We have said it several times on these pages: Hyundai is a manufacturer that has long since reached maturity and is trying in every way to shake off the image that the Italians had imprinted on their minds. There was a time when Korean brands were associated with a lower segment, it is true, but today that is not the case and there have been many who have realized this.
Today the brand is among the few to still offer a complete range of all engines, to allow you to choose petrol, diesel, hybrid (even full hybrid), plug-in hybrid and electric. In the world of the electric, then, she is among the few who have hit the spot right from the start, and have not lost themselves in its development thanks to Kona Electric which immediately proved to be an efficiency champion.
In short, the engineers of the brand are working well, the design is starting to embrace European tastes more and the technology is second to none: connected and modern infotainment, a level 2 semi-autonomous driving that has nothing to envy to the competitors and a Research & Development department that churns out remarkable technical solutions, from the iMT system (intelligent manual gearbox for 48V hybrids) to projects for the future including a hydrogen generator, the Fuel Cell car which has now reached maturity, trucks hydrogen already on the road and the eVTOLs.
NOT ONLY HARDWARE
With the “iron” Hyundai is now well-established, with the software the brand is at the forefront of the transformation to a service company. What is missing? Retracing milestones already trodden by historic manufacturers with several years behind them, Hyundai has inaugurated the Hyundai Driving Experience program. Let’s face it immediately for those who are younger: they haven’t invented anything.
Such programs, where the customer is involved in a series of safe driving courses, track activities and more, have existed for years. Hyundai, however, in its path to gain more and more credit as a versatile and complete brand, has activated a project that proves to be in step with the times.
Division N, made up of sports cars such as Hyundai i30N, Hyundai i20N and Kona N, is the protagonist of the experiences on the track: you drive strong, you learn the rudiments of safe and sporty driving. We had a first taste at the presentation of the i20N and the new i30N.
The other side of the coin it’s called Winter Experience. The package is one that requires specific locations, in this case we are talking about Solden, one of the pearls of Austria and a territory already threatened by a well-known brand: BMW.
Direct attack is that of Hyundai, which here sets its winter experience which translates into a driving course halfway between safety and fun. There is room to learn how to manage braking and really understand the difference between the driving modes, but there is no lack of fun with maneuvers that recall those seen in the films. Let’s go in order.
First of all, a necessary premise must be made: such courses are made to be within everyone’s reach, and therefore the arrogance of those who already know how to drive, have taken courses after courses and know the fundamentals well, must be set aside, also because the saying ” you never stop learning “is also valid for the classic bar braggart (yesterday, today from comments) who with his car says he can do anything with his eyes closed.
THE IMPORTANCE OF DRIVING MODES
Driving methods are often underestimated because in everyday use we find it difficult to deal with challenging conditions. When the going gets tough, however, the importance of that magic key, that selector, which allows you to transform the car from something unmanageable to a vehicle that can be driven almost blindly, emerges clear and preponderant.
On the brand’s plug-in hybrid SUVs, Santa Fe and Tucson, Snow mode has clearly proven it can compensate even for the mistakes of the inexperienced driver. A slalom with the foot flat on the gas pedal, impossible without controls, becomes feasible on the snow.
Scurrying up and down the snowy path, then, I realize how it actually exists a difference between the various modes. Snow it is conservative, you activate it and face in complete serenity a road made of snow-covered backs with some small icy patches. Used in the snow, Sand it becomes more fun, it leaves room for the playfulness of losing the rear and taking it back “manually” with the help of both four-wheel drive and counter-steering when necessary.
NOT EVERYTHING ELECTRONICS
The other fundamental aspect that you learn is that related to safety. Understanding how to brake and how to manage the steering is essential for those rare situations where you need to do it right. Relying on electronics is what we are taught, and it is fine for most everyday circumstances: “step on the brake, ABS will take care of the rest“.
In reality, electronics and ABS also have physical limitationsand knowing how to help digital brains do their jobs better, with a conscious driver behaviorit can make a difference.
Patience, friendliness and professionalism. How many times has it happened to you to try a car, perhaps one of those packets with sports cars on the track, and find yourself in front of an instructor who is not able to empathize with the student and visibly annoyed to have you beside him at the wheel? After facing the experience on the track and on the snow, the team set up for the Hyundai Driving Experience proved to be the right ones.
Stiff at first, but with a smile. You have to be strict when you need to, because you never know who you are dealing with when you entrust a car and exercises to a varied audience.
The quality of the team’s professionals at the Winter Experience, however, showed that being good at driving is not enough to teach. You also need the ability to recognize which pupil can be pushed to the limit and which one should be accompanied more on his path, and it is not for everyone.
The event was not dedicated only to the automotive world: although Italy proposed a selection of journalists already accustomed to sporty and safe driving courses, the other European countries had brought many personalities from the world outside the sector and influencers, to their first experience with cars. The variety of students demonstrated the qualities of the team’s instructors, a sign that the whole team is versatile.
Involving students, transferring technical notions with simplicity and by example and keeping the pace high without neglecting moments of lightness and fun: these are the key to an experience that will not disappoint.
Courses like the Winter Experience they are not cheap, but thinking of them as an alternative to a holiday that makes us return with a baggage made up of experience, and not just souvenirs, could put the figures back into perspective and turn everything into an investment in one’s training.
Then there are several one-day appointments with experiences of all kinds: on 6 July, for example, the Nurburgring will host the E-Experience with IONIQ 5 (€ 99). The Autodrome of Monza will instead be the protagonist of a series of Track Experience with i20 N and i30 N in May and there are several increasing levels available, able to improve us over time.