Study in Design
Flamboyant flaring and swooping curves belie the Eon’s low price. Panels meet at four-way intersections in a display of micrometer-precise manufacturing. Some might wonder why even the base model gets an integrated rear spoiler until they realize it isn’t tack-on plastic, but a pressed-steel body panel. Now that’s cool.
But a look underneath quickly reveals the car’s basic nature. Tires are puny 155/70R13 Hankook Radial 884s wrapped around steel wheels, and the disc and drum brakes are tiny. The tubular rear axle and spindly front McPherson suspension are mighty similar to the Suzuki Alto’s, down to the chunky forward-mounted front anti-roll bar.
In practical terms, this simplification makes the Eon astoundingly light. At 715 kilograms, it’s over 200 kilos lighter than an i10, allowing Hyundai to dial in a soft ride without sacrificing stability... or ability. The Eon has great front end bite, making it keener to turn than the puny tires suggest. Brakes are surprisingly strong, and the car tracks straight and true under braking, even without ABS. The electric steering feels natural at speed, where it’s firm enough for hands-free driving... not that we encourage that sort of thing... and lightens up at low speed for finger-twirl parking.
While most small cars are great in traffic, the Eon is spectacular, threading through gaps barely wide enough for tricycles. You can save lots of time squeezing between road-hogging jeepneys and the sidewalk... not that we encourage that sort of thing, either. Amongst the current crop, only the Alto is as capable.
Being narrow has its disadvantages, if you’re... ahem... large of build. The shifter will leave marks on your leg and pedal spacing is tight. Yet, despite the narrow cabin, legroom and headroom are surprisingly good, thanks to an i10-sized wheelbase and a tall roof. Only the intrusive dashboard and door openings make it feel tight, banging knees and heads on occasion.
The interior is excellent for the price. The dashboard, in particular, is a work of art, with a fascinating three-dimensional instrument cluster and curves galore. Though lacking a tachometer, it has the all-important temperature gauge and 12v power socket. All variants get comfortable leatherette-cloth combo seats, a classy touch in this class.
About the only dingbat is the flimsy rear view mirror. Everything else, from the HVAC knobs to the chunky wiper and light stalks, exudes a feeling of solidity. This top-of-the-line unit even has a built-in stereo with auxiliary jack, and surprisingly plays good sounds. While rear passengers have to share a single drink holder, there are loads of storage bins and cubbies in front, including a dashboard shelf big enough for a Big Mac Meal.
Out back, the Eon packs more cargo space than the rest. At 215 liters, it even has more trunk space than a Swift, with a full-sized spare tire, to boot! But with a tank that fits just 32 liters of gasoline, the Eon isn’t exactly a car for long trips... or is it?
Sewing Machines Ahoy
The Eon’s 814 cc engine is basically an i10 mill minus a cylinder. This inline-3 makes 55 horsepower and 75 Nm of torque. Being based on the 12-valve “Epsilon” 1.1, rather than the newer “Kappa” 1.2 liter, it shares the older engine’s SOHC lay-out and cable-throttle. Still, sacrificing one camshaft allows for a more compact package. And whatever it gives up in terms of power, it makes up for in efficiency. Throttle the engine hard, though, and all you get lots of glorious three-cylinder growl (thanks to an open exhaust), less economy and very little reward.
Aiding and abetting this spendthrift miser is a transmission with shorter ratios than the i10 to make up for the lack of power. While it sometimes snags going into third, it shifts more crisply than most. There’s even a helpful gearshift indicator to promote economical driving. And despite requiring a few extra revs and some finesse on the clutch, short 1st and 2nd gears get you up to speed quickly.
In mixed driving, we saw about 20.5 km/l, with highway peaks of over 25 km/l. That’s a good 600 to 800 kilometers per full tank.
The Bottom Line
So it’s no speed demon. So what? The Eon can go toe-to-toe with the Alto K10 in terms of economy and it can hang with bigger hatchbacks like the Spark and Picanto in terms of refinement... and at a very affordable price. This top-of-the-line Eon goes for P498,000, while the base model costs a measly P438,000, missing only the body-colored bumpers, fog lights, driver airbag, and integrated stereo (it gets a 1DIN stereo with just two speakers). Even better, you can still get it in “Mushroom” color.
Everything is better in Mushroom.