|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
Normally, when you think “road trip”, your mind gravitates towards bringing a crossover or a large van with you where it is you need to go. So when we were invited to drive Hyundai’s newest (and smallest) city car, the Eon up Baguio, there were questions as to whether the diminutive vehicle would actually make it in one piece. We actually conjured up scenarios where the Eon would be thrown about by the crosswinds of passing busses or stalling up the steep climb up Kennon Road.
Reading through the Eon’s spec sheet reveals our reservations about taking it some 300 kilometers north of Manila. At just 3.49 meters in length, the Eon is just as long as other car’s wheelbase. It’s powered by a 0.8 (not a typo) 3-cylinder engine (again, not a typo) packing just 56 horsepower and 75 Nm of torque. It’s got wheels no larger than a standard ruler at 13-inches (with 155/70 sized tires). And its fuel tank measures just 32 liters reserve and all.
Yet, Hyundai touts the Eon as a properly thought of, properly made car. And to their credit, they got it right. We found the overall styling both inside and out appealing and well integrated into the rest of the Hyundai line-up. The GLS model that everyone drove boasts of a nice mix of standard features including power steering (with a tilt-adjustable column), door locks, and front windows. There are also nice surprises including an integrated audio system with iPod and aux-in connectivity as well as a standard luggage cover. Among its competitors, the Eon is well-made and sturdy without an ounce of cheapness despite its surprisingly affordable P 498,000 price tag.
Forty motoring journalists and Hyundai club members descended on Hyundai North EDSA for breakfast and a short briefing. Before long, the first challenge is issued: a fuel economy run stretching from Hyundai’s largest dealership to a designated petrol station in Rosario, just before the climb up Kennon Road. The rules are simple: drive the Eon in a predetermined route with the air conditioning on and the windows rolled up. Everyone is then split into pairs, and this time, I see myself being partnered with Neil Pagulayan (Neil Almighty) of 99.5 RT once again.
As the group split up on NLEX and SCTEX, the others got clever and started turning off their Eon’s A/C compressor turning the car into a mobile sauna; others went to the extreme of folding their side view mirrors—a move which is dangerous, bordering on the irrational, just for a cash prize. Meanwhile, Neil and I abided by the rules and proceeded to drive our Eon as conservatively as possible. We kept our engine revs as low as possible by shifting to the next higher gear as quickly as our Eon’s little engine could. The Eon doesn’t have a tachometer, but it did have a shift indicator telling Neil when to shift up or down to remain economical. With Neil keeping a close eye on the road and on his speed, I focused on the road book as well as any obstacle like slow-moving tricycles that may slow us down. After a total of 4 hours and 44 minutes (we did both legs in exactly 2 hours and 22 minutes), we reached the petrol station in Rosario and filled the Eon to the brim. In the end, we achieved 23.406 km/L—not enough to win (the highest recorded mileage is 30.532 km/L), but proof that the Eon is indeed one fuel-efficient vehicle.
With all 20 Hyundai Eons filled up, it’s finally time to climb up the winding and steep Kennon Road. Neil, still relishing his time behind the wheel of the fuel economy challenge, volunteered to finish the driving duties. By circumstance, the heavens poured out so safety is of utmost importance. Everyone but a couple of guys stayed in relative formation going up. The Eon proved itself well-grounded, stable, and safe to drive up the mountainous road. Above all, it’s proof that its small 0.8-liter engine can indeed do the deed despite carrying two adults, luggage, and a full stack of food up this challenging road. A far cry from when our parents recommended cars with at least 2.0-liters of displacement for the climb up Baguio.
The next day, the Hyundai Eon had to prove its mettle as a city car by tackling the tight confines of Baguio City in a photo scavenger hunt contest. This time, instead of being split into pairs, Hyundai split everyone into groups of four. Clues were handed out and teams just had two and half hours to find each of the five tourist destinations. Neil and I teamed with Bam Olivares of The Daily Tribune and Ira Panganiban of Power Wheels as we searched for: Shalan Ti Kabadjo, a horse riding path in Camp John Hay; Mansion House, the Philippine President’s official summer residence; Teacher’s Camp, a popular camping ground and training center for teachers; The Philippine Military Academy; and the Baguio Botanical Garden, one of the largest gardens in the city and home to the Igorot Village.
In the course of the two and a half hour challenge, the Eon proved its maneuverability, especially at the Teacher’s Camp where we had to do an impromptu U-turn on a tight, one-lane road just to go out. Thanks to the car’s small footprint and compact 4.5-meter turning radius, we managed to squeeze the Eon back to the main roads. Baguio City regulars and residents also know how challenging it is to find parking, but again, it proved to be no problem for the Eon as we managed to squeeze to our lunch venue, Casa Vallejo at the Hill Station with some time to spare.
In typical Filipino tradition, no trip is complete without shopping for souvenirs and pasalubong. So when free time officially started, I took an Eon and made my way to Good Shepherd for some ube (yam) jam. Once there, a couple of guys engaged me in a conversation about the Eon while waiting in line. They asked whether it’s good to drive, if it’s really economical, and what the price is. I told them about the group’s experience on fuel economy, about going up Kennon Road, and even about how nimble it is on city streets. Remarkably, I made a mistake: misquoting the price at around P 570,000—that’s over P 70,000 above the retail price of the Eon. Yet, people still find it remarkable value. If only I could tell them the Eon actually cost just P 498,000, they’ll be pleasantly surprised for sure.
In the end, that’s what the Hyundai Eon is all about: full of surprises. Cars below the P 500,000 have always been regarded as cheap and disposable, where people buy it because they didn’t have a choice. The Eon is poised to change all that. Much like what they’ve done with the rest of their passenger car line-up, the Hyundai Eon is offering a brilliant mix of design, engineering, sophistication, and value. The fact that we made it to Baguio and back, while reveling in its performance and comfort is a testament to the Eon’s capabilities. And next time you need a car for that road trip, you need not look further than the Hyundai Eon.