When Hyundai Motor Philippines launched the Stargazer and the Creta late last year, curiosity about the new direction (and management) of the brand reached a fever pitch.
Everybody wanted to get their hands on these models and see just how far Hyundai has come in terms of quality and technology. Lucky for us they scheduled a media drive, even luckier it was set to be on the touristy and historical island of Cebu.
Hyundai Tour de Cebu
We were tasked to be at the airport bound for Cebu by 5:00 am on a very cold February morning. As I huddled and slumped into an airport bench, I watched befuddled travelers trickle into the waiting areas and spotted a few of my colleagues, some who made eye contact made the customary nod greeting, and went in search of caffeine.
The crackle of the PA system soon announced our flight was boarding and off we made up a single file line to enter the plane. Once settled into our seats time started to quicken and before I knew it, we were in the air headed for Cebu. Those who’ve been will know that the flight to Cebu is almost comical in length (1 and a half hours), even before you can fully reach slumber land the pilot soon announces that we have begun our descent as if we warped sped our way to the other side of the archipelago.
We were arriving at a sunny but damp Cebu island, and the smattering of rain clouds meant our descent was less than ideal. However, as the landscape of the island soon made itself visible, awe and excitement crept in. Most places are “meh” from the sky but Cebu provides an awe-inspiring mix of mountains, water bodies, and engineering marvels like the CCLEX.
After the pilot bounced to a complete stop on the tarmac of the Mactan airport, we were now truly wide awake and the Hyundai Adventure was well and truly away. We deplaned, snatched our luggage, hobbled into a bus, and set off for the nearest Hyundai dealership to meet the stars of the drive.
Usually, media drives consist of only one vehicle/model, but Hyundai was keen to do its first-ever media drive with a bang and decided to give us both the Creta and Stargazer. Gleaming in either creamy white or silver both vehicles put together are symbols of where the Korean automaker is now and where they want to be in the future. Both the Stargazer and the Creta are striking in design and look like they’re concept cars made real, which of course is a very good thing.
At the dealer, we signed up for the customary accouterments of Hyundai branded shirts and a rain jacket (how fitting), after which we had a small breakfast briefing of the media drive proper itself. As mentioned, a mini tour de Cebu was going to take place, which meant a whole day of driving through various roads, climates, and conditions. What excited us was the cherry on top of the sundae of the trip, a short jaunt on the Cebu-Cordova Link Expressway (CCLEX).
We finished our breakfast downed our huge cups of coffee, and emptied our bladders before we took the first of many group photos that would mark the drive. Each car was assigned 4 media journalists, and we would take turns riding and driving the Hyundai Creta and Stargazer, our first steed was the Creta and I opted to take the backseat to take in the Cebu sights.
I didn’t get to drive the Hyundai Creta but based on the glowing remarks of my driver/car mates it seems it was a hoot to drive. They basked in how well-tuned the IVT transmission was and how it helped propel a heavy crossover filled with sweaty journalists and equipment. I meanwhile liked the space the Creta offered despite going up against the likes of vehicles like the Corolla Cross or Kicks, even if we were at full capacity non of us felt claustrophobic, and generally the ride was pliant and comfortable with a tinge of firmness.
In terms of sights, Cebu is a mix of the old and new worlds, historical buildings and shophouses are now surrounded by shiny shimmering buildings, casinos, and hotels. The true nature of Cebu being a port town also shows itself with big container trucks zooming past us on the highway outside the port area. Overall, despite being a modern metropolis Cebu remains charming and quaint in some areas.
Apart from the city, we made our way up a mountain road headed for Lakeview which sits atop a mountain with a spectacular view of a man-made lake. The road leading to Lakeview was reminiscent of Baguio and Tagaytay, steep twisty roads with greenery and mountain views on each side, and as if that wasn’t enough a fog soon settled in and made conditions tricky, colder but more fun for the convoy.
At Lakeview, a luncheon was set for the participants highlighted of course by the world-famous Cebu Lechon. In fact, we were provided 3 lechons from different places, each person critiqued the saltiness, fatness, and overall flavor depth of the lechon. After all, we automotive journalists are quite the judgemental bunch, so this activity was done with much enthusiasm.
With our bellies now resembling those of the lechon, and another cup of coffee downed it was time to begin the final leg of the drive. We switched from the Hyundai Creta to the Stargazer and it was my turn to take the reins of Hyundai’s new MPV. Conditions were still tricky and with an energized convoy the pace soon picked up, and I must say that the Stargazer didn’t let up at all. Even if it’s designed and meant to haul a family comfortably, it isn’t out of place when driven spiritedly. Its bulk was shed off by the well-tuned IVT and I found the traction and handling to be above par for an MPV. the Stargazer inspired confidence and made me feel safe at the same time which is no small feat for any vehicle.
Upon reaching the city a bathroom break was scheduled and another driver change signaled the highlight of the drive; the CCLEX. I chose to be a passenger for this part because I personally wanted to marvel at this engineering masterpiece that connected two islands in Cebu. CCLEX resembles something out of more developed countries and it does not disappoint, it has slopes, elevations, and a great view of Cebu, what more could you ask for?
We did three rounds of the CCLEX and it was now time to head to our hotel, given that my car mates were spent and useless by this point I elected to drive. We were hit by the fabled Cebu traffic, at this point it was well into the evening already and anybody who’d been up since 3:00 am would be livid. In my case though, even with standstill traffic, the Stargazer provided a spacious and comfortable ride, which kept my fatigue and hunger in check as we trundled our way to the hotel.
After what seemed like an eternity our day was finally over as we drove into the hotel driveway. We spent the better part of more than half a day in transit, but both the Hyundai Creta and Stargazer performed as advertised. Through rain, fog, unpaved roads, and traffic neither car flinched or showed any shortcomings.
Both these vehicles are Hyundai’s sales drivers, and if they are a showcase of how far the brand has come and where it’s headed, then everybody else has been put on notice. Competitors watch out.