With the third-generation Verna, Hyundai India aims to unsettle two of its strongest competitors – the Maruti Suzuki Ciaz and the Honda City. We take a short drive in the new Verna prior to its launch to see if it can really shake up the segment.
Ever since the arrival of the first generation of the Verna that Hyundai sold in India, the sedan has been a staple seller for Korean manufacturer. However, with the competition stiffening in recent years, things for the second-gen Verna had become quite difficult as the car has grown long in the tooth – not to mention the fact that the competition has, in the interim, launched some very capable products. And with the latest generation of the Verna, this is exactly what Hyundai hopes to remedy in the quest for market share and increased sales numbers.
In the past few years, we’ve seen Hyundai’s design language progress substantially – and the new 2017 Hyundai Verna doesn’t deviate from this path. With its large cascading grille – a new design highlight for the brand – and clean sides, featuring a sharp shoulder line, the Verna now resembles a shrunken Elantra. And with its large 16-inch wheels, the car features a good stance – with its ample ground clearance meaning that it won’t have problems dealing with our pothole-ridden roads. Thankfully, in the Verna, Hyundai hasn’t overdone chrome appliques, so the overall design of the car looks confident and classy.
The interiors of the 2017 Hyundai Verna also get a substantial upgrade, with the centre console now featuring a 7-inch touchscreen display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard. A segment first feature are the front ventilated seats, which are an absolute relief in our scorching heat. The remaining switchgear on the car has also been upgraded, and is a definite upgrade from the previous car in both design and quality terms. While we’ll have to test the car with five adults to test for exact interior room, the headroom – at least in the front passenger seat – seems to be at a premium, primarily because the seat appears to be mounted a bit too high, and only the driver’s side features height adjustment. The Verna also features an electric sunroof, while another stand out feature – as far as practicality is concerned – will be its hands-free boot opening mechanism, which means that if your hands are full of shopping bags, you don’t have to fumble to find the key to open the boot. The Verna also offers six airbags for added safety.
The main changes to the Verna, though, are below the skin – as this is where Hyundai has paid additional focus. The new Verna is based on a new platform, with a special focus on structural rigidity and safety. As a result, the new Verna’s structure features 50% Ultra High Strength steel – as compared to 13% in the last car – which gives it a stiffer platform and better safety. Additionally, the car also features new suspension, which has been optimised to offer better ride and handling. The steering has also been tweaked with a new rack and geometry to provide better feel and response.
The engine line-up on the 2017 Hyundai Verna features revised versions of the engines available in the last-generation car. So, it’s offered with two 1.6-litre engines, the U2 CRDi diesel engine producing 126bhp, while the VTVT petrol engine produces 121bhp. Interestingly, both the engines offer both manual and automatic transmission options, with customers getting to choose between a 6-speed manual and a new 6-speed automatic.
We got to briefly drive the automatic and manual versions of the 1.6-litre diesel engine at Hyundai’s test-track inside their factory, located just outside of Chennai. First up, the impression that one gets while driving the Verna is that of premium quality and excellent refinement. The fittings and surfaces inside the car feel plush, and the refinement could easily be class-leading. However, to confirm that we’ll have to wait till we can do a direct comparison with its competitors. Driving appeal wise, the new Verna is a massive forward leap compared with the older car. The engines feel refined, the gearboxes – both manual and automatic – are slick shifting, with the automatic being a massive improvement over the last automatic gearbox – and, at high speeds, and under heavy braking the car remains planted and stable. There didn’t seem to be much body roll either, while the car is quite eager to change direction.
The biggest change in the driving feel of the 2017 Hyundai Verna, though, is the new steering mechanism. After many years and products with little or no steering feel, the Verna’s steering is a refreshing change for a Hyundai product. It’s has an excellent heft to it, and actually gives you a pretty good idea of what the car is doing – which contributes significantly to its driving appeal. If this is any indication of how steering feel and response will be in future Hyundai products, then it’s a huge leap for the brand as far as vehicle dynamics are concerned.
Overall, with an expenditure of Rs. 1,000 crore to improve on the last-generation Verna, the new model represents a huge leap forward. It features handsome styling, modern interiors, is loaded to the gills with features – many of them a segment first – and is a huge improvement over the last-generation car when it comes to driving appeal. While I’ll wait for a longer drive of the car before delivering a final verdict, but, given the initial signs, the competition should be very wary – especially if Hyundai India prices the Verna aggressively, as it certainly has the capability to outshine the competition.