By on January 3, 2013

The fluidic design of the HB20 has impressed Brazilians greatly. The car has already broken into the top 10, and Hyundai claims there are 24 thousand people who have already ordered one and have plunked down some money. Undeniably, the car is a looker. In my opinion, the side is the highlight. That swoosh is very appealing. As for the front, you either like the corporate mug or you don’t, and I don’t. The back has some problems. This is a problem in Brazil. We are into backs. This one makes the car look narrower and taller than it really is and some of the lines are clashing. In general, the car is well-built, but it’s not perfect. The example I drove had misaligned doors.

Inside, Hyundai promised that the HB20 would be competitive with higher segment cars. At first glance it is. The shapes and some color are there. However, after a more tha perfunctory glance, the plastics reveal themselves. They are hard and look cheap. They’re no fun to touch, either.

The seats are ok, but the fabric on them is cheaper than on competitors and even on lesser cars. The switchgear is not a notch above the competition, as Hyundai has claimed. Those found in a Volkswagen Gol, for example, feel more solid.

I had been to the dealer. I had sat in a few. Finally, I got to drive it. Equipped with the same 120 hp present in other Hyundai-Kia products and a 5 speed manual, the car never felt specially lively or obedient. The steering lacks almost any feel and I felt it was quite tiring for anything but city driving. Push the car over 90 km/h (56 mph) and it gets so light that I didn’t feel I wanted more.

The car does not want to be pushed. It creaks. It shakes. It moans. Moans. The suspension arms are too short for Brazil, and it reaches its limit (with a thud) at almost every speed bump at almost any speed. Minor potholes turn into major problems. In the twisties the car feelks like it wants to roll over. There’s no point driving the car hard, it’s not built for that. In the city, drive with care, or the car’s protestations will be your constant companion.

The engine of course has been flexibilized for Brazil. This means it’ll run on ethanol or Brazilian gas. It’s a little gruff when at higher RPMs and the sounds it makes are not really enticing. An owner of the car reported that he’s getting the same mileage as he did on his 1.6 Sandero, roughly 8km/l on gas and 6km/l on ethanol in heavy (and hilly) city driving. As far as Brazilian cars go, that’s about average.

So there you have it, the Hyundai HB20. If you want a car to show off to the neighbors and drive slowly around the city, this is the car for you. If, however, you like driving and enjoy the occasional romp, you will be much better served elsewhere.




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22 Comments on “Hyundai HB20, Brazilian Spec: Here She Comes Now Singing Moanie Moanie...”

  • avatar

    Light steering at 90km/h? Good lord, it’ll get run over if it ever gets to the US. I think Texas now has a stretch that is 136km/h (85mph) IIRC.

    My relatives were really looking at this as a possible car for my wife & I but passed on price.

    After reading this review, I’m really glad we didn’t go that way.

    If you want simply SCARY steering at speed, try a 12 year old windstar or GS500F at 70mph (112km/h). Obviously the gs500f is way scarier as it is a motorcycle.

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks Robstar! I’ll stay away from those vehicles you mentioned!

      The HB20 will fit the bill for most people. In the sense that most people don’t care for what they drive. And the neighbors will envy you for having one. That alone is reason enough for most people.

      Driving this car, the recently reviewed Ka, and my Logan made me realize that while, yes, all modern vehicles are good and there’s no really bad car anymore, there are still fundamental and readily noticeable differences in modern cars. The 3 cars I mention are completely different in feel. I think this is good.

      • 0 avatar

        Why would the neighbors be impressed by a compact Hyundai?!

      • 0 avatar

        Because Hyundai is an “import” brand and the HB20 is the brand new hot model out in Brazil.

        Brazilians are very stylish/trendy when it comes to clothes/cars & public appearance (at least that is my perception as an American with Brazilian in-laws).

        HB20 is the car of the hour right now.

      • 0 avatar

        So they’d be REALLY impressed by a Rav-4 or a Camry?

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t know if I’ve seen more than 4-5 camry’s in 20’ish trips to Brazil. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a Rav4 there.

        According to (

        Camry price is 146,650 reais or approximately $73k us. A rav4 is $120k reais or $60k USD.

        They are so expensive only very upper class people can afford them. Compared to buying power, imagine people driving around in a $146k US new car or a $120k US new car. It’s not exactly common, and even less so due to FIPE/Yearly taxes.

        I’m sure Marcelo will correct me if I’m wrong, but I can tell you my brother-in-law will point out anything japanese that is not made in Brazil kind of like we point out Ferraris here (Well maybe you don’t point them out if you live in Hollywood…)

        I’ve been all over Brazil but only have been recently in the SP area. I can only speak from the viewpoint of a visiting foreigner…

        I will tell you that my niece & aunt were in awe at our 6 cylinder 276hp Sorento. I told them it was a bargain/middle class SUV here & they wouldn’t believe me…until they stayed here a month & saw large SUV’s everywhere.

      • 0 avatar

        Hmm so seeing large Lexus and Merc models is like a non-existent thing?

        Ha, a $74K Camry.

      • 0 avatar

        Hey CoreyDL,Robstar is absolutely correct.

        Actually there are many more Mercedes, BMW and Audis than Lexus. Lexus never made a splash here. Few people have heard of them and they have almost 0 cachet. To compete above the 200 000 reais barcaket like they’re trying, they will keep on trying for the next 10 years.

        Actually, there are many smaller German uber machines. I’ve seen plenty of Merces E class, BMW 7 series. But only one or two A8 and never seen an S Class in Brazil. Weirdly you see many more of the smaller roadster type BMW and Mercedes than the big ones.

      • 0 avatar

        CoreyDL, America is a special place when it comes to automobile. Elsewhere in the world, it’s different! Camrys are ‘people’s car’ in America, but is a luxury car elsewhere. In term of cars, standards are the highest in America. Even in prosperous Western Europe, people typically buy cars that are of lower class/size than Americans do.

      • 0 avatar

        I can’t decide if that’s gratifying to hear or not!

      • 0 avatar


        I can’t tell if you are joking or not – thus I don’t know whether to laugh or cry but perhaps they’re so similar sometimes I’ll just flip a coin.

      • 0 avatar

        Hey Probert,

        Mr. Whopee is absolutely correct. The Camry tries to play the luxury game. They put luxury pricing but it doesn’t sell. People with the kind of money (in the 3rd world) to pay the prices they charge for this thing prefer to go the uber German route. I guess the only places where the Camry is common is NA, Japan and a few other select markets.

  • avatar

    This new Hyundai is a bit of a disappointment. Nice design, but the interior is made of really cheap plastic. It looks cheaper than the i10.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey Magnusmaster. Drive it, then I think you’ll agree with me that a little bit more than a bit disappointing.

    • 0 avatar

      Does it also smell like death inside, as many of the Hyundais and other Korean cars (e.g. Assfire/Aspire/Ford Festiva/Kia Avella) do here?

      The outgassing of Korean cars in the US is more smelly than other cars from my admittedly limited experience, and I also wonder if it’s more toxic too.

      • 0 avatar

        Not really but this is interesting. Brand new vehicles I purchased (Fords, Fiats, Renaults), the Fiats had the strongest smell. A Fiat exec told me that this is intentional as the Brazilian consumer loves the new car smell. I remember being vaguely dissapointed that the brand new Ford I bought for wife almost didn’t have the smell. THe Renault brand new car smell lasted less than a month ( I was also vaguely sad at this). THe Fiats I bought brand new kept the smell 2 or even 3 months.

        The HB20 I drove was about a month and a half old. THe owner is a heavy smoker. The only scent I got in the car was of cigarrete smoke.

  • avatar

    “the fabric on them is cheaper than on competitors and even on lesser cars”

    Holy s*! That took some engineering prowess to accomplish.

    Maybe for the next generation they will keep getting the design mostly right and correct all the other problems. It would be nice to see a successful Brazilian made Hyundai.

  • avatar

    8 km/L? Isn’t that under 19 mpg? And that’s on petrol. If you use E85 or E100, you’re down by a quarter, it seems.

    Of course, with many commenters on TTAC, they’d complain both about the poor gas mileage, but praise the lack of environmental regulations in Brazil to raise it.

    • 0 avatar

      Gasoline in Brazil is really E30 so the rule of thumb is that if you run your car on E100 it’ll do 30 percent less. This varies of course. so yes 8km/l means 19 mpg. If it were pure gasoline you’d probably get 10.4 km/l which would be about 25 mpg. THis is due to cars not using technologies like Variable valve timing of direct fuel injection in Brazil or even multi valve engines (much).

      There are rather stict environmental regulations in BRazil. All makers have switched over or improved the engines in recnt years cause the next phase is set to start this year (or next, I forget). Basically we follow the Euro regs and we are 2 steps backs. So if Euro regs are in phase 5, Brazilian cars basically have to comply with what would be the Euro 3.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    “The suspension arms are too short for Brazil, and it reaches its limit (with a thud) at almost every speed bump at almost any speed.”

    Are we talking about suspension travel here?

    • 0 avatar

      Yes Athos, thanks. Also Brazilian cars have some sort of dampner that muffles the sound when they reach the end. French cars were universally panned for not having this feature when they first got here. So, even though the travel was enough, they made a sound as if the car was breaking very often, because very often in Brazil the suspension reaches its extremes in Brazil. From what I’ve read, and heard this is not the case in the Hyundai. In Brazil you need more suspension travel to allow for bad roads. Then you need more control so the car’s handling is not ungainly. Hyundai did a bad job of this.

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