Technology has made leaps and bounds through the centuries, and technology has somewhat become a big factor in choosing what car we would purchase. In this day and age, it’s quite unthinkable to not have a back-up camera, reverse sensors, or even a touchscreen infotainment system in our cars.
But what if a manufacturer comes up with something straight out of the 90’s, a car that brought us through the generation of bare essentials but did so safely and enjoyably as well? Hyundai came up with an answer, and its name is Reina.
Getting our hands on this specimen was a proper trip down memory lane. Now, a lot of people and potential buyers could be put-off by how bare this car is; I was, too. But the more time we spent with the Reina, the more it showed its plus points. On the outside, it isn’t revolutionary or evolutionary by any means. It is simple, and it is plain. It is also unpretentious. Size-wise it is reminiscent of the sedans of old - along the lines of big bodies and EKs or even Cities.
From the black window trims, the black door pillars, and even the 14” hubcaps, the Reina takes you back to when cars were simpler, but no less “functional”. Halogen lamps come standard, and fog lights are not part of the package, either. But I don’t see this as a negative point, really. In fact, given its target market, and the fact that most of us got by with just about the same equipment (and looks), there is no drawback to this part’s absence. Most of us learned and got by with less, and there is no reason to think of this as a drawback.
In as simple as it is, it’s still a rather attractive car. Given Hyundai’s design language, the Reina’s front has cues from the older Accent, and dare I say it, the Veloster’s grill and bumper. Now before you go bonkers, take a good look at it first. The “gaping” grill that takes most of the bumper’s real estate, the angled lower portion sans a chin spoiler, they do give it a more sporting and younger vibe. Not a performance car by any means, but it looks good.
Smooth flowing lines on the side do well to make the car look sleeker, too. The back side, though, is where they may need to add more oomph. Save for the badges, the trunk lid is empty. Hyundai opted to have single-piece tail lights mounted on the body itself, leaving no trunk garnish for the Reina. An effort to maybe save cost? Perhaps. A point for aesthetic improvement? Yes.
On the inside is where the real throwback comes in. The dash, the door sidings, everything was draped in plastic - black plastic, and lots of it. Silver trim pieces on the dashboard, door handles, the steering wheel, and air conditioner vents effectively break the monotony of the otherwise plain cabin. It also serves to add a little touch of class to the Reina in a subtle and tasteful way.
As expected, the climate control is of the manual variety. From the thermostat, fan speed, vent and recirculation modes, they are all controlled by either rotary knobs, or by a sliding lever. On to the entertainment system, this is something straight out of economy plus class. The Reina has a single-DIN radio, no CD player, no Bluetooth or phone connectivity, but it does come with a USB port. Mind you, it does not serve to stream anything from your phone; it is meant for old-school thumbdrive-stored music that the head unit can then play. Listening to your jam in the Reina is like pushing a cassette into the radio, but this time, you don't have to manually rewind or fast forward to your song of choice.
Also, what did catch my attention was the placement of the window switches on the center stack. This leaves the door cards as plain as they can be, but hey, at least they still had pockets for your little knick knacks; small bottles and microfiber towels, as such. Right below these switches and in the middle of the center pocket is a socket for your gadget-charging needs. Not that your mobile phone will be using any juice with Spotify or any other streaming service when you’re riding in this car, anyway, but it's a nice piece to add nonetheless.
So we now know that there isn’t much going on as far as tech goes. But what does the Reina offer to those driving or riding in it: quite a good number of good things, actually. First of all, despite how small the car really is, cabin space is actually very comfortable. I was expecting my head to be hitting the headliner and my shoulder to be hitting a pillar, but I was pleasantly surprised otherwise. The seats were firm, finding your ideal position as a driver (or even just as a front passenger) was very easy, and there was ample support from the otherwise minimalist-looking seat bolsters.
In the back, it’s more of a space for 2 adults. A small child or maybe 3 not-so-hefty adults can fit, and they can still expect a good degree of comfort. Granted it’s not going to be a dreamy ride, but it is space enough, for sure.
On a side note, the two-tone fabric seat upholstery lends a very nice touch to the cabin space. Also, a light-colored headliner manages to give the illusion of a much bigger interior. It’s not of gargantuan dimensions, but again the Reina has space enough for people, and even for cargo. Much like sub-compact sedans of today, and compared to those of yesteryear, the trunk of the Reina has more than decent space for your groceries, your baby stroller, your luggage, a cooler, and a few more duffel bags for a road trip.
But how does it perform, though? Back then, DOHC motors were reserved for the bigger-displacement engines. There was a stigma towards having 2 camshafts as being less economical. With the Reina and its 1.4L engine, this is definitely farther from the truth.
In daily traffic, we were able to get up to 10.2km/L. Having a stick shift was also quite conducive for a few, err, “spirited” (well, as far and fast as this little car’s spirit can take us, that is) bursts on open stretches.
Of course you cannot expect power from such a small mill, but the torque is quite impressive. Delivery is linear and there are no awkward, annoying, or unwelcome jitters or vibrations from the engine, the pedals or the steering wheel. It is also, in fact, a rather well balanced car.
Taking corners as quick as the Reina allows feels good, with the car being well planted on the ground. You can only do so much with stock suspension and commercial tires, but you can trust the Reina to be controllable on straights and turns for as long as it's driven within reason, of course. Most cars of the 90s won’t exactly give that much confidence, but this one does.
So how does the Reina fare with the current competition? In this day and age, sub-compacts are usually the way to go, and with sedans maintaining their reputation as new car owners’ vehicle of choice, there really isn’t much to argue about. Looking at the spectrum of cars on offer, sure there are some who offer a bit more tech or pizzazz on the side. There may be some who may look a little bit sportier and are actually more modern and tech-savvy than this one, too.
But in our time with the Reina, there is one thing that it really has going for it, and it is the Hyundai badge. Good suspension, good handling, comfortable seating, and most of all, efficient engines, are all part and parcel of the Hyundai brand, at least in our experience. At the end of the day, it’s all a matter of preference, but if these inherent traits are things you look for in a new car, or in a car that makes you want to relive the glory of the 90s’ automobiles, then the Reina is a good choice for your coin.