By on August 1, 2012

Please welcome Jeff Jablansky, our newest guest writer and resident messhugeneh

Attempting to carve into the curves of the Ramon Crater with a machine as dull as a Hyundai Getz is like trying to slice sashimi with a plastic knife. Or performing surgery with knitting needles.

If you had walked around the right side of the Getz, you would have seen the word “FUN” cut out of a vinyl sticker and emblazoned above the right-side turn-signal repeater. If you had spent any appreciable amount of time behind the wheel, you would know that there was little truth in advertising.

I ended up behind the wheel of Hyundai’s lowliest hatchback as the result of a three a.m. decision to drive from Israel’s desert metropolis of Tel Aviv, where I lived, to the desert oasis of Eilat, to get a cup of espresso — a round-trip journey of 500 miles. A new branch of the popular Aroma Espresso Bar chain had just opened at the country’s southern border, overlooking Egypt. As soon as I heard the news, I was already out the door.

It’s not that the beaux-arts, gentrified city of Tel Aviv isn’t bursting with cafes and their associated, inherited socialites and latte-sipping proletariat. On the contrary. But when the opportunity strikes for the enthusiast, rational argument gives way to raw instinct. Six hours later, I found myself at Avis signing the papers for a 24-hour rental of a dusty, late-model Hyundai Getz with 45,000 miles on the odometer.

Five hundred miles seemed like a long drive to find the same cup of coffee as offered four blocks down the street. A true enthusiast, however, would realize the route was a chance to blast through the relatively trafficless desert on some of the best roads east of Europe. Historically, the port of Eilat was linked with the rest of the country via the Arava Road, which enabled the British to move imported wares with relative ease. As the country’s infrastructure developed, a second dual carriageway, Route 40, was designed to weave through the Ramon Crater as a parallel path to the south.

Route 40 is a road constructed of driving fantasies. It sweeps through the desert and fits to its contours as if plotted by ibex. Double-yellow lines are rare; high-speed passing maneuvers of all levels of bravery are, therefore, encouraged. Distraction-free driving, with the exception of good company and background noise, is the key.

With that in mind, the Getz was not the ideal road companion. Although lightweight, it was powered by an engine that must possess, on a good day, 100 horsepower, with an engine note as coarse as the surrounding sands. The suspension was sloppy, our tester suffered from botched alignment, and the steering suffered from being too wooden and disconnected. At speed, a strange clicking noise seemed to emanate from underneath the car. In some countries, the Getz is known as the Click. Coincidence?

The interior exemplified “no-frills” in an era in which Hyundai leads most of its competition in feature content. No power anything, no anti-lock brakes, no defrosters. Avis cheered up the interior by installing a radio, as opposed to the standard sound system: the pleasure of lowering the windows and listening to the whining of an overrevved engine.

The rental agent gave us the Getz on the lot with a blue interior accent color, which worked to spice up the dour, black interior. It also drew attention to the execrable fit and finish, and hard plastics that dotted the interior. The seats, which were almost definitely lawn chairs covered in the thinnest velour available, offered the impression of comfort and the reality of late-onset thrombosis.

For all the faults of a cheaply built, underpowered, questionably maintained hatchback, there is still an argument in driving a slow car on potentially fast roads: the chance to wring out every available horsepower.

The road from Tel Aviv begins as a supermodern, six-lane highway, but transitions into a four-lane highway after about 100 miles. The road split near the Be’er Sheva junction, offering a continued four-lane or a more challenging two-lane, and I naturally opted for the two-lane. With the destination just 150 miles away — in relative terms, nearly half the country’s entire north-south span — the road started to open up.

I overtook everyone. I did the equivalent of 85 mph (135 km/h) and watched the tachometer’s needle wail into the 3000 range, just to keep up. I played cat-and-mouse with a late-‘90s Pontiac Grand Prix (unlike other Middle Eastern countries, Israel’s American cars are similar to ours) for almost 50 miles before he pulled over to let me go. Not that I could actually go much faster on the Getz’s small, thin tires.

Then, almost out of nowhere, the road looked as if it’s about to drop off a cliff. The highway suddenly dips dramatically to follow the curves of the Ramon Crater, which rivals the Grand Canyon in size and the Stelvio Pass in sinuous surfaces. The Google Earth view of the road, showing its adherence to nature’s intended path, makes the mind reel. For a moment, I wondered if there was automotive karma. Then the Getz started clicking again.

The path is worth descending slowly, before moving on to the next segment of road, when Highway 40 reaches a junction with Highway 12. I took the fork eastward with some hesitation, but was rewarded in spades. Just before reaching Eilat, with the faded, salty air of the Red Sea in the distance, Route 12 wound its way down another set of cliffs.

In the end, reaching Eilat was the most anticlimactic part of the entire trip. I should have known the cappuccino wasn’t going to be anything special. and it only took about ten minutes to realize I had driven a long way from home to find myself with little to do in Eilat.

Five hours after leaving the city, though, the mission was fulfilled. Foam dripping off my lips, I stared at the Getz, which had managed to inject just the right amount of excitement into the trip, and smiled.

Then I realized I had forgotten about the all-uphill return trip. I gulped, accompanied by the Getz’s continued, incessant clicking.

Sometimes, the advertised fun is in the journey, not how you get there.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

25 Comments on “Capsule Review: 2011 Hyundai Getz...”

  • avatar

    Wow, you just sparked a whole bunch of car memories from trips to Israel. Trying to find the high-beam dimmer and horn in a 1974 Ford Taunus. The super small 1983 Autobianchi (Morris Mini). The insanely anemic 900cc ’83 Ford Fiesta and ’91 1.1-liter Subaru Legacy (with air!) And the surprisingly composed 1989 Fiat Punto. Not to mention all the funky European cars we don’t get here in the states. I had an incredible adventure driving throughout the whole country and the West Bank meeting wonderful people of all kinds before politics and hate ruined everything. From the cool ocean breezes of the coast, to the insane heat of the Negev and the desolation on the road to Jerico, it was quite an adventure! I miss that 900cc Fiesta 4-speed (well not on the highway).

    • 0 avatar

      I haven’t been in Israel since age 16 so never drove there, but seriously, a Legacy with a 1.1-liter motor? That can’t be right; even the first-generation Legacy was at least a 3000-pound car.

      • 0 avatar

        Hard to imagine for an American, is it? Yes, that would be a good combination for Israel were speeds are low and gasoline is very expensive. Don’t forget about running A/C most of the time…

        Also, think about 100% customs duty. Cars are very, very expensive in IL.

        I love driving in Israel. Drivers are very patient, humane and respectful despite what Israelis themselves think. It really suits my driving style.

      • 0 avatar

        I can’t find a reference to Subaru building a first generation Legacy with an engine smaller than 1.8 liters.

      • 0 avatar

        I think he means Subaru Justy. Also, Fiat Punto was introduced 1993, that end of eighties Fiat was probably either Tipo or Uno….

    • 0 avatar

      “patient, humane and respectful”? vvk, I wonder if you and I drove in the same Israel! I would say they’re aggressive, attentive, and competent–perhaps like Germans in a hurry. But woe unto the driver who fails to heed the flashing yellow-red signal. (In Israel, this signal appears before a light turns green, allowing you to get your car in gear. Which means that as soon as the green light appears, you’re expected to GO. If not, you’ll be treated to Israel’s national anthem, which is an explosion of car horns.)

  • avatar
    Polar Bear

    Welcome Jeff and thanks for the review. Reading it is almost like being there.

    Just one litte question. I thought Israel was metric. Why do you give distances in miles?

  • avatar
    Polar Bear

    Ah, you are American.

    For some reason your review did not give me an overwhelming desire to run out and buy a Getz. But it did leave me with the desire to try that road to Eilat. Going there for a cup of coffee is excuse good enough. I guess air condition and a full tank of fuel is recommended?

  • avatar

    I hope that your rental Getz had A/C. I have 40 year old memories of a long ride through the Negev down to Eilat in an Egged bus without A/C. The air temp had to be at least 120 F. I think the route then went around the Ramon crater (are they mining the mineral deposits there yet?) but we stopped at the rim and it’s a magnificent sight.

  • avatar

    Wow such beautiful landscapes! I don’t think I would have been able to take that road trip in a car like that. But cheers to you for the write up and sticking with it!

  • avatar

    My xB1 turns 3000 rpm at 60 mph (5 speedd stick), so 3000 rpm at 85 mph seems luxurious to me.

    As for the clicking, I wonder if it is some sort of emission device – maybe a solenoid or something.

    Beautiful region; thanks for a nice story.

    • 0 avatar

      Israel is a tiny country, really, about 300 miles north to south and maybe 60 miles wide at it’s widest. It would fit in Lake Michigan with room to spare (the notion of a body of fresh water bigger than their country is a bit hard for Israelis to grasp – as the post pointed out, much of Israel is either desert or on the edge of the desert). For a small geographic area it has many scenes of breathtaking beauty. According to the Talmud (Kiddushin 49b) the land of Israel (well, specifically Jerusalem) received a disproportionate share of beauty.

      • 0 avatar
        Jeff Jablansky

        Interestingly, this trip came after a day’s epic drive around Lake Michigan.

  • avatar

    Sounds Spongebobs FUN sticker lived up to its name.

    I have quite a few stories/car reviews I’d like to tell myself, who do I submit them to?

  • avatar

    Was the car’s name Stan? :)

    Sounds like a fascinating ride. The Ramon Crater ride sounds like something I’d like. Maybe not in a car like that, though.

    Good reading!

  • avatar

    I have actually done the same drive, in the same car, although we left from Herzilya. Brings back memories. I was too excited to think too much about the “finer” details of the Getz, but I will say as an American, it was an interesting experience, going from always having “too much car/HP” to “just (not?) enough”. Our motto for the car was “Hyundai Getz me hard”! No, not appropriate? I’ll see myself out…

  • avatar

    As soon as I saw the first picture, I knew where you were. I used to make regular trips to Tel Aviv, and one of my favorite drives was from Arad to Masada through the Judean Desert. It’s a great driver’s road, and not very busy. I always wanted to take a motorcycle on it, but my job changed before I had a chance to try that.

    But great description of a really cool part of the world. And I totally understand the *requirement* to go 500 miles for a coffee. I’ve been known to do the same thing.

  • avatar

    I had the Hyundai Getz many times as rental cars in the UK and Europe. My experience from them was thus:

    1.6 gasoline – dreadful. Rough, noisy, never felt like its stated power-output.
    1.4 gasoline – good fun, revvable
    1.3 gasoline – auto, 4 speed, utterly dreadful
    1.5 diesel – poor gearing, juddered at engine speeds it shouldn’t have
    1.1 gasoline – had this in Malta. Awesome fun – foot flat down everywhere. No power, 60mph was 3500rpm. Something like 60-65bhp, exactly what a car like that should have.

    Overall I was pleased with the Getz. Reasonable space, the ones I had had awesome airconditioning, they were comfortable enough and excellent at nipping around the city. The 1.1 and 1.4 were easily the pick of the range though. Surprised this driver didn’t enjoy; maybe a blast around Tel Aviv in one at 3am would make you love it more?

  • avatar

    I had no idea the Getz would manage so well in the highway. It invariably brings memories of narrow Istanbul streets to my mind… a driving environment where the Getz is far more in its element. Isn’t the latest version the slightly easier-on-the-eyes i20?

  • avatar

    I have no experience of Hyundai Getz. However i own the successor; I20 1,6 CRDI. The design is very plain but the engine is golden.
    115 bhp and 192 stock. With chip tuning i got 150 bhp and 232 Fuel consumption is 55 mpg combined.
    That´s pretty good for a small car.
    Frugal AND fast.

  • avatar

    Just got back from a deployment to the Sinai working for the Multi-Force Org 15km from the Raffa border crossing. Spent a lot of time in the white cars with the orange stickers traveling from Raffa to Tel Aviv. Amazing how much it looks like a road north of Las Vegas until you get to Be’er Shiva. Favorite haunt was Mike’s Pub in Tel Aviv just outside of the embassy on the beach. You could get an honest-to-gawd Cheeseburger and fries while downing a Sam Adams while chatting up the expat Aussies, Kiwis, Brits and SAFIs.

    • 0 avatar

      Yay, Mikes. You don’t get more un-kosher than a bacon cheeseburger. I played at their open mic blues jam and had one of those amazing devastating billiard nights playing with a British family there for a wedding. I also met a group of airline pilots who took me to an amazing strip club not too far away.

      But I only ever spend a couple of nights there. There are too many fun places in Tel Aviv.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • golden2husky: FreedMike, you get it. Think logically. If a president could really influence prices (outside of...
  • Zackman: I haven’t heard of this model until just now – but, my overall interest in vehicles has cooled...
  • bunkie: Very interesting that the real issue with respect to worldwide oil supply is, strangely, absent from the...
  • Art Vandelay: Aren’t the crew cabs and the extended cabs the same overall length? You get more can with one and...
  • dal20402: Yeah, I’m definitely oversimplifying. I’ve been in a household where both members commuted...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Jo Borras
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber