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New models - Hyundai - Getz

First Oz drive: Hyundai Getz ready

Hatched: The exclusively hatchback Getz range comes in three and five-door form, in GL or FX trim levels.

Hyundai hatches a plan to claw back sales to the youth market with the Getz

10 Sep 2002

HYUNDAI'S most significant new model release of the past few years has arrived - welcome the oddly named Getz light car which will take over the South Korean marque's volume-selling duties from the three-door Accent.

Getz is critical to the continuing success of the Hyundai brand in Australia, particularly as light car sales represent almost 50 per cent of Hyundai's total volume, but also because total sales have been falling steadily since the company's record year in 1997.

Getz has also been given the responsibility of recapturing the ground lost by Accent when it took over from Excel in mid-2000. Hyundai Automotive Distributors Australia believes it lost up to 30 per cent of the youth market (18-29 age demographic) due to the Accent's more conservative styling and higher pricing over Excel.

HADA is determined to bring those young, impressionable but trend/fashion/style savvy buyers back to the Hyundai fold despite the quality opposition that is in, or about to join, the light car segment - Holden's Barina and Toyota's Echo, which are currently mainstays of the light class, and imminent arrivals the Mazda2 and Honda Jazz.

The company also wants Getz to be the linchpin of the Hyundai franchise and it will be pushing hard over the coming months to establish the car as the new Excel.

About $2 million has been spent on a television ad campaign to introduce the Getz name to the market and lay the foundation for the car's launch phase.

From there HADA will spend about $8 million over the next 12 months advertising the Getz to saturation point across all available media sources - television, print, radio, cinema, internet and on-street presence (billboards), as well as through sponsorship of major events (the Rumba music festival) and celebrity endorsement.

Everywhere the target (youth) consumer turns, Hyundai intends to be there with the Getz name and product, as it leaves no stone unturned in the push for Getz domination of the light car segment.

Accent will continue to be part of the Hyundai range, but it will be pitched to the older demographic that has formed the backbone of its sales success, particularly with the sedan and five-door hatch models.

The Accent three-door will be dropped from the line-up so as not to cannibalise Getz sales, while the remaining models will be facelifted and fitted with a bigger, more powerful 1.6-litre engine to help further distance the car from Getz.

HADA now admits it did not publicise the Accent name as widely or as forcefully as it should have to maintain the Excel's strong sales, so it intends to correct that mistake with Getz.

HADA has brought the Getz to market with the driveaway pricing that Hyundai buyers are so familiar with - $14,990 for the five-speed manual entry level GL three-door, $16,990 for the manual GL five-door and $19,990 for the manual FX three-door sports model.

The four-speed automatic transmission adds $1863 to the price of each model, while air-conditioning costs $1800 on all GL variants (it is standard on the FX).

Getz will be available with driveaway pricing for as long as Hyundai can sustain it, which should be at least until the end of the year.

Built off an all-new platform, the Getz line-up will be exclusively hatchbacks and mechanical specification is relatively uniform across the range - everything except wheels/tyres (14-inch steel wheels on the GL and 15-inch alloys on the FX) and kerb weights.

Getz shares the Accent's 1.5-litre "Alpha" four-cylinder engine, although with some minor differences to the power and torque figures. Power is down slightly from 76kW to 74kW, although still at 5800rpm, while peak torque remains the same at 133Nm but it occurs at a marginally higher 3200rpm (up from 3000rpm).

The rest of the package reads much like the Accent's spec sheet - MacPherson strut front suspension, power-assisted rack and pinion steering, a 45-litre fuel tank and rear drum brakes.

ABS with EBD (Electronic Brake force Distribution) is available on all models as part of the "Extra Safety Pack", which also includes a front passenger airbag. From January 2003 build the safety pack will also include rear disc brakes, which is a noticeable improvement over Accent as neither ABS nor rear discs were available on that car.

Wheel sizes are up one inch in diameter compared to Accent models, which rode on 13-inch steel and 14-inch alloy wheels depending on the variant, while tyre sizes are the same width (175 and 185), but have come down one aspect ratio (70 and 60 series profile are now 65 and 55 respectively).

The Getz is both shorter (3810mm versus 4200mm) and taller (1495mm versus 1395mm) than the Accent, while width and wheelbase dimensions run very close to its effective predecessor.

But perhaps more importantly, its size is on a par with the other Euro-designed models in the light class, such as Holden's Barina and the Peugeot 206.

The base GL equipment level includes a driver's airbag, four-speaker radio/CD player, full cloth seats, 60/40 split-fold rear seat, height adjustable front and rear head restraints, three-point lap/sash seatbelts at all seating positions and that Hyundai light car staple, the large offset rear foglight.

The FX grade adds air-conditioning, electric mirrors and windows, remote central locking, driver's seat height, tilt and lumbar adjustment, leather steering wheel and gear knob, six-speaker audio system, carbon fibre-look dash and door panel trim, front foglights and body coloured door handles and mirrors.

HADA is banking on the Getz being so popular that it is already expressing concerns as to whether it can source sufficient supply to keep up with the expected demand - the concerns are driven by the fact that 80 per cent of Getz production will go to Europe.

HADA hopes to sell about 8000 Getz between now and the end of the year, providing the line of supply from South Korea can be maintained.

If those numbers are achieved, it should help lift total Hyundai sales to around 45,000 units, which would be the company's first year of growth since the heady Excel days of 1997.

For the full calendar year in 2003, HADA has forecast Getz sales of 18,000-20,000 units.

Accent sales are expected to drop from 1500 units per month to around 500, although combined Accent/Getz sales should see Hyundai remain the dominant force in the light car class.

PRICING:
Getz GL 3-dr manual - $14,990 driveaway
Getz GL 5-dr manual - $16,990 driveaway
Getz FX manual - $19,990 driveawayAutomatic transmission - $1863
Air-conditioning - $1800
Extra Safety Pack (ABS/EBD + passenger airbag) - $1590
Metallic paint - $215
Mica paint - $225

DRIVE IMPRESSIONS:

A RIDICULOUSLY short drive program through busy Sydney traffic meant very little of substance could be learnt about the Getz.

With the car's 1.5-litre engine carried over virtually unchanged from the Accent, performance is on a par with that model, so it's no surprise to find the Getz needs plenty of revs on board to keep it moving along.

But the spacing between second and third gears in the manual models is too large, which doesn't make it any easier to keep the engine operating in its peak zone.

We did not drive any automatic Getz variants, so we can't comment on how the car copes with one less forward ratio, but you can expect performance to be dulled, as is typically the case with autos.

Suspension control is typical Hyundai, which means it rides comfortably for the most part but cannot handle big hits from sharp road hazards without transferring the shock into the cabin.

Hyundai is making a big song and dance about the car's styling, as it believes looks are a crucial factor in the mindset of the youth demographic the company is targeting.

It is clear the Getz was designed to appeal in Europe, with its tall-boy stance and sweeping roofline that tapers towards what Hyundai calls "a cute butt" reminiscent of many current Euro light car models, such as Peugeot's 206, Renault's Clio and the Volkswagen Polo.

Whether it has equal appeal to the youth market, which could not get enough of the late 1990s Excel, will be told on the sales chart.

The car's interior packaging is sure to appeal to them with the obligatory high riding seating position (which shows its Euro links with a long arm/short leg type position), plenty of storage space and improved trim quality.

The release of the Tiburon sports model earlier this year marked a noticeable improvement in the build quality of Hyundai models and the Getz continues along the same path, with improved fit and finish as well as a greater feeling of solidity over the Accent.

Equipment levels are acceptable but certainly not outstanding for this class, with the absence of power mirrors and central locking on the GL variants showing Hyundai's failure to improve on the Accent's creature comforts.

Also, the roof attachment of the centre rear seat lap/sash seatbelt looks like it was an afterthought and shows cost is still an over-riding concern at Hyundai. The finish is nowhere near as slick as Subaru manages with its roof-mount system in hatchback and wagon models.

Pricing is certainly on the mark at $14,990 driveaway, but with air-conditioning a must have in this day and age, and automatic transmission the favoured choice of at least 30 per cent of buyers, the base three-door Getz is really a $18,653 purchase.

So while the Getz appears, at first, to have a significant price advantage over its competitors, it quickly becomes just another high-teen light car.

Overall, for the brief time behind the wheel, the Getz acquitted itself well in the cut and thrust of Australia's largest city, which is no doubt where it will spend most of its time - in urban centres rather than on country highways.

A full road test in the coming months should allow us to gather a better appraisal of the Getz.

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