Is Hyundai trying too hard to stand out?

From being a maker of quirky cars for the value-conscious buyers to that of stylish, reliable and feature-loaded cars that are more than a match for highly-regarded Japanese rivals, Hyundai has come a long way over the last decade and half. Words to take note of in that statement are 'quirky' and 'stylish'. That's because design and styling have been the foundation of the Korean brand's transformation in the said period.

With the recent models that are coming out of their gates though, the folks at Hyundai appear to be going back to the old days. Their 'quirky' old days, we mean.

Want proof? Check out the all-new, seventh-generation Elantra that was unveiled at a closed event in Hollywood, California recently.

Hyundai's press release minced no words in stating that the car was deliberately penned with bold design elements that reflect the daring and non-confirming mindset of the next generation. 

In effect, if you're young or young-at-heart, you may think of the new Elantra as a stylish, futuristic-looking automobile that's sure to turn heads on road. Or you may not care at all for what's yet another damn car, like most youngsters do! If you don't belong to one of those two groups, you would categorize the new Elantra anywhere between sharp to brash-looking depending on how you see it.

That's the point, really.

Is Hyundai trying too hard to impress? Are they adding an unnecessary line here and a crease there with the sole intention of making their cars stand out? Have they started rolling out cars that grab attention at launch but will age really fast like most fashion trends do? Most importantly, is all the good work done in transforming the brand's identity being undone?

While answers to those questions will emerge over time, here's the thing. In a span of three generations, the Sonata first and the Elantra now have moved on from the gorgeous-looking sedans they were at the beginning of the decade to the toned-down but still effortlessly elegant cars in-between to the bold, in-your-face models you see now. It's a shame as the current Sonata and the upcoming Elantra look fabulous from certain angles.

Hyundai's crossovers haven't been spared too. From the diminutive Venue to the large Palisade, they are victims of garish grilles and over-styled split light clusters. See what happened to the Creta that's just launched in India and you'll know.

If you're a fan of the current crop of Hyundais, think of this as a rant from an ill-advised auto enthusiast who preaches design conservatism. For the rest of us, there is a collective plea - Bring back the Fluidic Sculptures, Hyundai. Pul-eeezzzz!


Driven: 2020 Yamaha Fascino 125

Variant Tested: Standard (Disc Brake)

Price: ₹ 82,573 (On-road Chennai)

In an attempt to make up for time lost in the growing 125cc scooter space, Yamaha recently unveiled a trio of models that are set to replace the brand's existing 110cc line-up in a surprise strategic shift. 

Armed with fresh styling, an all-new chassis, advanced technology and more power, the Fascino 125 leads the charge. Is Yamaha's newest scooter well-placed to grab a piece of the pie that Honda, Suzuki and TVS are feasting on right now? We rode one to find out.

Fascino 125's swoopy design stands out

The Fascino has always been a scooter aimed at the style-conscious, a strategy that helped differentiate the model from the rest of the pack. The swoopy design language that was at once retro and modern not just gave the Fascino an identity of it's own but also helped the scooter carve a niche for itself. The Fascino 125 treads the same line. 

The neo-retro theme and curvy design elements have been carried over, this time with more bling and appeal. While the triangular headlight looks very similar to the existing Fascino 110, the apron features tall lenses that house parking lamps and indicators. In profile, the long and curvy side panels look impressive as does the large one-piece taillight with integrated indicators. Chrome highlights have been applied liberally with the shiny metal finding its way around the headlight, on the rear-view mirrors, in the front apron and along the sides. 

While most of you are gonna love that, for those rare specimens like us who don't prefer chrome, Yamaha has a 'Deluxe' version in which these inserts are finished in glossy black. Either way, the end result is a stylish scooter that's Instagram-worthy! 

That said, the fact Yamaha has cheaped out on lights cannot be ignored. Forget an attractive lighting signature, the Fascino 125 doesn't even get LED lights!

Fit, finish and attention-to-detail impress

The long and wide seat is spacious enough to fit a normal-sized pillion behind a plus-sized rider. Get astride and the first thing you notice would be the tight build and impressive levels of fit and finish. Yamaha's newest scoot is well put-together with no ungainly panels sticking out. Even the chrome embellishments are well thought-of and integrated with the flow of the body rather than being last minute add-ons. 

The kind of attention paid while designing little details here and there are noteworthy. For instance, the textured plastic surrounding the instrument cluster and the top half of the apron's rear not just look good but are also softer to the touch than the drab hard panels that's generally seen there. The floorboard, too, has it's share of interesting patterns.

Instrument Cluster needs a revamp

You might find it odd we're even complaining about the Fascino 125's instrument cluster. Of course, the analogue unit is clear to read and looks reasonably good, if a bit old. What irks us, though, is the lack of anything but an odometer and dials for indicating speed and fuel level. At a time when the likes of TVS N-Torq have raised the bar with digital MIDs offering a plethora of information and connectivity options, this is plain vannila. Come on Yamaha, you could've done better!

The switch-gear leaves no room to complain. The switches are tactile, well-finished and should stand the test of time under normal usage. There is even a provision to turn the Stop & Start system off, which is quite thoughtful.

There's more 'go' to match the 'show' now

The Fascino may have been a stylish run-about all along but the power output and performance from the 110cc engine has always been underwhelming. For a Yamaha, that is! With the all-new, fuel-injected 125cc mill with the brand's 'Blue Core' tech, the Japanese manufacturer is making amends with more power, more torque, more tech and more fuel efficiency too. 

Press the ignition button and the engine comes to life in muted fashion. Yamaha's Smart Generator System is at work here, eliminating the noise of meshing gears during start-up. Twist the throttle and the Fascino leaps forward swiftly with the engine's strong low-end aiding things. Power is delivered in a linear way throughout the mid-range before tapering off.

The Stop & Start system turns the engine off once the sensors detect the scooter being idle for 3 seconds. The motor springs back to life seamlessly at the slightest twist of the throttle, which should help increase fuel-efficiency. Yamaha claims an ARAI-rated 58 km/l for the Fascino 125, which is 16% higher than the Fascino 110.

We like the way it handles ...

The one thing constant with Yamahas, irrespective of the segment, is the way their models handle on-road. The Fascino 125 is no exception. This scooter is flickable at low speeds, impressively stable at high speeds and darts into corners quite eagerly, thanks in part to the long wheelbase and wide rear tire. You can have fun with the Fascino 125 alright, just not Aprilia-levels of fun.

Yamaha's 'Unified Braking System' is standard, as mandated by the regulations now. The front disc offers decent bite and together with the rear drum, ensures adequate braking capability. 

... but would prefer better ride quality

Equipped with telescopic forks up front and unit swing shock at the rear, the Fascino 125's suspension hardware is par for the course. What spoils the show however is the underlying firmness that makes low-speed rides around town a tad uncomfortable. The ride quality gets better as we go faster. In short, this isn't a scooter you can't live with but if a soft ride is what you're after, the Fascino 125 isn't for you.

High on style, just so-so on equipment

With fuel-injection, stop-start and silent start systems available as standard, the new Fascino's engine is as good as it gets. Safety is taken care of too as far as the regulations mandate.

Everywhere else though, we are left wanting. Be it the lack of storage spaces in the rider's footwell, absence of a modern cluster with crucial ride information or latest convenience features like BlueTooth connectivity and USB charger (available as a paid option), the new Fascino could have had more.

Specifications at a glance

> Length x Width x Height: 1,920 x 685 x 1,150 mm
> Wheelbase: 1,280 mm
> Ground Clearance: 145 mm
> Seat Height: 780 mm
> Fuel Tank Capacity: 5.2 l
> Underseat Storage: 21 l

> Engine Type: Air-cooled, 4-stroke, SOHC
> Displacement: 125 cc
> Maximum Power: 8.1 HP @ 6,500 rpm
> Peak Torque: 9.7 Nm @ 5,000 rpm
> Transmission: Automatic (CVT)

> Tire Size (Front): 90/90 R12
> Tire Size (Rear): 110/90 R10
> Brake Type (Front): Disc (190 mm)
> Brake Type (Rear): Drum

To sum up

Yamaha's strategic shift to get out of 110cc segment and focus on 125cc scooters has gotten off to a great start with the Fascino 125. It is stylish, refined, quick enough for those urban runs and handles with poise. The firm low-speed ride and lack of equipment that rivals offer are the only noticeable negatives in what's otherwise an attractive proposition. 

In the end, if you are looking to stand out in the crowd but don't want to spend a fortune in buying the Vespa, the Fascino is a great buy!

Text and Editing: Aravind Ramesh

Photography: Bharath Rengaraj