The worst new car often performs better than the best old car.
To remind myself of that, I try to rent the most basic car possible when I’m on the road.
My ride for the past two weeks in Mexico has been a Hyundai Grand i10. This model doesn’t exist in the United States. The comparison tests I have found for it on the web list the Maruti Suzuki Swift as its main competitor. It is popular in Mexico, India and South Africa.
It has a 1.2-liter 4-cylinder engine banging out 83 horsepower.
In typical European style — although it is Korean — it provides an enormous amount of interior space for what is quite a small car.
Driving in Mexico is like driving in France or Italy. The road belongs to the brave. Traffic circles become free-for-alls, where the cars circle like salmon getting ready to hammer up rapids. Some cars come from the left, some from the right — and none of them pay any attention to lane discipline.
The huge buses rumbling by dwarf the tiny Hyundai. Their drivers know they are larger than I am, and they dare me to get in their way.
As small-engined cars are the rule, everyone jockeys for position, all the time. With a car with this little power, (but not compared to my Bugeye), you have to be in the right gear all the time.
I’m constantly driving flat out just to avoid being run over.
I like it.
The power brakes, power steering and formidable a/c in the Hyundai are far better than the best of my old cars.
However, the rubbery shift linkage is like that of the Mehari before we replaced the shift bushings.
The check engine light comes on and off for no discernable reason, which reminds of the temperature gauges I’ve had that seem to run hot and cold when they feel like it.
So far I’ve put about 300 kms (186 miles) on the car, driving from Merida, Mexico to Cancun.
The engine revs easily to the 6,300-rpm redline, and 100 kph (60 mph) is about 3,000 rpm in 5th gear – just like most of my Alfas.
These little cars really need to be driven to get through the helter-skelter traffic here. But when they are pushed hard, they reward you by doing better than you would expect.
I’m heading home on Friday, and it will be good to get back. But driving this little Korean econobox has brought a smile to my face — and made my Mexico adventure here just a little more exciting.