Hyundai premieres next-gen Accent/Verna in China

It's a known fact now that Hyundai is on a roll, of late. Most of the hype surrounding this Korean brand, in recent times, is due to a term called "Fluidic Sculpture." Hitherto known for dishing out bland and unimaginative designs inspired by other brands, Hyundai took a U-turn on it's design philosophy by incorporating the Fluidic Sculpture design elements in it's models. We saw how it has been put into good effect in the recently launched Sonata and Tucson  models. And the car-buying public seem to love it too, with both the above models becoming instant hits and raking in unprecedented volumes for Hyundai.  Now the same concept has been watered down into Hyundai's sub-compact Accent model.

With the recent global premiere of the next generation Accent (Verna in most parts of Asia) in China, Hyundai has made it official that it's models are going to have a family look incorporated into them. Up front, the new Accent has two creases in the bonnet which makes it's way through to end at the bottom of the grille. The grille itself carries a slightly squished look corresponding to the  creases in the bonnet. Huge, swept-back headlights dominate the front end and the mirrors now have turn signals in them. The profile is dominated by the strong character line that starts from the front fender and ends just above the taillights. The wedge in the bonnet that starts from the headlights and merges into the side doors is sure to be noticed. All these are design elements found in the Sonata sedan too and it surely lends an upmarket look to the Accent. In short, it looks like a mini Sonata with all the striking design elements slightly toned down to suit the tastes of this segment.

One look at the interiors will prove that there is a sea change in the interior design department too. While the current model's interiors is as unimaginative as it's exterior design, the new model has a much nicer look to it's interiors. The steering wheel seems to have been lifted straight from the i20 hatch and the center console, with it's combination of colors and contours, looks quite good. Personally, I like the satin silver and black finish of the center console and Hyundai will be hoping that the interiors are well-received by the public too (though not to the extent of the exterior design). The new model is expected to be powered by Hyundai's Gamma 1.4 and 1.6 gasoline engines and also, the much-loved in India and eagerly awaited Common Rail diesel engine. Though the exact specifications of the engines are still not clear, we Indians know how the CRDi mills of Hyundai are and this will be no exception. When Hyundai finally launches this model in India sometime next year, it will have it's task cut out, competing with models such as Honda City, Toyota Etios, VW Vento (Polo sedan), Fiat Linea and the Indigo Manza.

Now that the Sonata and Accent are out, will Hyundai take the wraps off the next-gen Elantra soon? 


Driven #2: Hyundai i20 CRDi Magna

I remember reading the articles and test drives of the then-new Hyundai Accent CRDi in automotive magazines half a decade back and coming out surprised to see the accolades that the car received, when it's after all a diesel. Learning the technical aspects and hence the significance of Common Rail later, it then dawned on me that Hyundai has in fact been a trend-setter in the Indian automotive industry by bringing the common-rail technology to the masses through the successful Accent model. Since then, CRDi has been synonymous with Hyundai and it has almost attained a cult status now, what with the absolutely stonking CRDi mills in the Getz and Verna doing wonders for the brand. The Verna, for instance is selling only because of it's diesel engine and the performance that it comes with. Personally, I have never got to experience Hyundai's CRDi engines on the road until now.

Make way for the i20, the car which is selling like hot cakes in the market and is commanding a long waiting list even now, almost 1.5 years after it's launch. I remember the Hyundai Press Meet during the car's launch in which the automaker has mentioned that it expects to sell around 1000 units of the car in India every month. The reality - around 4000 i20's are sold every month and Hyundai is not able to make enough of them. The i20 line-up got a further boost in the form of 1.4 CRDi and the 1.4 Gamma AT versions being launched in the middle of last year. I got to drive the CRDi variant in the base Magna trim.

The i20 has been designed with the European market in mind and hence comes across as a solid, good-looking hatchback with some interesting design elements which stand out from the rest of the crowd. Case in point, the creases on the hood which ends in the logo on the grille, seemingly inspired by the F1 cars. The other notable design themes are the flared wheel arches and the sharp crease on the sides of the car which ends in the rear bumper, lending a solidity to the profile. The i20 is quite a looker on the road with only the Fiat Grande Punto looking better in it's segment. The i20 has made a name for itself by offering many segment-first features, but those come with the top-end Asta & Asta (O) variants. Nevertheless, the Magna comes equipped with a lot of features as standard, the most notable being the availability of ABS with EBD in all the diesel variants. The quality of the interiors were top-notch, though I am not a big fan of the choclate brown colored dashboard.

One foot in the accelerator pedal and I know why the CRDi's are such a hit. The i20 pulls very strongly from the start, with loads of torque available at your disposal in the first 3 gears. At around 20 kph, in third gear, take your left foot off the clutch and the car surges forward without even your right foot touching the accelerator pedal. The gear-shift is short and slick and the car just glides over slightly bad patches of the road without unsettling the occupants. Big speed-breakers and bumps, though, are felt hard inside the car  and the i20 may not handle and steer like cars from Ford or Fiat. This car feels best suited for highways and it can be a superb cruiser munching miles all day long without making a big fuss. 

The i20, though priced a little on the higher side, gets away with it because of the loads of features it comes with and the premium look and feel of it's interiors. The various engine options and variants that it comes with makes sure that a wide spectrum is covered. It deserves all the hype that it has created in the market and it's a fact that the Hyundai i20 is the first super-success in the premium hatchback segment. It has managed to do what the Jazz, Grande Punto and Fabia couldn't. I, for one, just can't wait now to floor the pedal and experience the Verna CRDi.


VW Polo is 2010 World Car of the Year

I think I have what it takes to become a successful automotive journalist in the future. There were quite a few eyebrows raised when, as per my initial forecast, the Ford Fusion became the 2010 North American Car of the Year and the Volkswagen Polo won the 2010 European Car of the Year award. This time again, I have been spot-on in guessing the eventual winner of yet another important title. Personal kudos apart, coming to the big news, as predicted in my earlier post, the just-launched in India Volkswagen Polo has won the 2010 World Car of the Year award. 

The World Car of the Year award aims to combine the attributes of all the regional and individual publication's titles to crown the best car in the world that has been launched the previous year. The Volkswagen Polo took the top honors among the 3 finalists, which included the Mercedes-Benz E Class and the Toyota Prius. The award was announced in the New York International Auto Show that's taking place in New York currently. The other awards announced were as follows:
  • World Car of the Year - Volkswagen Polo (Mercedes-Benz E Class, Toyota Prius)
  • World Performance Car of the Year - Audi R8 V10 (Porsche 911 GT3, Ferrari California)
  • World Design of the Year - Chevrolet Camaro (Kia Soul, Citroen C3 Picasso)
  • World Green Car of the Year - Volkswagen Blue Motion Cars (Toyota Prius, Honda Insight)
The cars mentioned in the braces were the ones that made it into the Top 3 Finalists in each of the above categories. Way to go Volkswagen!

Nissan Micra spotted testing in Chennai

Chennai is buzzing with activity in the automotive sector over the past few months. Being home to so many car-makers, Chennai is abound with to-be-launched vehicles criss-crossing it's landscape undergoing various stages of testing. After BMW's new 5 Series, Mahindra's global SUV, Ford's Figo and Fiesta (Europe Spec), joining the long list of cars being frequently spotted testing in the open roads of Chennai is the Nissan's latest offering, the "Micra" compact car. Though I have spotted it twice before, it was either dark or I was there without a camera. Not this time. I bumped on a brand-new Micra yesterday in broad day-light  with a camera on hand. Though most of the people did not mind to have a second look at it, auto-buffs could easily identify the car as the new baby-Nissan, though it had it's badges and logos covered on all sides.

Seeing it out in the open confirmed what I felt on seeing the press release pictures. The Micra looks cute from the front and the sides, while the rear looks somewhat out-of-shape, especially the way in which the C-Pillar merges with the top of the tail lamps. The profile of the car was particularly well designed while the same can't be said for the shape of the tail-lamps. It's only my opinion though and as they say, "Looks are subjective". I had my friend sitting with me who said that the Micra looked so cute and very Beetle-ish from the sides. Girls are sure to love this design though, what with the circular theme of the car not stopping with the exteriors but continuing inside the car as well. The quality and fit and finish of the car was top-notch and if this test car is anything to go by, expect the production Micras to come with superb quality on par with Volkswagen and Hyundai and a notch above Maruti, Tata and Fiat.

The people inside the car gave us curious glances as we followed them from one traffic signal to another and took snaps of the car from both sides. That stopped us from getting closer and taking a snap of the interiors but from what we saw, the interiors seemed to be well put-together with the center console being particularly impressive to look at. The launch of this car along with the Beat, Figo, Polo and the soon-to-be-launched Etios and Honda's small car is sure to spoil the Indian customers for choice. A very nice problem to have indeed, when you are looking out for a new car! Check out the pictures for yourself.