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Friday, December 26, 2014

Segment A – driving a mini car in Poland

My unexpected return to my country of birth and my Polish home town – Zielona Góra put me behind the wheel of my late-father’s Hyundai i10. This is what the Europeans call Segment A – the smallest class of cars available.

We, in North America don’t have much contact with cars in this class, though a few models are available – Toyota Yaris and Nissan Micra come to mind, although these cars are much more powerful, refined and better equipped for the north American market.

Still, my i10 has features that are quite surprising. It scores well in crash testing, has strong brakes, big side mirrors and adjustable low beam headlamps – the last feature is hardly present on our shores at all.

My driving has consisted so far of a couple of days around the small city (around a 100,000 people) and a short 50 km hop to another small city (my birth place) – Żary.

The car performs fairly well in slow Christmas-time city traffic. There is barely enough power from the 1.1 L engine to stay with traffic, but the brakes are strong and easy to modulate, and steering is quick enough to easily maneuver in the tight city streets of an old European city. Controls are well laid out and I was comfortable behind the wheel within minutes.

Driving on the highway is another story. The engine struggles at higher speeds and safe passing (especially with 3 passengers I had in the car) was nearly impossible. The car is also very tall for its size and its skinny tires make it feel tipsy and wind-susceptible to the point where keeping the car going straight when a semi is approaching from the opposite direction becomes your main focus.

On the plus side, the car is fairly comfortable and quiet inside, with lots of room front and back, and ride that is fairly soft and not choppy at all. The seats are mounted very high off the floor, which creates an aura of being comfortable around bigger cars around you. This also gives the driver a commanding view from behind the wheel and the long precise shifter makes you feel like you’re driving a rig – not an unpleasant sensation.

I will report further on the car and the driving habits around these parts.

Head to head with a "normal" size Mazda 6 wagon gives you an idea of the proportions of the i10

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