Travel back in time to 1995. The average Toyota Corolla, Nissan Sentra, and Mitsubishi Lancer would cost roughly P550,000 to P600,000. They had simple fuel-injected 16-valve engines with no fancy variable valve timing mated to either a basic five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. They had power steering, power windows, power door locks, power side mirrors, and a simple radio/CD with two or four speakers.

They had no touchscreen infotainment and navigation systems, no smart entry feature that allowed you to lock and unlock the doors with the keys in your pocket, and no push-button engine start/stop.

They might have had ABS and dual airbags, but they certainly had no Electronic Stability Control, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, Brake Assist, or side and curtain airbags. No auto-on/off LED headlamps, taillamps, and DRLs. No rain-sensing wipers.

Just basic transportation with a minimum of features at minimal cost.

Would you buy these brands and models if they came with only the aforementioned features at their old prices in the P600,000 ballpark?

I’m sure you would. At that price range, you’d otherwise be looking at the tiny hatchbacks currently on the market.

That’s the compelling premise behind the new Hyundai Reina. Build a simple, affordable sedan that has all the goodies you’d find in the sedans we loved 20 to 25 years ago and price it at roughly the same price we enjoyed way back then.

The Reina falls under the subcompact class (joining the likes of its sibling, the Hyundai Accent, plus the Toyota Vios and Honda City), which was actually the size of typical Corollas, Sentras, and Lancers then before they started growing into the current compact sedans they are now.

The Reina with the stickshift retails for P598,000, which is a veritable bargain in this size class (the automatic goes for a still very affordable P648,000).

It’s made in China, but if you have issues with China-made cars, there seems to be nothing to worry about as proven in our initial drive to Pililla, Rizal from the Hyundai dealership in Cainta.

First, the styling. The Reina was designed using Hyundai’s Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 design language, which means it looks very contemporary sitting beside its more expensive and upmarket stablemates. The paint, the panel gaps, and everything else on the outside fall within the standards you’d expect of current and much more expensive cars.

That impressive exterior fit and finish is carried over into the cabin. The doors close solidly. The windows wind up and down smoothly and silently. The plastics and fabrics used in the dashboard, console, seats, and door panels are top-notch and very well put together. You’d be hard-pressed to see a painted surface or exposed screw inside the cabin.

And it’s fairly spacious, with cupholders on the center console and beverage holders on all doors.

The Reina rides on a fairly long (for its class) 2,570mm wheelbase, which is partly responsible for the decent legroom and riding comfort. Its rear doors are probably the longest in its class, which makes for much easier ingress and egress. Add to this the Reina’s generous trunk space that can store up to 475 liters of cargo.

Under the hood of the Hyundai Reina is a 1.4-liter gasoline engine developing 95ps and 13.5kg-m of torque. We were three adults in the car and the Reina proved adept at overtaking slow-moving vehicles on our drive to the Pililla Windmills. The engine revved smoothly and silently while the clutch pedal and gearshift lever were delightfully light and easy to operate. (We didn’t get to drive the automatic but colleagues commented that it worked unobtrusively—which is a positive for automatics).

Safety-wise, the Hyundai Reina is equipped with dual airbags and ABS.

Indeed, the Reina has put together just the right elements of design, convenience, space, performance, safety, and, most importantly, cost, to the subcompact sedan.

If you are hankering for the simple, easy-to-maintain compact sedans (and their affordable prices) from the ‘90s, the Hyundai Reina is it. At its price points, it’s simply hard to beat.

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