You have to give it to Hyundai: starting from scratch and becoming the second-largest car maker in the country is no mean feat. When you look at the Korean company’s products, you begin to understand why. Whether it was the Santro or the newer i10 and i20, these cars have gone on to rock the market. Of these, the i10 is currently the largest seller in Hyundai’s range and has the distinction of being the second-highest selling car in India.
So, if it ain’t broke, why fix it? Well, Hyundai wants to stay ahead of the game. Three years is a long time and human tendency is to tire of something after a while. The i10 also has increasing competition in the market from a whole raft of new entrants. It would be folly to ignore the market trends in such a situation.
So it was that we found ourselves in Chennai, home of Hyundai in India. The itinerary provided for a nice little jaunt down the East Coast Road to the picturesque former French colony of Pondichery and back.
But first, a look at what’s new. The i10 has been revised inside and out and under the skin as well. It’s a comprehensive makeover, and well-judged at that.
The all-new ‘face’ with the angular fog lamps, snarling hexagonal grille with honeycomb mesh and restyled headlamps are far more aggressive than the earlier car’s styling. This helps to give it a distinct identity and, unlike most facelifts, I happen to find this version much more attractive than the original. The rear bumper has also been tweaked slightly, with the changes being restricted to the lower skirt, which now comes with reflectors on the higher versions. Rear-view mirrors with integrated indicators are also found on the ‘new’ i10.
Inside, the dashboard colours have been revised with a less contrasting combination of grey and beige, which looks nicer than the previous black-and-cream combo. There’s a new metallic finish to the centre console as well. The higher versions of the i10, which come with a built-in stereo, now also have Bluetooth connectivity and a USB slot.
The new i10 also borrows cues from its big brother, the i20. So you now get a revised instrument cluster with blue lighting, steering-mounted audio controls and a shift light indicator as well, which suggests change-up and change-down points for the gearbox while driving.
Under the bonnet, there is small yet significant change to the i10 – its powerplant. Both the 1.1- and 1.2-litre versions have revised engines. The 1.1-litre four-cylinder has been re-christened iRDE2 and comes with bigger inlet and exhaust valves for better breathing. Power has increased marginally, but Hyundai claim the biggest advantage has been better fuel consumption and lower emissions. The 1.2-litre Kappa motor now has variable valve timing – a segment first. This is the version I drove. It doesn’t feel altogether new or different compared to the older car and the response is almost identical to the earlier version. It was only when we got out of traffic and onto the ECR that I seemed to notice the difference. It pulls more cleanly now and when you give it the beans in third gear, it makes short work of overtaking manoeuvres. This engine is also supposed to be cleaner and more fuel-efficient than its previous avatar and we have no reasons to doubt those claims, but a road test should help us give you the right figures soon enough.
What Hyundai have succeeded in doing with this car is upping the small-car ante, while also flexing their muscles at the newcomers. As and when Hyundai do replace the model, which will be another two to three years, customers will expect even more value and features for their money. What this proves comprehensively is that the customer is indeed the king.