Notwithstanding the relatively slow pick up in sales for its entry-level small car – the Eon, Hyundai has been steadily improving the choice and range available for small car buyers. The facelifts to the i10 and the i20 have also delivered results over the last two years.

But, launching a new car altogether in this hatchback segment now is less of a flanking strategy and more of a ‘carpet bombing’ strategy. So, the new Grand i10 will simply attempt to offer another compelling new small car to new buyers and one more reason for Hyundai car owners to continue to be loyal to the brand.

Positioning

Given the fact that the Grand i10 has been built on a whole new platform, it must have been a difficult call to make to not give it a whole new name and instead associate it with the existing i10 brand. It is going to replace the current i10 model in most markets worldwide where the car is sold. But in India, the new Grand i10 and the existing i10 will continue to co-exist.

Hyundai has the Accent and the Verna, which are essentially the previous generation and the new generation models with different names. Apparently, with the i10 brand’s strengths, the new model has been launched as an upgrade option. The Grand i10 is meant to fill a gap between the current i10 and the i20. With this addition, Hyundai India has a small car or variant on offer at every Rs 25,000 price point between the Rs 3 lakh to Rs 7 lakh range.

The new Grand i10, internally code-named the ‘BA’, is actually a global hatchback, developed by the Korean company with an eye on capturing the increasing demand for a smart hatch even in most of the markets in Western Europe. But to make sure that the Indian-spec of this car gets special attention, the model was separated during the development process into two. So, the IA was the code-name for the model headed to other markets in Europe and the BA with its changes was to be launched here.

Exterior design

Changes to the BA (compared to the IA) focused on improving the glass area at the rear to bring in more light into the rear seat of the Grand i10 and also at improving the airy feel of the car’s interiors. So, the rear windows are wider with the belt line being straightened and given a gradual slope upwards instead of the IA’s design where the line rises sharply past the midway point at the rear window.

The India-spec (BA) Grand i10 is also about 100 mm longer overall and features a wheelbase which is about 70mm higher than the IA version. Apparently, Hyundai Motor India’s R&D centres in Chennai and Hyderabad worked together with HMC’s research facility in Namyang, Korea to put together these changes in the BA.

The new Grand i10’s design is even more modern and even less quirky compared to the existing i10. In fact, there is a very European flavour to the Grand i10 looks and stance. It is still a bit like a tall-boy, but overall looks squatter and actually seems to be like a cross between the current i10 and the i20.

Hyundai’s familiar fluidic design lines are the most evident at the front, especially in the hexagonal grille and the elongated, peeled-back headlamps. A gradually rising A-pillar and the less rakish windscreen add to the squat appearance. The rear is taut with the roof sloping down sharply and merging into the C-pillar. The relatively small tail-lamps and the oversized rear fender together frame the hatch door and give the rear and a fairly consistent design. Rear glass wiper, a roof spoiler and rear parking sensors are features that may be offered depending on the variant.

The new Grand i10’s dimensions are fairly generous with the overall length being 3,765mm, the wheelbase being 2,425mm and the width being 1,660mm. It is still well below the four-metre length limit. But, Hyundai designers and engineers have together managed to pack in more space inside the cabin of the Grand i10.

Interiors

The cabin of the Grand i10 feels airy and spacious the moment you step into it. There a few elements on the dashboard that seem familiar and look like they may have been borrowed from another Hyundai model especially the air-conditioner knobs and the hexagonal top half of the centre stack. The chunky, three-spoke steering wheel feels nice to hold and the top trim variants feature stitched leather trim and steering mounted controls for the audio system and cruise control.

A two-tone colour theme has been adopted for the interiors, which also flows into the seat upholstery for the Grand i10. The gear shift stick has been positioned just below the centre stack and almost on the dashboard just like in the i10 .This improves reach and ease of use especially for shorter drivers. Overall the cabin feels solid and fit and finish quality seems a notch above the average hatchback, though you are still surrounded by a sea of plastic all around.

Two other factors that contribute to the comfort levels in the Grand i10’s cabin are the quality of the seats and the low noise levels. The seats are comfortably cushioned and even the rear seats feature wide base squabs. There has been a lot of work that has gone into the NVH packaging (Noise, vibration and harshness) making the cabin very quiet and considerably isolated from engine vibrations.

Another highlight is the extremely effective airconditioning. A number of new improvements to the aircon system in the car have been co-developed with Visteon – the vendor for the product. There is also a cooled glove-box. Other convenience features include auto-closing door mirrors, smart key and push-button start and stop, and Bluetooth handsfree phone pairing with the music system.

One other India-centric feature is the rear aircon vent. Just the addition of the vent that ducts cool air for distribution at the rear, also manages to improve comfort levels at the rear.

Performance

The new Grand i10 is offered with two engine options – one petrol and one diesel. The petrol engine is the same Kappa 1.2 dual VTVT engine that is already doing double duty in other cars. The 1,197cc engine develops a peak power of 83 bhp at 6,000 rpm and peak torque of 114Nm at 4,000 rpm in the Grand i10.

I had not driven the petrol engine version during the preview, but have since spent some quality time with the car. The four-cylinder engine comes across as being very refined. There is the familiar quietness about the engine with almost negligible levels of vibration at the door or the steering wheel. The engine also feels adequately peppy during gradual acceleration and picks up steam quickly under hard acceleration. The amount of torque available at low rpm levels could have been better, and yet, there should be relatively fewer occasions when you will need to shift down a gear to avoid knocking.

The diesel engine feels like the more surprising engine to drive. Almost, though not entirely, as refined as the petrol engine, this 3-cylinder 1,120cc second-gen 1.1 U2 diesel engine generates a peak power of 71bhp at 4,000 rpm and a peak torque of about 160Nm from 1,500 rpm to 2,750 rpm. The torque is delivered evenly in the low rpm range and there is very little lag that is discernable. Credit, I’m guessing, must be due to the gearing and the clutch for the overall performance of this engine. With peak power being delivered at 4,000 rpm and the redline in the diesel set at about 4,800 rpm, the engine is a real cruiser on the highway, though delivering efficiencies in high traffic conditions should also be its forte. Both the engines are paired with five speed manual transmissions. An automatic gearbox will also be on offer with the petrol engine.

The ARAI rated fuel efficiency numbers for the Grand i10 are 24 kmpl for the diesel engine version and 18.9 kmpl for the petrol engine version.

Ride quality

The Grand i10’s ride quality is a combination of stiff and pliant. I think it is a right mix considering how bad our roads are both in the urban and semi-urban areas of our cities. There is a bit of body roll when the car is thrown into corners or during urgent overtaking manoeuvres, but nothing very disconcerting, and it is much lesser than the current i10.

Bottomline

The new Grand i10 is a good upgrade for existing Hyundai customers and for new car buyers all around. With this, Hyundai has five unique small cars in its portfolio to offer potential buyers. Even if the Santro is not refreshed or relaunched, it would still have four on offer.

Just like Smartbuy had predicted, the Grand i10 has been priced in the Rs 4.3 lakh to Rs 6.5 lakh range (ex-showroom, Delhi). The car delivers better value than many other competitors in the segment. Unfortunately for Hyundai, it is also going to lead to a lot of confused customers who might dump the current i10 in favour of the Grand i10. But, company officials might say that these buyers would still be within the Hyundai fold.

muralidhar.s@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on September 11, 2013)
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