The traditional Korean kimchi is defined as a spicy pickled or fermented mixture containing cabbage, onions (with an occasional fish or two), variously seasoned with garlic, horseradish, red peppers, and ginger. By comparison, the Hyundai Getz CRDi can also be mentioned in the same breath as the aforementioned dish, providing a real kick thanks to a blend of common rail injection, a heavy dose of diesel power and a dash of turbocharging. Just how strong this compact Korean horse kicks is the reason for today's test drive.

Less is really more

Much like its Accent sedan sibling, the Getz's interior defines the meaning of the words "wholly simplistic." Unlike the Accent, however, the inside is more geared towards a monotone color approach, with nearly everything in black save for the aluminum-lined center dashboard and door armrests, and the chrome door handles and locks. The nice view from the seats (along with the short hood) allow for a full view of what's ahead. Seating is good for four but cramped for five, and gets tighter for rear passengers if the front occupants are six-footers. The good news is that the seat fabric is comfortable yet grippy enough to hold passengers in place, especially during hard cornering.

The airconditioning blows either Arctic cold or decent heat, and provides a three-dial approach similar to the aforementioned Accent sedan. The JVC MP3/CD head unit is fairly serviceable, but needs an amplifier and better midrange/treble reproduction. Also, this writer would like to appeal to Hyundai Asia Resources Inc. (official distributor of Hyundai vehicles in the country) that their OE vehicles' head units be replaced with anything other than Sony or JVC head units, for their respective user interfaces are hard to read and hard to use as a result.

Although the Getz looks like it offers very little trunk space, this writer discovered that he can fit two or three medium sized travel bags with the tonneau cover over them, and throw in an additional duffel bag over the tonneau cover. Unfortunately loading luggage atop the tonneau cover tends to block rearward vision. The good news is that the backseats fold down in a 60-40 split to handle bigger cargo. Storage for front occupant bric-a-brac is decent, with a glovebox, a canal under the steering column, rubber-lined storage under the head unit and near the 12-volt/lighter outlet, and two cupholders. Unfortunately rear passengers just get a big cupholder (it can hold a two-liter bottle) and two small seat pocket linings behind the front occupant backrests.

A look at the Getz's outside and one will notice a slight similarity (especially at the front end) between the Peugeot 207 and the Getz. The grille, the steep-sloped hood, the green color of the test unit and the headlights look like they were inspired by the French carmaker's vehicles. In contrast the rear provides a bit of sportiness, thanks to a rear glass-mounted spoiler with a short overhang.

Nothing on it, nothing to it

Just because the Accent looks small doesn't mean that it's slow. The inline four cylinder 16-valve 1.5-liter double overhead camshaft CRDi (common rail diesel injection) powerplant puts out 108 hp and 173 lbs ft of torque to good use and can hang with or even outrun sedans of 1600-2000 cc dispalcement. Given the short dimensions and the 1150kg weight, powerband entry (1900-plus rpm) and waking up the turbo (3000-4500 rpm) are very easy, with a (Batangas) Star Tollway tested 191kph top speed and 16 kilometers per liter on five days of mixed driving.

The five-speed m/t can be fairly easy to use, requiring a light foot on the clutch and gas pedals. Like its Accent sibling, the said tranny also has a unique dogleg reverse gear. Engaging reverse requires you to: 1) Depress the clutch pedal; 2) Put your right hand on the m/t stick; 3) Pull up a plastic ring around the stick; and 4) Move it to the leftmost side of the m/t box. Conversely, just depress the clutch pedal, put your right hand on the m/t stick, swing the stick to neutral (while on the clutch pedal and without pulling up the plastic ring) and place it in the leftmost side of the m/t box.
In the handling department, the Getz does fairly well in everyday circumstances, despite riding on a MacPherson strut front and a torsion beam rear suspension. The front end has decent grip but during hard cornering there's significant traction loss. Minimal noise comes from the 175/65 R14 Hankook Centum tires, with tire squeal occurring at 70-80 kph and plowing at 81-plus kph.

The Getz owner or driver may have issues with its safety systems. There's no ABS (anti-lock braking system), making the Getz exert understeer AND oversteer during hard, heavy braking conditions. Also, the steering is rather heavy, making opposite lock application tough. There are seatbelts to put you in place, but there are no airbags nor torsion beams should a collision occur.

If you're a soon-to-be-college kid or a first time vehicle owner, you DEFINITELY want to consider this vehicle. If the frequent presence of Getz units on the road are any indication, it may be a sign that Filipinos have warmed up to this saucy hatchback. Just don't drive recklessly; its spice may bite.