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Getz Prime: Great car, low price

March 31, 2007 14:39 IST

The day I was driving this new  Hyundai in the UK, the chancellor of the exchequer, Gordon Brown, was mulling doubling the excise duty on SUVs and sports cars, essentially gas-guzzlers.

It was all over the local media, and every news update I heard on the radio during my day-long drive kept repeating it. Obviously, it did not go down well with folks there, causing the not-too-popular Brown's ratings to dip further.

Perhaps it was Brown's attempt not only to shore up the UK's financial situation while earning "Brownie" points from the Greens, but also to exert some control on Britain's fuel dependence.

More importantly, it was an incredible coincidence, considering I was driving a car that would have met with the wholehearted approval of a man who could be the future PM of the UK.

The car is of course the new Getz Prime 1.1. What's with this Prime moniker, you ask. Well, look at the pictures closely. Haven't you noticed that the Getz is looking different now? Yes, the Prime tag comes on now to indicate the facelifted Getz.

So what are the major changes then? Not many actually: a set of new headlamps and tail-lamps, a new front airdam/ foglamp setup, a new three-spoke steering wheel, a slight revamp of the centre console and a change in the plastic grain finish.

And other than some new body colours, the Getz Prime benefits from some extra value-adds like a driver's seat armrest, illuminated glovebox, illuminated power window switches and adjustable backrests at the rear. That's more or less it.

India will eventually become the global hub for Getz production, and these cars which are manufactured out of Sriperumbudur are now heading towards Europe.

Which also means that now Hyundai Motor India is all set to launch the Getz Prime in the country very, very soon. While the larger 82 bhp 1341cc motor stays, the manufacturer has chucked in the Santro Xing's 1.1 motor into the Getz.

Now why would Hyundai want to create a new variant when they are putting together an all-new car to fit between the Santro Xing and the Getz?

The reason is a Gordon Brown-like situation. If you remember, in the last budget, our own finance minister cut the excise duty on small cars with an engine capacity of less than 1200cc petrol engines, among other things? The Getz -- no doubt a clever, well-engineered hatchback -- could have done with a cheaper price tag. Hey presto, here's the Getz Prime 1.1!

Hyundai had laid out an over 200-km long loop for us to get familiar with the car, most of which passed through picturesque little English towns with quaint names, with a little bit of motorway thrown in -- a decent enough route to check out the smaller-engined Getz.

Displacing 1086cc, the 12-valve four-cylinder motor of the Santro Xing has been given extra power and torque bumps in the bigger hatch. In the Santro, this motor develops 62 bhp at 5500 rpm and 9.1 kgm at 4000 revs. In the Getz, it's been tuned to develop 65.67 bhp at the same rpm and 10.39 kgm of torque at 3200 revs. Just as well, because the heavier Getz needs all the power it can get.

Compared to the bigger Getz motor which is smooth and refined, the 1.1 is a bit rough. It is a proven engine and does sterling duty in the smaller car, and here, it's just about adequate with the 65-odd horses on tap. Though it runs out of steam on the motorway, on the twisty country roads, the Getz 1.1 managed to keep up with the flow of traffic.

Hyundai has retained the Getz' slick-shifting five-speed gearbox, but have changed the gear ratios in fourth and fifth. Ostensibly, the objective is to stretch a litre of fuel as far as possible without losing on driveability in the initial gears. The extra torque at lower rpm also helps it over here.

However, if you really want a spot of enthusiastic driving, you'll need to work that gearbox out quite a bit. But you don't get that sort of opportunities in ol' Blighty. The roads were pretty narrow and there were plenty of built-up areas with low speed limits all along the route, plus of course, there were crowded roundabouts and lots of stop-go traffic as well.

Quite similar to the kind of environment I see the Getz Prime 1.1 being used back home. It makes for an ideal city commuter, where driving comfort and space along with initial pick-up is more important than overall top speeds.

The Getz anyway is generally a laidback sort of vehicle to drive. It's very relaxed and does its job in a business-like manner. So the new engine does not change its innate character very much, only now perhaps you'll get better mileage figures. But I can't wait to see one of Hyundai's spunky CRDi motors in this car (it should be on its way later this year), and that will change things a bit.

In the new Getz, the steering has been appreciably tightened, something you will notice at low speeds. There was never any issue with the old Getz steering wheel anyway, which was quite good in its own way. It's just that the feedback you get now at low speeds makes it that much better, while the new three-spoke wheel is also good to hold.

Besides that, the other improvement is that the Getz Prime rides and handles much better. It did not exhibit any of the body roll that you experience on bad roads, thanks to which the rear passengers are buffeted around a little bit. Here, it felt more taut while cornering and took on the rare rough patch rather well.

Now, the problem is that the suspension settings were more in tune with UK specifications, while in India, usually, importance is given to a more plush ride rather than handling.

Still, I hope Hyundai addresses this issue on the Getz Prime that will be sold in the country.

So with the Santro Xing engine tucked into the Getz engine bay, I hope it will be priced pretty competitively,   I expect it to retail at around Rs 3.8 lakh ex-showroom Mumbai -- about as much as the top-end manual Santro, but significantly lower than the entry-level Getz GLE's Rs 4.19 lakh.

Going by that estimate, I think it is pretty good value for money. Not just that -- the Getz is without doubt the best-built hatchback in the country today.

It feels solid, the doors shut with a satisfactory thunk, it's highly reliable, immensely practical and incredibly spacious too.

Okay, it may not be fun to drive, but the gearshifts are slick and it makes for an excellent city commuter. The Getz Prime 1.1 just makes the deal better by giving you an improved fuel consumption figure and a lot of well-built car for relatively less money.

I know of at least two senior members of the UK and Indian governments who deserve to own it.

Srinivas Krishnan in Mumbai