Having the latest Hyundai Getz diesel on test was rather like a reunion with an old friend: two years ago, you see, I drove a Getz diesel on the Energywise economy rally, and finished runner-up to Chris Amon's Toyota Prius Hybrid for overall fuel consumption.
The Getz I drove then was blessed with a very tall top gear designed for 130kmh motorway cruising in Europe, and also ideally suited to an economy run. Since then, the Getz model has been through a mild face-lift, and the five-speed manual diesel sold here has been equipped with gear ratios better suited to everyday New Zealand conditions.
Vehicles of this size invariably attract a town-car tag, but test duties for the Getz included a return day trip to Invercargill and back, fully laden with four adults and a child.
Helped in the search for adequate room by rear seats that feature an angle adjustment for the seat back and height adjustment for the headrests, we settled into a plain but well-equipped cabin.
Air conditioning and an MP3-compatible six-speaker sound system were also on hand, the latter with fingertip controls on the steering. Power windows and mirrors, height-adjustable front seats also featured, while safety fare included dual front airbags, anti-lock brakes, an on-board fire extinguisher and a first-aid kit in the boot.
Once under way, the Getz took the mission in its stride. The generous 215Nm of torque delivered by the car's common rail turbo motor provided a platform for solid performance. Handling, while not sports-car sharp, was well mannered, and the light but accurate steering managed a good job in keeping the driver well in touch with the road.
The noise level, even on coarse chip surfaces, was acceptable, and the only real complaint in terms of ride quality was the Getz's tendency to bobble a little awkwardly when traversing sharp bumps.
All of which added up to a thoroughly convincing performance by the Getz, which has plenty to recommend it at a time when there is a decisive shift to small-car ownership in this country.
The trouble with the diesel is the pricing because, at $24,990, it costs $5000 more than the base model 1.3-litre petrol.
The crippling impact of our roaduser charge system on small diesels is such that you'll need to cover 160,000km to make up the purchase price difference in running costs. The payback comes rather quicker - at just under 50,000km - compared to the 1.6-litre petrol auto, which lists at $22,990.
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