Of all the newish car manufacturing kids on the block, Hyundai is taking the biggest strides in the Australian market. The Getz is a good small car, the Tucson highly competent and the Sonata – especially in V6 form – outstanding value for money. So it was with some anticipation that we stepped into the Grandeur, a brand new replacement for the car that back in January 2000 we characterised as having the suspension control of a ship...
In the showroom the new Grandeur looks a very different beast to the old. The car has LED rear lights, huge 235/55 tyres on 17-inch alloys, rear styling that takes more than a glance at recent BMWs, and proportions that hint at the large amount of interior space. Step inside and you’ll see leather, a sophisticated sound system, eight(!) airbags and niceties on the tested Limited that include an electrically-operated rear blind, a glass tilt/slide sunroof, heated front seats and xenon headlights with auto levelling.
The spec list is – if anything – even more impressive than the visuals. The engine is a 3.8 litre version of the Sonata’s V6 and pumps out no less than 194kW at 6000 rpm and 348Nm at 4500 rpm. And it does it on normal unleaded fuel! Bolted to the engine is a 5-speed auto that puts power down through front double wishbone suspension. Rear suspension is also by double wishbones and German Sachs dampers are used front and rear. Even the brakes are large with 303mm vented front discs and 284 solid rears, with of course ABS and electronic brake force distribution. Stability control is standard.
But cars – especially in this $47,000 bracket – are made up of much more than just their specs, equipment level and appearance. And on the road the Grandeur is simply not a convincing package. The best aspect is the engine – it’s not hugely torquey down low but with the revs up, has spirited performance and is strong enough everywhere to make the Grandeur a quick car. Hyundai claim a 0-100 km/h time of 7.2 seconds and standing 400m of just 15.1 seconds – and both times are quite believable. Fuel economy on test varied substantially depending on how the car was driven, with an overall figure that included a lot of gentle country road touring of 11.4 litres/100 km. The official test figure is 10.8 litres/100km.
So the engine’s fine but oh, the ride and handling.... how is it possible to make such a mishmash of it?
On smooth highways the ride is fine but get the car away from that environment – whether at low speeds in urban conditions or on country secondary roads at 100 km/h – and it’s poor. “Jiggly” and “inconsistent” are two terms that come to mind. Ironically, considering the characteristics of the previous model, over speed humps the Grandeur is competent but in other regards the car simply doesn’t have the ride comfort required in this class.
And that poor ride is not present in order to give good handling – around corners the Grandeur is startlingly bad.
Go in too hard and the car washes into plough understeer. Get off the loud pedal abruptly and then there’s a heap of oversteer – a very rapid transition indeed. And this is with the stability control switched on.... On dirt roads the Grandeur is so slippery we’re sure that none of the engineers who developed the suspension ever drove on that surface.
You need to remember that this is a fast car, one where overtaking moves can be completed very rapidly and it’s not hard to arrive at country road corners travelling quickly. And even when keeping well within the limits of grip, both can be downers because the steering kicks back violently over mid-corner bumps...
The thought of trying to pass a road train on an outback highway, two wheels by necessity on the dirt and two on the bitumen, foot down hard to reel in the three trailers... well, that’s not a thought but a bloody nightmare.
Within the context of a car with a bad suspension set-up, the stability control does a good job; however, it operates far more often than it should and sometimes even the electronic braking of individual wheels and reduction of power cannot achieve composure. However, the traction control is quite effective - even in wet conditions, the power isn’t killed-off and the car can still accelerate strongly. (But switch off the system and the wheel tramping under power is enormous... another indication that the suspension basics are not right.) Torque steer is well subdued but – perhaps it’s the corollary – the steering lacks feedback and is rather dead around centre.
We’d suggest that even a driver who is extremely conservative will at same stage or another experience steering kickback and require major intervention from the stability control system. A sporting driver will – well, if you’re sporting driver, don’t even consider this car.
The interior also has some downers. Rear room is excellent in all directions except headroom but to an extent that’s gained at the expense of front room. In the context of many cars there’s a heap of space everywhere, but compared with the local Falcons and Commodores, there’s not quite the same feeling of a vast amount of room. The front and rear doors open very wide. Lots of coarse grained plastic is used across the dash and with the doors shut, the gap between the ends of the dashboard and the door trims substantially varies in width. The lid over a centre dash storage pocket opens with a damped, smooth motion – but shuts with a clang – and we always had to check that the boot lid was actually shut because its closure produces an odd double sound. However, the doors shut beautifully. At 469 litres, the boot is large and has a decently-sized opening. It’s also fully trimmed (even the hinges disappear into trim) and the rear seat split-folds.
The MP3-compatible in-dash 6-cd radio tape player is good in class (it uses Infinity speakers including a separate sub-woofer) and the climate control is effective. The driver’s seat uses a 10-way power system (passenger’s is 4-way power) and includes three memories that also set the external mirrors and steering wheel adjustment. Apart from the speedo that needlessly reads to 260 km/h - and so as a result has graduations overly close together - the instruments and controls are clear and easily used.
Apart from an odd whine at high revs, the engine can barely be heard: NVH is very good, if not the best in class. However, in the test car the sunroof rattled when popped up – irritating when the cabin was otherwise so quiet.
Despite its excellent performance, competent fuel economy and generous equipment level, we do not recommend the Grandeur. Even though it’s one-third more expensive than the V6 Sonata, we don’t think it’s a better car...