CANADIAN TIRE MOTORSPORTS PARK, BOWMANVILLE, ON – I am an extremely fortunate person. My job allows me to fly (or drive) to many different parts of the world to experience some great events and even greater vehicles. These events are incredible, but it’s rare for one to be so exciting that I legitimately don’t have time to take my usual hundreds of photos. The Hyundai Fun-Day is just that; it’s an action-packed day at the Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (formerly known as Mosport) that allows media outlets like ours to experience the latest and greatest in the Hyundai lineup.
We were thrown the keys to either a new Genesis Sedan or a new Sonata to drive the ~1 hour from the hotel to the racetrack, where the day’s activities would commence. I picked a 3.8L V6 Genesis Sedan because I just reviewed its more powerful brother, the 5.0L V8 model. Full impressions will come shortly after our full drive on the car, but I did have some initial impressions. For one, the V6 feels significantly more urgent and considerably lighter than the V8. It flies off the line and never has a shortage of power. The interior is just as good and by no means will you feel like you skimped by not opting for the big kahuna 5.0. In all trim levels, the new Genesis is definitely worth a drive.
Upon my arrival at the track, I was pleased to see that our friends at Hyundai had brought out the car I’ve been waiting for for a couple years now. Now that the Genesis Coupe has dropped the 2.0L turbo 4-cylinder in favour of the 3.8L V6 engine, the R-Spec’s Torsen limited-slip differential, Brembo brakes, 6-speed manual, and R-Spec suspension are all available with a ton more horsepower. In fact, the 3.8L Genesis Coupe R-Spec will now be available with 348 horsepower for under $30,000. I actually had the opportunity to drive this car around the track, and boy does she move. Hyundai will also sell you a factory axle-back performance exhaust (we actually tested the 3.8L car with this exhaust recently), which wakes the R-Spec up even more. This car is insane; it’s so planted during spirited driving it’s hard to believe it’s a Hyundai. When you want to turn off stability/traction and kick the back end out a bit, the Genesis will happily dance.
As I moved on from the Genesis R-Spec with my heart racing, I decided to do a slightly calmer activity. This meant jumping behind the wheel of a new 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T and venturing off-road into the trails. Getting some capable new SUVs muddy? I’m game! We traversed some mild trails, getting both the Santa Fe Sport as well as the new Tucson quite muddy, and the two handled this with ease. They both are equipped with Hill Descent Control, that works very well. I turned off the traction/stability control and left it in manual shift mode, holding first and second gear throughout the whole experience. I’ve never been a huge off-roader, but I feel like there’s no sense in owning a crossover or SUV if you’re not going to get it at least slightly muddy on occasion.
There was also an autocross challenge using the new Veloster Turbo, and Hyundai set up a Top Gear-esque lap time board to see which journalist was fastest. Our friendly local Hyundai PR team was also joining in on the fun, which is always a hoot. My personal favourite challenge was a parking challenge. We were asked to use a manual-transmission Accent (the same one we reviewed earlier this summer) and parallel park behind a Genesis, then reverse park into a marked spot. What’s the challenge? This was all timed. I consider myself very proficient at parking, but being able to do it extremely quickly in a relatively unfamiliar car took a bit more effort. The previous record was 22.3 seconds (to do both parallel and reverse, then drive through a finish line) by another media outlet. I set a new record at 19.6 seconds and took home a prize (thanks, Hyundai!).
Hyundai is also one of the few manufacturers that still takes pride in offering the manual transmission; something that more and more manufacturers are beginning to shift away from (pun intended). Their clutches are good across the lineup, and the shifters on the smaller cars (Accent, Elantra, Veloster) are quite engaging. Rather than sticking with five speeds, the Accent is one of the few cars in the subcompact class to offer a 6-speed manual. Hyundai shifters do tend to be a bit notchy, and that’s something that I’m sure will be further developed going forward.
Events like this and enthusiasm towards the car community overall is working wonders for Hyundai. They’ve come from being a brand to whom nobody would give a second glance to a legitimate player in a competitive market. Their new vehicles are top notch, and there are a multitude of reasons to pick a couple of them over their respective competitors. Quality has gone up significantly and so has reliability. I can’t wait to drive the new 2015 Sonata a bit more, and determine just how one of my personal favourites over the past few years has been improved upon.
Event: Hyundai Fun-Day 2014