There is always a tonne of excitement whenever Hyundai launches a new small car. And the car I've just driven certainly qualifies as one of the most exciting small cars to come to India in a long, long time. Called the Grand i10, this is the latest effort from the Korean auto giant in the premium hatchback market and boy is it an impressive little thing. There had been much hype building up to the moment when Hyundai finally launched the Grand i10 last month. It began life as the Project BA and the first speculation was that Hyundai was making a car that slots right in between the i10 and the i20. Well, this is true and not at the same time.
This is actually the new i10 for Europe and the rest of the world. But as is the way of things in India, Hyundai is keeping the current i10 going and has introduced this new car right alongside it. Don't be fooled by the i10 moniker though. This is a brand new car which shares almost nothing with the i10 that we've had in India for the last 7 years. It is bigger in all the ways that matter, making it more spacious than its namesake and feels more premium in every department. In India, think of this as an i15 of sorts.
Even design wise, the Grand is a complete departure from its predecessor. It's longer, wider and almost as tall - tall enough to classify it as a tall boy. But thanks to its increased dimensions, you'd be hard pressed to say that it actually falls in this category. Overall the styling has taken quite a few steps away from quirky "Kei" car and a big leap towards proper Euro supermini. The Fluidic design language has evolved further with this car and the headlights are now much sharper, the car sports a much larger one piece grille and a funkier design around the fog lights which really spruces up the front end. Unlike a lot of other design efforts which seem to lose steam as they progress from the front to the rear, the Grand makes no such faux pas. The strong shoulder line accentuates the width of the car and the uniquely shaped waistline molding and 8-spoke diamond cut alloy wheels (on the top end Asta model that is) really accentuate the Grand’s more mature design. At the back, you see a clear departure from regular Hyundai hatchback design with brand new taillights, chunky reflectors integrated into the bumper and lots of slashes and cuts all around. Bottom line is that the Grand i10 is beautiful to behold, no matter what angle you look at it from and manages a wonderful mix of radical design and comforting conventionality to keep everyone happy.
And the story inside is no different really. While it might not have the funkiness in design that we’ve seen on recent Hyundai cars such as the Verna and the Elantra, there is a certain ‘grown-up’ aura that the interiors exude, at the same time feeling extremely top notch in terms of quality and the way they’re put together. The two tone design looks very Euro-chic and the company has put a lot of attention to detail in a lot of aspects of the ‘human-machine interface’. The steering wheel for example is small, chunky and not only looks good but also feels great to hold thanks to its leather and matte plastic finish. The same can be said of the various buttons and knobs found inside the cabin. Space wise, it might not be as large on the inside as its elder sibling, the i20, but it’s a marked step over the standard i10. At the front, the tallish centre console creates a nice cocoon for the driver and passenger, while the seats offer excellent support to both back and thighs.
At the back, there’s plenty of space to fit two full-size adults in great opulence on account of this Grand i10 being even grander in proportions than its current European counterpart. The back bench itself is extremely comfortable and the seat back angle is perfect for those long-distance journeys as well. But the best part is that the rear seats get their own air-conditioning vents, which is absolutely a first for this segment of car in India. Overall, the Grand sports a cabin that really sets the benchmark in the hatchback segment, demonstrating as Hyundai has always done, that premium quality and top-notch materials need not come at too high a price.
As with almost all other Hyundai cars available at the moment, the Grand i10 offers both petrol and diesel as a choice for motive force. The petrol engine here is the 1.2-litre KAPPA mill which has really proved itself a worthy choice for quite some time in both the i20 and the older i10. The most exciting thing under the hood though is a brand new cutting-edge 1.1-litre U2 diesel engine. It might only have three cylinders, but this state-of-the-art motor produces 71PS of power at 4,000rpm and 160Nm of peak torque coming it between 1,500 and 2,750rpm. What strikes you most about this engine is just how refined it can be. A small amount of rumble does creep into the cabin at idle rpm, but that is to be expected from a car in this segment. Performance isn’t what you would call blistering, with the run to 100km/h from a standstill dispensed off in a fairly ponderous 17.5 seconds. At 150km/h, top speed too isn’t anything to write home about, but it’s pretty much at par with others in this segment. However it’s not about mere numbers and figures with this motor. The most impressive thing about this mill is its sheer drivability, even at fairly low engine speeds. It pretty much picks up in any gear and driving around even in extremely heavy traffic conditions is an absolute breeze. But in the higher range of the rpm spectrum, it does lose steam rather quickly. So not the ultimate engine for high-speed highway cruising. On the other hand, the clutch action is long, but quite light and the 5-speed manual gearbox is one of the slickest shifters we’ve seen in a long time. With a combination like that coupled with shortish ratios for the first three gears, the Grand i10 is at its absolute best in driving about in the urban jungle.
Hyundai hasn’t just worked magic with the engine and gearbox though. What impressed us most was the work done on the suspension. Compared to other hatchbacks from the same company, the Grand i10 seems significantly better sprung. This setup is still fairly soft mind you, but through long undulations, the car doesn’t wallow at all and even if you show it some corners, the body roll, though present, feels extremely well controlled. So what you end up with is brilliant ride quality over even the most broken of roads without the suspension feeling wishy-washy in any way. In fact, even when you take the Grand all the way up to its top speed on a wide open highway, the car feels extremely well settled even without carrying a full complement of occupants. Brakes too have good feel and bite and can bring the car to a dead stop from 80km/h in less than 30 metres. Honestly, you would have to be extremely ham-fisted and lead-footed to find yourself in a hairy situation with this Grand.
Being a diesel, the strongest point of this motor is the sheer fuel efficiency that it manages. Hyundai claims that it can deliver 24kmpl under standard test conditions and they’re not too far of the mark with it. In our tests in and around Pune, the Grand i10 delivered 16.90kmpl on the city streets and this figure climbed up to 22.5kmpl once we hit the open roads, maintaining steady speeds of 80-90km/h.
Where the Grand i10 really excels though is in its sheer equipment list. Apart from the aforementioned rear air-conditioning vents, the Asta trim which we drove packs keyless entry with a start/stop button, steering wheel controls for audio as well as Bluetooth telephony, a cooled glove box, a 2-DIN MP3 player with Bluetooth and 1Gb internal memory and even power rear-view mirrors with an electrical folding function. The car is absolutely loaded to the hilt.
There are of course a few nits I could pick about this, such as the large size audio control buttons on the steering wheel which tend to get accidentally pressed in the midst of a flurry of steering action. Then there’s the lever for the driver’s seat height adjustment, which can only be reached if you have hands built like twigs or if you actually open the driver-side door. Then of course, there is the price. At Rs 6.42 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi) for the top-end Asta trim diesel variant with the optional safety features such as ABS and airbags, the Grand i10 does seem a bit pricey. Mind you, you’re actually getting a lot of car for your hard-earned cash, but the same kind moolah can also get you a slightly larger hatchback, albeit one not equipped as heavily the Grand. Honestly, if you’re like me – an urban dweller with a small family and one who doesn’t do too many extra-urban excursions, then it makes a helluva lotta sense to buy a Grand i10. Coz when it comes to premium, well-loaded smallies, it really is a tall order to do any better.
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