If you read the Grand i10 piece in the magazine last month, you would have realized that I came away quite impressed by this little hatch. And if you read the article carefully, you would have noticed that, at the time, we didn’t get an awful lot of time behind the wheel. I drove the Hyundai Grand i10 only briefly around the smooth roads leading to the Hyderabad airport, and though that helped in understanding the extent of development that’s gone into the product, it still wasn’t a great measure of the overall result.
The idea behind the Grand i10 is to enable Hyundai to fight in the lower end of the premium hatchback segment, one which has many products – chief among them being the Maruti Swift. Globally, the European cousin of the Grand (codenamed iA) is the replacement model for the i10, but Hyundai isn’t phasing out the Hyundai Grand i10 in India just yet. In fact, the 1.2 litre (Kappa) variant of the i10 has been discontinued to give the Grand some breathing space and capture adequate sales. Positioned in between the Grand i10 (which will now be available with only the 1.1 litre petrol engine) and the i20, and with the Eon and Santro at the lower end of the small car bracket, the Grand i10 now gives Hyundai a product portfolio to cater to almost all customer types in the small car segment. So, it’s a car for the masses and I’ll stick to giving you a very practical review of the Grand.
Contrary to Hyundai’s idea of retaining the Hyundai Grand i10 name, I’d have preferred a different brand identity for the Grand. As a product, it’s a severe deviation from the i10 and it would have done well to coast away from the shadow of the Grand i10, which it will constantly have to live with. Just plain old ‘Grand’ would have done the trick, in my view. They did so with the Accent and the Verna, for crying out loud!
When I say that it’s a severe departure from the i10, you’ll understand what I mean the moment you look at the Grand – it’s nothing like the i10. It looks like a more mature product and doesn’t quite have the quirkiness of the Grand i10. The flowy design and soft curves all along the body give it a sense of elegance and quality. It even looks sporty from some angles – and it’s all the work of those diamond-cut alloy wheels, squat overall stance, beautifully moulded bumpers and the rear mounted spoiler. And – I never imagined I’d ever say this – in orange, the Grand looks properly attractive.
Hyundai has been getting better-and-better at playing the small-car game, and the Grand builds on that. The quality of everything in the cabin is great, and there are almost all the creature comforts – and then some – that you can think of having in a hatchback at this price point. The quality of the dash, and that of the different buttons and controls is a few notches above the Grand i10 – making it feel quite up-market, and much closer to the i20 in this department. The steering wheel is not only great to hold, but also brilliantly finished, and the controls mounted on it have a very tactile, yet soft, feel to them. The Grand continues to impress with the equipment and goodies it offers. Although ABS and Airbags are an optional extra on even the top end variant, the standard equipment gets you 1GB storage space for your songs (or contact data from your phone), a rear aircon vent – a first in the segment – not to mention a cooled glove compartment. There’s Bluetooth connectivity and many storage options that make the cabin extremely functional.
The seats up front are extremely comfortable and offer good levels of support in the crucial areas, especially the lower back. The rears were a mixed affair for me. The seat-back is set in an absolutely delightful angle and it’s great for the city commute, but I felt that the thigh support was slightly lacking and the head-rests foul with your neck if you’re anything above 5-feet-8. But that said, space inside is hugely impressive for a car of its size and fitting two 6-feet tall guys one behind the other wouldn’t be punishment at all. Overall, the interior is brilliant and the layout of the dash and centre console is such that it doesn’t, thankfully, feel like a teenager, obsessed with computer games, designed it. The approach is more grown up and straightforward, which is a really good thing.
So-far-so-good, then! But, traditionally, Hyundai’s have always been plagued with compromised driving dynamics. The Grand i10, at first, feels like Hyundai have done a great job with the steering and suspension, but then you drive a little more, push the car a bit more aggressively, and bury the gas pedal a bit deeper into the footwell and you realize that there’s still great scope of improvement. The Grand has a completely new architecture, and that instantly makes its mark on you. Where the i20 would wash out and the Hyundai Grand i10 would really make you gulp with fear, the Grand feels more confident than either of them. And that’s primarily because the Grand has better steering geometry – it’s faster and more direct than any previous Hyundai hatchback.
The suspension on the Grand is the tricky bit – it’s been worked on to provide a really comfortable ride at low speeds, but stretch the speedo out on the open road and you begin to feel the bouncy nature of the car at high speeds. Going over rough patches, and unseen potholes at speed, can send tremors into the cabin as the suspension seems to crash a fair bit.
But where the Grand lacks is in the fun quotient – it makes up for this in the ease-of-use and value department though. Hyundai isn’t marketing this car as a junkie’s playmate, but a car for the sensible city guy, and the Grand is absolutely brilliant in city applications. The steering is light, and the dimensions are perfect to manoeuvre without any hint of trouble. The suspension, as I mentioned above, shines at low speed driving and the comfort factor is further enhanced due to the immensely effective air-conditioning unit.
But the key feature of the Grand is the 1.1 litre diesel engine. It’s surprisingly quiet for a diesel, and makes a Polo or a Punto feel unnecessarily loud. The grunt is sufficient, and the 71bhp that it churns out is more than adequate for most commutes. As you negotiate a speed bump and start accelerating, you’ll feel a very – and I stress, very – slight amount of lag, but otherwise the torque spread is linear and the 1.1 diesel pulls effortlessly in the mid-range. It’s the top end of the tacho – anything over 3,800rpm – that you feel the engine running out of steam, after which there’s a reluctance in gaining speed. The petrol engine, on the other-hand, is hugely enjoyable. It feels completely at home even if you rev it hard, and it doesn’t mind going all the way to its redline. It makes a decent noise too!
The Grand is – and pardon me for the silly use of the word – really a grand effort from Hyundai, and they have pulled off a product that’s more rounded than others in the segment. And now there’s the diesel option, which isn’t too bad on performance either – just keep it in the low-to-mid range. Add to that the long list of standard and optional equipment, not to mention Hyundai’s brand equity, and you have a winner in the making. I guess I’ve said enough already, time to get my cheque book out..