saw at an auto show in 1986. It was a frankly homely little hatchback called the Excel. It offered, well, not much for a price that wasn’t much either. They had a sign at the display explaining how to pronounce the name saying it rhymes with “Sunday.” With the kind of foresight and prescience that has made me not only legendary, but rich, I made the fearless prediction to my fellow auto scribes that this little hunk of excrement would never make it in the land of the free.
Let me cut to the chase here. I didn’t know my elbow from a hot rock because the little Korean car that could, continued to grow and evolve and improve until we could eventually call it a viable alternative to, if not a new Honda, at least a slightly used one.
Now, it’s virtually on a par.
And one big advantage Hyundai has always had was content versus price…a lot of the former and very little of the latter. Let me give you an example. Which Japanese, American or European manufacturer offers a nice little four-door sports sedan with a 16-valve, 1.8-liter, dual-overhead-cam, 148-horsepower, four-cylinder powerplant, 17-inch alloy wheels with Michelin tires, a tight suspension, 6-speed automatic transmission, 4-wheel-disc brakes, front and side airbags, air conditioning, satellite radio with 6 speaker stereo, leather upholstery, fog lamps, power windows and mirrors, cruise, full gauges, remote keyless entry, tilt wheel, center console and a 60/40 folding rear seat for under $21,000? Is it just me, or is that simply the best combination of content and price in the market today?
The car itself is nicely screwed together; not quite Japanese in quality, but not that far behind. But it is leagues ahead in style. It looks like a baby Sonata, which looks about $10,000 more expensive than it really is.
It is about the size of an Accord and costs less than a Civic. It will zip to 60 miles per hour in just over 8 seconds, close to a Mazda Miata. It handles well, shifts smartly, and has an exhaust note that sounds…well…like a small, high-tech lawnmower.
OK, you won’t scare any BMW drivers. But as you are sitting in the pub with the Bimmer guys, instead of comparing lap times, compare car payments, and warranties. By rights, they should buy you a round.
Our little indigo blue beauty was just flat gorgeous, and makes the original Hyundais look like small kitchen appliances on wheels. Believe me, it isn’t only Detroit that is looking over its shoulder at the Koreans. There are a few anxious board meetings going on in Tokyo as well.