In India, the definition of a ‘hot hatch’ is highly skewed, for anything producing around 100 horses is ‘hot’ for us. Is that a bad thing? Not really, especially when there’s a turbo involved. A case in point is the new Hyundai Grand i10 Nios Turbo. It’s the same practical and feature-laden hatchback, like the standard Nios, but under its bonnet beats a 1.0-litre turbo-petrol heart, which churns out 99bhp and 172Nm of torque. Since it’s engineered for fun, the engine comes paired to a 5-speed manual gearbox. But does it tickle your senses?
In short, yes! The Nios, with a turbo motor, is an absolute hoot. The first thing you notice is that the engine is very responsive, with minimal turbo lag. And once the turbo starts spooling, which happens around 1,500rpm, the Nios Turbo slingshots ahead with a kind of urgency that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. Between 2,000 and 6,500rpm, where it redlines, the surge is addictive. This strong mid-range performance is what you love when you’re driving it in the city. What’s more, the gearbox has tall ratios, allowing you to hold gears for longer periods while riding that strong wave of torque. The overall refinement is exemplary, but you do feel mild vibrations at idle.
In terms of ride and handling, the Nios offers a good balance. However, while its steering is sharp and direct, when pushed on the track the suspension and tyres simply didn’t do the chassis justice. When driven hard around corners, the body roll is quite evident and the tyres simply don’t offer enough grip. Another problem is that the Nios Turbo looks a little too much like its regular siblings – we wish Hyundai offered it with the N-Line package (larger wheels, sporty grille, bolstered seats, etc.) so as to make it a bit more unique.
Having said that, the Nios Turbo is still a spacious and practical hatchback all the same. Sure, it nearly costs a lakh more than its regular variants, but in terms of driver involvement, the Nios Turbo is miles better. It also comes pretty close to our definition of a ‘hot hatch’ – one that we can certainly recommend. However, do keep some money spare for tyre and suspension upgrades.