Quick, think of a premium Indian hatchback., which is also popular globally. If I were to ask you that question, I’m sure that the Hyundai i10 would feature in almost every response.

For small car buyers looking for an upgraded experience, the i10 proved to be the affordable, but feature-laden option when it was first introduced. Though by current day standards, we might consider the first-gen model, introduced in 2007, to be rather Spartan, the i10 managed to capture the imagination of the buyer then. The facelift launched in 2010 upped the appeal a notch higher.

As the landscape for small cars evolves and as the expectations and aspirations of buyers in the segment rises, there is an inevitable need to keep pushing up the benchmark. In the small car space, Hyundai has often been the one setting up that point of reference for the other car makers to try and beat.

Next month, Hyundai will be at it again when it launches the new Grand i10. This time around, it is not a facelift. It is a whole new car all-together and it will not replace the current i10, but will be positioned alongside as an even more premium option. It will be priced in between the current i10 and the i20.

Made for India

Smartbuy got an exclusive preview of the new model and very short test drives too of the new Grand i10. Photography wasn’t allowed, the pictures you see here were given out by Hyundai Motor India. And the cars that we took out on the road were camouflaged. These were precautions being taken by HMIL to ensure that there were no leakages before the car gets unveiled and the name announced globally by HMC (parent Hyundai Motor Company) earlier today.

The new Grand i10 has been known by its code name till now – ‘BA’ for the Indian market and ‘IA’ for global markets. The new model will replace the first-gen i10 in a few markets and will be sold alongside the current model in at least 20 countries including India, according to HMIL officials.

The Grand i10 was designed at Hyundai’s European design centre in Germany. But early in its development cycle, the model was split into two sub-plots – one for the international markets and one for the Indian market. With the i10 being such a key product for Hyundai India, the company wanted to make sure that specific changes to suit local tastes and preferences were included.

As a result, Hyundai officials say that the Indian arm’s R&D centres in Chennai and Hyderabad worked closely with HMC’s Namyang R&D centre to develop the BA with changes that would suit the needs of buyers here. Both the BA and the IA have been built on a completely new platform, which is currently not shared by any other car from Hyundai.

Design

The ‘IA’ derived i10 will be launched at the forthcoming Frankfurt Motor Show. Dimensionally, the BA-derived i10 is longer overall by 100mm and also has a longer wheelbase (about 70mm longer) than the IA derived i10. There are a few India-specific changes that have been made in the Grand i10 that the international version will not feature.

In terms of exterior design, what will be different will be the wider rear door window glass. In the global variants, the shoulder line will rise sharply just past the midway point of the rear window and merge into the line formed by the curved rear spoiler. This, HMIL engineers, felt might make Indian buyers feel claustrophobic and crowded at the rear seat. With so many Indian owners opting to engage the services of chauffeurs, it was felt that this design needed to be changed.

So, the Grand i10 for the Indian market features a shoulder line that has a delayed curve upwards and the wider glass means that the cabin gets more light in and feels more airy. Hyundai has also chosen a brighter beige and black, two-tone interior theme.

But, the most unique feature inside the India-spec Grand i10 will be the rear airconditioner vent that is positioned between the front seats. The twin vents simply feature a separate ducting and feed off the same blower that is used for the dashboard vents. This feature will not be available in the IA version of the new i10.

In terms of design, like you can see from the images here, the new Grand i10 is wider and longer than the current i10. Detailed specs of the new car are still awaited from HMIL. But, clearly, the exterior of the Grand i10 looks more squat and sturdy and there is none of the perception of an overly thin and tall body that the onlooker gets from the current i10.

The front is more chiselled and overall there is a European flavour to the design. Hyundai’s fluidic design philosophy can be seen in the peeled back headlamps and the hexagonal bonnet grille design. The bonnet continues to be short and stubby, but does not contribute to an upright, cab-forward front design. From the side, the Grand i10 has a more curvy design and has lesser pointers to a tall-boy stance. A relatively low-set shoulder line, the grab-type door handles and the over-sized door mirrors catch your eyes. The dual-tone, diamond cut 14-inch alloy wheels are another new feature.

The Grand i10’s rear design is my personal favourite. Unlike the current i10’s flat hatch door, the new model’s hatchdoor is nicely curved and accommodative of a larger boot. Again a European flavour permeates the overall rear design. Peeled back tail-lamps which contribute to a pronounced haunch, a large curved rear glass, the hatchdoor handle with the Hyundai logo on it and the chunky rear spoiler together contribute to a premium feel to the rear.

Cabin

Inside the car, the interior is crisp and clean. The layout of the dashboard has some familiar bits, but the features themselves are entirely new. The quality of matt-finished plastic used feels good and seems above average in this segment. New circular aircon vents, a 2-DIN MP3 audio player with 1GB of internal memory and a smart key and push-button start combination add a lot of desirability to the interior.

The one dashboard feature that reminded me of the current i10 is the position of the gear shift lever. It continues to be on the dashboard and just at the base of the centre stack, keeping it within easy reach. Some of the other features of the new Grand i10 are a cooled glovebox, the auto closing door mirrors, Bluetooth connectivity to the music system, the rear parking sensors, and the rear aircon vents that has been mentioned earlier. For safety, dual airbags and anti-lock brakes are being offered.

With the changes to the design and the longer wheelbase, there is a distinct improvement to the amount of space available in the car. There is an increase in the amount of legroom both at front and rear and the amount of shoulder room available. Hyundai officials say that many of the changes were driven by feedback received from existing customers.

Engines

The new Grand i10 will be offered with one petrol engine and one diesel engine and possibly four trim variants with each mill. The petrol engine is the 1.2-litre Kappa dual VTVT unit. The engine will possibly produce a marginally higher 85 PS of peak power compared to the current i10. This petrol engine will be paired with a five-speed manual gearbox and an automatic transmission.

Hyundai only offered the other engine – the diesel version for the first impressions test drive on the roads outside Hyderabad. The Grand i10 will feature one of the smallest diesel engines in its class. It is the second generation, 1.1-litre, U2 CRDi diesel engine. Featuring a common rail diesel injection system with an above average bar pressure and turbo-charging, this new engine is quite a gem.

Surprising levels of refinement, low noise and relatively low vibration levels greet me when I crank the engine. There is a mild thrum at the seat and very mild vibration at the steering wheel and pedals when the engine is idling. But it is not intrusive and will not bother the occupants. During cruising speeds and after the engine settles into a healthy 3,000 rpm level, there is very little NVH to even suggest that it is a diesel engine. Hard acceleration does tend to remind you that there is a diesel engine in the bonnet, but even then it is surprising quiet compared to the other small diesels we have experienced.

The engine has been neatly packaged into the tight bonnet area and it is paired only with the 5-speed manual gearbox. The engine offers a lot of low-end torque and while I could discern a bit of turbolag, it is only below the 800-1,000 rpm mark and so the car doesn’t feel frustratingly slow. Past the 1,000 mark the car pulls forward clean, reaching speeds of over 140 kmph easily. My only complaint would be the relatively lazy engine-knock sensor that leads to a bit of judder if the car is allowed to drift to lower speeds.

The car handles quite well too and though there is a bit of body roll when it is thrown into corners, it is still much better than the current gen i10 and some of competition’s cars. The road test was too short to really figure out the suspension’s abilities, but suffice it to say that it feels some what like the i20’s – pliant, but sufficiently firm.

Outlook

The new Grand i10’s most loved feature could well be the cabin and its efficient NVH packaging. Await more pics and details after Hyundai reveals some of them.

To be positioned between the current i10 and the i20, the Grand i10 will most likely be priced in the Rs 4.5 lakh to Rs 6.5 lakh range. Some of the safety features may be offered only as part of an options package, but the rear aircon vents will be standard fitment.

My guess is that it is not just the competition that needs to work on a reply to the new Grand i10, but Hyundai itself could be faced with a bit of a problem. It might need to reposition the current i10 at a lower price point and more importantly find a new place for the i20, lest buyers drift more towards the new Grand i10.

muralidhar.s@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on August 6, 2013)
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