Some of my motoring journo colleagues literally turn up their noses in disgust when asked to review, and write about, small or “entry-level” cars.
Obviously, it’s much more exciting to thrash about in 300km/h supercars than assess something around the suburban streets and in the Checkers car park.
Having been brought up on small cars – from my mother’s DKW Junior to our first new car, a Datsun 1200 – I have no such phobias about the less-than-glamorous cars on our market.
Actually, correction. That is not quite true.
When I first started writing about cars, about 15 years ago, I did succumb to the temptations of the expensive, the luxurious, the fast.
I would palm off the “ning-ding-dings” (as my mater Ian used to call small cars) on my colleagues, often female.
Perhaps one does mellow with age … or perhaps the galloping petrol price forces you to adjust your sights downwards – and one thing I have always done is to get an accurate fuel consumption read-out from whatever car I test – to vehicles which would be easier on your (or your reader’s) wallet.
And, when I started adjusting my taste and down-sizing, I realise that you don’t have to make huge sacrifices if you decide to go small.
There are plenty of little cars out there that, while not overburdened with tyre-shredding performance, are nevertheless very pleasant indeed to drive, even when you’re pushing it.
I am making it my current mission to try as many of these “entry-level” cars as I can and give you an honest assessment of them.
And guess what? It isn’t going to be easy…First up was Hyundai’s Grand i10, the bigger brother to the i10, although in reality it is a completely different – and much better – car.
I had been with a colleague of my wife’s to have a look at a demo model earlier this year.
She had the car on a shortlist that included a Kia Picanto (nice but quite a bit smaller) and a Renault Sandero (worn carpets at less than a year old were not a great indication of quality).
What persuaded her to the Hyundai was the fact that it comes with a seven-year, 200 000km warranty on the drivetrain (which is industry-leading).
And you don’t often hear of horror stories with Hyundais. I drove that demo car and with 29 000km on the clock, it still felt tight and new. Very good sign.
When Hyundai offered one of the new, top-spec Grand i10 Glide models – with 1.25 litre, 64kW, four-cylinder petrol engine – I was actually looking forward to the experience.
And the car did not disappoint. As you’d expect from an Asian car (this comes from Korea), the design on the outside was clean and inoffensive, made slightly more spicy by the addition of alloy wheels in the top version.
Inside, the dials and gauges are laid out logically and everything is fingertip-twirling easy to use. Ditto with the clutch, which is light as a feather, and the gearshift, which is positive without being too notchy.
It is the equipment levels on the Glide (at just under R210 000) which will get people into the showrooms. It comes with a good sound system and Bluetooth (and both are simple to set up), as well as a good aircon.
On the safety side, there are twin front airbags and ABS brakes, which makes a decent proposition from a safety point of view.
It also comes with a two-year, 30 000km service plan, whereas the cheaper models in the range (including the three-cylinder, 1.0 litre) only have that as an option.
The little engine spins happily to its redline at just over 6 000rpm and despite its comparatively small power output, it gets up and goes very well, even on the highway – although the occasion downshift from 5th to 4th is necessary to pass.
Handling is taut and the ride comfort is not bad, considering the entry-level nature of the car. It will give you less than seven litres per 100km in consumption around town and around 5l/100km on the highway.
After a week with the Grand i10, I had to sit down and scratch my head to come up with something I didn’t like or which irritated me.
I sat in it front and back (where there is plenty of leg room, by the way). I drove it. I looked at it from the outside.
I sat in it again.
Finally, I noticed the thing which was missing: no outside temperature gauge.
Everything else was in place so it was an odd omission. Conclusion: if you’re in the market for a small car, don’t buy anything until you’ve driven the Hyundai Grand i10.