By on May 9, 2012

Jack Baruth’s proposal to grade cars by their ability to hit 80 miles an hour may have some merit in the land of Cheeseburgers and V8s, but it represents a conundrum for those of us who can hardly get to 80 mph. Case for the defense: the new Hyundai Eon, sold (so far) only in India and the poorer parts of Southeast Asia. Like my part: The Philippines.  The Eon is a fantastic car for us poor people who enjoy getting 60 miles per gallon of dubious gasoline on our regular commute with the air conditioning going full-blast. But hitting the big 8-0 is not in the cards. Not unless you have half-a-minute to kill and some Excedrin.

But then, that’s not the point. 60 mpg is the point. To this effect, Hyundai pulls out all the stops to hit that magic number. The Eon’s puny 814 cc motor is a four-cylinder Hyundai “Epsilon” with one cylinder lopped off. Three cylinders, a single overhead camshaft, a nine-valve head and a lowly 6000 rpm redline may not sound sexy, but it puts out a class-leading 55 horsepower. Only blown SMARTs and sportsbikes make more out of so little.  And they all cost more.

Think the Chevy Spark is light? The Eon tips the scales at well under 1,600 pounds. The chassis is a cut-down i10/Santro unibody, with two inches lopped off the roof, hips and tips. The crash structure is shrink-wrapped around the engine, and even the front engine mount goes MIA in the interest of clearing space for the lower crash bar. The suspension is likewise pared down to a bare minimum, built out of plumbing supplies and angle-bar. I do like the beefy front anti-roll bar, which dispenses with needless end-links and does double duty as a secondary control arm. Like your motors quiet? Tough luck. Between the single catalytic converter and the muffler, there’s nothing but straight pipe and snorting three-pot noise.

But let’s not forget, this is a Hyundai. That means that no matter how cheap the car is, at least it looks good. Boy does it ever look good. Forget the fact that it’s rolling on shopping cart casters, (for the morbidly curious, 155/70R13 is par for the class) just look at those curves. Years after Chris Bangle’s retirement, someone finally gets flame-surfacing right. And for a car that costs half-as-much as a Honda Fit, the fit and finish is astonishing. The interior is likewise a fascinating study in dressing up the dour, with curvaceous design cues putting other entry-level cars to shame.

Well, if your other choices were twenty year old Daewoos and Suzukis, you’d certainly feel the same way like we do.

Against expectations, the Eon drives rather nicely. Not big car nice, but well enough. Engine and road noise aren’t intrusive, and there’s no whistling over the A-Pillars at speed. Despite the puny tires, it tracks straight and true at 90 mph, as long as there are no crosswinds. That large anti-roll bar keeps body roll to a minimum, and the steering is pleasant. The small size and nimble handling allow the Eon to hold its own when dicing with the swarms of thumper motorbikes infesting our roads in dry weather.

Hit a deep pothole hard enough and you’ll remember you’re in a tin box, but over waves and crests, it’s as well-controlled as a Spark and possibly better than the boingo-boingo Accent. It also brakes better than the Spark and has a gear shift that doesn’t feel like stirring a pot of rubber bands, despite the missing engine mount.

Unfortunately, the pedal box is too cramped for heel-and-toe and dropping clutch without bogging is tricky. With the first two gears topping out at 22 and 40 mph, you’ll be doing a lot of clutchwork to get moving, especially uphill.

Compared to the Eon, the Spark is a top-fuel dragster, but the Eon’s lightness pays dividends in handling and economy. Better yet, it shades the Chevy in terms of legroom and trumps it in terms of cargo space. You’re still not fitting that keg of beer back there, but it gets close.

Maybe America isn’t ready for a car that takes nearly twenty seconds to hit sixty and is narrow enough to park on a bicycle rack. Maybe America would feel short-changed by a car that tops out at a mere ninety miles an hour. Maybe America wouldn’t buy a car available exclusively with a stick (or maybe they would).  ABS? EBD? DSC? STFU. The only safety feature you get is a driver’s airbag

But compared to the likes of the Maruti Alto or Tata Nano, the Eon is posh, spacious and wonderfully refined. Better yet, it costs less than a Chevrolet Spark and delivers real world economy between 50-60 mpg. But not at 80 mph, where you’ll be lucky to hit 40 mpg. Speed kills – pesos in your wallet.

That doesn’t matter. What matters is that third-world drivers have a way to get from Manila to Angeles City comfortably without breaking the bank. Out here, the big 8-0 is measured in metric units, specifically kilo-.

Saves a lot of gas, that way.

Niky Tamayo is Test Drive Editor at kotse.com, one of the leading car sites in the Philippines

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49 Comments on “Review: 2012 Hyundai Eon, Southeast Asia Spec...”


  • avatar

    Nice review, very well done and it’s good to see perspectives from outside the USA. I must agree, this car would work very well in your country.

    I know because I’ve been there, and had a great time. I even grew to enjoy the libertarian driving system (no rules, man!).

    But one odd consequence of the libertarian driving system – anyone can do anything, the car one mm in front of you has the right of way, honk the horn to make sure people see you, lane markers are suggestions, etc – is very slow speeds. Because people are free to do what they want, traffic is inherently unpredictable. And congested. I don’t think I ever got over 35mph when I was driving in Angeles.

    Where were you able to get to 90? I’m shocked.

    Incidentally, one thing I really enjoyed about the Philippines is that it seems a lot freer than the United States. There may have been lots of burdensome regulations and laws, but as far as I could tell, they were all ignored. And compared to your hyper-efficient and cheap public transport system, ours doesn’t pass the laugh test.

    D

    • 0 avatar
      niky

      Technically, there is no place to go 90 mph legally in the Philippines, so let’s just say that it’s someplace wide, straight and open enough for blustery winds to knock you three feet off-line very time you come out from under an overpass. Having been knocked off-line, the artificially heavy electric steering keeps you pointed straight down whatever new vector your car has achieved.

      Our diesel jeeps may seem efficient, but with the congestion here, they’re lucky to break 10 mpg. Real interesting to see one roll up to a dark intersection in traffic with the engine and headlights off. All in good fun.

  • avatar
    JD-Tippit

    The world doesn’t need more cars. With GFCII in sight, what is this really trying to achieve that its class competitors haven’t done already? Polo, Jazz (Fit), Swift, Yaris, Micra all good vehicles, this Eon just adds to the confusion.

    • 0 avatar
      TonyJZX

      i’m surprised you couldn’t work it out from the article

      this car is almost like Hyundai’s Tata Nano… it is about half the cost of a Swift!

      Where I am C segment cars are about $20,000 US… that is a reasonable spec Focus or Cruze… the cheapest Hyundai i20 or Micra is about $12,000.

      This car is $6,000!

      In countries like this, a Toyota Camry is a luxury car.

      • 0 avatar
        JD-Tippit

        Those are the prices where you live, but the Indian market’s pricing structure is different especially considering many of the smaller vehicles such as the above are built domestically. It would be hard to find a car selling for more than $6k.

        Perhaps if you can factor in that few people actually like the Nano’s wonky design, that plus driving the cheapest car in the country…not exactly aspiring it is – you might have a case for EOS.

        But really, it’s a crowded market out there and its getting harder for manufacturer to come out with something that isn’t hit or miss.

      • 0 avatar
        Athos Nobile

        “In countries like this, a Toyota Camry is a luxury car.”

        Wrong!

        In countries like this, a Toyota COROLLA is a luxury car.

        Camry is more like a Benz.

      • 0 avatar
        niky

        In India, maybe. With our tax structure, the car starts at around $10k. But that’s still about $2k less than a Spark 1.2.

        If production were opened up in America, they could get it down to around $8k, likely. And if the Spark can pass crash testing, this could likely pass it with another 50 pounds or so of front-end reinforcement.

    • 0 avatar
      dejal1

      So says JD-Tippit, so may it be done.

      Obviously Hyundai doesn’t agree.

      With the roll they have been on lately, I wouldn’t bet against them.

      They decided to build and market this car. You decide to buy it or not. It is none of your business if they do, other than through stock ownership.

      • 0 avatar
        TonyJZX

        Hyundai has heaps of small cars and its clear they seem to be able to fit a car to a market… just off the top of my head they have the i20, i30, accent, elantra, veloster…

        obviously they see no market for the i10 or lesser here however saying that an $18,000 elantra fits all markets when many can’t afford it or even the 40mpg that it achieves ignores non western markets.

        CLEARLY economics means many markets needs even smaller 3 cyl. cars… good on Hyundai and other companies who can supply them.

        Unlike Ford, GM and Chrysler they are making inroads there instead of complaining about ‘barriers’.

    • 0 avatar
      MeaCulpa

      Well, a Polo starts out in Germany at 12450 Euros including VAT (19%), giving a base price of 12450/1.19 or roughly 10450 Euros or $ 13 500 US. In the US the Yaris starts at around 14 000, the Fit starts at over 15k. So you tell me what’s the point of this car in a country with an average income in manufacturing of ~$200.

      • 0 avatar
        JD-Tippit

        My bad, so it looks like this car is competing on an even more minuscule class with the Chevrolet Beat, Honda Brio and Suzuki Alto.

        The current price is about 383,000 RS

      • 0 avatar
        TonyJZX

        I laughed at the mention of the Polo. It’s probably on paper the leading supermini and the Polo GTI is a bit of a boy racer kind of love token… it should be… its’ close to $30,000 in most places with modest options. It seems to be a popular car for the rich urban hipster. A base Polo is about the same cost as a base C segment.

        To compare it to sub $10,000 3rd world car is just ludicrous. Its not a viable alternative even in rich countries.

      • 0 avatar
        JD-Tippit

        Well, I laughed at the suggestion that a car so feeble could ever make it to production in the first place. This car wouldn’t survive the Australian market, extremely light and underpowered especially if it were an automatic. I don’t imagine it could drive up some of our steep suburban roads let alone merging and climbing on ramps on freeways.

      • 0 avatar
        niky

        As long as freeway traffic isn’t going faster than 50 mph, it’ll do fine. And it tackles inclines very well. More so than some bigger cars. All thanks to the magic of gearing. I have never driven anything with shorter gears.

        Part of my commute includes an occasional foray to our mountain retreat, which is only sow four hundred feet up off the highway, but you climb that in under a kilometer.

        And cognizant of the lack of power, no AT will be offered. Ever.

        Of course, I don’t know how it’d fare against the infamous Aussie road trains, but then, not even a Corolla does that very well, so it’s a non-factor.

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    Outstandingly written review. Let’s hear more from this fellow asap!

    • 0 avatar
      MeaCulpa

      +1
      Great write up.

    • 0 avatar
      niky

      I already have two other reviews here. I only contribute rarely because most of the cars I get to review are already sold in US Spec, so I defer to Karesh and Co., who get those cars already.

      I am thinking of submitting more of the micro-car reviews I do, have just been busy setting up shop at the new website.

      • 0 avatar

        Hey Niky, don’t let that stop you. Even though the NA writers of the site maun have first pickings, it is always interesting to read about a car in a different setting where priorities are different. Like you pointed out yourself with the 0-80 not being the most important thing for your corner of the world.

        So, pls. keep the reviews coming!

      • 0 avatar
        tankinbeans

        Reviews of cars in non-US spec, that are sold in the US as well, would be interesting. Different suspensions, engines, trim packages could all be very interesting to see.

        Thanks for the review.

      • 0 avatar
        fincar1

        I also look forward to reading more road tests from you. We get to find out things we otherwise wouldn’t, and have an enjoyable read to boot. What’s not to like?

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    Now I understand why Filipinos go for huge Toyota SUVs here.

    Although not that small and gutless, I’m pretty much used to 3rd world cars. After driving my 1st world mobile for scant 3 months and sitting in some action’s used small cars, I couldn’t get myself to think about downsizing. They looked cheap and crappy and uncomfortable. So the V6 will soldier on, possibly with LPG.

    I like the interior looks and the color selection. But there’s nothing revolutionary there, just common sense: small+light+tiny engine=stellar fuel consumption. It is refreshing to see that.

  • avatar
    Pastor Glenn

    Hmmm, maybe someone at Hyundai’s legal beagle department should look really truly closely at the old laws pertaining to exceptions under the US requirements and see if the old “King Midget” exception for displacement of engines is still in place…. and if this car would be legal to sell in the US! OK so it’s only got a driver’s air bag. Still a LOT safer than a scooter or motorcycle.

    Hyundai would probably be able to sell tens of thousands per year at $5000 or $6000 US – are you kidding? Lots of small town folks, city folks and even some country folks would snap them up.

    • 0 avatar
      JD-Tippit

      I read a review of this car in an Indian auto magazine I picked up while flying through Mumbai. Apparently, it compromises on many safety and structural requirements so it would not be suitable for the US/European/Australian markets.

      The 3rd world does not have the same relatively stringent requirements hence its suitability for those markets.

      • 0 avatar
        Pastor Glenn

        JD, the exception would be for “everything” under NTSB, IF it exists. Big IF. And of course, if Hyundai were to bring cars in, they could be rendered unsaleable at the stroke of a pen.

        Perhaps it would be easier for Hyundai to bring it up to US specs. But then it would probably add 150 pounds to the weight and bring MPG’s down a tad, as well as performance, and the price would probably go to $8000 instead of $6000 or $5000. But it might still sell.

        Interesting that Hyundai think it necessary to add power steering to a 1600# car.

        How many of us remember the original VW Rabbits which didn’t weigh a lot more than this? It was only 35 years ago or so…

  • avatar
    nvdw

    When I first heard of the Eon I was actually surprised how this could work out for Hyundai, them having a cheap car already: the i10 on which this car is obviously based.

    The Eon also shows why the Tata Nano fails: it’s a car. It can do motorway speeds if necessary and it has a tailgate. I like it even more than the i10.

    Its theoretical success in the States or Europe would depend on how much of that low price can be sustained when it is brought up to the required standards for safety, equipment and emissions. My educated guess would be ‘very little’.

  • avatar

    First off the bat: Nice review. Thanks!

    In Brazil (as far as I can tell from the pictures), this is sold. But it’s called Picanto and has a 1.0 3 cylinder. And costs around US$22,000. Guess Hyundai won’t do it here ’cause the don’t want to disappoint the shoppers here who seem to be under the impression that Hyundai is some kind of lux marque. I mean people here are paying almost US$60,000 for a Sonata!

    Anyways, styling is always subjective, so, my 2 cents is no! Wrong, too over-wrought for a small car.

    By any rational metric this car (the Picanto, I mean) is beat. Space, performance, smoothess of engine. The only thing it’s got going for it is economy and auto trans (but only if you pay even more).

    But for 6000 dollars. Aiaiai! Then it makes sense. I could even live with the looks!

    • 0 avatar
      MeaCulpa

      High taxes/duties on imports in Brazil?

    • 0 avatar
      niky

      The Picanto is more similar to the i10, but product differentiation makes them unique enough that they can compete in the same market.

      One thing… Do you get the Picanto in E100 there? An interesting factor is that in India they sell the Eon with factory propane. as the Eon has a bigger trunk than the Spark and a full-sized spare, the tank fits perfectly well back there… But so far as I can see, the maximum guarantee for the Eon in terms of ethanol is E10.

      • 0 avatar

        Not really sure in the Picanto’s case. But the Elantra, Cerato, Soul (but not the SUVs or Sonata or Azera) are now offered with the total flex fuel tech (can run from E100 to E25-which is the Brazilian gasoline, or any mix in between). Slowly but surely HyunKia is making their engines compatible with our market conditions.

        An interesting aside is that Hyundai is building a factory here and should be launching the so-called HB in 2013 or 14. This car is different from i10, and is supposed to feel and be very similar in size to te VW Gol. The Picanto is a hair smaller (specially in trunk) than such cars as Gol, Uno or Celta.

        The smallest Hyundai sold here is the Elantra.

      • 0 avatar
        MrWhopee

        Hmm, are you sure the Picanto is Hyundai and not Kia? Here in Indonesia the Picanto is a Kia, and a sister car of the Hyundai i-10, similar platform and such, though look totally different inside out. In other word, a good example of platform sharing. I wonder if this Eon will be sold here… Super small cars generally never sold well here, though it may change if they decided to raise (currently subsidized) fuel prices someday…

    • 0 avatar

      hi mr whopee!

      Sorry it’s not clear, but the Picanto is most definetely a Kia. We don’t get the hyundai i10 in Brazil, so I don’t how similar or not they are. Now, in my eyes this looks a lot like the new Picanto. Especially from side and back. So if it’s smaller than the i10/Picanto it looks like shrunken Picanto!! :)

  • avatar
    niky

    On the aspect of federalizing… The Eon isn’t any more insubstantial than most micro-cars. While the engine compartment has shrunk tremendously, the crash structure is still basically the same as an i10, which is sold in Europe, and it feels as solid as the Spark, which Chevrolet managed to federalize. The one question is whether the economy will stay the same after they add the compulsory second cat and front and side reinforcements for the US market.

    Probably not. Much of the economy gain over the i10 depends greatly on the car’s lighter weight.

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    I’ve always thought the car that would suit the West (I mean outside of Europe) is the Toyota Aygo… which is basically this Eon but with NCAP 5 and all the mods you’d expect.

    The Eon won’t ever work in the west since Hyundai can make plenty upselling people to an i10/i20 etc. and I bet no one really wants to test the market with a sub $10k car when its just as easy as a $20k car.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Nice Review! From what you said, this is _smaller_ than even the i10 Michael reviewed a while back. But darn it all if I’m not duly impressed with this little machine: so often big automakers take a “we don’t care and it shows” approach to developing-world models, and with good reason: it’s cheaper for them and cheaper for the customer, who needs wheels period.

    And yet, this Eon looks like it was actually _designed_ by someone with a sense of aesthetics, both inside and out. That has to be the most modern-looking dash I’ve seen that doesn’t have a passenger airbag.

    Would plain rubber bumpers, sealed-beam halogen headlamps, generic taillamps and glass pieces be cheaper to repair and replace? Sure, but it wouldn’t feel _special_.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    It looks like a goofy little fun car. I’d worry about acceleration fully loaded with people and gear on American roads though. I’m not a “0-60 in under 10 seconds is a death-trap” type, but I recently watched the Top Gear episode with 0.8 liter 2 cylinder Fiat Panda with the “average family” – a group of portly men and women – and it took an extra 107 meters to go 0-70-0. I know this is an exagerration of “average,” as Top Gear is good at portraying, but it makes one think.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    Nice refreshing reading.

    Different markets = different expectations.

    One reason the Japanese and now the Koreans are conquering the emerging markets, is because they are willing to create products which will specifically appeal those markets.

  • avatar

    Love, love, love the overseas reviews! Thanks for the piece Niky!

  • avatar
    joeveto3

    Nice review. And funny. Plumbing supplies? Funny stuff. If they sold it here, yes, I’d buy one.

    • 0 avatar
      niky

      We put the car on the dyno at the shop for a larf. Then afterwards we lifted it. The rear suspension beam is a metal U-channel wrapped around a 2″ tube. The panhard bar and attachment look like they came off an erector set. This is one of the few suspensions I’ve seen that I could probably rebuild myself out of hardware store parts.

      Which is, I think, the point. Part of the appeal of the Maruti Alto is that it’s cheap and easy to fix. Hyundai have emulated both qualities while still making a more modern product.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Very refreshing and entertaining to see reviews from outside the US. It’s always fun to read about cars we’ll never see here (for whatever the reasons!). Keep it up and welcome to TTAC! I look forward to reading more of your work.

  • avatar
    mr_muttonchops

    It kinda stinks that this car makes a lot of compromises in safety and such to achieve it’s surprisingly low weight (by modern standards) and fuel economy. I would love to see this thing in the U.S but it seems like it would fail to meet all the safety requirements.

    • 0 avatar
      joeveto3

      Having grown up in the 70′s and 80′s, surviving metal dashboards, occasional seat belt use, carburetion, leaded fuel, pre-MADD hysteria, riding on the center arm-rest because at 4, I could see out the windshield better, not to mention zero airbags, 1600 pound curb weights granted by minimalist chassis structure, the Atari 2600 (praise be) because computer controls were naught….and on and on, not to mention I freaking love my motorcycles, though I despise the cell phone humping morons surrounding me, a car such as the Hyundai described by the author makes me smile.

      Let us free-thinking adults buy one if we so desire. If we need to sign a freaking waiver, we will. Unlike some, our cars don’t accelerate without our anticipation.

    • 0 avatar
      Spike_in_Brisbane

      I was once attracted by a motorcycle helmet in a Bangalore shop window. It was a replica of Mick Doohan’s MotoGP lid and was only $50. A similar bone dome in Sydney would set me back close to $1,000 so I entered the store for a chat. The ethical shopkeeper immediately sized me up as an Aussie and refused to sell me one. “You ride too fast in Australia” he assured me. On examining the blood bucket I realized it was only a thin plastic excuse for a sun hat, designed to satisfy mandatory helmet wearing rules but no other purpose. After many trips to India I came to realize he was right. The families of five on motor scooters seldom get much above walking pace in the crowded city streets. I still wish I’d bought it though!

  • avatar
    Littlecarrot

    I’m still having a hard time with Hyundai’s front end design, which seems to be carrying over to other makes.
    The front reminds me of an alien creature I saw in a movie, I just can’t remember which movie.

  • avatar
    outback_ute

    Interesting read, thanks for running it. Looking at the dimensions this is still larger than a Kei car, not to mention it would dwarf an original Mini!

    A friend and I did a ~1600km round trip in a car a few years ago with roughly the same stats as this – <900cc engine, about 55hp, 3.5m long, 1.5m wide, 155/75R12 tyres, and driven with care it will get 60mpg imperial (50mpg US).

  • avatar
    jeffzekas

    Cool little car… it seems to me, that if a car like the Geo Metro could sell in North America, then this car could too… especially when gasoline hits $5 a gallon.

  • avatar
    kablamo

    Great review! It’s nice to get a good look at cars available in the world markets, especially when they are so different than the typical North American fare.

    Just one suggestion: Let’s have a picture of that engine!

  • avatar

    Excellent review, I also think we should hear more from this guy.

    This car makes me think of the old Citreon 2CV, although with this you get more power. It seems that it fits a need (price, utility) etc and offers good value, as well as giving some respect to the driver. That it can takle put-puts is awesome


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