New Hyundai i10…its all new…

Posted: November 9, 2010 in Car reviews
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The year was 1967. Hyundai, a 20 year old construction company had decided to establish an automobile assembly plant in Seoul, for assembling the ‘Cortina’ model of Ford, going against the claims of the Korean Industry Ministry that importing a car would be cheaper than assembling it. But Hyundai’s Chung Ju-Yung had different plans. Hence ‘Hyundai Motor Company’ was born, just as a unit for assembling Ford cars. But just in a span of seven years, Hyundai stunned the critics and the first Korean manufactured car, the Pony, rolled out of the Hyundai stable.

Three decades later, Hyundai has established itself as the most aggressive automobile manufacturer the world has seen, capturing every market by with its diverse product portfolio and aggressive marketing tactics. From nowhere, Hyundai has emerged as a serious competitor to almost all automakers around the globe, and with an unparalleled growth rate, went on to become the world’s fifth largest automobile manufacturer.

The story is no different in India as well. Hyundai set its foot in India in 1998 with the Santro, a compact city hatch. Though not good looking by any means, it provided the customers the much needed relief from the bland looking Marutis and Ambassadors around. Backed by Hyundai’s excellent marketing, the car went on to challenge Maruti’s dominance in the Indian small car market. It marked the beginning of a new era in Indian automobile industry.

Then came the Accent and Sonata and other cars which consolidated on the base built by Santro and took Hyundai from a position of strength to strength. But, none of the other cars were able to shake the market like the Santro did and carry on the legacy further. Then came the i10, about a decade later, and turned around the fortunes of Hyundai. With its simple looks, no fuss design and a unique character it set records year after year and went on to clock the fastest ever 3 lakh sales figure by any car in India.

The i10 was undoubtedly a winner, but there were some bits and pieces in the car that did not quite appeal to the buyers, but were quite often compromised. One such bit was the exterior looks of the car, which though different from the competition, had not exactly gone well with the taste of the young Indian buyer. So, Hyundai had to come up with something fresh, bold and that made a clear statement, and that would appeal much more to the new ‘Youngistan’. The answer-the new i10.

It was difficult to believe, a car which looked more outdated and old turned into something more sporty, desirable and refreshing overnight. It looked totally different form the old i10, and it all was achieved by just tinkering with the headlights, bumper and grille, to such an extent that it almost changed the character of the car all together, without the slightest change on the bonnet or the side body, and thus saving hugely on the investments.

The headlamps are cut short and sharpened at the lower end, and the new design of the grilles gives it a much more cheery and bright feeling compared to the old car, which felt more sorrowful. The upper grille, now split and separated by chrome lining with the Hyundai logo at centre, looks much better than the tight-lipped look and hanging logo of its predecessor. The honey comb lower grille looks smaller and lower compared to the old i10, but is much more sportier and better to look at, with the number plate taking its position at the separation between the two grilles, unlike in the previous car, where the number plate covered half the area of the lower grille. Never before were flow lines on a car’s bumper so attractive, flowing neatly from under the headlamps to the side of the number plate mounting. Even the lines and profiles inside the head lamps look breezy and add to the overall appeal of the car. This clearly depicts the attention Hyundai has given even to minutest details, to give the face lifted car a clear distinction from its earlier avatar, unlike the face lifts of other cars, which come with limited change details.  The sharp fog lamps, with eye brow shaped borders, sit prettily inside the bumper grooves and is a welcome change from the old round shaped fog lamps, giving it a much more style quotient than utility quotient. Also the insert mouldings on the front bumper above the fog lamps are done away with, liberating much required space for the lines to flow right across the bumper. The overall shape of the grille has been changed from the old trapezoidal to new hexagonal shape, much like the new generation Hyundai ix20s and ix35s in Europe.

The side body has not been messed up with, and remains pretty much the same, except for the body colored rub strips on either side, new side indicators, and the Kappa2 and VTVT badges that adorn the front fender.  A welcome new change is the addition of turn indicators on ORVMs (though a bit small), a first in its class feature, found only in the likes of premium hatches like the i20. Also the feminine looking wheel covers in the old i10 give way to more bold and sporty looking ones.

The rear remains comparatively less affected, with changes limiting to the bumper and tail lamps. The tail lamps look pretty much the same, though some minor re-arrangement has been done to make it look different. The bumper gets a new body colored rub strip, which goes pretty well with the overall rear look of the car and extends a bit to the sides as well, unlike the black colored ones in the old car, that had no extension to the sides. The bumper also houses a couple of reflectors that sit in well carved out grooves, adding to the overall sportiness of the car.

Overall, the exterior of the car gives a perfect example of how the total looks and character of a car can be altered just by playing with bumpers, grilles and lamps, in a very cost effective way. Definitely there is something in there for other automakers to learn and implement in their cars. Way to go, Hyundai.

Any change in the exterior of the car would have been futile except for a remarkable change in the interior styling to complement the exteriors. Again Hyundai has excellently demonstrated how just by changing the color scheme of the interior, the overall interior looks can be modified. The beige and brown color combination in the old car has given way to a much modern and youthful dark color dashboard and centre console. The metallic finish on the console gives it a much needed sporty touch and complements the sporty theme of the exterior well. The new look Bluetooth supported music system with blue backlight display and fresh blue lighting of the speedometer console further enhances the sporty attitude. The performance of the audio system also seems enhanced and sounds much better and clear at higher volumes. The Bluetooth pairing function of the audio is quite user friendly and a delight to operate, but I would have wished it to have the voice recognition of the Linea as well…Just a wish…The AC  is also extremely effective even at the lowest level, taking just around a couple of minutes to cool the entire space.

The color of the seat fabric gels well with the interior color scheme, pretty much like in the old i10. Adding to it are the steering mounted audio controls and the digital fuel display and indicators. All other functional parts like the steering, AC vents, controls and gear shift lever remain pretty much the same except for an occasional touch of chrome finish. The other main feature addition is the heated ORVMs, which are provided upwards from the Sportz variant. The top end variant also features a reverse parking sensor and height adjustable driver seat. It also comes with a foldable key, again a first in class feature, but only this time, the quality seemed to be a bit of bother.

The seats are also well supportive with good thigh and back support at the front and height adjustable facility for the driver seat. The color combination gives the feel that the car is a touch low on space, in the inside, which is not really so. The car is as good as any other car in its class, in terms of space and adding to it is the good thoughtfully provided utility spaces provides on the floor console. The dual power sockets are also a good feature addition, seen only in higher end cars like the Manza.

In the performance front both the old and new cars fare almost equally, with the new engine losing out on a bit of its peppyness at high speeds, possibly due to the peaking of power delivery at a higher rpm. But it all translates into better mileage and coupled with the new VTVT technology for the exhaust ports, the car is second to only the Nano in mileage. At low speeds and at idling, the car feels as capable and energetic compared to the old i10, with good low end performance and smooth and silent idling. The acceleration is also brisk and speeding up on the highway is like child’s play, definitely better than the old car. The new car also seemed more composed on hard braking with the ABS assisted brakes going about its job perfectly, silently bringing the car to a halt from 100 kmph in a dead straight line, without much fuss. One odd bit seemed to be the digital gear shift indicator, which advises you to shift to the next higher gear, and goes off in the next second, not bothering to check if the correct gear was engaged.

The suspension seems well set for driving in city over moderately rough roads, with the soft setup tackling almost every minor glitch with ease. The steering feels light and good to turn at slow speeds and coupled with the excellent all round visibility, city driving would be the most comfortable experience. Step on the throttle a bit more, and you would not exactly enjoy the ride, with the car getting a bit bumpy giving a less damped suspension feel and feels too wavy even on smooth highways. The body roll is also a cause of concern, with the car banging its head when steered briskly on highway or into a corner, quite like the old i10. It is highly unlikely that Hyundai would have changed anything in the suspension or steering, or done a minor tuning to make it a bit more capable. The steering quite similar to the old car, feels vague, especially after a lane change and on turning at higher speeds. The steering returnability is also not that great with the steering stopping all of a sudden at the centre, as if lost. Put it to a quick lane change test, and the car responds to you by angrily wagging its tail, as if serving you an ultimatum-‘Hey, do not mess with me’. The car also tends to lose its grip a bit too early and can be a cause of concern while trying to regain lost control.

To sum it up, the new i10 is an excellent city commuter with unmatched value for money and class leading features. All these, combined with the smart and bold looks give it an image superior to all competitors in its class, excluding the Beat. But, it beats the Beat and other similar contenders all ends up with its terrific combination of everything you would desire for in your car. Add to that the premium features like Bluetooth, foldable key, turn indicators on ORVMs and reverse parking sensor, the i10 becomes the car in which you can coolly show off yourself. But, if you like to drive your car around and feel its pulse, and wants to show off your driving skills, the i10 is almost certain to disappoint you. But definitely the i10 is worth every penny you spent for compared to any other cars in its class. So, go ahead… and catch the ‘i’…

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