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China Test Drives 2019: Around Yunnan in a Hyundai Celesta

Our Hyundai Celesta near Tiger Leaping Gorge in Yunnan.

After trying out a Peugeot 301 in Inner Mongolia, we now fly the entire width of China to land in Kunming, the capital of the Yunnan province. We will attempt to visit the province’s highlights during a 1.263 km loop with a Hyundai Celesta rented at the eHi Kunming Airport store. You can also check out our Explore reports detailing the car landscapes of KunmingDali and Lijiang.

Location of towns visited and exact itinerary with the Hyundai Celesta

The Hyundai Celesta is priced at an impossibly low 79.900-115.900 yuan (10.300-14.980€ or US$11.600-16.880). However, stepping into it is like night and day with the more expensive Peugeot 301 (84.700-107.700 yuan). Although the Celesta routinely cops bad press locally given this is in fact a 2006 Hyundai Elantra with a new robe, the cockpit equipment has me sigh with relief: USB port and Apple CarPlay means music and GPS navigation will be a breeze. Note some more recent and 3 times more expensive vehicles (such as the new generation Toyota RAV4) still don’t offer CarPlay so this is significant enough to be mentioned right at the start of this Test Drive.

Hyundai Celesta in Kunming, on the highway to Dali, in Dali old town and Tiger Leaping Gorge.

Looking at the exterior design, the Hyundai China team has done a very decent job at masking what is understood to be ancient mechanics with a modern yet not convoluted appearance, a rarity among recent Hyundais.

Hyundai Celesta interior snaps.

But it’s the daily use of the car and interior creature comforts that have impressed me the most. The sound system is excellent, the sunroof is a very welcome addition to the car’s features, and even though the auto gearbox sometimes hurts at high revs, I pushed the Celesta to over 160 km/h (100 mph) without any shaking or discomfort.

Highway rest area driver refill, Celesta moon roof and eHi rental return.

All in all a very impressive performance by one of Hyundai’s cheapest offerings in China, and a lesson to all foreign manufacturers keen to succeed in the largest market in the world: don’t go easy on features and comfort even if it’s your entry level model. That’s because these will compete with the plethora of Chinese-branded vehicles currently on the market and out to eat foreign sedans for breakfast.

Stay tuned for our next China Test drive: the Bestune T77

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