The Hyundai Grand i10 was nothing short of a rude shock to the players in its segment. The Korean carmaker exhibited to the bunch comprising both Indian and international carmakers its stellar understanding of the market with a near-flawless product. The way the Grand i10 was brought to life took the expectations from the new-generation 2014 i20 or the Elite i20 to some really lofty levels. Upon its reveal, the Elite i20 divulged its Euro-centric inclinations – evident through its evolved take on exterior styling and a reinvigorated focus on sophisticated and understated, yet feature rich and comfortable interior.
In a fashion atypical of car makers in India, Hyundai India this time organized a media drive for its newest car model post its launch. We got to pilot the newest machinery from the Korean carmaker in the semi-urban setting of the historical city of Jodhpur. With the majestic Umaid Bhawan Palace providing a grand backdrop, we drove the new Elite i20 through the streets of the Blue City to evaluate and appreciate its abilities. Here’s detailed a log of our experience.
Design and styling
The Elite i20 represents the next rendition of Hyundai’s Fluidic Sculpture design philosophy, which, with its fresh new take on automotive design caught the fancy of millions – instantly raising the visual appeal of the products rolling out of the Korean brand’s stable. The thoroughly authentic design attitude, represented by Fluidic Sculpture 1.0 gave us delightful machines such as the Fluidic Verna, the new Sonata and the brilliant Elantra, which in our humble opinion is a classic exponent of fluid, well-proportioned lines.
The Elite i20, as stated by Mr. Casey Hyun, the brain behind the styling of the new hatch, has its roots in the much bigger and more premium Genesis sedan. Drawing inspiration from the silhouette of the premium Genesis limo, the new i20 has decided to adopt the more mature and understated European lines, averting the more expressive lines of the Fluidic Sculpture version 1.0 school of thought.
With the evolved European market within its crosshairs, the Elite i20 adopts a more cautious course to reach its design goals. The tweaked approach is evident in the way the car looks as compared to the rest of the products bearing the Fluidic Sculpture hallmark.
The face of the car has some really interesting details. To start with, the radiator grille has taken a really low position on the massive new bumper. The chrome lined, single frame hexagonal grille houses the registration plate surrounded by a unique mesh pattern. The central elements of each mesh unit stand out as illuminated studs, as light falls on them from certain angles (see image below)
The bonnet is styled as though it’s slashed off before its end – somewhat in the Nissan Micra fashion. The plastic panel ahead of the bonnet merges into a narrow slit holding the Hyundai emblem. Flanking this slit are the newly designed swept back headlamps with integrated blinkers on the inner ends and interesting chrome elements inside. On top of the headlamp units are white accents, which would turn into daytime running lights for the Euro-spec variants. Hyundai is not offering the feature for India, which is surprising as the previous gen version had it.
The mesh treatment continues below the radiator grille on the narrow air dam, which broadens towards its exterior ends to house the angularly shaped fog lamps. The lowermost portion of the front bumper is finished in an aggressively styled, wing-like, extended fashion, adding some more character to the fascia.
In profile, the large, swept back headlamps extend onto the fenders. The surface beyond the chrome element is finished in black and culminates above the front wheel arch. The headlamp’s rearmost end marks the beginning of the Elite i20’s shoulder line, which gets stronger as it traverses the car’s length before ending strongly into the aggressively styled tail-lamps.
The roofline drops down front to back to lend the car a sporty stance and merges into the nicely styled spoiler. Window frames get a black plastic treatment, but more importantly, the wide C pillar has been blacked out completely for a floating roof treatment. While the concept by itself is admirable, we really think that Hyundai could have replaced the rough, black plastic with a smooth, glossy black glass for stronger visual impact.
ORVMs bear integrated blinkers, handles on the top spec Asta variant are all chrome and the car comes clad with rub strips on the lower portion of both front and rear doors. The new 8 spoke wheels look nice, though we can imagine the i20 carrying an even snazzier set with élan.
Where the Elite i20 really stands out is at the rear. In all honesty, we just could not take our eyes off those aggressively styled LED tail-lamps. The horizontally laid out jewel inspired tail-lamps look fantastic, especially when lit. The exterior section of the three-block lamp unit, integrated with the blinkers rests below the C-pillar, while the other two blocks are mounted on the hatch door. The surface between the tail lamps has been raised to lend the rear an even sportier stance. At the centre of this hump, you have the bold Hyundai emblem with the rearview camera positioned right below.
The rear bumper, just like the front unit is massive and has an angularly shaped, large sized recess to house the registration plate. Bottom of the bumper houses reflectors on its flanks with the right reflector featuring the reverse lamp to its right.
The Elite i20 is an eye-catching car. Its proportions are bang on the money. With being 24mm wider than the previous gen car, and boasting flatter bonnet, the stance is squat and sporty. Those wide, aggressively styled tail-lamps are an absolute standout feature. There are some elements which we think we could have been better executed, like the blacked out C-pillar we talked about earlier. However, the Elite i20 thanks to its big size and some interesting details succeeds in grabbing attention on the road, much more than most of its immediate rivals.
Cabin, comfort and features
Inside the cabin, the quality, finish and design have gone up several notches. The theme, the layout and the presentation of functions and controls are inclined towards European design and tastes. The beige black dashboard is all-new and features a driver-oriented centre console with a totally new interface for audio and A/C controls.
The three-spoke steering wheel, as expected, is brand new and features mounted controls for audio and telephony. The V-shaped hub with a round-ish bottom is lined by chrome. The rim is wrapped in soft leather which offers great feel and comfort to the palms and is finished fantastically well too. We have always appreciated the finish and feel of the Hyundai leather-wrapped steering wheels, even on small cars and this one is no different.
The instrument binnacle has been revamped, though Hyundai has kept things sane and sensible and not done anything overly jazzy here. The black dials with white fonts are very functional and legible. The tacho and speedo dials feature engine temperature and fuel gauge at the bottom respectively – it’s all very nicely done.
The digital MID contains three sub menus. The first section deals with the speed, distance, trip and odometers, time and temperature. The second sub-menu has service intervals reminder, while the most detailed third menu has all the settings related to doors, lights, steering and other functions.
While we appreciate the detailed MID offered here, we sorely missed the fuel efficiency related stats such as distance to dry and average efficiency. The omission looked particularly glaring as the first sub-menu on the MID has a fuel-pump icon suggesting that it would offer that information – and it will, we are told, on the European version.
The centre console offers a cool blue backlit screen with big, well marked and good quality, soft-to-touch buttons surrounding it. Most of the functions are easy to understand and work with making the system very intuitive to use. Our only complaint would be the rather small volume and tuning knobs. Also, the push to enter and turn to tune functionality takes a little getting used to.
An audio system is a great unit offering fantastic sound through its 8 speakers and allowing playability via CD / Bluetooth, aux and USB. The system, just like the Grand i10 comes with a 1GB on-board memory for you to store you favourite music permanently on the system and not bother about carrying a USB stick or a stack of now obsolete CDs.
After a hard day’s drive, we heard some of our colleagues pointing out the lack of a touch-screen panel on the centre console. Now, we really don’t think that touch screen by itself offers any additional utility for an automobile. What matters more are the features offered via the touch-sensitive panel. In that sense, the Elite i20 doesn’t make you miss a central screen much, as the RVM doubles up as the reverse parking screen. And it’s a good one too, offering a decent resolution and a bright display offering good visibility even on a hot, bright day. A screen, however, could have been a handy tool had Hyundai offered a Sat-Nav option – which they haven’t.
The A/C unit cools the cabin at a blindingly fast rate, as we witnessed on a horrendously hot day in Jodhpur. Advanced filtration ensures clean, fresh, odour free air inside the cabin. The automatic A/C has its functions clearly marked and presents itself as an easy and effective unit to operate.
Storage spaces come aplenty with one big water bottle holder and map pockets in each of the front door panels. The space in the rear door panels is much less though, and you can accommodate only the tiniest of the bottles there. There are two cup holders between the front seats followed by a flip open central armrest with a decent sized storage capable of swallowing a dozen cell phones. For the rear passengers, only the front passenger side seat features a pocket on its back.
Talking of cell phones, the storage space below the A/C panel is well designed and offers open, usable space to accommodate a big wallet or a jumbo-sized cellphone. Just to give you an idea, we put our massive Note 2 phablet covered in an extra large cover flat on its face in that space with ease. The storage is made of tough plastic though – we would have much appreciated a rubberized surface here for better grip and prevention of scratches on articles like a cell phone.
Smaller storage spaces include a roof-mounted sun-shades holder and a unique ticket holder under the A/C panel – offering a designated place for toll tickets. The glove compartment is decently sized and chilled to help keep your beverages and head cool on a hot day.
The seats are big, comfortable and offer decent lateral support too. Under thigh support is great too, both at the front and back – no complaints there. Driver’s seat is height adjustable, though none of the front seats gets height adjustable seat belts. Also, the headrests for the back seats are adjustable only on the top if the line Asta variant.
Hyundai i20 has always been one of the more comfortable cars to travel for the backbenchers in the segment, and the comfort has only increased in the new version. The luxe factor has been augmented with the inclusion of a rear A/C vent. While the seat fabric and the door panels for the back seat are finished in a two-tone black-beige combo, the back of the front seat is all black doesn’t enhance the feeling of airiness too much. The space by itself at the back bench is pretty good, though a lighter coloured seat back would have augmented the perception of space even more.
Back seat can be split in 60:40 ratio, and is easily foldable to enhance loading capacity. Boot space is one of the largest in the segment at 280 litres, and next only to the class-leading space of 295 litres offered by the Polo. The Polo, however, doesn’t offer a split back seat.
Features list is quite long with twin airbags (though the previous gen car offered as many as 6 airbags on the top spec variant), ABS, parking camera, auto headlamps, keyless entry, push-button start, power folding ORVMs, auto A/C, tilt – telescopic adjustable steering wheel, twin power outlets and rear A/C vents being the most mentionable of the lot. There is also a dead pedal to rest your left foot on during those lazy cruises on open highways. We do miss the sun-roof, which was an option in the previous gen model though. There is a whole bunch of features available on this model, and the Elite i20 should delight the prospective customers with its well-appointed cabin rich set of amenities. (Please have a look at the variant – feature – spec chart provided below for more details).
Engine, transmission and performance
For the most part of the media drive, we drove the top of the line Asta variant of the 1.4 litres UII CRDi diesel engine powered the car. The output for the diesel version remains the same as the previous generation car with peak power output rated at 90 PS @ 4,000 rpm and peak torque rated at 220Nm between 1,500 – 2,750 rpm band. Transmission duty is taken care of by a 6-speed manual unit, offering great cruising capability with minimal consumption on open highways. A light clutch, along with slick shifts makes controlling that hardware an easy affair.
The ARAI certified fuel efficiency of 22.54 kmpl offered by the i20 is second only to the Maruti Suzuki Swift, and that too by a very small fraction. We honestly believe that by virtue of its tractable engine, strong low rev torque and capability to cruise at higher speeds at low revs, the Elite i20 should actually best its segment in terms of fuel efficiency in the real world.
Thanks to the strong torrent of torque available right from the very bottom of the rev range, the tractability for the diesel variant is excellent. While the turbo spools up and gets ready for some serious action only after 2000 rpm, there is ample turning force at hand at lower revs to keep the wheels rolling. Majority of the cars would spend 80 percent of their lifetime between 1200 and 2000 rpm, and the Elite i20 does not, for once resist being driven in that rev range. Sure the shove from the mill isn’t appealing enough below 2000 rpm, but it perfectly liveable for the average Joe. We tortured the car through the narrow streets of Jodhpur, commanding it to soldier on at near crawling speeds in third gear – and it managed fine, without a hint of chest congestion. It just keeps coasting on with no spluttering at crawling speeds, at as low as 1000 revs. Efficiency obsessed mortals are going to love this one.
The engine apart from being torquey and tractable is appreciably refined too. The diesel clatter is audible when you listen to it from the outside. However, shut yourself inside the cabin, and the Elite i20 presents itself as one of the best-insulated cars in its segment from its motor’s audio notes.
Performance is appreciable post-2000 rpm and the Elite i20 can manage almost anything you throw at it in the real world without having to cross the 3500 rpm mark. The engine is redlined at 4900 rpm, though you can travel very swiftly without ever having to get anywhere close to that mark.
We also sampled the petrol powered variant for a short while. The petrol powered Elite i20 comes with a 1.2 litre engine. The power and torque output remains unchanged at 83PS and 11.7 Kgm respectively, though the engine has apparently been tweaked for better response at the bottom-end. Fuel efficiency is par with the best in the segment and is rated at 18.6 kmpl by ARAI. Now you cannot expect a fuel efficient 1.2-litre engine to be too exciting to drive, but the throttle response is pretty good, and it presents itself as a very refined and driveable unit with no resistance to rev. The petrol engine, unlike the six-speeder unit of the diesel variant, is mated to a 5-speed manual box.
It’s a practical engine, meant to comply with the sub-4 meter duty saving norms and goes about its job just fine for an everyday hatch. If, however, you are looking for the kicks from this practical unit, please look elsewhere.
More Features and Details
195 / 55 R 16 footwear for the Asta and Sportz O. Lower variants get 14 inch wheels with narrower rubber
Ticket holder under the A/C unit
The fuse box is under the steering wheel, to the right
Keyless entry and push-button start/stop available only on the Sportz O and Asta variants
Central A/C vents are horizontally laid out, while the side units are vertical
Twin-cupholder unit between front seats – the sizes are different
Driver’s seat is height adjustable
Titanium finish inserts have been used in several places inside the cabin
Those tail-lamps look absolutely gorgeous when lit
Rear view camera
The six-speed manual gearbox is a slick shifting unit
No underbody protection
Boot area is illuminated
Twin 12V power sockets flanking the US and Aux-in ports
Boot space is one of the largest in the segment and offers 60:40 split functionality for the backseat
A spare wheel is a steel rim
Ride and handling
Benchmarking its cars unremittingly against the best European hatchbacks, Hyundai is making good progress in terms of the dynamic ability of its machines. The chassis, suspension and steering of the new Elite i20 is tuned to offer better handling and engagement than the model it replaces. Heck, we saw the hatch being tested on Nurburgring for handling prior to its launch in some spy pictures. So, in a nutshell, there is progress to be witnessed in terms of dynamic ability. However, to say that the Elite i20 has finally presented itself as a fun-to-drive hot-ish hatch would be an overstatement.
The most notable difference affecting the new car’s road manners is its stiffer suspension. You can make out the firmer damping at slow speeds – with the dampers throwing themselves back into position every time the wheels pass a sharp undulation. So the ride at slow speeds is not as soft as the previous gen version, though it has helped the Elite gain great composure at speed, and the car feels solid even at the upper spectrum of its speed range.
The steering, though, doesn’t have much feel, especially when the car is being driven straight on. The Elite i20 turns in with confidence and composure with the Bridgestone B250 195 / 55 R 16 rubber (only for Sportz O and Asta variants, lower variants feature 185 / 70 R14 rubber) offering ample grip. Carving corners get much more reassuring with the new Elite i20 as compared to the previous gen model. It’s just that with rather feel-less steering it isn’t as involving an affair as it could have been.
There is a bright side to the light steering too, though. It’s smooth, weightless and a delight to use in-city and in those cramped spaces. Practical users, especially ladies are going to admire the ease and convenience it offers. Along with the terrific tractability of the engine at crawling speeds, the light steering would make the Elite i20 a joy to drive for the economy conscious commuters through the city.
As for the enthusiasts, the Elite i20 shows a marked improvement over its predecessor, though there is still some way to go before it matches and outclasses the evolved finesses of its European counterparts.
As tested, the Elite offers itself as one of the most spacious, well-styled and feature packed hatchbacks in its segment. There is hardly an argument against it, and most would agree that its one of the more desirable cars around for a majority of customers. Hyundai has priced the model quite well too. The petrol variant ranges from Rs 4.9 to Rs 6.5 lakh, while the prices for the diesel version span across Rs 6.1 to 7.65 lakh.
It may not be the most exciting car to drive, but for what an average Indian consumer wants from his everyday drive, the Elite i20 checks all the boxes. If you like what you see in the pictures, we’d say, go ahead and buy this Korean hatch, as it does almost everything to delight a classic big hatch customer. Probably the most well-rounded hatchback on sale in India, the Elite i20 bears testimony to Hyundai’s understanding of this market. It’s also an opportunity for many other car manufacturers scrambling to taste success in the segment, to watch and learn.
Prices and tech specs
Petrol Variant Prices
- Era – Rs. 4.89 lah
- Magna – Rs. 5.42 lakh
- Sportz – 4.94 Lakh
- Asta – 6.47 lakh
Diesel Variant Prices
- Era – 6.10 lakh
- Magna – Rs. 6.62 lakh
- Sportz – 7.13 lakh
- Asta – Rs. 7.67 lakh
All prices, (Ex-Showroom, Delhi)
- Length: 3,985 mm
- Width: 1,734 mm
- Height: 1,505 mm
- Wheelbase: 2,570 mm
- Ground Clearance: 170 mm
- Fuel Tank Capacity: 45 liters
- 2014 Hyundai Elite i20 Exterior Design (26)
- Diesel: A 1396 cc, DOHC, CRDI, Diesel engine that develops 90 ps of power and 224 Nm of torque. Operates at a high pressure of 1800 bars and is capable of good low-end torque. Will boast of an ARAI rated 22.4 kmpl efficiency figure
- Petrol: A 1197 cc, Dual VTVT, Kappa Petrol Engine which develops 83 ps of power and 117 Nm of torque. Boasts of an ARAI rated efficiency figure of 18.60 Kmpl
The Diesel version gets a 6-speed gearbox, while the Petrol motor is mated to a 5-speed Manual box. No auto option available at launch