Locally made Hyundai HB20 targets sector stalwarts like VW Gol and Fiat Palio

Locally made Hyundai HB20 targets sector stalwarts like VW Gol and Fiat Palio

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The arrival of another Asian brand producing locally in Brazil will increase automaker competition for new car buyers. Hyundai, in particular, thoroughly investigated the Brazilian market.

The compact HB20 is the first of three planned new models and was specifically designed for Brazil, unlike the Indian-made Eon or Russia’s Solaris. Contrary to normal practice, the European i20 will be influenced by the Brazilian model within two years.

Hyundai will keep both, co-existing distribution channels here in Brazil. Products assembled by Group Caoa in Anápolis (GO) and imports will be in one channel while the new car will be marketed by a separate dealer network (identified by a blue porch) of 130 exclusive dealers from 10 October.

Yet service will be unified (both networks will service all products). This process will be gradual through 2013 until 200 outlets are in place.

Although the HB20 is available with a one-litre/79bhp engine, Hyundai believes 60% of sales will be the 1.6-litre/126bhp version. Both are all-aluminium, multivalve and dual overhead camshaft with variable valve timing.

Design guidelines were to make the product sophisticated and keep it 1% below the Volkswagen Gol retail price with similar trim. Prices range from R$32,000/US$15,840 to R$43,000/US$21,290 (automatic transmission R$3,000/US$1,480 extra), seven versions in total.  An entry-level version is likely to come later.

Airbags come as standard but ABS brakes are only on the top R$38,000/US$18,810 one-litre model or a slightly less well equipped R$37,000/US$18,320 1.6-litre version. 

The HB20 pleases for its level of finish, choice of materials and standard reach and rake steering wheel adjustment (like the Gol’s).

Its styling, as well as being modern, is very attractive with elegant side creases. Thanks to the 98.4in wheelbase, rear seat legroom matches that of the Fiat Palio. Rear headroom is also satisfactory despite some discomfort due to a somewhat low seat cushion.

The car is pleasant to drive but suspension could be a little firmer and steering could be less assisted. Inside, quietness is a highlight amongst rival compacts.

The 1.6-litre engine is impressive for its acceleration but, below 2,500 rpm, it is slightly sluggish.  The smaller engine is amazingly smooth in the lower range and its different exhaust note is surprisingly nice.

Both are the most powerful on the block yet they lose on torque to the Gol and the Palio, respectively with the smallest and largest engines in the segment.