The hotly anticipated and much discussed Hyundai Verna is here. And prima facie it looks good enough to take the competition head-on in the segment. That’s mainly on the back of its flamboyant looks, 10 competitively priced variants—that include a diesel automatic—and the Hyundai brand, which implies good value. I have tested the car’s two top-end manual transmission variants—the 1.6-litre petrol and diesel models.
The petrol first, and I have to say I expected more from this big engine. It’s got the growl, but lacks the punch. The handling is also not fantastic and while the car is comfortable and easy to drive, it’s not sporty or dynamic. Having said that, it’s got a good suspension, and it is therefore comfortable even if you are sitting at the rear. The car’s engine will meet most requirements though, so it will be satisfactory for most buyers who are not seeking extreme performance. There is a cheaper, 1.4-litre petrol available as well, though that car lacks many of the creature comforts offered in the 1.6.
Renault Fluence: The car is competitively priced.
The same holds true for the diesel too in terms of two engine offerings and the differing trim levels. As I mentioned, I did drive the 1.6 diesel manual, and this is the car to buy. The engine is smooth, refined and very responsive. While the car lacks the outright sporty character exhibited by the outgoing generation of the Verna diesel, this one is still a whole lot more satisfying than the petrol variant I was just talking about. The handling is more accurate and, therefore, feels more precise on the road. Also, I was happy to find negligible lag, and a punchy enthusiastic response from the new common rail diesel engine.
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The car’s build quality is not quite in line with the segment benchmarks such as the Honda City and Volkswagen Vento, and you may find some shut lines not being optimal—even on the interiors. But the interiors do look much better than before, with an attractive design, pleasing colour trim and plenty of goodies. The top-end Verna SX with options comes not just with alloy wheels, fog lamps and power everything, it also boasts of parking sensors, a reverse camera, Bluetooth phone connectivity, steering-mounted controls for operating the entertainment system as well as the phone, and a whole lot more.
Hyundai’s fourth-generation Verna is sold as the Accent in most markets, and carries the internal code name RB. It has got to be the best-looking Hyundai in India so far, and many buyers will be attracted to its “fluidic sculpture” design (this is what Hyundai calls its new global design language). The car looks good to topple the segment leaders—City and Vento, though the action will really hot up once the Ford Fiesta that I have spoken about in this column before makes its debut in six-eight weeks. And let’s not forget the Skoda Rapid (based on the Vento), which will also arrive by the festive season. Game on? You bet!
Hyundai Verna: The diesel variant is a whole lot more satisfying than its petrol counterpart.
Before I sign off, I have one more launch I want to focus on—the Renault Fluence—which I have also featured in this space before. The car has been launched in two feature-rich variants. The 2-litre petrol automatic CVT is priced at Rs 14.40 lakh, while the slightly less luxurious 1.5-litre diesel carries a Rs 12.99 lakh price tag. The car isn’t looking like a super deal, but is still competitively priced. It also has distinct styling and some USPs like its smart key, effective climate control and backlit digital instrumentation. Toyota is refurbishing its Corolla Altis and relaunching the car next month, and Volkswagen is bringing in the next-gen Jetta by year-end. So this is another segment that looks hot for the next few months. The Fluence also marks Renault’s real debut in India, so it would also be interesting to see how people react to the brand which is still in its fledgling stages in the country.
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar is the Editor, Auto, NDTV.
Write to Siddharth at email@example.com