All-new Hyundai i10 breaks cover

Head-quartered in Seoul, South Korea, Hyundai has been on a steady growth trajectory globally in recent years. One car that played a vital part in that success story, atleast in Asia and Europe, was the i10 mini. Not only was it a consistent big-seller in emerging markets like India, it was also a decent volume-churner in matured European markets like the UK and Italy. When the i10 was first launched in 2007, it rose to fame as the first Hyundai supermini that could genuinely take the fight to segment stalwarts led by the Fiat Panda. With a subtle facelift in 2009 that brought in the now-familiar hexagonal grille, the i10 has been left to fend off newer competition like the much-lauded Volkswagen Up!.

All that will end soon, as the second generation i10 is set for launch very soon.

As with most new cars that come with the slanted 'H' badge, the new i10 looks pleasing to our eyes. Let's get away with the familiar bits first. The hexagonal grille with a slim upper lip, the swept-back headlamps and the swoopy rear end with the Hyundai logo neatly integrated into the boot opener are all there, just as they were with slight modifications in the i20 and i30 hatchbacks. What's different though is the profile. Instead of a mish-mash of curves, the new i10 has a clean character line that originates in the front fender, cuts through the door handles and changes course once it hits the tailight clusters. The windows themselves are steeply raked and sync nicely with the wraparound rear windscreen. Though it hides the car's visual bulk, we are not big fans of the black rub-strips at the bottom of the doors.

Expected to be officially launched at the upcoming Frankfurt Motor Show, the new i10 will now be manufactured in Turkey for European markets. Let's not forget that Hyundai's plant in Chennai is the sole manufacturing location of the existing i10, which will change once the new model is launched. As with the current model, the new i10 would be available with a range of small capacity gasoline and diesel engines. When it goes on sale later this year, we expect the new i10 to put up a strong showing in the fiercely competitive European city car segment.

So, will we being seeing this stylish small car on Indian roads soon? Of course yes, we might assume, given that the existing i10 was launched in India before any other country and most of Hyundai's Indian lineup are the same as those in North America and Europe. Sadly though, the answer is only a partial yes this time. That's because we would be getting a toned-down version of the car that's been christened as the 'Grand i10' and would be positioned between the existing i10 and i20. With the existing i10 still selling around 8000 units every month, Hyundai has chosen not to discontinue it. May be, this is Hyundai's way of telling Maruti-Suzuki, "If you can sell four successive generations of the same car (800, Alto, A-Star and Alto 800), I can sell atleast three, if not four (Santro, i10 and Grand i10).

So, what's different for India? From what we understand, a lot of emphasis has gone into the rear seat and its comfort. Firstly, the wheelbase has gone up considerably, which means that a whole Indian family can be accommodated comfortably. Indians also prefer airy cabins, because of which the stylish upswept rear windows of the European model are replaced by flatter windows that's not too dissimilar from the existing i10. The wraparound rear windscreen has also been done away with, thus reducing the style quotient of the Grand i10 significantly. In short, the Grand i10 is a bigger, more practical albeit less stylish version of the European model.

Most of our friends in the media have already driven the car and come back mighty impressed. It seems the Grand i10 is an improvement from the existing car in almost every aspect. Add the 1.1-liter CRDi diesel engine to the kitty, and the Grand i10 seems to be a sure-shot hit in the making. But, there are a few challenges for Hyundai to overcome.

With the Santro, Eon, i10 and i20 occupying bulk of the showroom space already, the Grand i10 has very little room to settle into. It's therefore extremely critical Hyundai gets it's price and positioning right. Despite its best efforts though, the Grand i10 is sure to overlap with i10 and i20, two of Hyundai's best-selling models in India, and will thus end up stealing sales from its own siblings. Adding a prefix or suffix to an existing model hasn't always worked well in this part of the world. The Grand i10 has to overcome that and somehow convey the fact that it is actually an all-new car and not just a variant of the existing i10. The list looks big, but we are sure Hyundai are having grand plans to squash them.

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