Hyundai is going great guns overseas, and in New Zealand, where it’s just announced ESP stability control will be fitted as standard to every vehicle in its range
Hyundai NZ will soon launch the promising-looking H1 van, and the very attractive i30 hatch.
But is Hyundai NZ’s executive director, Phillip Eustace, slapping himself on the back?
Nope. He’s too het up about some of the government’s upcoming attempts to improve our lives.
Whole of vehicle marking? A good reason to buy shares in Datadot, he says, a company that naturally promotes the idea.
“But 18,000 cars will have to be processed a month, stored for a few hours first to dry them, for two hours after. With those numbers you can expect lots of errors.”
Will it reduce vehicle theft? “What do you think?” asks Eustace. Er, not enough to justify the cost? The New Zealand Treasury assumes a value of $13,000 per stolen vehicle and constant theft rates, putting the value of cars stolen by professional criminals at $80.33 million a year, and the cost of whole of vehicle marking, assuming $47 per vehicle, at $10.99 million a year.
Of course, vehicle marking won’t put joy riders off.
Its deterrent comes when vehicles are stolen for parts. While the price doesn’t take into account the cost of storage, or running a system capable of tracking every car on our roads.
But Eustace is already on his next topic – emissions rules, and the relaxation of standards for used import cars.
“If you’re going to have a standard applied to protect our air, it should be applied to all vehicles. They’re protecting used cars to save votes.”
The thorny issue of sales-weighted fuel targets?
Setting a 170g/km CO2 emission standard by 2015 and fining manufacturers for going over it, especially when that standard is lower than the average, has Eustace frothing at the mouth.
It’ll hit vehicles with a double-whammy, given the CO2 tax on fuels from 2009.
The government’s aim is to encourage people into smaller, newer, more efficient cars. Eustace says restructuring the registration fees is just one fairer alternative.
Perhaps there is no truly fair alternative – after all, if you need a ute (which will struggle to pass) you’re not going to buy a Suzuki Swift (which already does).
“[Energy Minister] David Parker is just running around trying to make a name for himself while he’s playing with the country’s future,” is Eustace’s take on that issue.
“He wants to attack large cars, but the same measures attack the vans, the utes, vehicles people have no option for.”
And Eustace says the penalties will cost some people more than the cost of the carbon tax they’re offsetting.
Fair? Eustace splutters.
Luckily he’s expecting a rearrangement of road user charges to redress the current situation that penalises small, more frugal diesel-fuelled cars, and he’s an advocate of biofuels though he’d like to see more investment into researching locally-available sources like wood products.
So – what about Hyundai’s new van, then?
“We can only get the H1 van with ESP in the diesel variant, so we’ve delayed introduction of the petrol version by 18 months until we can get it with ESP.”
Not a difficult decision, given how few sales are of petrols, but still.
The diesel engine is a 125kW/392Nm 2.5-litre mated to auto or manual transmissions, and fitted within a handsome, modern body with a two or five-seat cargo format.
Or there’s the eight-seat passenger van, in five-speed auto form only. Both get ESP, ABS, and five airbags, and will arrive in the new year.
As for the handsome i30 hatch, its arrival has been delayed by significant demand in Europe, but it’ll be launched here in February with a 2.0-litre Elite petrol and a 1.6-litre Elite diesel priced at $34,990 and $36,990.
The Corolla-sized car is attractively designed inside and out, with just the right amount of embellishment and a proliferation of thoughtful touches.
Then there’s the generous specification list, with ESP plus ABS with Electronic Brake Distribution and Brake Assist, six airbags, isofix child seat fittings, a full leather interior, climate control air con, an iPod auxiliary and USB input and parking sensors among the standard fitments.
There’s even a glovebox cooler.
We had a quick drive of the diesel, with its variable geometry turbo. It’s a smooth performer with 85kW at 4000rpm and 255Nm at 2000rpm.
It pulls strongly, proved quiet at round-town speeds while the electronic steering isn’t over-assisted. Promising.
The 2.0-litre petrol with 105kW at 6000rpm and 186Nm at 4600rpm was unfortunately not available for sampling.
Given our admiration of his i30, a now calmer Eustace contemplates a Korean company that’s expanding, which continues to do well in independent quality ratings, and that’s opening new factories in China, Czechoslovakia and India, from where our Atoz and Getz replacements are likely to come.
So they’ll be cheap, then? “You can’t build a cheap car any more,” Eustace says. “To meet modern [crash safety, emissions and fuel-efficiency] regulations, you can’t do it cheaply. Nissan’s Carlos Ghosn says he’ll build a cheap car for three grand. That’s a load of...”
Sounds like a hurled gauntlet? Perhaps. But judging by Hyundai’s recent performance – and the i30 we’ve just tasted – it’s well up to a challenge. Let’s just hope Eustace doesn’t face too many. Judging by this discussion his brand might take it. His blood pressure won’t.