This is a strange week.
I've just come hot off the heels (or should I say tires?) of the launch of the most hotly anticipated sportscar in the country, only to find myself behind the wheel of what is perhaps one of the most important cars in showrooms today.
We're driving the Hyundai Eon... and trying to keep the revs as low as possible.
Yes, it's an economy run.
Meet the small wonder
Just that morning, we had gotten re-acquainted with the Hyundai Eon.
Hyundai Asia Resources, Inc. (HARI), led by CEO Ma. Fe Perez-Agudo, launched the Eon a few months prior at the Manila International Auto Show. A diminutive machine, the Eon struck me as odd, especially since HARI still sells the rather smart i10.
Pricewise, the Eon slots in right under the i10, though its hard to discern the difference in dimensions and space. Looking at the spec sheet, the Eon is slightly smaller in length, width and height, measuring in at 3495mm, 1550mm and 1500mm, respectively.
Small in size, big in style
Style doesn't have to be expensive, and the Eon certainly has quite a bit of it.
It definitely looks modern with those tapered headlamps, plenty of character lines (reminiscent of BMW's flame surfacing, almost) and the signature Hyundai hexagonal grille. Of course, being a car that costs just under 500k means that there are a few compromises, as the Eon comes fitted with steel rims with full-size hubcaps. It does, however, come with front foglamps and a third brake lamp.
Inside its also quite stylish. The dash, plastics and interior design allow the Eon to punch higher than its price tag would normally allow. Seats are wrapped partly in fabric and leather(ette).
It looks good on the outside, and looks good on the inside.
I found myself oddly impressed with the level of standard equipment. The radio is the same integrated unit found in the latest generation Hyundais, along with USB, aux, and iPod input via a special cable. As I said, foglamps are standard, along with an airbag. Relatively no frills, but definitely better than expected.
Each door has pockets for storage, the passenger side of the dash has a deep compartment for random stuff and theres enough trunk space for a moderate sized cooler for drinks and a duffel bag or two.
Sitting inside, there's really not that much space to go around, but I have to say that it was applied rather smartly, with plenty of headroom and an upright driving position to generate more leg room. You may, however, have to ask your passenger to move his left knee if you have to shift to 5th; chances are you'll end up hitting it.
Small heart, big in efficiency
Under that diminutive hood is one of the smallest engines I've ever driven. Well, apart from a go-kart of course.
Powering the Eon is an 814cc SOHC 9-valve engine. The engine is capable of just 56 horsepower and 75 Nm of torque, and is matched with an 5-speed manual transmission. I don't doubt its ability to be efficient (something we'll put to the test), but the power figures are about what I would have expected.
Just to be clear though, I have my doubts about taking the Eon up through Kennon Road (our route later in the day), but more on that later.
Eco run is a go
Up bright and early, we all congregated at the new Hyundai North EDSA dealership to get briefed on the drive's activities. Unlike other fuel economy runs where we were given free rein on how fast (or how slow) we were to go, this one had a time element thrown in. More on that later.
HARI actually had 20 examples of the Hyundai Eon on hand for the drive, each with a driver and co-driver to call out the remaining time, distance, and what speed we should do.
For the first leg, we were to arrive at the Isdaan restaurant in Gerona, Tarlac, a distance of 146 kilometers. The second leg will take us up to the Caltex station at the foot of Baguio, another 100 kilometers, at the end of which we'll find out how much fuel we've consumed.
There's no fuel consumption computer. There no tach. It all boils down to consistent, efficient driving.
Every trick in the book, and more
We set off from the Hyundai dealership at exactly 8:40AM. My co-driver, Inigo Roces, had the routebook in his hand, computing quickly to figure out our speed based on a total time of 2 hours, 45 minutes for a total distance of 246 kilometers.
If our math is correct, we needed to do an average speed of a little less than 100 kilometers per hour. Wow. That's actually pretty fast for an average speed. In our past fuel economy runs. We've gotten accustomed to averaging 60-70 km/h, keeping the RPMs as low as possible while in the highest gear available.
It's not a problem on the NLEX and SCTEX, but its going to be tricky when we enter the detour road to Baguio; it would mean we would have to take some risks with overtaking to preserve our speed as. Organizers will add 0.1 liter consumed for every minute over the prescribed time. Ouch.
Once we entered the expressway, we immediately got up to speed. With myself behind the wheel, I quickly looked for a big car to draft (slipstream) behind; past experience really proves that it works. I found myself drafting delivery trucks, trailers, buses and dump trucks, allowing them to slam into and disturb the air out front to our benefit in the back, thereby reducing drag.
We did this pretty much for the length of both expressways until Tarlac. It works, but it does require a bit of nerve to do it (you will be following pretty close behind for it to have an effect), not to mention finding the right vehicle to slipstream at 100 km/h.
We were also given free rein over our aircon consumption, as the A/C does have a profound effect (read: drag) on such a small engine. So on whatever downhill portions we find, we'll shut off the compressor. After the rain abated (it did pour quite heavily that morning) we opened the windows.
The routebook marked every construction or road work site along the way, so when we got stuck in the inevitable line, we shut off the engine. Idling in traffic, you're doing zero kilometers per liter.
Murphy, thou art a cold hearted b....
Up until this point, we've been doing an average of 100 km/h or close to it based on our calculations.
Then we realize that the 2 hour 45 minute time limit was for the 146 km morning leg, not for the entire 246 km duration of the run. Oops.
Here we were, thinking “Why in the hell are the others going so slow?” only to realize that we were going too fast. Way too fast, actually.
My co-driver was already giving himself a hard time, especially since by the trip meter, we've already completed 110 km; we're left with just 36 kilometers to make up for the fuel we've undoubtedly consumed.
So, everyone we overtook was now overtaking us, as we we're now doing the bare minimum speed in 5th gear: 50 km/h.
We get to Gerona, Tarlac, our lunch break for the day, kicking ourselves in our collective butts. It took us just 2 hours and 5 minutes to get there; the quickest of the day, but definitely not the most efficient.
Well, I guess we'll have to try again in the afternoon session. No mistakes this time.
Catching up, in more ways than one
During lunch, we talked about how much we really want to win; after our screw up, it's a foregone conclusion.
We decided to just give it an honest go as if we still had a shot, and hope for the best. Besides, if we set a good consumption figure with the speeds we were doing, we figured its about as close to real world economy we can get without going too extreme by shutting off the A/C completely or other measures.
Inigo and I swapped places, with him behind the wheel and myself with the calculator (well, smartphone) and the routebook. 100 kilometers to go in 2 hours 30 minutes. Average speed: 67 kilometers per hour.
So we kept on, averaging much slower this second stint. There were more roadworks on this route, and thus our average speed plummeted. Our speed was actually at the point wherein the drag caused by opening the windows a bit wouldn't hurt us, and with the cooler outside air (thanks to the rainshowers) we opted to take the aircon out of the equation.
Towards the tail end of the 100 km route, we found ourselves lagging a little behind though, so I kept telling Inigo to push it a bit as by my reckoning, it would take an average speed of 80 from that point to make it just in time.
Quicker we went and just as well, as we arrived at our destination exactly on time. No penalties, with just 8.967 liters consumed. Judging from a quick conversation with the other guys, we figured we actually had a shot for 5th. Maybe.
14 cars out of 20 averaged 20 kilometers per liter or better; that's 70 percent of us. 7 of those 14 cars averaged better than 25 kilometers per liter. Impressive right?
The car that achieved the overall best fuel economy was Eon #5 driven by Lindy Pellicer (TurboTime) and Tet Andolong (BusinessMirror), averaging 30.532 kilometers per liter. An outstanding figure.
However, after the penalties were handed out due to going over the prescribed time, they found themselves 6th overall. In 5th place was Eon #4 driven by Ira Panganiban (PowerWheels) and Bam Olivares (Daily Tribune), achieving 27.432 km/l. In 4th place was Eon #10 driven by Eggay Quesada (StoplightTV) and Kris Lim at 27.478 km/l.
We found ourselves in 3rd place overall driving Eon #8 with 27.478 km/l as well, but since we incurred no penalties, we edged out Eon #10. In 2nd place was the father-son duo of Ron Delos Reyes and Ronald Delos Reyes (AutoReview) at 28.041 km/l.
In first place was Ronnie Trinidad (Sprocket.ph) and Charlie Cruz (Wave 89.1), consuming just 8.392 liters for a fuel consumption of 29.361 km/l.
The only way to go is up
With the tank full again and with the shackles of the fuel economy run gone, we were free to have some real fun. On Kennon Road. Oh, and it's pouring rain again.
We begin to push the pace, many of us eager to release some pent up frustration from an eco run (it really tests your patience to not put the pedal to the metal... or carpet), but all of us just needing to get a shower, Baguio's cool weather and a warm bed.
I push the Eon to its limits; the tires too. They're rather slim and the suspension rather soft; great in the city or over bad roads, but not what you really want for carving up a mountain road. Especially Kennon.
Nevertheless, we made it up the former goat trail, albeit stuck in second gear most of the way, sometimes even first. Not by choice, but because there wasn't much power to be had.
Is the Hyundai Eon worth it?
As an everyday car or as a first car, the Eon is definitely a great choice. The fuel consumption alone is a great selling proposition, as when I got back to Manila, it was averaging 15.4 km/l without really trying (moderate traffic), and its maneuverability is indeed fun in traffic... don't try it unless you're reflexes are quick. The features are definitely better than what the PhP 498,000 pricetag for the GLS (PhP 438,000 for the base model) implies.
It has its limitations as expected, especially on an open mountain road... uphill. But that's not what it was meant for. The Eon is a car designed and engineered to provide a comfortable, efficient and practical drive everyday. To and from work. To and from school. To and from the grocery.
The Eon works great around town... and that's where it undoubtedly belongs.