With it’s 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 car to get a feel of its changes and its abilities.
Ever since the arrival of the first generation of the Verna sold in India, the sedan has been a staple seller for Hyundai. However, with competition stiffening in recent years, things for the second-gen Verna had become difficult as the car had become long in the tooth. And with the latest generation of the car, 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 Verna doesn’t deviate from the same path. With its large cascade grille – a new design highlight for the brand – and clean sides featuring a sharp shoulder line, and swooping tail lamps at the rear, the Verna now resembles a shrunk down version of its bigger sibling, the Elantra. And with its large 16-inch wheels, the car has a good stance; with its high ground clearance meaning that it won’t have problems dealing with our pothole-ridden roads. As one would expect, the new Verna features large headlamps with LED daytime running lights and projector headlamps, while the tail lamps are now LED. Thankfully, in the Verna, Hyundai hasn’t overdone chrome appliques, so the overall design of the car looks confident and classy rather than loud.
The interiors of the car also see a substantial upgrade, with the center console now featuring a 7-inch touchscreen display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard. A segment first feature of the Verna are the front ventilated seats, which are an absolute relief in our scorching climate. 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, but headroom – at least in the front passenger seat – seems to be at a premium, primarily due to a seat that’s mounted a bit too high and doesn’t feature height adjustment. The driver’s seat doesn’t face any such issues though. The Verna now 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 airabgs for added safety.
The main changes to the Verna though are below the skin, and that is where Hyundai has paid additional focus. So, the new Verna is now on a new platform – referred to internally as the K2 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 optimized 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 lineup on the Verna features revised versions of the engines available in the last-generation car. So, it now has two 1.6-litre engines, the U2 CRDi diesel engine producing 128PS, while the VTVT petrol engine produces 123PS. Interestingly, both the engines offer both manual and automatic transmissions, with a 6-speed manual and a new 6-speed automatic.
We briefly got to drive the automatic and manual versions of the 1.6-litre diesel engine at Hyundai’s test track inside their factory located just out Chennai. First up, the impression that one gets when 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 wise, however, the new Verna is a massive leap compared to 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 did not seem to be much body roll either, while the car is quite eager to change lanes.
The biggest change in the driving feel of the Verna though is the new steering. 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 been weighed very well 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.
Overall, with an expenditure of Rs. 1,000 crore to improve on the last-generation Verna, the new Verna 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 first signs, the competition should be very wary, especially if Hyundai India prices the Verna aggressively, as it has the capability to outshine its competition.