Hyundai is a company that has gone from strength to strength globally within the last decade and their current product lineup is considered good enough to compete on equal terms with even the mighty Japanese. In Sri Lanka though, their presence has been somewhat low key especially in the higher volume end of the market, which is the 2-4 Million rupee price bracket. Competitors such as Maruti-Suzuki, Renault, Perodua, Micro and as of late even Hyundai’s sister brand Kia have established more visibility in this segment, but now Hyundai are determined to fight back and leading the charge is the car you see here, the new Grand i10.
This is a model that has been designed with Asian markets in mind, but Hyundai assures us that essentially the same car is sold in Europe, with market specific changes. A bit of fact checking shows that this is quite accurate; the Asian i10 is much the same as the Euro market model, except for being larger in wheelbase by 100mm and of course lacking the advanced safety options that are mandatory in Europe. The Euro market influence definitely helps the appearance of the Grand i10 because it has none of the proportion issues or weird styling flourishes that so often appear in cars of this segment. Instead it is a trim looking hatchback with a wide track and foursquare stance that could easily pass for a European manufacturer’s product, which helps it stand out from the crowd rather well.
Inside too you get a welcome break from the usual uniformly gray, hard plastic caves that you usually find in the market as Hyundai have taken the radical step of actually giving you some colour inside (Gasp!) with a two tone dashboard and door panels and some bright patterns on the seats. This honestly works and instantly makes the i10 feel a cut above the rest in this class, even though the predominant material is still hard plastic. The wide track translates into a wide cabin with a sense of space that is greater than competitors, making you feel like you’re in a bigger car. Passenger space front and rear is exceptionally good, even with a fairly tall person in the driving seat, it’s possible to be completely comfortable in the rear with plenty of leg and shoulder room. Rear passengers also get the benefit of an air conditioning vent, which is a first for this class (and in fact is not really seen in cars even a couple of sizes up). Interior fit and finish is very commendable, in fact if I hadn’t been aware that the i10 was assembled in India I would not have been able to tell the difference, so clearly Hyundai India has got their assembly quality on the same level as Hyundai plants elsewhere in the world.
So first impressions are very good indeed but on the road the i10 turns out to be even better! There’s no argument, this is the best car to drive at anywhere near this price point by a distance so large that the competition isn’t even visible in the rear view mirror! It rides, steers and stops with a level of maturity that is completely alien to cars in the Asian market usually and can only be seen from Euro brands. The ride quality in particular deserves special praise because it soaks up pretty much any surface you throw at it without complaint and glides over everything from gravel to bumps to fair sized potholes serenely without bothering the occupants one tiny bit. It really is remarkable and should be experienced to be believed.
The powertrain is rather overshadowed by the excellent chassis, but still does the job well enough. The engine has only 1.0 Litre of capacity but it never feels out of depth, revving gamely and lugging the car with a fair level of urgency. The sole transmission choice is a 4 Speed Auto with a Tiptronic function for those who like shifting for themselves. Unlike some other automatic small cars, the Grand i10s gearbox is properly set up to help you get the most from the engine, if you’re pottering along it will go into the highest gear but the second you put your foot down it downshifts without delay and lets you get the most of the engine’s powerband, while it adapts to driving style well enough that the tiptronic is almost redundant. If you do chose to use it, youâ€™ll find that it responds fast and lets you wind the engine out right to the rev limiter, which you actually won’t mind doing because it is a pretty sweet sounding and free revving unitl. All in all, the i10 turns in a very solid performance on the road.
The Grand i10 as driven here retails for 3,590,000/= on the road and it comes fairly well loaded for the price with Power windows and mirrors, remote central locking, a JVC head unit with DVD, USB Input & Bluetooth hands free (which pairs easily and works very well), a reverse camera and most importantly, dual airbags and ABS as standard. The pricing puts it higher than other 1 litre small hatches but it compensates by being bigger, more refined and much better to drive. We feel it will shape up to be a very strong contender indeed.
Words: Sajiv Weerakoon
Images : Vihan Herath
A Big thank you to : Hyundai Lanka (Pvt) Ltd.