Hyundai Eon : First Drive
The entry level hatchback segment has been ruled by Maruti Suzuki for decades and never has a contender arrived on the scene until now. Taking the fight straight to Maruti's bread 'n' butter model, the Alto, is the all-new Hyundai Eon, which not only intends to sweep away the competition, but also redefine the rules of the entry level hatchback segment itself!
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Maruti Suzuki India Ltd (MSIL) put our country on wheels when they introduced the little 800 over two decades ago. The 800cc engined Suzuki hatchback literally became a symbol of modern India and went on to have a dream run in terms of sales over the last 25 odd years. The 800 finally made way to the Alto, which also happens to be from the Maruti stable. The Alto was the natural heir to the legacy created by the formidable 800 and over the last couple of years it has proved its mettle by keeping the sales charts on fire and clocking monthly numbers that definitely made the competition jealous.
As a product, the Alto like its predecessor the 800, happened to be extremely functional. There was no design flair and the car didn’t boast of too many creature comforts apart from the basic power steering/power windows option. While it was an extremely well engineered product, the Alto however remained an entry level car that served purpose of being the ultimate four-wheeled commuter offering in the country, but it wasn’t going to turn heads or make a statement. All these aspects didn’t make a difference since the Alto literally had a monopolistic market as the only product offering in the entry level hatchback segment. But the winds of change were already churning and it was only a matter of time before the competition decided to step in to bring about a complete change in the entry level hatchback game.
Stepping up to take on challenge of defeating the formidable Alto at its own game is Hyundai. The Korean manufacturer is probably the only other car company in India that has managed to backbone their entire operations on their small car business. As a company, Hyundai has come a long way and with the grand success of their hatchback models such as the Santro, i10 and i20, it was finally time to take on the toughest hatchback segment of all, the entry level segment.
The objective was obvious yet strikingly challenging. Hyundai essentially had to manufacture a car that looked better than the Alto, offered more creature comfort than the Alto, performed at par with the Alto, offered more space and finally needed to be priced competitively as compared to the Alto. Basically, the Alto’s dominance needed to be challenged from every aspect. Design wasn’t such an issue, especially since the Alto had been around for over a decade. However the rest of the packaging is where Hyundai had to prove true brilliance.
The end result of Hyundai’s efforts resulted in the Eon, and the immediate verdict at the Eon’s debut was that the Alto finally had tough competition heading its way. Following in the latest of Hyundai’s design themes, the Eon is a very good looking hatch. The front grille and bumper feature a neat translation of the aggressive trapezoidal design lines that can now be found on every Hyundai. Flanking the grille on either side are the large swept back headlights that add the final touch to a well crafted front end. When viewed from the side, the Eon is reminiscent of its elder sibling, the i10.
However the designers at Hyundai have taken the liberty to feature a rather robust shoulder that sweeps up towards the rear to give the little hatch a neat sporty touch. Other elements that are visually striking on the Eon are the slightly pronounced wheel arches and the integrated roof spoiler which do their bit to contribute to the overall style statement. Summing up the entire package is a well contoured rear hatch and that stylish half moon shaped tail lamps. One look at the Eon and you will realise that Hyundai didn’t get stingy on design. It’s a head turner in a segment that has been devoid of any modern design and this is aspect is bound to draw takers away from the Alto to the Eon.
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